A Question of Conscience: The
Resignation of Bishop Paul Jones
BY JOHN R. SILLITO AND TIMOTHY S. HEARN
Only a handful of American churchmen stood against American
participation in World War I," wrote historian Ralph Lord Roy.1 Numbered among that group was Paul Jones, Episcopal bishop of Utah, an
active Socialist who believed the American people were being swept into
the war on a wave of hysteria. Jones's pacifist sentiments and, in particular, his opposition to United States' participation in the war, ultimately cost him his ecclesiastical position. Moreover, Jones's resignation
precipitated a major crisis within the Episcopal church, dividing both
clergy and laity within the Diocese of Utah and throughout the nation.
Understanding this crisis and its resolution requires an examination of
Paul Jones's early life, his succession to the episcopate, and the factors
leading to his 1918 resignation as bishop of Utah.
Jones became bishop in 1914 after the accidental death of his friend
and mentor, Franklin Spencer Spalding. For nearly a decade Spalding
guided Episcopal affairs in Utah while at the same time actively participating in the movement for socialism developing in his church. In
1911 Spalding was one of the founders of the Church Socialist League
and served as its first president. The league united Episcopal clergy and
laity who were Socialists into an organization that called for the "collective ownership of all the means of production and distribution." Members
dedicated themselves to a twofold goal of advancing socialism by "all
just means" while promoting "a better understanding between church
people who are not Socialists, and Socialists who are not church people.""
Mr. Sillito is the archivist at Weber State College, Ogden, Utah. Mr. Hearn is a student
at Harvard Law School.
1 Ralph Lord Roy, Communism and the Churches (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960),
p. 15. For information on the role of clergymen during World War I see Ray H. Abrams,
Preachers Present Arms (Scottsdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1969). Abrams identifies some seventy
individuals, including Jones, who actively opposed the war. Nine different denominations were
represented with a few coming from the Unitarians, Congregationalists, Universalists, Baptists,
and Episcopalians. Of these clergymen, fifty-nine were occupying pulpits during the war. Approximately half were able to remain at their posts, the other half were forced or chose to resign.
2 The Social Preparation 1 (January 1913). For a decade this magazine was the official
publication of the Church Socialist League.