Theology versus Sex

In the lead letter of today's Guardian, PCN chair, Adrian Alker, while paying tribute to the late Bishop David Jenkins, also calls for less preoccupation with sexuality in the Church of England and more honest debate about theology.

Theology versus Sex

Two Anglican bishops in the news: a report that the former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, has died aged 91 managed to make at least the Guardian online (Report, 4 September); but it was the present bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, who succeeded in making it into print (Business as usual for bishop’s first sermon since coming out, 5 September). Sex has always trumped theology when it comes to selling newspapers.

But who has managed to excite, to provoke and to cause serious debate amongst the general public over God and the Christian faith? As bishop of Durham, Jenkins brought into the lives of ordinary men and women in his diocese an understanding that to be a Christian was about a burning desire to see justice in the ordering of society (and this at the height of the miners’ strike), a willingness to question the literal historicity of doctrines such as the virgin birth and the physical resurrection and to dare to try to marry the work of scholarship with the calling of pastoral ministry. His warmth of personality and his passion for honest debate about the Christian faith led to him speaking to a packed cathedral and full churches across his diocese and beyond.

Few bishops today dare court such theological controversy, concerned as they are to toe the line, to manage church decline and to defend such absurd situations as allowing their clergy to love another person, but if of the same gender not as fully or completely as their straight counterparts. Jenkins, over 10 years ago, blessed the civil partnership of two gay men, despite a church ban. His scholarship, his critical understanding of scripture and his pastoral concern to show the love of Christ would have no truck whatsoever with the hypocrisy and dishonesty shown by today’s House of Bishops over matters of gay love and the clergy. When theology does trump sex we might once more see a church on the move in these islands.

Chair, Progressive Christianity Network Britain, the Rev Adrian Alker,

Image taken for the BBC, used with thanks

Bishop David Jenkins died last Sunday. Another blog on this site contains tributes from three admirers in his former diocese of Durham.

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