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Not Compromising the Gospel By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 27, 2008


Pakistani-born Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of the Church of England continues to roil his leftist and Islamist critics by recently defending the right of Christians to share the Gospel with Muslims.

“Just as Muslims have the right to exercise Da’wa - an invitation to Islam -  so Christians must have the freedom to invite people to follow Jesus Christ,” explained the bishop at a press conference in Jerusalem on June 24. “Dialogue proceeds on the understanding that each is a missionary faith.”

The bishop had earlier received rapturous applause at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, where 300 conservative Anglican bishops, most of them African, were meeting.   GAFCON was aimed at bishops distressed at the leftward tilt of British and American Anglicans, especially the U.S. Episcopal Church.   In July, the Archbishop of Canterbury will convene the once a decade Lambeth gathering for the global Anglican Communion’s 880 bishops, who preside over nearly 80 million Anglicans.  Many conservative bishops, including Nazir Ali, will boycott Lambeth.  

Nazir  Ali has survived deep animosity in Britain from Islamists who resent his outspoken critique of radical Islam. "It is a matter of public record that I have received death threats from militant Muslims," he told the Jerusalem press conference.   Earlier this year, the Bishop of Rochester sharply criticized Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ suggestion that Britain recognize some aspects of Islamic law.   Last month, he criticized the Church of England’s reluctance to share the Gospel with Muslims.  The church has correctly been sensitive to minority religions in Britain, he said.  But he told a British newspaper: ‘I think it may have gone too far and what we need now is to recover our nerve.’

In official statement on his Diocese of Rochester website, Nazir Ali declared, “In the context of our dialogue with [other faiths], it is our duty to witness to our faith and to call people to faith in Jesus Christ, whilst recognizing that people of other faiths may have similar responsibilities.  Cooperation among faiths arises from a recognition of distinctives and not by diluting what we believe merely for the sake of good relations.” 

‘Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith, and that is the basis for welcoming people of other faiths,’ Nazir Ali continued. ‘This is not a matter for exclusion but the very grounds for inclusion.  It should be the basis for welcoming others and their contribution to national life.  You cannot, however, be in honest conversation on the basis of fudge.’  Reportedly 50,000 Britons have converted to Islam over the last decade, while Muslim converts to Christianity in Britain are believed to be negligible.  Some churchmen warn that within several decade, mosque goers may outnumber church attenders.  

Left leaning bishops in Britain have criticized Nazir Ali for violating their code of hyper political correctness and accommodation towards Islamists.  More strident critics in Britain’s secular lLeft have called him “Nazi Rally,” as though his robust defense of Christianity in British public life were akin to Hitlerism.  But most British have been more sympathetic to the bishop.

A religion writer for The Daily Telegraph blogged this week about the Bishop of Rochester:  “Nazir-Ali is building a creeping power base inside the Church of England among ordinary churchgoers. That makes his absence from Lambeth a really high-profile setback for the Archbishop of Canterbury.”  Nazir Ali in fact had been a prominent candidate for the Church of England’s most senior post in 2002, when Prime Minister Tony instead nominated Rowan Williams.

The Daily Telegraph journalist wrote that Nazir Ali’s popularity in England is “entirely the result of his brave stance against the creation of islands of Sharia law in Britain.”  In contrast to Rowan Williams’ call for “watered-down Sharia,” Nazir-Ali “caught the mood of the nation as no other bishop has; his boycott of Lambeth will remind us all that the Church of England has utterly failed to grapple with the challenge of radical Islam.”

Further fueling the media attention for Nazir Ali was a column called “Breaking Faith with Britain” that he wrote for a new conservative British magazine, Standpoint.  “It is indeed ironic that Britain had to cope with large numbers of people from other faiths and cultures arriving at exactly the time when there was a catastrophic loss of Christian discourse,” the bishop surmised.  “Thus Christian hospitality, which should have welcomed the new arrivals on the basis of Britain’s Christian heritage, to which they would be welcome to contribute, was replaced by the newfangled and insecurely founded doctrine of multiculturalism.”  The result has been cultural segregation rather than integration, he regretted.   

Nazir Ali observed in his article that radical Islam will “emphasize the solidarity” of the global Muslim community rather than individual freedom. “Instead of the Christian virtues of humility, service and sacrifice, there may be honor, piety and the importance of ‘saving face.’”  Muslims will be guided by the principles of Islamic law, he wrote, “but recognizing its jurisdiction in terms of public law is fraught with difficulties precisely because it arises from a different set of assumptions from the tradition of law here.”

“Christian faith has been central to the emergence of our nation and its development,” Nazi Ali concluded.  “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.”

As the Daily Telegraph journalist concluded in his blog about the iconoclastic Nazir Ali’s impact on the British church and the global Anglican Communion:  “At any rate, bishops, fasten your stoles: we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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