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Posts Tagged "Bishop James Jones":

Candidates for Cantuar: James Jones

Bishop James Jones is my hero. I first fell under his spell when I was reviewing his book ‘With My Whole Heart’ which, if you have not yet read, I can strongly recommend. And if you want to know why I think he would be a good Archbishop of Canterbury for the years immediately ahead, reading the review will I hope give you some idea.

But let us by all means begin at the beginning.

James Stuart Jones was born in 1948 and went to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School (his father was an army major) in Dover, followed by a degree in theology from Exeter University. He got his teaching qualification in Keele and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He then taught at Sevenoaks and worked as a producer at the Scripture Union. He did not become a priest until he was in his mid-thirties. He married Sarah Marrow in 1980, and they have three daughters.


Here is the Crockford’s entry:

+JONES, The Rt Revd James Stuart. b 48. Ex Univ BA70 PGCE71 Hull Univ Hon DD99 Lincs & Humberside Univ Hon DLitt01. Wycliffe Hall Ox 81. d 82 p 83 c 94. C Clifton Ch Ch w Em Bris 82-90; V S Croydon Em S’wark 90-94; Suff Bp Hull York 94-98; Bp Liv from 98; Bp HM Pris from 07. 

Bishop James ‘s work in the church is well-covered on the diocesan webpage.

He is a member of the House of Lords, Bishop for Prisons, Visitor to St Peter’s College in the University of Oxford, Co-President of Liverpool Hope University, WWF Ambassador and a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Vice President of the Town and Country Planning Association, Trustee National Museums Liverpool. In 2009 he was appointed by the Home Secretary to Chair the Hillsborough Independent Panel


He broadcasts regularly, especially on ‘Thought for the Day’. He has written a number of books including ‘Jesus and the Earth’ (SPCK 2003) which looks at the relationship between Christianity and the environment.


Originally a conservative Evangelical, now see below.

So far, so good. In what we have seen so far, Bishop James has not particularly demonstrated any qualities not shown by our other candidates, although I would suggest that his background in teaching, writing and broadcasting indicate that he is an excellent communicator (which would make a nice change).

However, I would suggest there is only one thing you need to know about the man in order to decide whether you could and would follow him as the leader of the Church of England  (and, to the extent that the title is appropriate, the Anglican Communion). He has twice shown great moral courage in public.

The first was in the aftermath of the 2003 letter from nine bishops including James Jones to Archbishop Rowan Williams, opposing his decision not to block the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. However, Bishop James came to feel this was wrong and in 2008 he said publicly:

I deeply regret this episode in our common life. I still believe it was unwise to try to take us to a place that evidently did not command the broad support of the Church of England but I am sorry for the way I opposed it and I am sorry too for adding to the pain and distress of Dr John and his partner.”

Stuart James, of the E Church blog, reported in 2010 the extent to which Bishop James’s new attitude had ‘riled’ the Conservative Evangelicals.

The second was a speech made by the Bishop to his diocesan synod about the Anglican Covenant. Considerable pressure, you will remember, had been exerted on all bishops to ensure that everyone was brought into line and voted in favour of the Covenant. Bishop James got to his feet, went to the microphone, and told his Liverpool flock why he could not support the Covenant. You can read what Bishop James said in this blog by ‘KiwiAnglo’, also known as Father Ron Smith, an Anglican priest in New Zealand. Ripples in a pond, reaching across the world.

So, although you may think I am verging on the melodramatic, I have no hesitation in saying that Bishop James Jones has earned the right to claim the words of this hymn by Robert Lowell as his own.


Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.



There are some who will question the candidacy of Bishop James Jones by reason of his age. I have no desire to speed his retirement (Bishop James is the same age as I am) but would like to point out that the most popular and loved Pope of recent times was Pope John Paul XXIII, and his papacy lasted for less than five years. In 2012 we are looking, or should be looking, I suggest, for someone to lead us out of the wilderness. The personal qualities of the next Archbishop of Canterbury are, in my opinion, of over-riding importance.

‘With My Whole Heart’

Reflections on the heart of the psalms

The Rt Revd James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, has written a heartfelt and heartening book about the psalms. The word play is catching, as both title and text play on the literal and metaphorical meaning of the word ‘heart’. Bishop James may perhaps be forgiven for this as he was inspired to write the book during his preparation for, and recuperation from, a heart operation in June 2011. Turning for spiritual sustenance to the psalms in the Book of Common Prayer, he found references to the heart in 71 of the 150 psalms. This book contains his ‘musings’ on these psalms.

He writes well, mostly in simple prose but at times his language soars. He had me hooked in his fifth paragraph, with

‘the Book of Common Prayer, whose poetry adds fathoms to their theological depth’.

That ‘adds fathoms’ is masterly: I knew I was in for a treat.


 Not a book about the psalms

This is not, however a book about the psalms. Its scope is much more wide-ranging than that. It is a book for anyone who asks: ‘Tell me, how should I live?’ The author offers his own ten reasons for belief in God (pp xi-xiii), all beginning with the letter ‘c’. He then goes on to suggest ideas for living a Christian life, our relationship with God, and our worship.  In some ways, it is simply a book about prayer. I am tempted to say that the book is ‘deceptively simple’. It must be difficult to write such a book, if you are a bishop, without sounding preachy or patronising. That he succeeds in this is, I think, partly due to his honesty and humility in describing his fears around the heart operation. It reads like a letter from a friend. You will not need to look any words up in a dictionary, but nor do you feel he is talking down to you. It is full of  (to me) new insights. One example (p.6):

The character of God feels to me at times as if it were kept under a soundproof blanket. Just as well! He shudders in indignation at the unjust desecration of his creation and at the wanton destruction of any of his creatures. Yet we do not hear it. For if God did not contain his pain and remain silent, which of us could bear to hear the roar of outrage that would deafen our universe? We often bemoan the silence of God, but perhaps it is the necessary and merciful condition of our survival in a world traumatized by evil and flawed by sin.

I think Bishop James’s undoubted gifts as a communicator, both oral and written, probably explain his early career as a teacher. Schoolboys are notoriously less polite than congregations as an audience, and this experience must have honed these skills. Here is a short extract from something he said which will give you a flavour of what I mean:

Enigmas and Riddles

Like all good teachers, Bishop James raises more questions than he gives answers. The book cover itself, designed by Sarah Smith, is an enigma. Does it depict this book, which we are recommended for holiday reading on a beach? Or does it hint at that bourne from which no traveller returns, starting point and inspiration for the author’s meditation on the psalms? Perhaps both, perhaps neither. You decide.

Cor ad Cor Loquitur

In 2010 the Pope took as the theme for his visit to Britain Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur (Heart shall speak unto heart). The phrase was said in the Catholic Herald to be a description of the personal relationship between God and man achieved through prayer. This is what Bishop James Jones offers us in his new book, which I highly recommend.



To be published by SPCK on 17 May. The publisher says:

The heart is mentioned over seventy times in the psalms. It is the focus for the whole range of human emotion, from praise to lament, wisdom to wickedness. As they speak to the heart and of the heart, the psalms reveal to us the heights and depths possible in our relationship with God. 

When he had major heart surgery, the Bishop of Liverpool turned to the psalms in the Book of  Common Prayer as he wrestled with his fears and struggled through his convalescence. In this beautiful book, each mention of the heart in the psalms is quoted and followed by a reflection arising out of the Bishop’s daily meditations and a suggestion for prayer. These reflections are for all who at any time have found themselves reaching out for faith.


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