Michael Nazir-Ali

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Michael Nazir-Ali
Michael Nazir-Ali.jpg
Denomination Anglican
Senior posting
See Rochester
Title Bishop of Rochester
Period in office 1994 — 2009
Consecration 1984
Predecessor Anthony Michael Arnold Turnbull
Successor TBA
Religious career
Priestly ordination 1976
Previous bishoprics Bishop of Raiwind
Assistant Bishop of Southwark
Previous post Assistant Bishop of Southwark
Date of birth 19 August 1949 (1949-08-19) (age 61)
Place of birth Karachi

Michael James Nazir-Ali (born 19 August 1949) was the 106th Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England. On 28 March 2009 he announced his intention to resign and he retired as diocesan bishop in September 2009,[1] taking up a position as director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue.

He holds dual citizenship of both Pakistan and Britain.



[edit] Background

Michael Nazir-Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan to Christian parents, James and Patience Nazir-Ali.[2] His father converted from Islam.[3] He attended the Roman Catholic-run St Patrick's school in Karachi and began attending Roman Catholic services and identifying as Christian at the age of 15; he was formally received into the Church of Pakistan aged 20.[4]

[edit] Academic career

Bishop Nazir-Ali attended Saint Patrick's High School, Karachi, read economics, Islamic history, and sociology at the University of Karachi (BA 1970) and studied in preparation for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (1970). He undertook further postgraduate studies in theology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BLitt 1974, MLitt 1981), Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (MLitt 1976) (where he joined Cambridge University Liberal Club)[5], and the Australian College of Theology (ThD 1983). He has also studied at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School and in 2005 he was awarded the Lambeth DD. He has a number of other doctorates. His particular academic interests include comparative literature and comparative philosophy of religion. In addition to teaching appointments in colleges and universities in many parts of the world, he has been a tutor in the University of Cambridge, Senior Tutor of Karachi Theological College, and Visiting Professor of Theology and Religious Studies in the University of Greenwich. He has been elected an Honorary Fellow of his colleges at Oxford (St Edmund Hall) and Cambridge (Fitzwilliam). From 1986 until 1989, while he was Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Co-ordinator of Studies and Education for the Lambeth Conference, he was Honorary Curate of Oxford St Giles and St Philip and St James with St Margaret.

[edit] Ecclesiastical and public career

He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1976 and worked in Karachi and Lahore, and became the first Bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab (1984–86) — at the time, the youngest bishop in the Anglican Communion. When his life was endangered in Pakistan in 1986 [6], Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, arranged for his refuge in England. Nazir-Ali says, "...the reason behind some of the difficulties I was facing was removed when General Zia was killed - unfortunately for him, and I am now not doing the work that I was doing at the time with the very poor." [7] . He became an assistant to the Archbishop at Lambeth and assisted with the planning of the 1988 Lambeth Conference; he was General Secretary of the Church Mission Society 1989-1994 and concurrently Assistant Bishop of Southwark. He was appointed Bishop of Rochester, England in 1994, and in 1999 entered the House of Lords as one of the "Lords Spiritual" because of his seniority in episcopal office, the first religious leader from Asia to serve there. He was one of the final two candidates for Archbishop of Canterbury, though Rowan Williams was appointed.

Between 1997 and 2003. he was chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's ethics and law committee. He is a leader of the Network for Inter-faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion.[8]

[edit] Views

[edit] Evangelical Catholic

Bishop Nazir-Ali is generally on the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, describing himself as "evangelical and catholic".[9] In October 2009, he said he wouldn't rule out or rule in becoming a Roman Catholic until seeing the details of the Pope's proposal that traditionalist Anglicans be allowed to set up their own personal ordinariates.[10]

[edit] Ordination of women

He appointed the first woman archdeacon in the Church of England.[11]

[edit] Marriage and children

In 2000, Nazir-Ali wrote,

It is very important for the Church to continue saying that having children and their nurture is a basic good of marriage and not an optional extra. Just as a marriage is not complete without mutual support, companionship and love, so there is a real lack if the intention is never to have children, regardless of circumstances. This signals that marriage is not a matter of self-indulgence. In our age, such teaching is crucial."[2]

In his statement, he had gone on to say when it was right for couples not to have children. Patrons and counsellors would need to advise couples in such circumstances as to what was right for them.

