Friday, September 4, 2009

Bishop Paul Jones

Today the Episcopal Church remembers Paul Jones, a bishop and peace activist. Here’s James Kiefer’s summary about Bishop Jones:

Paul Jones was born in Pennsylvania in 1880. He attended Yale University and the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was ordained and served a mission church in Logan, Utah. In 1914 he was made Bishop of the Missionary District of Utah.

He was an outspoken pacifist, and when World War I began in 1914, he spoke against it. As the war progressed, and when the United States entered the war in 1917, many Americans were vehement in holding that pursuing the war was a moral duty, and opposition to the war was immoral. In the spring of 1918, yielding to pressure, Bishop Jones resigned as Bishop of Utah. He continued to speak out within the Church as an advocate of peace and the Christian renunciation of war, until his death on 4 September 1941.

Bishop Jones was also a founder of the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship (established on November 11, 1939). On May 24, 1965, the name was changed to the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

In his statement before the House of Bishops on October 18, 1917, here is some of what Bishop Jones had to say before his resignation:

We all feel that war is wrong, evil, and undesirable. Many even feel that war is unchristian but unavoidable as the world is now constituted, and that the present situation forces us to use it. Some contend that this is a righteous war, and that we must all fight the devil with fire, even at the danger of being scorched, or all the ideals which we hold dear will go by the board, and therefore we are solemnly, sadly, and earnestly taking that way.

In spite of my respect for the integrity of those who feel bound to take that course, and in spite of the knowledge that I am occupying an unpopular and decidedly minority point of view, I have been led to feel that war is entirely incompatible with the Christian profession. It is not on the basis of certain texts or a blind following of certain isolated words of Christ that I have been led to this, for I am not a literalist in any sense of the term; but because the deeper I study into it the more firmly I am convinced that the whole spirit of the gospel is not only opposed to all that is commonly understood by the word “war,” but offers another method capable of transforming the world and applicable to every situation which the individual or the nation is called to face.

If we are to reconcile men to God, to build up the brotherhood of the kingdom, preach love, forbearance and forgiveness, and stand for the good even unto death, then I do not see how it can be the duty of the church or its representatives to aid or encourage the way of war, which so obviously breaks down brotherhood, replaces love and forbearance by bitterness and wrath, sacrifices ideals to expediency, and takes the way of fear instead of that of faith. I believe that it is always the Church’s duty to hold up before men the way of the cross; the one way our Lord has given us for overcoming the world.

I know that some good people believe that in this present crisis we are following the way of the cross, but I think that it is a false analogy to say that the sacrifices we and the allies are making are analogous to our Lord’s sacrifice. He did not die to save his mother or the apostles, or to punish evildoers, but rather died the just for the unjust. … Moreover, because Germany has ignored her solemn obligations, Christians are not justified in treating the sermon on the mount as a scrap of paper.

Prayer is, I believe, the best test of the whole matter. If it is right and our honest duty to fight the war to a finish, then we should use the Church’s great weapon of prayer to that end; but the most ardent Christian supporter of the war, though he may use general terms, revolts against praying that every bullet may find its mark, or that our embargoes may bring starvation to every German home. We know that those things would bring the war to a speedy, triumphant close, but the Church cannot pray that way. And a purpose that you cannot pray for is a poor one for Christians to be engaged in [Documents of Witness: A History of the Episcopal Church 1782-1985, edited by Don S. Armentrout & Robert Boak Slocum (Church Hymnal Corporation, 1994), pp. 339-340].

And here’s an excerpt from a pamphlet Bishop Jones wrote during his tenure as Bishop of Utah:

As a Christian Bishop, charged with the responsibility of leadership, I would be deserving only of contempt did I remain silent in the present crisis, when the Christian standards of judgment are apparently being entirely ignored. The day will come when, like slavery, which was once held in good repute, war will be looked upon as thoroughly un-Christian. At present it is recognized as an evil which nobody honestly wants, but not yet has it received its final sentence at the bar of Christian morality. Only when Christian men and women and churches will be brave enough to stand openly for the full truth that their consciences are beginning to recognize, will the terrible anachronism of war between Christian nations be done away [quoted in John Howard Melish, Bishop Paul Jones: Witness for Peace (Forward Movement Publications, 1992), p. 54].

Bishop Paul Jones had the courage to publicly stand firm for what he believed. And he willingly paid the price for taking that stand.

You can read more about Bishop Paul Jones here.

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