Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Week's Feast Day Of Note

September 4th: Paul Jones, Bishop of Utah -

Jones was the bishop of Utah during the First World War. He was a pacifist who well-represented that demographic in the Episcopal Church. He resigned as bishop the year of US entry into WWI, feeling that his theological perspective was insufficiently supported by his diocese and the greater church. After leaving the see of Utah, he continued to work for peace for two decades until his death a few months before Pearl Harbor.

There are some representations of his life available, mainly composed by those strongly opposed to war in any circumstance, even the Augustinian notion of "just war", that prefer to present the resigned Jones as a victim of the powerful, wealthy, and war-mongering. I'm particularly amused by the notion that he was "silenced" once he resigned as diocesan bishop. As one remains a bishop for life, it is not as if his ordination was negated or that his membership in the House of Bishops ceased.

Certainly, as anyone who has ever spent even a millisecond near the echelons of power in the Episcopal Church knows, there is absolutely no such thing as a silent bishop.

[I also reject the notion, common to Jones' biographies, that only bishops have a voice and the rest of us are relegated to silence. Really, is that what Jesus taught us? Please.  There are and have been a great number of influential clergy and laity who were not members of the House of Bishops, yet altered their world for the better.]

It may be heresy to note that Jones was a little vague in his opposition to war from a practical point of view. From one of his sermons before his resignation, he stated that, "I believe most sincerely that German brutality and aggression must be stopped and I am willing, if need be, to give my life and what I possess, to bring that about...I have been led to feel that war is entirely incompatible with the Christian profession. . . Moreover, because Germany has ignored her solemn obligations, Christians are not justified in treating the sermon on the mount as a scrap of paper." [The Witness, March 2002]

You see, I get confused as to how one combats German aggression, even to the point of self-sacrifice, yet not through some type of conflict. Perhaps he meant through prayer alone, although that is usually not a mortal activity. I think some of Jones' contemporaries were confused, too, although it should be noted that history generally states that the majority of his diocesan clergy and laity supported him. If he had been willing to stand up to those who opposed him, odds are he would have been successful and his message made more compelling. However, fighting even the good fight seemed to be something Jones decided to do in a passive manner.

While he was not a martyr, person of letters, mystic, or monastic, and lived a life that was quiet and comfortable, in a nod to the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, which was, in its original form, founded by Bishop Jones, he has been included on the calendar.

Merciful God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in this and every land witnesses who, after the example of your servant Paul Jones, will stand firm in proclaiming the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.