Because of this statement, it is claimed that Nazir-Ali believed that married couples had a duty to have children, and those who remained childless were "self-indulgent"[12] Although he views having children a basic part of a good marriage, he has denied ever labeling couples who did not have children "self-indulgent".[11], claiming it was "pure invention".[2]

[edit] Homosexuality

He opposes the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. He was one of the bishops who signed a letter against Rowan Williams' appointment of the Reverend Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003. The others were the Bishops of Bradford, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Exeter, Liverpool, Southwell and Winchester.

He has been "accused of pandering to hate and homophobia" after publishing a statement, on the day a Gay Pride parade took place in London, calling for homosexuals to "repent and be changed".[13]

After he was reported in the Press as saying homosexuals should 'repent and be changed', he published a statement saying that the context was that all us of should repent, walk with Christ and be transformed by the renewal of their minds. When asked whether this included homosexuals, he had said it included everybody and went on to give a Christian view of human sexuality, marriage and the family.

[edit] Relations with Muslims

Bishop Nazir-Ali has become a prominent spokesman for an engagement between Christianity and Islam. He is frequently quoted in the press. In November 2006 Nazir-Ali criticised the "dual psychology" of some Muslims who seek both "victimhood and domination". He said it would never be possible to satisfy all of the demands made by Muslims because "their complaint often boils down to the position that it is always right to intervene when Muslims are victims... and always wrong when Muslims are the oppressors or terrorists". In reference to conflict in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, he said "Given the world view that has given rise to such grievances, there can never be sufficient appeasement and new demands will continue to be made." In response, the Muslim Council of Britain said "We would normally expect a bishop to display more humility and work towards bringing communities closer together rather than contributing towards fostering greater divisions."[3]

[edit] Lambeth Conference

In October 2007, he told the Daily Telegraph that he would not attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference because he would find it "very difficult" to be in Council following the actions of the Episcopal Church in the United States in favour of homosexuality, which he believes are destroying the unity of the Anglican Communion.[14]

[edit] No-go areas

In January 2008 Nazir-Ali wrote that Islamic extremism had turned "already separate communities into 'no-go' areas" and claimed that there had been attempts to "impose an 'Islamic' character on certain areas", citing the amplification of the call to prayer from mosques as an example[15]. He criticised the government's integration policy as "an agenda which still lacks the underpinning of a moral and spiritual vision", and asked that the government make a public affirmation of the "Christian roots of British society".

These comments resulted in some debate and criticism, including a response from the Muslim Council of Britain, who said the mosque call was no different from church bells ringing, and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who described the claims as "a gross caricature of reality". Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis said the bishop had rightly drawn attention to a "deeply serious problem" and that Labour's support for multiculturalism risked creating a situation of "voluntary apartheid".[16]

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears responded to Nazir-Ali's comments by stating that Britain was a "secular democracy", and challenged him to name specific 'no go' areas.[17] but the Chair of the Equality Commission, Trevor Phillips, agreed with his analysis of the situation. Nazir-Ali has since received death threats against himself and his family, and he is now under escort by the Kent police; however, he says his "overflowing postbag" has been "overwhelmingly supportive", with people offering their own experience. [18] [19]

[edit] Church in the public square

In the June 2008 issue of Standpoint magazine,[20] He called for the Church to regain a prominent position in public life and blamed the "newfangled and insecurely founded doctrine of multiculturalism" for entrenching the segregation of communities. Nazir Ali claimed that the decline of Christianity and the rise of liberal values in the UK during the 1960s had created a moral vacuum with radical Islam filling the gap. "We have argued that it is necessary to understand where we have come from, to guide us to where we are going, and to bring us back when we wander too far from the path of national destiny", the bishop wrote.

