The Bishop Was a Pacifist: Recalling Paul Jones, Bishop to the Universe

The Bishop Was a Pacifist: Recalling Paul Jones, Bishop to the Universe September 4, 2018
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Paul Jones was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1880. While at Yale he worked summers in the accounting office of a mine company and even did a stint as a strike breaker. He seemed destined to a life among the rich and powerful.

But ministry called. Not that that need change his alliances or civic orientation. But sometimes life disrupts our plans. While in seminary he discovered the writings of the great Anglican priest John Frederick Maurice. And young Jones was captured by a purer gospel. Specifically he converted to Father Maurice’s vision of a Christian Socialism. And with that purer gospel the young seminarian also became a pacifist.

Upon graduation he volunteered for missionary work in Utah. He proved energetic and popular. And his alliance with the poor captured many hearts. In 1914, when the bishop was struck and killed by a car, the diocese elected and Paul Jones was consecrated as the fourth Episcopal bishop of Utah.

As the first world war overtook the country despite his support from the majority of the congregations within his diocese he was repeated attacked for his pacifism and eventually forced to resign his episcopacy. In later years he would joke that he became bishop to the Universe.

The bishop spent a greater part of the rest of his life preaching pacifism and working for social justice. He was one of the founders of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He also co-founded the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, which would become the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He worked tirelessly for civil rights and economic justice. In 1940 he ran on the socialist ticket for governor of Ohio. As he approached death in 1941 Bishop Jones was active in resettling Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

While attacked from those who found him a dangerous radical he was also widely respected and received a number of honors, including a doctorate from the Unitarian Meadville Lombard seminary in Chicago.

Today the Episcopal church celebrates today, the 4th of September, the anniversary of Bishop Paul Jones’ death, a saint’s feast.

As an exemplar of a better way, as a tireless advocate for the poor and the disenfranchised, that seems entirely appropriate.

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