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Church of England Bishop Defects to Rome Rocking Global Anglicanism

Church of England Bishop Defects to Rome Rocking Global Anglicanism


Dear Brothers and Sisters,
October 18, 2021

I am putting out this special digest because of a major development in the Anglican Communion -- the defection of the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali, former Bishop of Rochester -- to Rome via the Ordinariate.

Not since Ronald Knox converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1917 has there been such a high-level defection from the Church of England.

Out of the blue, Dr. Nazir-Ali, a Pakistani-born Christian rocked the Anglican communion with a defection to Rome that has no parallel in decades. Years ago, Dr Nazir-Ali had been whisked out of Pakistan by a Church of England archbishop for fear of his life. Later, Dr. Nazir-Ali became a bishop himself, and probably the most articulate defender of evangelical Anglicanism in recent history.

The reason for his defection is the continuing progressive slide of the Church of England. The secular accommodation embarked on by a number of provinces in the Anglican communion also contributed to his departure.

He was particularly outspoken on "the serious consequences of ignoring the implications of the growth of Islam, and the importance of the Christian definition of marriage being restricted to a man and a woman with the intention of having children."

He was at the center of a nucleus of evangelical resistance to the slippage in the formation of GAFCON, a global effort to rein in errant provinces and stand "for the faith once delivered."

He now no longer believes that is possible. He is watching as the Church of England slowly caves into homosexuality, an inevitability it would seem.

"This is without doubt one of the most politically and theologically significant changes of allegiance in the Christian world for some time," Gavin Ashenden, himself a recent convert to Catholicism from the C of E said.

There have been a number of high-profile conversions, including a former Bishop of London. So why should that of Michael be so nuclear in ecclesiastical and political life?

Many of those who "swim the Tiber" are Anglo Catholics -- people with similar theology to Catholics. But Nazir-Ali has been regarded as an evangelical.

"When I was ordained an Anglican priest back in 1976, it was a moment of joy, and hope: I looked forward to a lifetime in the service of God in the Anglican Church which had Christ and the Bible at its center," Nazir-Ali told the Daily Mail.

Nazir Ali is joining the Ordinariate, a ministry of the Catholic Church designed for Anglicans with familiar liturgy. He will be ordained a Catholic priest, as the Ordinariate accepts married priests. Nazir-Ali is married to Valerie Cree and has two adult sons.

In this digest you will find a variety of opinions. Apart from the news, I am posting a theological reflection by a number of Anglican scholars who are not convinced that this was the road to go down for the evangelical bishop.

Foremost in their thought is the issue of Justification by Faith which is central to our theology of salvation, a position that Rome does not accept.

Chuck Collins of the Center for Reformation Anglicanism wrote, "I am praying for Michael Nazir-Ali that God will use him to show the folks in the Ordinariate the beauty and freedom of the gospel of salvation by grace alone."


Jules Gomes of Church Militant broke the story and you can read his take here:

VOL correspondent Mary Ann Mueller (herself a Catholic) reflects on his conversion and lists a significant number of those who have swum the Tiber.

My own piece by a number of Anglican scholars critically reflects on his departure. They believe that this is a bridge too far with the theological considerations far outweighing his defection. They believe it is high level betrayal.

GAFCON GB and Europe (GBE) issued a statement saying that while respecting Bishop Michael's decision to join the Roman Catholic church, they remain committed to the vision of a renewed, biblically orthodox, global Anglicanism here in Britain and Europe under the ANiE leadership of Bishop Andy Lines and those that we stand with under the Jerusalem Declaration. https://virtueonline.org/statement-gafcon-gb-and-europe-gbe-bishop-michael-nazir-ali

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach issue a statement saying "Michael is a gift to the global Church, and he has shared with me his willingness to continue to assist the GAFCON movement in any way that might be suitable." https://virtueonline.org/gafcon-statement-michael-nazir-alis-move-rome

Dr. Gavin Ashenden, himself a recent convert to Rome from Anglicanism, wrote an insightful piece titled "The impact and significance of Michael Nazir Ali's conversion to Catholicism." https://virtueonline.org/impact-and-significance-michael-nazir-alis-conversion-catholicism

David W. Virtue, DD

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