Tony Jones Sounds Off

By Brandon Bayne - May 25, 2009
Photo provided by Tony Jones

Though theologian and blogger Tony Jones disavows ever being an Evangelical in the traditional sense, his writing and speaking on the emerging church have been quite influential in Evangelical circles for many years. While some questioned his stances on scriptural authority and the atonement, his affirmation of the historicity of the resurrection and saving faith in Christ made many feel that he was ultimately a kindred spirit. However, this kinship may be tenuous after Jones began publicly supporting same-sex marriage (SSM). A few months ago, Jones began a "blogalogue" with Orthodox Christian and conservative blogger Rod Dreher about the subject. And, in a November 19, 2008 post he confessed, "I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state."

For many conservatives this was a theological and cultural Rubicon and just the sort of evidence they needed to brand Jones, if not the entire emerging church movement, as hopelessly heterodox. Just this month he wrote that since the November statement, he "is getting less and less invitations from evangelical groups." Jones had been hesitant to make an official decision about SSM for many years, because he believed it "was one issue (he) didn't want to get wrong." But, unlike fellow emergent leader Brian McClaren, who has advocated that Christians practice a "five year moratorium" on the issue of homosexuality, Jones finally decided to break his silence and stake a claim. In addition to his Public Square perspective on the topic, Tony agreed to talk to Patheos about the larger contexts and reactions to his decision.

Click here to read Tony's Public Square piece Gay Marriage is Meaningless.

Q: For many years you held the question of same sex marriage (SSM) in abeyance, but over the last few months you decided to break your silence. Do you have any regrets?

A: No. I have no regrets. I have received enormous support from friends and family for my stand -- and even those who disagree with me have thanked me for my writing. And, honestly, that's surprising. I thought that I might have regrets, or that some of my commenters would marshal theological arguments that would cause me to second guess my opinions. But, the fact is, I've found that my more theologically articulate interlocutors generally also advocate for same sex marriage.

Q: In a now famous post, you came to the conclusion that GLBTQ folks can "live lives in accord with biblical Christianity" and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned by church and state. Do you think this has given critics of the emerging church movement another arrow in their sling?

A: Ha! "Famous" may be overstating it! Yes, surely this has caused some conservative commentators to say, "See, I told you that the emergent movement was just the newest form of liberalism." But they were going to say that anyway, no matter what we say. And it's also no surprise that they completely ignore it when I write something that aligns with their own stances, like my recent affirmation of the physical resurrection of Jesus. They go looking for what they want to find, and, whaddya know, they find it!

Q: You and Rod Dreher attempted one of the few intentionally Christian, civil conversations on SSM in your blogalogue. Do you feel like it served its purpose or was it yet another victim of outside pressures that push the conversation to extremes?

A: It didn't work. Rod backed out after only two posts, and I guess you could say it was because of the extremes. Rod told me that he just couldn't handle all of the nasty, disrespectful comments that he was having to delete. But he's gone on to blog about SSM on other occasions, so I think there was something else going on. He has written that, although he's opposed to SSM, he's resigned to the fact that conservatives will lose that argument. So maybe he also feels that theological/biblical debate is somewhat pointless. It's too bad, because I think it had real merit.

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