Having already publicly apologised for opposing the appointment of the Revd Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003, the Rt. Reverend James Jones has now used his presidential address at his diocesan synod this year to call for an "agree to disagree" policy in the Church of England in respect of sexual ethics.

It's an okay speech. In fact, it's great coming from such a high ranking evangelical. But, although he has definitely helped the situation as far as gay people in England are concerned, I think he is naive in his thinking. Personally, I don't think there is much equivalence between agreeing to disagree on pacifism and agreeing to disagree on sexual ethics. You see, other than possibly when our country is being invaded, it is no problem at all to have a pastoral relationship with a priest who has a different take on just war theory to yourself. But, if you are gay, and your vicar believes, and maybe even preaches, that you are a vile sinner destined to be frazzled big time in the style of the citizens of Gommorah, it is impossible to rely on him (or, just possibly, her) for help on pastoral matters or to take what he preaches from the pulpit seriously. Okay, we could sort ourselves at the local level into inclusive and homophobic congregations (although this would be problematic in rural areas) but when you get up to church offices such as rural dean, archdeacon and bishop, things start getting far too complicated. We are back to having to consider two distinct churches in the same geographical area, with their own hierarchies.


The Bishop of Liverpool, The Rt Reverend James Jones has used his presidential address to the March synod of the Diocese of Liverpool to call for Anglicans to “accept the diversity of ethical convictions” in the debate on sexual ethics so that “we will let nothing deflect us from mission” In his address the Bishop made comparisons with the history of the just war theory and the ethics of pacifism. He talked about how “we handle disagreements about ethical principles within the body of Christ” and will say that the need to allow a diversity of ethical convictions should mirror the way that the church “has always allowed a diversity of ethical stance on taking human life”. The Bishop said that “on a number of major moral issues the church allows a large space for a variety of nuances, interpretations, applications and disagreements”.

The Bishop proposed that we can move “towards allowing a variety of ethical conviction about people of the same gender loving each other fully” and that he believes “the day is coming when Christians who equally profoundly disagree about the consonancy of same gender love within the discipleship of Christ will in spite of their disagreement drink openly from the same cup of salvation.”

I have posted the bishop's full address at FOOTNOTES.

PEDANTS PLEASE NOTE: I am fully aware that there appear to be two Norman knights with the Viking, King Canute (Cnut if you are a pedant). Blame the cartoonist who I nicked the picture off - he's probably American and thinks that the Vikings came from Minnesota.



  1. As we’re going for historical inaccuracy, Cnut did not try to stop the tide, only to demonstrate that he was powerless to do so. In this instance perhaps more accurately represetning said Bishop.

  2. I see your pastoral issue, especially in places where the church is spread pretty thin. We have the same issue here and I suspect the Canadians do too.

    Bishop Jones however does have a point. As desirable as universal tolerance may be, in the near term, accepting controversy is about as good as it can be. We have something of this in the case of women clergy. It is unfair to priests and laywomen, but it is the stage we have achieved. One hates to say this of an evangelical but he may have spotted the next step in the evolution of the church.


  3. I think it is a ice idea to say ‘lets agree to differ’ and get on with mission. So in the meantime lets ordain all the homosexual people who feel they can get on with mission best as priests.. is that ok? Mmmm feels like nice words without any meaning..

  4. Everyone knows that the Vikings from Minnesota colonized the Scandinavian lands. Some people just never learn American history. 🙂

    As for the bishop, I do applaud his change of heart. It’s hard to admit one as been wrong.

  5. Due to Bishop Jones’ bravery in apologising for what he accepts as a past mistake and for taking a stance contrary to most of his fellow evangelicals, I absolutely believe he is a man of integrity and truly believes in what he is saying. I am not attacking him for it, just being cynical about how it would actually work in practice. He also, I happen to know, cares for his priests which is refreshing in a bishop.

  6. Being post-evangelical, I can say that this statement from this gentleman is huge, though to others, will seem small. His critics will brand him a “liberal”, and for any on similar journeys, that is no small thing.

  7. Leslie, contrary to the (ummmm) crud one reads on some self-announced ‘orthodox’ sites, no one is advocating that a new set of lbgt folks be ordained. The Anglican experience, like the Roman has had gay male priests for 20 centuries and lesbians since it began ordering women. It is honesty that is under discussion.

    When +Gene Robinson was elected bishop I personally knew of 5 gay bishops in the communion, 2 outside North America. There were almost certainly others, I do not get out all that much. They lied, hid, stayed in the closet — you may pick the term. What they did not do was honor their partners with the status that simple honesty would confer. That fell to Gene.

    The simple fact is that more or less gay people has never been the issue. How we treat them, how dishonest our prejudice forces them to be, that is an issue.


  8. Why would King Cnut have two knights who were both named “Norman”? That could get confusing.

    Especially if they were both Vikings from the same bit of Minnesota.

  9. I am hoping and praying that Anglican Mainstream and their ilk will ultimately be the King Canutes, trying vainly to hold back the tide of tolerance and good sense that just might wash over the Church of England!

  10. We know that, Ormonde. In fact, it was the knowledge that they had the OCICBW… endorsement that gave the Saints the self confidence to get out on that field and stuff them Vikings.

  11. Are you saying that the Normans didn’t come from Minnesota?

    As for the Bishop, I agree that this is a huge step forward and living in tolerance side by side would be a good evolutionary step.

    But it can only ever be a first step, because we’re talking not of a difference in theology or politics that has no real impact on how we relate to each other, but we’re talking about stigmatising a whole group of people.

    In the long term, it is as inconceivable that homophobic pockets of the church should continue to exist as it is impossible for “no blacks welcome” churches to exist.

  12. You would think Fr. MadPriest would be pleasantly surprised if any American would know about King Canute, however you spell it. (And, yes, I did know who Canute was. They still taught world history classes when I was in high school.)