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.”
He asked that if “traditionalists are ultimately right and those who advocate the acceptance of stable and faithful gay relationships are wrong what will their sin be? That in a world of such little love two people sought to express a love that no other relationship could offer them? And if those advocating the acceptance of gay relationship are right and the traditionalists are wrong what will their sin be? That in a church that has forever wrestled with interpreting and applying Scripture they missed the principle in the application of the literal text?”
Bishop James stated that by allowing a variety of ethical views “this approach will allow for the development of a more humane pastoral theology”.
Bishop James talked about the ability of the Diocese of Liverpool to continue in partnership in mission with the Dioceses of Virginia and Akure despite the differing positions on gay relationships. He also restated the condemnation issued by church leaders in Liverpool of a number of homophobic attacks stating that church leaders “stand together in condemning the use of violence and other forms of intimidation against minority groups which are especially vulnerable.” Bishop James mentioned the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to General Synod where the Archbishop refered to the concern the church should have for the rights and dignities of gay and lesbian people. Agreeing with that principle the Bishop stated that “just as the rights and dignities of gay and lesbian people are a matter for proper concern for both church and society so are the rights and dignities of those who out of theological and moral conviction believe that the gift of full sexual expression is given only to those in marriage”.
The Bishop talked about the situation in the Diocese of Liverpool where he will say “we have gone forward in mission with a remarkable degree of unity” and that “we do already as a Diocese accept a diversity of ethical convictions about human sexuality.” He talked about the “culture of diversity” in the Diocese and the “rich ecumenical landscape is that we have a variety of doors through which different people might enter into the Christian faith.”
The Bishop offers this address as a Bishop called to “maintain the spirit of unity in the bond of peace in the Diocese of Liverpool where we have the full spectrum of moral opinion on human sexuality evident in the Church of England at large and in the Anglican Communion”. As he concluded “it is offered in the hope that we will let nothing deflect us from mission, the sending out of use all to embrace the world in the love of God.”
Read the full text of the presidential address here