Friday, September 4, 2009

"Bishop To the Universe": Paul Jones (1880-1941)

If this entry seems to have a bit of a cranky tone to it, it's because for the past few days I've been reading a new book by the Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock & the Rev. Rebecca Ann Parker, Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire.

Dr. Brock is founding co-director of Faith Voices for the Common Good, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the values and concerns of religious leaders and organizations. She is an active member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Parker has been President of Starr King School for the Ministry, the Unitarian Universalist school at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA since 1990 and Professor of Theology since 2001. She is the first woman to serve as permanent head of an accredited theological school. An ordained United Methodist minister, Dr. Parker has dual fellowship with the United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association. There's a lot more information on both these womens' CV's, which you can access at the book website: You get the idea, though: these are some pretty heavy-duty contemporary theologians, not just some fly-by-nights with a theory!

I was most gratified to see a glowing endorsement of the book by one of my old professors from a summer session at Catholic University of America, Dan Maguire -- no mean theologian himself! He and Charlie Curran were blazing new theological trails, particularly in moral theology, back in the '60's, and for their efforts got no better treatment from the Catholic Church than Paul Jones got from the bishops of the Episcopal Church.

To quickly summarize the theme of Saving Paradise: The good Drs. Brock and Parker travelled extensively in the Mediterranean world looking for art depicting the dead, crucified Jesus. To their amazement, they discovered that no such images existed in Christian communities for roughly the first millenium. Rather, Christians filled their sanctuaries during that time with wondrous images of a living Christ in a vibrant world. Crucifix-type pictures, when they did appear at this time, show a serene, resurrected Christ, surrounded by a world of beauty and color and life. In other words, paradise: paradise in this world. Always a message of hope, despite what might be going on around them.

The books traces how these representations gradually evolved into images of torture and "redemptive" violence, of the crucified Christ, and how they transformed European, and eventually, American, societal and theological thinking, with the assistance of imperial and ecclesiastical backing, into horrible substitutionary suffering theologies, theologies of sinful unworthiness, especially as applied to women, and eventually, the acceptance of a justifiable "holy war" mentality, remnants of which exist down to the present. Read the book. If nothing else, it will offer some hint as to how much of what we're seeing currently -- the ranting of right-wing opponents of health care reform, immigration, etc. -- has been influenced by a long history of embedded violence and intolerance. It will probably make you as cranky as me!

Here is a portion of an article published July 22, 1929 in Time magazine,"Religion: Again, Paul Jones":

"A bishop without a diocese or a missionary district is Bishop Paul Jones.

It was in 1906 Utah's late rugged Bishop Frank Spaulding spoke one day to students at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass. The Bishop spoke of Episcopal difficulties in Utah, of the Mormon University at Logan, of Mormon proselytizing. The Bishop was asking for help. "Whom shall we send and who will go?" Student Paul Jones echoed Isaiah: "Here I am, send me."

In 1914 Paul Jones* was appointed Episcopal archdeacon of all Utah. That same year Bishop Spaulding died and all were pleased that the young missionary was chosen to succeed him.

In 1917 the Bishop of Utah and a specially appointed Commission of the House of Bishops [of the Episcopal Church] met in a house in Vandeventer Place, St. Louis. Outside moaned the wind, snow flurried in the streets. The
Commission sat alone. Bishop Jones was in another room but the Commission knew they might speak to him "whenever occasion demanded." [He was left sitting for hours!] They wrote answers to a series of questions which
Bishop Jones, silent in the other room, had submitted to them.

Q. Does the Commission find ... that I have been affiliated with seditious organizations?
A. The Commission does not charge seditious organizations, but does say questionable organizations in respect of loyalty to the Government.
Q.... that I have persistently promulgated unpatriotic doctrines?
A. The Commission is not satisfied that you have persistently promulgated unpatriotic doctrines; but... that on occasions you have promulgated such doctrines.
Q.... that I have injured the life of the Church in Utah and elsewhere?
A. Yes. . . .
Q.... that I have exceeded my prerogatives in coming to the conclusions I have in regard to war and Christianity?
A.... in our free country you are not to be officially restrained in your maintenance of opinions which you hold as an individual; but... that weighty responsibility attaches to pronouncements by a bishop... that thoughtfulness and reticence on his part are exceedingly desirable.
Q.... that I should accede to the request of the Council of Advice and resign?
A. Yes....

Last week in the Churchman was launched a drive, by no means the first, to reinstate Bishop Jones, socialist, pacifist, hater of war as unchristian, the man during the late War, accused of being pro-German, said: '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.' He questioned that war was the right method, and, therefore, since he was in conflict with his government and his Church, lost his diocese. Today the Protestant churches are pacifistic. No longer, therefore, does the onetime Bishop of Utah seem dangerous to Episcopalians, Queried the Churchman: "Is there no place in the ministry of the Episcopal Church for Paul Jones?"

Since his resignation Bishop Jones has been secretary of the pacifist interdenominational Fellowship of Reconciliation (Manhattan). Last March he tendered his resignation, to take place Jan. 1, 1930 be cause 'there is a very real danger of having one man continue too long in such a position.'

Three Episcopal missionary districts are now without bishops: the Hawaiian Islands, Wyoming,
Nevada. To any of these three might Bishop Jones be sent — though his friends say he no longer
wants so executive a position since Bishops must now be businessmen and he would miss 'the
human touch' of his early work.

Bishop Jones did resign as Bishop of Utah. For ten years he served as executive secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In 1929 he took up a position at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH, as college pastor, teacher and spiritual adviser to students. During his time there, he referred to himself as "Bishop to the Universe". In 1939 he was instrumental in founding the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, later the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. His untimely death at age 61 was due to multiple myeloma which claimed him very suddenly.

Paul Jones was vindicated, forty years after his shameful treatment by the House of Bishops, when the Lambeth Conference of all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion proclaimed: “…war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ…” and “…it is the concern of the Church…to uphold and extend the right of conscientious objection”. In 1962, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, the same body which earlier had demanded his resignation, passed a resolution: “We recognize the validity of the calling of the conscientious objector and the pacifist and the duty of the Church fully to minister to him, and its obligation to see that we live in a society in which the dictates of his conscience are respected.

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