One of the Church of England’s most outspoken bishops is to resign a decade early after years of disenchantment with the liberal drift of Anglicanism.
The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali – the Church’s only Asian diocesan bishop – is planning to devote much of his time to helping persecuted Christians in Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Iran.
But Dr Nazir-Ali, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last summer in protest over gay clerics, is also certain to remain a powerful spokesman for Anglican conservatives.
The 59-year-old bishop – who has been in the post for 15 years and could have stayed there until he was 70 – has never been afraid of controversy.
Multi-culturalism, secularism and liberal theology have all been among his targets.
Last year he faced death threats for writing in a Sunday newspaper that Islamic extremists were creating ‘no-go’ areas for non-Muslims in parts of Britain.
The Bishop, his wife Valerie and their two sons were placed under police protection.
Earlier this year, he told The Mail on Sunday that the Church of England was not doing enough to convert Muslims.
In 2002, Bishop Nazir-Ali was a leading candidate to succeed Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury, and he has been critical of the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams.
He has strong support among conservatives from all wings of the Church of England, and could be a thorn in Dr Williams’s side for years to come.
The Archbishop yesterday paid tribute to Dr Nazir-Ali, saying in a statement: ‘Bishop Michael’s decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops.
‘His enormous theological skill, his specialist involvement in the complex debates around bioethics, his wide international experience and his clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague, and he has served the Church and the wider society with dedication and distinction.
‘In his new work with churches in minority situations, he will need all our prayer and support.
‘It is a courageous initiative and a timely one. I am personally very glad that I shall still be able to draw on his expertise and friendship, and wish him every strength and blessing.’
The Bishop of Tonbridge, Dr Brian Castle, said: ‘Bishop Michael has had a distinguished ministry locally, nationally and internationally.
‘He has been a true prophet in the way that he has courageously spoken out against both injustice and compromising the Word of God. His talks and statements, always prayerfully conceived, are listened to carefully, even by those who disagree with him.’
Dr Nazir-Ali was born and educated in Pakistan. He read economics, social history and Islamic history at the University of Karachi and then came to England to read theology at Cambridge.
In Pakistan, he taught at Karachi Theological College and worked as a parish priest in a poor urban area.
He later became Provost of Lahore Cathedral and was consecrated the first Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan.
In 1986 he was appointed to assist with the planning and preparation for the 1988 Lambeth Conference, and so joined the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Britain.
He became the Anglican church’s first non-white diocesan bishop when he was appointed to Rochester in 1994.
His farewell service for the diocese will be held at Rochester Cathedral on September 12.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Bishop Nazir-Ali, scourge of Church liberals, steps down
From the Daily Mail: