Anglican bishop resigns and announces plan to support harassed Christians

By staff writers
March 30, 2009

The controversial Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, has announced his intention to step down so that he can give more time to supporting Christians who are under pressure around the world.

Dr Nazir-Ali has been in his diocesan episcopal post for the last 15 years.

He was formerly a special adviser to the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, a general secretary of the Church Missionary Society (now the Church Mission Society) and Bishop of Raiwind in his native Pakistan.

As chair of the Mission Theological Advisory Group of the Church of England and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (the ecumenical body) for a number of years, he worked with theologians and church figures from across the spectrum.

However, he has become increasingly outspoken in his opposition to what he sees as liberal trends in the Anglican Communion since being passed over as Archbishop of Canterbury for Dr Rowan Williams in 2003.

Dr Nazir-Ali is the Church of England’s first Asian bishop, and its only one so far.

"Bishop Michael is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation," a spokesperson for the was quoted as saying by The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

In 2008 Dr Nazir-Ali found himself embroiled in a row over claims that Islamic communities in Britain had rendered some areas of the country no-go areas for non-Muslims. His contention was widely challenged.

Bishop Nazir-Ali said in a letter to his diocese: "I am so grateful to God for the friendship and loyalty of those around us and ask for people's prayers as we take this step of faith 'not knowing where we are going'."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, paid tribute to the bishop’s theological learning, his “clarity of mind and expression” and his “dedication and distinction” in serving the Church and wider society.

"Bishop Michael's decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops,” he declared.

At one stage, Dr Nazir-Ali was seen as a possible contender to lead a breakaway Anglican body, but he is believed to have disliked the tactics and tone of some with whom he sided theologically on what is described as the conservative wing of the Church.

The bishop has retained a personal admiration and respect for Dr Williams, even in the midst of disagreement.

He has direct experience of the mistreatment of Christians, minority groups and labourers from his years in Pakistan and has been regarded as brave in some of the stands he has taken on such issues in his early ministry.

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