Michael Nazir-Ali


Michael Nazir-Ali
Michael Nazir-Ali
Bishop of Rochester
Church Church of England
Diocese Diocese of Rochester
In Office 1994 — 2009
Predecessor Michael Turnbull
Successor James Langstaff
Other posts Bishop of Raiwind
Assistant Bishop of Southwark
Assistant Bishop of Southwark
Orders
Ordination 1976
Consecration 1984
Personal details
Born 19 August 1949 (1949-08-19) (age 62)
Karachi, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani (by birth) & British
Parents James Nazir-Ali & Patience
Spouse Valerie Cree (m. 1972)
Children 2 adult sons, Shammy & Ross

Michael James Nazir-Ali (born 19 August 1949) was the 106th Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England: he retired 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.

Contents

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]

Academic career

Nazir-Ali attended Saint Patrick's High School, Karachi and later studied economics, Islamic history and sociology at the University of Karachi (BA 1970). He studied in preparation for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (1970) and undertook postgraduate studies in theology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BLitt 1974, MLitt 1981), Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (MLitt 1976) (where he joined the 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 an honorary curate of St Giles', Oxford and St Philip and St James with St Margaret.

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]

Views

Nazir-Ali is generally on the Evangelical wing of Anglicanism, describing himself as being "evangelical and catholic".[9] He appointed the first woman archdeacon in the Church of England.[10]

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"[11] 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",[10] claiming it was "pure invention".[2]

Homosexuality

Nazir-Ali opposes the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian people as 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 Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003. The others were the Bishops of Bradford, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Exeter, Liverpool, Southwell and Winchester.

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.[12]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Relations with Muslims

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]

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.[14] 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".[15]

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.[16] 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.[17][18]

Church in the public square

In the June 2008 issue of Standpoint magazine,[19] Nazir-Ali called for the church to regain a prominent position in public life and blamed the "newfangled and insecurely founded doctrine of multiculturalism"[citation needed] for entrenching the segregation of communities. He 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. He worote that "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."[citation needed]

Multiculturalism

The launch edition of the Standpoint magazine caused controversy in the United Kingdom, in which Nazir-Ali called for Christianity 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 argued that the decline of Christianity and the rise of liberal values in the UK during the 1960s had created a moral vacuum which radical Islam threatened to fill. He wrote that "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."[20] The Guardian newspaper devoted its leader to criticising Nazir-Ali, although it described his writing as "neatly underlining [Standpoint]'s expressed intent ‘to defend and celebrate Western civilisation’".[21] Nazir-Ali was condemned by the Ramadhan foundation and the President of the National Secular Society, who accused him of "doing the BNP’s work", but was praised by The Daily Telegraph centre-right newspaper.[22][23]

Family

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.[24]

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

Publications

Nazir-Ali's published writings include the following:

  • Islam: A Christian Perspective (1983)
  • Frontiers in Christian-Muslim Encounters (1987)
  • From Everywhere to Everywhere: A World View of Christian Mission (1990)
  • Thinking globally, acting locally (1992)
  • Mission and Dialogue: Proclaiming the Gospel Afresh in Every Age (1995)
  • The Mystery of Faith (1995)
  • Citizens and Exiles: Christian Faith in a Plural World (2000)
  • Shapes of the Church to Come (2001)
  • Understanding My Muslim Neighbour (2003)
  • Conviction And Conflict: Islam, Christianity And World Order (2005)
  • The Unique and Universal Christ (2008)

and many other articles in newspapers and journals

References

  1. ^ Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (28 March 2009). "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 (12 January 2002). "Blessed with ambition: Michael Nazir-Ali". London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/blessed-with-ambition-michael-nazirali-663016.html. Retrieved 9 February 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Bishop attacks 'Muslim hypocrisy.'". BBC News. 5 November 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6117912.stm. 
  4. ^ "Anglican bishop has 'Catholic past'". BBC News. 12 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1756499.stm. Retrieved 26 November 2007.. 
  5. ^ http://keynessociety.wordpress.com/about-the-keynes-society/
  6. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (2 February 2008). "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 (4 October 2007). "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. Retrieved 9 February 2008. 
  8. ^ "Profile: Michael Nazir-Ali". BBC News. 6 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7173759.stm. 
  9. ^ Petre, Jonathan (13 January 2002). "'I am Catholic and evangelical'". London: The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1381259/I-am-Catholic-and-evangelical.html. 
  10. ^ a b "Bishop no stranger to limelight". BBC News. 12 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1756921.stm. 
  11. ^ "Profile: Michael Nazir-Ali". BBC News. 6 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7173759.stm. 
  12. ^ Petre, Jonathan (8 October 2007). "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. 
  13. ^ Smith, Lewis (6 July 2009). "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. ^ Nazir-Ali, Michael (6 January 2008). "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. 
  15. ^ "Bishop warns of 'Islamic areas'". BBC News. 6 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7173599.stm. 
  16. ^ "Blears rejects 'no go' area claim". BBC News. 7 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7175153.stm. 
  17. ^ "Threats to 'no-go areas' bishop". BBC News. 2 February 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7223788.stm. 
  18. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (2 February 2008). "Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, faces death threats". London: The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3292032.ece. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Nazir-Ali, Michael (2008-06). "Breaking Faith With Britain". Standpoint (magazine). http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/breaking-faith-with-britain-june. 
  20. ^ Pigott, Robert (28 May 2008). "Britain left with 'moral vacuum'". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7422981.stm. 
  21. ^ "Bishop's move". The Guardian (London). 30 May 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/30/anglicanism.religion. 
  22. ^ Beckford, Martin (29 May 2008). "Bishop of Rochester 'doing the BNP's work'". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2050609/Bishop-of-Rochester-'doing-the-BNP's-work'.html. 
  23. ^ Pitcher, George (30 May 2008). "Right or wrong, the Bishop of Rochester named our ills". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/05/30/do3007.xml. 
  24. ^ "Biography of Bishop Michael J. Nazir-Ali at the Diocese of Rochester website (pdf)". 29 June 2007. http://www.rochester.anglican.org/pdf_files/biography_general_info/bishop_michael_biog_2.pdf. Retrieved 26 November 2007. [dead link]

External links

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Michael Turnbull
Bishop of Rochester
1994–2009
Succeeded by
James Langstaff

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