james jones, lent and the lurgy

I am writing this after spending a day with my son lounging on the sofa watching cbeebies, after he fairly violently threw up in the middle of the night, just the once and hopefully it will stay that way.

this is by way of saying that my mind is far from clear and I feel like there are a few things going on in my brain, so I'm going to splurge them here, in a kind of mental vomit and they may or may not be coherent.

the whole james jones thing, concerning his recent essay calling for more helpful dialogue on issues of sexuality, has flummoxed me a little. I normally know what I think, but on reading the essay I really can't quite see what all the fuss was about, but there is soooo much fuss that I am concluding that other people are reading the essay with different eyes to mine.

I don't really want to go into an in depth analysis of the essay, but it seemed to me that the main points were these:

1. That the Anglican Communion is not an ordered 'spider's web', but rather a 'bowl of spaghetti' and that this needs to be recognised as a part of the historic nature of our Communion.

2. That the partnerships that spring up between dioceses are more based on 'need, experience, enthusiasm and friendship', than any kind of strict ordering (see #1)

3. That this partnership by friendship is essential to the conversations that are held in controversial times. That these conversations are better held 'between people who already know, trust and respect each other than through megaphone diplomacy between strangers across the oceans'.

4. That conversation about controversial issues needs to be rooted in cultural context - to guard against the charge of Western moral decline in the face of Islam for African Christians is paramount. For Episcopalians in the US it is important to see their desire to be free from the shackles of past involvement in denying human rights to African Americans, today translated into Gay Americans.

5. That 'space' within the context of the discipleship is needed (quoting Acts 15) and that this space is limited when we talk about 'impaired communion'. No-one can bring themselves to be 'in Christ' and no-one can remove another from being 'in Christ'.

6. That +Liverpool has found the following four 'walls' helpful for dialogue:

-The uniqueness of marriage
-The appropriateness of love between those of the same gender in the form of intimate friendship
-The acceptance of the role of conscience
-That disunity saps us of energy and limits mission

7. He mentioned that he had previously apologised to the ++Canterbury and York regarding the way in which he and others raised dissent regarding Jeffrey John. Whilst also saying 'I still believe that it was unwise to try to take us to a place that evidently did not command the broad support of the Church of England but I am sorry for the way I opposed it and I am sorry too for adding to the pain and distress of Dr. John and his partner.'

8. That the relationship between David and Jonathan and the Son of David and John, were close emotional and physical relationships, for me the following is a most pertinent discussion:

'Jonathan loved David “as his own soul”. David found Jonathan’s love for him, “passing the love of women”. There was between them a deep emotional bond that left David grief-stricken when Jonathan died. But not only were they emotionally bound to each other they expressed their love physically. Jonathan stripped off his clothes and dressed David in his own robe and armour. With the candour of the Eastern World that exposes the reserve of Western culture they kissed each other and wept openly with each other. The fact that they were both married did not inhibit them in emotional and physical displays of love for each other. This intimate relationship was sealed before God.'

9. That we have been seen to be graceless in our discussions about gay people.

10. That Jesus was a pastor and a prophet (in that order)

11. That he is hopeful, rather than pessimistic:

'All I know and can testify to through our own discussions within the Diocese and with our partner Dioceses is that entering the debate prayerfully in the company of the One who is “full of grace and truth” takes you to places beyond “all that you can ask or imagine”. I know that many are pessimistic about the future but I find myself strangely and surprisingly optimistic that if we can maintain the space to listen to “the still small voice” there might emerge a new understanding and paradigm that none of us can yet imagine.'

so, interestingly, as I seem to be in contrast to just about most other people who have read the essay, I did not read that JJ was positing a gay relationship between either david and jonathan or jesus and john. I'm not sure what lenses I have on but they are certainly not in any way similar to those worn by the CEN journalist who wrote the front page article last week - but then they seem to have done the same to the archbish and his lecture (on law to lawyers - just making the point) this week.

now I don't claim to know the way forward in this, but an open space where it can be discussed is surely in desperate need. and the kind of friendship that JJ advocates surely preferable to the antics that we're getting up to at the moment.

these are all just thoughts, as I say no real attempt at coherence, but in addition to this, what continually haunts me whenever we get into discussion about 'those gays' (of course this week the focus is shifted to 'those muslims' *sigh*) is the story of Matthew Shepard

I know that the case is so well known now as to be a cliche in a lot of people's minds, but it still fills me with horror. If I, as a disciple of Jesus, do anything that in any way indicates that hatred of another people group is understandable, surely I must go away and think again about my expression of belief?

and this brings me to lent. traditionally lent is a time for space, a place in the wilderness, where we might face our deepest fears, prejudices, insecurities and choose the way of the cross....or the other way.

this is something that we often try to avoid, hoping for the quick fix, the way out, or to establish our 'kingdoms' by force. but perhaps it is time for the lenten space on this issue of sexuality that we continually seem to get our knickers in a twist about.

a couple of years ago brian mclaren suggested a 5 year space on this issue in which prayerful christian dialogue should occur - this was mark driscoll's response (for which he apologised), mark's response is probably more honest in its impulsively written bad language than a lot of conversation about this issue that we have, and at least it lets us know where we are - really.

but the irony is that his response illustrated exactly the point that brian wished to make - that we need some space to face our own prejudices, fears and insecurities

and, for the record, the need for space is what JJ calls for.

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