When the then 59 year-old bishop of Rochester announced his early retirement in March 2009 there was considerable speculation about what calling he would pursue next. How good were the forecasts?
A sampling of the statements and speculation at the time:
The Times wrote,
[T]he Church's only Asian bishop ... intends to use his expertise as an Islamic scholar to work in Pakistan where he was born and in the Middle East to build bridges between Christians and Muslims.The Diocese of Rochester in its press release stated,
Bishop Michael is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation. Details of this arrangement are still being worked out.Proving to be prescient, Ruth Gledhill wrote in her Times blog,
The inevitable question now is, will his plan 'to work in education and mission overseas' see him emerge as a new 'bishop' of an emerging Global South?A further sampling of opinion and conjecture from the time of the resignations:
His fearless conservative evangelicalism has won him the hearts of the Anglican churches in Asia and Africa that were behind Gafcon. No vacuum exists at present with Bob Duncan firmly in pole position, but if asked to play a leading role, would he demur? 'That is a hypothetical question and we should not speculate,' said a source.
At one stage, Dr Nazir-Ali was seen as a possible contender to lead a breakaway Anglican body, but he is believed to have disliked the tactics and tone of some with whom he sided theologically on what is described as the conservative wing of the Church. The bishop has retained a personal admiration and respect for Dr Williams, even in the midst of disagreement.Andrew Brown in wrote in the Guardian,
I don't think anyone need miss him for long. He is only 59, and energetic. He is connected to rich backers, both in the diocese of Sydney, which funds Gafcon, and in the US; he also has what is in the circumstances the advantage of not being American. He could well become a global figurehead of Christian opposition to Islam and to certain forms of multiculturalism: at present the post is vacant (the pope certainly doesn't want it) and there are plenty of people who believe it needs to be filled.Finally, George Pitcher wrote in The Telegraph,
For such a significant figure of conservative evangelicalism to be throwing the episcopal towel in at this time shows just how far the Church has travelled over the past 12 months. ... [C]an anyone seriously suggest that, had those biblical traditionalists of the southern hemisphere, known collectively as the Global South, prevailed last year in overthrowing the authority of Canterbury in favour of an African-led Communion, he would have abandoned his important foothold in the English Church?Aside: The Rev. George Pitcher has since joined the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff on October 1, 2010 as Secretary for Public Affairs. (More Pitcher v. Nazir-Ali)
No. Dr Nazir-Ali ... pitched his tent with the African rebels, under the flag of the unfortunately named Gafcon, but now finds that army dispersed and demoralised....
...Where is it now? Some 230 bishops, including Dr Nazir-Ali, boycotted the decennial Lambeth Conference at Canterbury last summer, many of them expecting the old order to fall. Yet at last month's Anglican Primates' meeting in Alexandria, not one primate was absent for doctrinal reasons. Importantly, the Archbishops of Uganda and Nigeria were present and correct.
The traditionalist schism has fizzled out....
... There is much to celebrate in Dr Nazir-Ali's ministry. But his failure to form an alternative Anglican Church is to be celebrated too.
Here's a look at Nazir-Ali's intenirary since his retirement on September 1, 2009 (reverse chronology):
January 2011: Mere Anglicanism, Charleston, South Carolina
December 3-4, 2010: Speaking to UK Christian Broadcasting Council
November 13, 2010: In Farnham UK speaking on Cultural Diversity
November 8, 2010: Speaking at Wycliffe College, Toronto
November 4-6, 2010: Keynote speaker at the Anglican Network in Canada Synod
October 15, 2010: Announced as the Visiting Bishop of Anglican Communion Relations for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina at its nullification convention.
July 31, 2010: Protests persecution of Christians in Pakistan
July 17, 2010: There should be broad limits to wearing the burqa.
June, 2010: Publishes in Heritage Foundation
May, 2010: Nashota House Commencement speech
March 5, 2010: "Multiculturalism was a mistake"
January 2010: Mere Anglicanism
October 30, 2009: About the pope's Anglican Ordinariate, '“He intends to continue as a bishop in the Church of England and to en courage orthodox people, Evangelical and Catholic, in the worldwide Anglican Communion,” his spokes man said.'
July 7, 2009: Key participant in launch of Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
Somewhere along the way Nazir-Ali acquired the title of President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue.
Building bridges to the Muslim community? Not.