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Bishop Nazir-Ali retires; a rebellion fizzles out

Dr Nazir-Ali's departure signals the end of Anglicanism's damaging schism, says George Pitcher.

 
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Dr Nazir-Ali has had the See of Rochester for 15 years Photo: Eleanor Bentall

There are events in public life that are not in themselves terribly important, but which symbolise something much bigger, like the end of an era. Jacqui Smith's accidental purchase of cable porn with taxpayers' money is, for example, an essentially trivial issue, even rather funny, but it is symptomatic of a derided Government in its death throes, just like John Major's sleaze-ridden last days in power.

For the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion, the retirement of Michael Nazir-Ali as Bishop of Rochester is another such totemic event. I must be quick to declare that there is nothing sleazy in the departure of Dr Nazir-Ali from the English episcopate.

On the contrary, he is to devote the rest of his considerable ministry to the support of persecuted Christians here and abroad, which is a noble and sacramental enterprise.

But his departure from the House of Bishops is nevertheless emblematic of the decline of a political force in worldwide Anglicanism, which as recently as last year threatened to tear our Communion apart. For such a significant figure of conservative evangelicalism to be throwing the episcopal towel in at this time shows just how far the Church has travelled over the past 12 months.

Again, it's important not to read too much in to Dr Nazir-Ali's resignation itself. He has had the See of Rochester for 15 years; at not yet 60, he has another career in him yet. But can anyone seriously suggest that, had those biblical traditionalists of the southern hemisphere, known collectively as the Global South, prevailed last year in overthrowing the authority of Canterbury in favour of an African-led Communion, he would have abandoned his important foothold in the English Church?

No. Dr Nazir-Ali, scourge of homosexual liberalism and what he sees as the Muslim threat to Christendom, pitched his tent with the African rebels, under the flag of the unfortunately named Gafcon, but now finds that army dispersed and demoralised.

He's a bit like Jack Cade, the 15th-century Kentish rebel leader who briefly took London and who poignantly enough retreated through Rochester with his dwindled force. Dr Nazir-Ali finds himself, like Cade, isolated in his own land.

And, like Cade, he must be pondering how quickly the optimism of last year's rebel schismatics has turned to dust. Then there was talk of an end to neo-colonialist rule in the Anglican Church, with a new biblical hegemony that would isolate homosexual bishops and build a new Communion out of Africa.

Where is it now? Some 230 bishops, including Dr Nazir-Ali, boycotted the decennial Lambeth Conference at Canterbury last summer, many of them expecting the old order to fall. Yet at last month's Anglican Primates' meeting in Alexandria, not one primate was absent for doctrinal reasons. Importantly, the Archbishops of Uganda and Nigeria were present and correct.

The traditionalist schism has fizzled out. Today, type Gafcon into Google News and practically the only items are from Virtue Online, the website run by the alternative Communion's cheerleader, David Virtue. The Anglican Church has returned to what it is best at, accommodating the richest diversity of Christian witness without any one faction imposing its authority on those who demur. It's a reformed talent that distinguishes it, inter alia, from Roman Catholicism.

Dr Nazir-Ali, a serious and devout man, will have seen this and reflected prayerfully on where his future ministry lay. It is said he was disappointed not to have been made Archbishop of Canterbury, but in truth he would have been awful in that role; his comments on British Muslims alone, had they emerged from Canterbury, could have left blood on the streets. Then seeing York go to someone else may have told him all he needed to know.

Those who seek power in the Anglican Church seldom win it. There is much to celebrate in Dr Nazir-Ali's ministry. But his failure to form an alternative Anglican Church is to be celebrated too.

 
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The Debt Collector
07/05/2009 12:41 AM
I am not homosexual nor endorse it, but each to their own; but don't approach me and make assuumptions that I should see it as natural.



But isn't this preacher's demand something out of the Salem Witch Trials?



Was it not the Religious Personnel who dilberately kept the Parisioners in the 9th through to the 16th Centuaries illiterate so that the Church could control?

cf. Messrs Blair & Brown dumbing down qualification and controlling television.





