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Bishop: ‘Christians must recover nerve’

The West is losing Christian discourse at a time when it needs it most, the bishop of Rochester told a gathering of conservative church leaders in Jerusalem this week.

Addressing the 1 200 delegates of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), Dr Michael Nazir-Ali said militant secularism was creating a double jeopardy for Western culture. ‘Western culture depends on Judeo-Christian heritage. Let us pray we are able to recover our Christian nerve in the West and to make sure the gospel is not lost,” he said.

His presence among the Anglicans attending the alternative forum, for those boycotting a once-a-decade gathering of the world’s bishops next month, has been hailed as a boost for the summit.

Nazir-Ali, who attracts controversy for his traditionalist values, is held in high esteem by his Gafcon colleagues. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, introduced him as the ‘one and only bishop of Rochester”, and he received an ovation before uttering a word.

Nazir-Ali did not discuss his absence from next month’s Lambeth conference, nor did he explicitly refer to the rift caused by polarised opinions on gay clergy.

He did, however, say it was possible for the gospel to become so identified with a particular culture that it became captive to it, an oblique reference to churches that have accommodated contemporary values and customs within their teachings and practices.

‘We must be aware of this danger of captivity and capitulation. The future of the Anglican Communion is to be found in its authentic nature, not recently invented innovations or explanations,” he said.

Nazir-Ali also expressed his dissatisfaction with the current model of Anglicanism, saying that the four elements binding it together were inadequate. These elements include the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth conference.

‘In the crisis that is facing us, these are not enough. They were based on good English manners, and in our world, English manners are not enough.

‘I have been frustrated by decision after decision after decision that does not stick. We cannot have this.”

He praised the delegates, describing them as the ‘miraculous beginnings of a new ecclesiastical movement for the sake of the gospel”.

He spoke for 45 minutes without a script, mirroring the style of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who often relies on a lone Post-It when delivering lengthy speeches, and touched on a number of issues, such as converting Muslims, which pleased the Anglicans from Nigeria, a country that has experienced violent conflicts between the two religions.

Nazir-Ali provoked an outcry last month when he said the Church of England should be more robust in standing up for its core beliefs, and was one of the three bishops to back an initiative to commit the church to work explicitly for the conversion of Muslims. The ensuing uproar led to the initiative being withdrawn. —

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