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LONDON: Telegraph Editorial Blasts Nazir-Ali as Possible Successor to Hope



By David W. Virtue

LONDON (8/6/2004)--The widely read British broadsheet newspaper The Telegraph, has come out slamming the possible appointment of Pakistani-born Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir Ali as a successor to Dr. David Hope who retires shortly as Archbishop of York.

In a scathing editorial this week, the Telegraph said the Crown Appointments Commission and Downing Street must find one, and that convention suggests that the job should go to an evangelical, but that no suitable candidate was available.

The Telegraph opined that Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, an Evangelical, was singularly unsuitable because he "made a fool of himself by pushing himself forward for Canterbury."

This statement by the Telegraph is simply untrue. At the time of a successor being sought for Dr. George Carey, the name of Michael Nazir-Ali emerged as did many others, including other evangelicals, and the press, along with this writer speculated as to who might succeed the Evangelical Carey. One possibility was Bishop Nazir-Ali.

During that period Dr. Nazir-Ali was hounded and accused of being both homophobic by the overtly loud-mouthed and ugly British gay community, with press reports accusing him of plagiarism in one of his several doctoral dissertations.

These charges were unfounded and never proven to be true. But the accusations stuck and Bishop Nazir-Ali's chances of becoming the next Archbishop of Canterbury were dead on arrival.

Now this writer had the opportunity to spend several breakfasts with the Bishop of Rochester at a hotel in Minneapolis at the time of the ECUSA General Convention and he talked hesitantly but with a good deal of pain about the personal vilification he had suffered at the hands of the British Press and the Church of England's gay community.

Dr. Nazir-Ali is a gentle soul and the personal attacks hurt him terribly, and he was still feeling the after affects as we talked about it over coffee, now many months later.

The attacks were doubly strange to him because he was the one person who, having been born in a predominantly Islamic nation would have best understood how to speak to the growing Islamic threat in the world today, and he would have been far more outright in public declarations of the gospel and the irreconcilable differences between Islam and Christianity.

The present incumbent, Dr. Rowan Williams seems more bent on appeasing Islam and finding common ground between the Abrahamic religions, rather than facing head on the possibility that Islam, an evangelistic religion itself, is bent on either converting or destroying Christian believers.

How much better to have had a Pakistani born bishop from the Global South who could talk to Primate Peter Akinola, than a wifty Affirming Catholic that no one seems to understand to lead the Anglican Communion! Hindsight tells us that Dr. Nazir-Ali might have been a far better choice as Archbishop of Canterbury.

That, however, is history.

The choice now is who would best succeed the High Churchman, Dr. David Hope as the next Archbishop of York. If no other candidate emerges who has the credentials that Dr. Nazir-Ali has, then thoughtful people might rightly assume that the growing, and increasingly angry British Evangelical Anglican community could best be suited by having an Evangelical like Nazir-Ali for all the reasons stated.

Certainly some balance is needed to offset the Affirming Catholic Rowan Williams. An Anglo-Catholic replacement would not be suitable as one would not speak for the majority of British Anglicans, and they are busy looking for a Third Province to get out from under the liberalizing trends in the Church of England, especially, and because of, women's ordination.

If Nazir-Ali is given the job, he might be the one person who could rescue the Anglican Communion as it heads towards the cliff edge.

His evangelicalism and scholarship would be hailed in the Global South. Being a person of color would be a considerable plus as well. That he would have a strong voice in the corridors of ecclesiastical power and be close to Canterbury wouldn't hurt either. He could also keep the Anglican Communion Office in its place. They could not ignore him. He would balance them out on trips to Africa.

The Telegraph editorial opined that The Church of England (COE) was "finished" as an "Anglican" entity during the tenure of Archbishop of Canterbury Carey; the final dissolution of the COE as an Anglican entity will be accomplished under Archbishop of Canterbury Williams.

They may well be right.

If a "new" Anglican Communion, centered in Africa, South East Asia and the Southern Cone emerges later this year or early next year (2005) then Nazir-Ali might well be the person that English Evangelicals could turn to as they watch the last remnants of the Church of England head with gadarene like swiftness over the cliff's edge. The Anglo-Catholics will head to Rome or demand a "His and Hers" church.

But a new generation of ALPHA-driven English evangelical Anglicans will need a leader and there is, quite possibly, none better than the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali.


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