Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali on GAFCON-UK
Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, is now one of the leaders of GAFCON and GAFCON-UK. Known for a towering intellect shaped by the gospel, Bishop Michael finds himself in the position of one of those shepherding the work of the Global Anglican Future Conference in the United Kingdom during increasingly challenging times.
Asked to describe how he saw the work, he responded: “GAFCON-UK is the place where all the orthodox Anglicans who can endorse the Jerusalem Declaration, can meet together. This would include all the various groups; Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), Anglican Convocation in Europe (ACE), Anglican Network in Europe (ANiE), Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church (REACH), and Free Church of England as well as those orthodox people remaining in the Church of England, Church in Wales, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland.”
The Jerusalem Declaration was issued and signed in June of 2008 at a gathering of orthodox Anglican clergy and laity in response to the continued departure from biblical standards by various official Anglican Communion Provinces. You can find the entire text of the Jerusalem Declaration on the GAFCON-UK website.
A commonly held understanding is that the signatory provinces of the Jerusalem Declaration account for 70% + of all Anglican Christians worldwide.
When asked if there were foreseeable problems in the GAFCON provinces, the bishop was quick to answer. “I think the consecration of women bishops is the greatest single fault-line we face at the present. Currently, there is an agreed upon moratorium in place about the practice but two of the provinces, Kenya, and Uganda, have significant numbers of women clergy and that moratorium has already been breached in South Sudan and now possibly in Kenya.
“My own view is the basic mistake that was made was to simply ask how women could be involved in a male pattern of ministry. The right question to have asked would have been, ‘To what ministry is God calling women and men?’ I want women to have as full a ministry in all sorts of ways without affecting apostolic order, to have fruitful ministries in teaching, in work among young people, in pastoral care and service and evangelism …not to just talk about those ministries as possibilities but to take steps to create diaconal, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching orders but we are not free to do something with apostolic order that is beyond our competence.”
Asked if he thought there was a possibility for an Anglican group which ordains women to stop the practice like the Presbyterian Church in Australia or the Lutheran Church in Latvia have done, he did think it possible. “Some of the ACNA bodies have done that but none of the other groups mentioned.” He emphasised, however, that any such step must take place in the context of a positive developments of women’s ministries.
Despite the challenges in heading such a work, Bishop Michael remains positive. He said, “I’m optimistic for the Gospel and of God’s care for his Church, if not for structures that may have passed their sell by date.”
Bishop Nazir-Ali served the Diocese of Rochester from 1994-2009, before that he was Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan and then head of CMS. Since 2010 he has overseen OXTRAD Centre for Training Christians for ministry in situations where the church is under pressure or persecution.