The Very Reverend Todd Donatelli

Paul Jones: War, Conscience, the Church, Maturity

Posted By Todd Donatelli on September 02, 2015

From From Holy Women, Holy Men, Church Publishing.

Paul Jones was born in 1880. After graduating from Yale University and the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he accepted a call to serve a mission in Logan, Utah. In 1914 Paul Jones was appointed Archdeacon of the Missionary District of Utah and, later that year, was elected its Bishop. Meanwhile, World War I had begun.

As Bishop of Utah, Paul Jones did much to expand the Church’s mission stations and to strengthen diocesan institutions. At the same time he spoke openly about his opposition to war. With the United States entry into the war, the Bishop of Utah’s views became increasingly controversial. At a meeting of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Los Angeles in 1917, Bishop Jones expressed his belief that “war is unchristian,” for which he was attacked with banner headlines in the Utah press.

As a result of the speech and the reaction it caused in Utah, a commission of the House of Bishops was appointed to investigate the situation. In their report, the commission concluded that “The underlying contention of the Bishop of Utah seems to be that war is unchristian. With this general statement the Commission cannot agree ...” The report went on to recommend that “The Bishop of Utah ought to resign his office,” thus rejecting Paul Jones’ right to object to war on grounds of faith and conscience.

In the spring of 1918, Bishop Jones, yielding to pressure, resigned as Bishop of Utah. For the next 23 years, until his death on September 4, 1941, he continued a ministry within the Church dedicated to peace and conscience, speaking always with a conviction and gentleness rooted in the Gospel.

In his farewell to the Missionary District of Utah in 1918, Bishop Jones said: “Where I serve the Church is of small importance, so long as I can make my life count in the cause of Christ ... Expediency may make necessary the resignation of a Bishop at this time, but no expedience can ever justify the degradation of the ideals of the episcopate which these conclusions seem to involve.”

Just as I think the world could not be more polarized than in our time, just as I think politics and religion could not be more fractured than in our time, I come across the biography of Bishop Paul Jones who we remember this week in our Church Calendar.  Removing a Bishop for calling war unchristian? And we think out time is tumultuous. 

It is a reminder that in all ages we as a people, we as the Church, stumble and fall over faith, truth, convictions and the ability to be in relationship. It is a reminder that it is easy either to be vocal with our convictions or to get along with people while it is the true work of maturity to speak convictions and be in relationship.  How do we do this? What does it take to speak convictions and remain in relationship?