Conscience and logic: 'Why I'm not going to Lambeth'
Exclusive interview with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
By Jenny Taylor
Rumours that The Bishop OF ROCHESTER Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, was attending some of the seminars at the Lambeth Conference were skotched today when he confirmed he was 'on retreat'.
One of just two bishops in the Church of England to boycott the Lambeth Conference entirely, he insisted to Lapido Media that he is being true to biblical authority.
Explaining a decision that he admits has been painful for a man who sought refuge in Britain from persecution, and who has been at the heart of the two previous Lambeth Conferences– first as Coordinator in 1988 and then as a Member of the Steering Committee in 1998 - he said it was a matter of 'conscience and logic'.
He said that 'persistent false teaching' and 'persistent sexual immorality without repentance' had both led to his decision.
'I have before me a pastoral letter from the bishops of California instructing their clergy on how to take gay weddings in their churches. These people are here. How can I have fellowship with them and still teach my people what the church has always taught?'
He said the Windsor Report, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury which reported in 2004, recommended that those who were involved in the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, who divorced his wife and two children in order to marry a man with whom he had lived for 20 years, should not attend Anglican gatherings until the matter had been resolved.
'And yet I find that all fifty of the people who laid hands on him are at Lambeth. They have invited their teams to take a leading part in it. That's fine, but don't ask me to be co-opted on to that kind of thing.'
He added that his office prevented him from taking any other decision. 'As a private individual I could do anything I pleased, but in my present position I could not mislead people.'
Bishop Nazir-Ali's website carries a brief statement about his decision, citing the Windsor Report's recommendation that Eucharistic fellowship be temporarily withdrawn from dissenters to the Windsor process. (See the section 'On public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions' and paragraph 157.)
Two separate altars have been set up at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, in a bid to get round the proviso. But the Bishop told Lapido Media: 'Lambeth itself is a Eucharistic gathering, for the bishops gathered around the Lord's table teaching the common faith. I don't think it's right to set up separate altars.'
The Conference itself was one of the 'instruments of unity' in the Anglican Communion.
Dr Nazir-Ali added he was 'absolutely willing' to talk to anyone about the issues at stake, and the Archbishop of Canterbury had 'thought seriously' about having informal discussions before the Conference. He attended and addressed many gatherings of groups allied to the ECUSA position - but that was not the same as gathering to 'teach the faith'.
'There are some things that must take priority over fellow feeling,' he added.
Dr Nazir-Ali gave a keynote address to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in June which he described as 'the emergence of a new global fellowship.' Attended by 300 Anglican bishops in Jerusalem, it also welcomed leading Anglican theologians, pastors and wives of bishops in tough locations, including Phoebe Orombi, wife of the Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi, and Gloria Kwashi, wife of the Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria. She was assaulted and temporarily blinded by intruders at her home in July 2007 - yet continued to pray for her assailants.
Said Dr Nazir-Ali: 'These are very considerable people. Such fellowship is greatly needed because there are some parts of the world where orthodox Anglicans are in the majority, but there are others where they feel very isolated.
'The Americans too were saying at least we feel again we belong because they have been completely ostracised by the direction their church has taken.'
GAFCON is only one among several such fellowships whose future significance as representative of the Anglican Communion as a whole depends, they say, on the adherence by the Communion to its own resolutions, namely the 1987 Synod resolution on active homosexual relationships of clergy, and the Lambeth 1998 resolution 1:10 on human sexuality.
Said Dr Nazir-Ali: 'As long as that continues to hold, that's good. But as [Archbishop] Robert Runcie used to say, the word Anglican stands ready to disappear in the cause of greater truth and unity.
'I am not in any way wedded to any denominational expression of the faith. The reason many people are Anglican is it has been the vehicle for them for apostolic truth. If it continues to be so, wonderful, praise the Lord, but you cannot compromise apostolic truth for the sake of allegiance.'
On the Mainline
Worship with us:
Sundays at 4:00pm.
210 S. Wayne Ave, Wayne, PA