It also brings a certain de ja vu to Henry The VIII who created his own religion becuase Rome wouldn't let him have his way with his planned divorce.



And finally let us not forget that the greatest cause of war is religion.

Ironically at all surface levels claim religious claim to figth the good fight for the of desire peace on Earth.



Perhaps this should be changed by all religious sections as the desire to control all on Earth?



cf The Middle East?



Hmmm.

exon
07/04/2009 11:49 PM
And we atheists look on and despair at your petty-mindedness.
Allan Ashworth
07/04/2009 11:19 PM
Dr Nazir Ali is course correct. It is no use assuming that these are normal practices, however much we might love them as people.
Ian Turner
04/01/2009 10:12 AM
Michael Nazir-Ali, we will all miss you. For you shone like a beacon in the darkness of the Church of England. And you held steadfast to the great evangelical truths of the Protestant reformation. Born out of your own experience of living in an Islamic state, where Christians are routinely persecuted, you understand the gravity of the threat to personal and religious freedoms that Islam in all its forms poses. We have always admired your courage and pray that you will continue as you have done to waken Britain from its secular slumbers.
RO
04/01/2009 08:43 AM
Judging by the tone of the posts here, the Rev. Mr. Pitcher seems rather to have misjudged the feelings of his readership!



His article shows one appalling error (plus a rather self-satisfied arrogance): that because a prominent opponent of what one might call the Militant Trendency in the CofE has withdrawn from the British scene to do something he no doubt feels more worthwhile, therefore the problems have gone away.



This is absolutely wrong! The problems are still there, and will probably be aggravated by the lack of a high-profile advocate. The resentment at fudge, appeasement of moslems, openly homosexual priests, and priestesses ('woman priests', as they call themselves) are still there, and will probably get worse from the lack of a voice.



The 'force in worldwide Anglicanism, which as recently as last year threatened to tear our Communion apart' is still very much there, and schism still a definite possibility unless the concerns are genuinely addressed and not just fudged over yet again.
Simon Icke
03/31/2009 04:02 PM
I remember in my 20s being rejected for ordination by the then liberal Bishops of London. I guess I didn't fit the mould, after all I came from a working class northern grammar school, I believed in plain speaking and had a real evangelical Christian faith. It was made clear to me then that there was no room in the Anglican Church for potential radicals who preached the gospel in all its fullness, without political correctness or watering it down so it was acceptable for liberal christian trendies, non believers, the chattering classes and militant minorities in all their guises. No they were looking for nice middle class Anglican church type people, from the right class, the right kind of school or university who wouldn't offend anyone or rock the Anglican boat. It didn't seem to matter if you really believed in Jesus Christ or not or accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour. I am surprised that Dr Nazir - Ali managed to get as far as he did. I pray that without the restictions of PC Anglicanism he will now be able to speak to a spiritually broken nation without restraint and give the Christian leadership this country so desperately needs.
pat baker
03/31/2009 03:45 PM
I am very sorry that Bishop Michael is to go, we need strong leaders and other than John Sentanu no one speaks out for the Anglican church, Jesus died for his church, what a shame the church is being allowed to die. To whom it may concern, it is not Henry VIII that we follow, we did not know him, but we do know Jesus and with the tone of that persons comments I wonder if he or her does? Rowan Williams reminds me of Gordan Brown, he is not listening to all his flock and the church will suffer the same fate as the economy. Wake up before it is too late.
Gillian Smith
03/31/2009 01:26 PM
I agree with all those who bitterly regret Bishop Nazir Ali's resignation; he is/was the only Anglican bishop with the courage to stand up and defend Christianity against all comers. So unlike the useless cardboard cut-out who is now the Abp of Canterbury!
Peter Bricknell
03/31/2009 11:16 AM
This reminds me of the scene in Life of Brian - where Brian is arrested & Judith goes to the 'peoples front of judea' for support - and they make a resolution to take action, getting back to their debate. In the same way Bishop Michael is telling the church there's suffering in the world, people are being killed and Bishops are more interested in promoting based on sexual orientation, than providing hope to the poor, freeing the addicted, helping the sick and releasing the oppressed. So Bishop Michael leaves the debate and helps those who are suffering. Every person saved from being killed for their faith, is of more benefit than another motion for debate on organisation structures.
Phaedrus
03/31/2009 10:47 AM
George,

As usual, I am a little confuzzled!



