Speaking Truth

Today was the feast day of Bishop Paul Jones of Utah, who was elected in 1913 by the clergy and people of Utah. Four years later, the United States entered World War I and Bishop Jones spoke out passionately against it. He said that he could not find anything in the words of Jesus that justified war. He said this more than once. And so the people and clergy of Utah went to Bishop Jones and asked him to resign.

Today was also the ordination of a priest in my diocese and the sermon by Rev. Robert Wright, recalling Bishop Jones, was marvelous. Among the many things he exhorted the ordinand to remember (like "the truth shall set you free - from employment"), his last word stands out: speak the truth, always speak the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

Bishop Jones told the truth, and he lost his job for it. Rev. Wright reminded us all that clergy must not worry about losing their jobs - it's God's church and being a priest is not a job anyway because it's a calling, a vocation - because if we are worried about our jobs, then we will be tempted to not speak the truth always. We will be concerned with ourselves rather than with God's truth. And then we will not be living out our vocation. The problem is, Rev. Wright continued (as he spoke his own truth), that what people want their truthtelling prophets to be is dead. We generally like our prophets best when they are dead.

Of course this is true for everyone, not just clergy. It is hard to speak the truth when we know it will upset someone and maybe we will suffer repercussions for it. But he was right. We must speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. We all will have our Good Friday and we will have our Easter, too. Bishop Jones had his Good Friday in 1917, but now he's one of the saints of the church.

I admit I didn't know much about Bishop Jones before today. But I will never forget him now.