Presidential Address - Nov 2011

The Bishop of Liverpool says the decision about ordaining women as bishops must be "located in the mission of God"

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, called on Synod to “consider the effect of the Church of England’s decision on the ordination of women on our relationship with society and its impact on the Mission of God”. In his Presidential Address on the day that Diocesan Synod debated the issue of women in the Episcopate, the bishop affirmed that all traditions are committed to the Mission of God but stated “While recognising the current difference of conviction between the church and society on the position of women in leadership we need to ask prayerfully about our relationship with the world.”

Bishop James also stated “I am painfully aware of the discomfort and dislocation that the debate and the final decision are having on all parts of the Body and especially those who fear they will be abandoned”.

In his address Bishop James considers how the cultural context for mission has changed over the last 100 years as well as the fundamental shifts during his lifetime. He argues that “in a multicultural world I believe we need new models of mission that are Trinitarian”, models where we “delight and glorify in each other’s Christian tradition”.

The Bishop commented “because of the diversity of our culture we need as diverse a church as possible and must shun the monochrome and monocultural church that appeals only to one section of the population. We need as many different doors into the Christian faith as possible.” This he states is supported by John 17 believing that Jesus was “aspiring to an organic unity in which the different members of the one Body recognised their oneness in the Body and thanked God for one another under the lordship of Christ.”

The Bishop developed the ideas of relational missionary models when reflecting on our relationships with different faiths. He commented that because “the media have shrunk the world into a global village so that once distant faiths are now our neighbours; and immigration has produced a multifaith culture in which other faith communities are now our friends” we must follow Paul’s example in Acts 17 and “engage in mission seeing members of other faith communities as friends not enemies”. This friendship is inspired by the command to love thy neighbour, a commandment that does not necessarily mean you have to agree with the other person.

Bishop James summarised his new model of mission as “we’re listening and learning how Jesus relates to you”. He states that the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ model does not work in today’s culture and while there are times Christians need to resist the world at other times we need to “listen very carefully to what the world has to say to us”. He argued that “relationships are born out mutuality” and urged parishes to think about how open they are in relationship with the world.

The bishop concluded his address evoking how the Christian faith resonates with the human experience of suffering, endurance and healing showing how the suffering of Jesus links to His mission commands saying “When our Risen Lord appeared to his disciples to “send them out” even as the Father had sent him he left them in no doubt about the implications. He showed them his scars. If this process has left us scarred (as I know it has for many) then these are the wounds of our Missionary God who send a Missionary Saviour to commission a Missionary Church to love and save the world with a wounded body.”