Is Homosexuality a sin or not?
Edd Herts
03/31/2009 10:42 AM
Colin Gillies Edinburgh

on March 30, 2009

at 02:16 PM

Sunday Telegraph that the BBC is considering appointing a muslim as the head of their Religious Affairs department.

------------------------------

Lets face facts here, the BBC would install someone from the flat earth society if they thought it would annoy enough people !
Igonikon Jack
03/31/2009 10:35 AM
This is an elaborate and incisive article by George

Pitcher--one of Telegraph's

writers and columnists whose

articles have generated a lot of

my religion commentaries. I'm glad Telegraph editors pulled it up just at the right moment when I'm available to deliver a commentary--instantly. But, the most sincere compiment is that it's through this article that

I learnt about Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's resignation.

Furthermore, I, also, learned

that he joined the hard-line,

ultra-conservative group that

challenged Canterbury and

Lambeth authorities over the

gay-rights controversy that

polarized the Anglican Church

over which I wrote a lot of

commentaries from a neutral,

historical, intellectual

standpoint.



The extent that I have known

Bishop Nazir-Ali here at the

Telegraph, is just through his

bold and constructive articles

to which I responded with my

posted commentaries. But, Like

Pitcher, the bishop's articles

drew a lot of response from me

by way of "secular-religion"

commentaries. I'm the outsider

who trades my critical lenses

on the trends in the Church to

enable her improve and reform.

And, the good thing about it, is

that I was from the inside many years ago. So, I have a fair knowledge of what I'm talking about; not just from my knowledge of Church history.



If I'll summarize Bishop Michael

Nazir-Ali's illustrious career,

which abruptly ended the way it

did: resignation, as opposed

to retirement which should have

come probably a decade from now,

it seems he never came to terms

with reality that there'll be only one Archbishop of Canterbury at a time. He was qualified to be one. But,

eventually Dr. Rowan Wulliams

was chosen. It was a rare

opportunity for a foreign-born

bishop to be shortlisted for the

the highest bishopric post

in the 77 million worldwide

Anglican Communion, of which

26 million are Britain-based

Church of England members.



Many other Anglican bishops

would have envied Nazir-Ali's

position and accomplishments.

It's like in the election of

Pope Benedict XVI from the name

of former Cardinal Joseph Alois

Ratzinger. After several early-

round ballots, it came down to three choices: Ratzinger,

Nigerian Cardinal Francis

Arinze and one other cardinal.

But, Ratzinger was given the

nudge by his red-hatted princes

of the Catholic Church--fellow

cardinals--for two primary

reasons, in spite of his

advanced age: 1. He's the closest and most trusted by his predecessor: Pope John Paul II, with friendship going back to Vatical Council II 1962-65, where both of them served as

consultants. 2. Ratzinger took

up the child-abuse allegations

and trangressions in the

priesthood with zero-tolerance

approach; curbed it and brought integrity to his Church. So,

his colleagues wanted him to

continue and finish the job as

pope. The point I'm making here

is that even though Arinze lost

out to Ratzinger, when he was

interviewed, he said whichever

way it turned out, he would have

no complaint, adding that in his

wildest dreams growing up his

nativeland, he never believed

he would be a candidate for the

Papacy. This is the way

Nazir-Ali should have approached

Canterbury from Rochester.



I have gauged newspaper opinions

and responses over Nazir-Ali's

departure, there's no robust celebration out there. Because,

many feel that they are losing

one of the brilliant anchors of

Angilican Conservatism, and

a vocal critic of Muslim

extremism, which is not a

criticism of Islam: Extremism which is a problem for any institution, individual, religion, political party or organization. And, what is extremism? Answer: Pursuing

policies through actions and

ideas outside acceptable and reasnable bounds and codes of conduct--outside the normal,

majoritarian mainstream of

fellowship or membership.



But, by joining Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)--the

radical, fundamentalist,

anti-Lambeth, near-schismatic splinter group that challenged

Canterbury on its gradualist, indulgent approach to the issue of gay-rights activism in the

Church, he might have fallen into similar trap of extremism he condemned on the Muslim side.



The way I envisoned it while

commentaries on the issue,

Canterbury wants to solve the

problem through an inclusive, more diplomatic approach which may take a longer period without

creating a special congregation

for gay bishops and fellowship

within the ranks of the Anglican

Communion. GAFCON and other

fundamentalist Nazirists wanted

gay-rights package done with immediately--loaded with fuselage. It's a difference of

resolving it within a year with

costly schismatic repercussions

and doing so within a decade and

preserving Anglican, doctrinal

universalism.



Bishop Nazir-Ali, in hindsight, should have remained the Bishop

of Rochester as a champion of

Anglican Conservatism to balance

the metastasizing ivory-tower

liberalism of the communion's

hierarchy. A balance of these

forces is the basis of moderation and centrism in

governance. The Catholic Church

laity and congregation is crying

for liberalism, because it has

disappeared as the religion

veers backwards 500 years

towards Tridentine Catholicism

of Counter-Reformation era.

The Anglican Church's fellowship

wants injection and doses of

Conservatism to balance the

liberal policies of the Lambeth

government in Canterbury; but

not the fire-brand, radical,

near-schismatic Conservatism of

the Nazirist-GAFCON kind.



Anglican Conservatism championed by Nazir-Ali is

needed in the Anglican Church

Communion and government. But,

it's by way of civic debate and

dialogue within the fellowship.

And, if they persist, they will

build enough coalition to have their way in future governments

and administrations through

eccelesiastical diplomacy. That's how it's done. I have to

be realistic: While this is

possible in the Anglican Church,

forget it: It's unlikely to

happen in the Church. Because,

the road to the Papacy goes

through the Cardinalates or College of Cardinals full of Ratzingerist conservatives--

known for Counter-Reformationist

sensibilities.



All said and done: Even the

Archbishop of Canterbury,

Dr. Rowan Willimas regrets

Ali's departure: "Bishop Michael's decision to undertake

this new and very challenging

ministry will leave a real gap

in the ranks of English bishops," he said. "He has

strong support among Conservatives from all wings of

the Church of England," says a

Daily Mail's Mar. 29 online

editorial commentary.



Bishop Michael James Nazir-Ali

will be 60 on Aug. 19, 2009.

He announced his resignation

on March 28, 2009 (last week),

narrated in the Mar. 28 article:

"Michael Nazir Ali steps down as

Bishop of Rochester," written by

Telegraph Religious Affairs

Correspondent, Jonathan Wynne-

Jones. Nazir-Ali a Pakistani-

British, Anglican bishop who as

as a youth converted from

Catholicism, according to BBC

News sources, is, also, the

106th Bishop of Rochester. He's

a graduate of Harvard Divinity

School at Harvard University,

and has a Doctor of Theology

degree from Australian College

of Theology. His departure will

be missed.



For my "Nazir-Ali" commentaries,

read them under Ed Husain's

Jan. 13-08 article: "Bishop

right to tackle no-go areas,"

(3:37 AM); George Pitcher's

May 30 "Right or wrong Bishop

named our ills," (1:20 PM,

updated Dec.29); Telegraph

View's Jan. 8-08 "Bishop of

Rochester leads the way,"

(7:45 AM, updated Dec. 30) and

Bishop Nazir-Ali's Feb. 7

"Hospitals betray history by

banning prayer," (Feb. 8,

9:22 AM) [about Caroline Petrie's prayer-nursing medication contrversy].

Igonikon Jack, USA

Graham Gowers
03/31/2009 10:25 AM
I really think that George Pitcher should cease to comment on matters pertaining to the Anglican Church until he understands what's going on! I bitterly regret that Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was not appointed Archbishop of Canterbury instead of the present incombent. Mr. Pitcher referred to "blood on the streets". If Dr. Nazir-Ali had become A of C he would have told the truth about Islam based on his own family experience of it instead of constantly seeking to appease it. He would also have fulfilled the first duty of any Archbishop, namely to defend and promote Christianity which Rowan Williams has singularly failed to do, preferring instead to placate Muslims by saying there are aspects of Christianity which they find offensive and encouraging the introduction of Sharia Law into this country, all of which I find highly offensive! If this is what the Anglican Church wishes to bring about then it is a great pity that he was unable to form an alternative to it. If "blood on the streets" is the price we must pay for reclaiming our religion and our country and regaining some backbone, then so be it!
Maaria
03/31/2009 08:36 AM
Now thats a rather strange way of looking at it dont you think. It seems to me, the brains of the Anglican Church are taking a walk to Pakistan - :) Now you can really say to the Church of England - have your brains taken a walk'? They will be serving where their service is required.
L. A. Thompson
03/30/2009 05:48 PM
Like John Wesley before him, Dr. Nazir-Ali came to realise that the C. of E. could not be changed from within. Sadly his departure is an indication of the scale of the task. Against a background of membership decline and a clearly broken society, the worthy Geo. Pitcher seems pleased that the Church of England is free to continue on its slumbering descent; will the last one out, please put out the lights?
CW
03/30/2009 05:13 PM
Liberal unorthodoxy broke the Anglican Church. If anyone would bother to investigate they would find that on the ground thousands of passionately committed orthodox Anglicans like Dr Nazir-Ali are leaving the Anglican Church and are now basking in a warm welcome in the growing Free Reformed or Roman Catholic Churches.
Rod
03/30/2009 04:51 PM
This is a sad day for those calling themselves English Christians. Bishop Nazir-Ali was speaking the Gospel with a clear and fearless voice.

Opposition towards Jesus' message was/is often strongest from within the Religious Establishment. The Gospel which came early to England; will not be silenced or distorted by some who have lost their way.

Joseph Bloggs
03/30/2009 04:36 PM
George,again you demonstrate that you have no understanding of evangelical Christianity. That is not surprising if one reads 1 Corinthians 2:14

Colin Gillies Edinburgh
03/30/2009 03:16 PM
Firstly is Cllr Kem Tiwari a joke? i.e. somebody taking the mick?



On a serious note I read with some dismay in the Sunday Telegraph that the BBC is considering appointing a muslim as the head of their Religious Affairs department. Up till now I have not heard one peep from any of our political figures when they should be protecting the interests of those of us who consider ourselves Christians. Good luck to Doctor Nizar-Ali in the future the church needs men like him.
An Englishman at home
03/30/2009 02:37 PM
What a bizarre conclusion, GP, on what would have happened if he'd become Archbishop of Canterbury.



The way to stop blood on the streets is to assert the host culture and values, not cede them to Islam or anything else.
Bill
03/30/2009 02:23 PM
It's always sad when a man of principle walks away from an organisation especially when there seems to be so few of his type left in the English branch of the CoE. I suppose this means that the wishy washy stand for nothing brigade have almost won. Pity!
Andrew of Brighton
03/30/2009 02:06 PM
The silly thing about the Anglican church is that it has forgotten about those that believe.
Margaret
03/30/2009 01:13 PM
It is so sad that the Bishop is to retire from such. We need his unfearing outspokeness, and it is a grave reflection on the Church institution that this is happening.

It is sad for this country though that we Christians will need his help in coming years in this country as he joins so many more in helping those under persecution atound the world - mostly in Muslim countries. This is fact and may not be denied.
John Wrake
03/30/2009 01:11 PM
It is sad to see someone with the eye of the public at his disposal commending the Church of England and its leadership for the sort of woolly liberalism more appropriate to secular politics than a Christian Church. Bishop Nazir Ali has been amongst the few leaders ready to recall the membership to loyalty to the Gospel, rather than cosy relations with those more concerned with trendiness.

Schism is not instituted by those holding fast to Christ, but by those trying to modernise the eternal.
Nice Ian Creed
03/30/2009 01:02 PM
I sincerely hope the good bishop will find the time in his leisure, to speak his mind !

Maybe he should apply for a new post in China where there seems to a massive upsurge in Christianity. One ironic day soon they might even save us from incredibly dull people like the A.B.o C !
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