[edit] Family

Bishop Nazir-Ali met his wife, Valerie Cree, who is English, in Cambridge. They were married in 1972 and have two adult sons, Shammy (Shamoun) and Ross.[21]

His pastimes include hockey, cricket, table tennis and Scrabble as well as writing poetry in English and Persian and listening to music.

[edit] Publications

Bishop Nazir-Ali's published writings include the following:

and many other articles in newspapers and journals

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (2009-03-28). "Michael Nazir-Ali steps down as Bishop of Rochester". London: The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5065601/Michael-Nazir-Ali-steps-down-as-Bishop-of-Rochester.html. 
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Andrew (2002-01-12). "Blessed with ambition: Michael Nazir-Ali". London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/blessed-with-ambition-michael-nazirali-663016.html. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  3. ^ a b "Bishop attacks 'Muslim hypocrisy.'". BBC News. 2006-11-05. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6117912.stm. 
  4. ^ "Anglican bishop has 'Catholic past'". BBC News. 2002-01-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1756499.stm. Retrieved 2007-11-26.. 
  5. ^ http://keynessociety.wordpress.com/about-the-keynes-society/
  6. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (2008-02-02). "Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, faces death threats". London: Times Online. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3292032.ece. 
  7. ^ Mackay, Maria (2007-10-04). "Interview: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali on the persecution of Christians". Christian Today. http://www.christiantoday.com/article/interview.bishop.michael.nazirali.on.the.persecution.of.christians/13662.htm. 
  8. ^ "Profile: Michael Nazir-Ali". BBC News. 2008-01-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7173759.stm. 
  9. ^ Petre, Jonathan (2002-01-13). "'I am Catholic and evangelical'". London: The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1381259/I-am-Catholic-and-evangelical.html. 
  10. ^ "Leading Church of England bishops move closer to Vatican defection". Mail Online. 2009-10-26. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1222819/I-wont-rule-converting-Catholicism-says-Bishop.html#ixzz0UtqixbeG. 
  11. ^ a b "Bishop no stranger to limelight". BBC News. 2002-01-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1756921.stm. 
  12. ^ "Profile: Michael Nazir-Ali". BBC News. 2008-01-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7173759.stm. 
  13. ^ Smith, Lewis (2009-07-06). "Condemnation for bishop who called for gay people to 'repent' — Michael Nazir-Ali accused of pandering to hate and homophobia". London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/condemnation-for-bishop-who-called-for-gay-people-to-repent-1732755.html. 
  14. ^ Petre, Jonathan (2007-10-08). "Church of England gay clergy row intensifies". London: The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/08/ngay108.xml. 
  15. ^ Nazir-Ali, Michael (2008-01-06). "Extremism flourished as UK lost Christianity". London: The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/06/nislam206.xml. 
  16. ^ "Bishop warns of 'Islamic areas'". BBC News. 2008-01-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7173599.stm. 
  17. ^ "Blears rejects 'no go' area claim". BBC News. 2008-01-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7175153.stm. 
  18. ^ "Threats to 'no-go areas' bishop". BBC News. 2008-02-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7223788.stm. 
  19. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (2008-02-02). "Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, faces death threats". London: The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3292032.ece. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  20. ^ Nazir-Ali, Michael (2008-06). "Breaking Faith With Britain". Standpoint (magazine). http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/breaking-faith-with-britain-june. 
  21. ^ "Biography of Bishop Michael J Nazir-Ali at the Diocese of Rochester website (pdf)". 2007-06-29. http://www.rochester.anglican.org/pdf_files/biography_general_info/bishop_michael_biog_2.pdf. 

[edit] External links

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Michael Turnbull
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
see now vacant
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