|Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali|
Photo by Steve Nimmons
What prompted me to comment on the VirtueOnline feature at all (and to stop reading well before the end) was this passage:
“I think it is absolutely scandalous,” he said with measured words, "that people like +Mark Lawrence—who is one of the finest bishops that I have even known and who upholds Catholic truth and Christian teaching and the Gospel in everything that he does—should be deposed for doing so, and not for any other reason.So, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali believes that Mark Lawrence was deposed for upholding “Catholic truth and Christian teaching and the Gospel in everything that he does” and “for being Biblical, for being creedal, [and] for being Catholic.”
“I mean, this is a topsy-turvy world that we are looking at,” he continued, “where people are being deposed for being Biblical, for being creedal, for being Catholic by others who, if you read what they write or say, clearly seem to be heretical in their exegesis of the Bible, their doctrine of the Church, and in what they believe about the Person and work of Jesus Christ and so on.”
The Church of England bishop said that he and others had no problem whatsoever in recognizing and continuing to support Bishop Lawrence, Bishop Jack Iker, and Archbishop Robert Duncan and their clergy who have been dismissed by The Episcopal Church for their traditional and orthodox Anglican faith.
As a visiting bishop in the colonial-based Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, Bishop Nazir-Ali is helping keep Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese connected to the wider Anglican world now that the South Carolina bishop has been defrocked and his diocese has seceded from The Episcopal Church in their struggle to maintain Anglican orthodoxy.
“I have also helped the Diocese, in a small way, in its relationships with the rest of the Anglican Communion by giving them some kind of theological grounding in how to think of themselves for the future,” Bishop Nazir-Ali explained.
He clarified that it is inherent upon traditional Biblically-grounded Anglican Provinces, which have remained faithful to the Anglican formularies and have maintained Catholic faith and order, to make sure that the Catholic faith is not wiped from the Anglican map in North America and Britain. That is why he and others have reached out to like-minded traditional and orthodox Anglicans in the United States. As his adopted land becomes more sectarian, he is also concerned that Britain will follow in the same spiritually decaying footsteps as North America.
This, of course, is total nonsense. The only “beliefs” for which Lawrence was deposed were his belief that his ordination vows to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” and to “well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church” were optional, and that absconding with property dedicated to use by The Episcopal Church was not really theft. (See, for example, the ENS story “Presiding bishop accepts Mark Lawrence’s renunciation.” One may quibble over the means by which Lawrence was deposed—the church may have bent the rules to be as gentle as possible with the bishop—but most objective observers would agree that he abandoned the church and left with real and personal property that did not belong to him.)
Nazir-Ali also believes that that interfering in the internal affairs of another Anglican church is just fine, and he is happy to support the schismatic actions of Lawrence, Iker, Duncan, and others of their ilk. He proudly acknowledges his support for Lawrence and his free-floating diocese. One wonders of Nazir-Ali considered whether encouraging Lawrence to advocate for this theological point of view within The Episcopal Church might have been a better way of assuring that “the Catholic faith is not wiped from the Anglican map of North America.”
Is this the behavior we expect of a bishop of a sister church of the Communion? Alas, increasingly, it is. The GAFCON movement of which Nazir-Ali is so fond is all about enforcing “orthodoxy” and “Biblical Anglicanism”—an oxymoron, I suggest—among Communion churches.
I don’t think it a stretch to suggest that most Episcopalians are alarmed at such a future for the Anglican Communion. The movement of which Nazir-Ali is a part is not going away, however. In the very long term—centuries perhaps—all may be well. In the near term, it is likely that GAFCON will either split the Communion into two rival groups, or The Episcopal Church will have to withdraw from or, at the very least, step back from participation in a dysfunction and destructive Anglican Communion.