Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, of the diocese of Rochester in the United Kingdom, told Global Anglican Future Conference pilgrims Tuesday that “the future of the Anglican Communion is to be found in its authentic nature, not in recent innovations or explanations.”
That nature, he said, is submitted to the authority of scripture, confessing, and governed by councils with the ability and authority to lead the church and teach the Christian faith.
No church, said Bishop Nazir-Ali, can have any other basis of authority than scripture. “The Bible is the norm by which we appreciate what is authentically apostolic. That is the reason for the Bible being the ultimate and final authority for us in our faith and our lives and this is the reason why Anglicans have taken our study of the Bible so seriously.”
Authentic Anglicanism is also a confessing church, said bishop Nazir-Ali. From the very beginning, being Anglican has meant confessing the faith that Christians have held always, everywhere and by all. “We have to be clear that we are a confessing church. Some people have the mistaken idea that Anglicans can believe anything, or that Anglicans can believe nothing. I don’t know which one is more serious,” said Bishop Nazir-Ali.
In a news conference that followed his lecture, Bishop Nazir-Ali, who has been a student of Islam for 30 years, clarified his comment related to the Christian’s right to witness to all, including to Muslims. “Just as Muslims have a right to invite others to join Islam [referred to as Da’wa], Christians have a right to invite others to Jesus,” he said. He added that he supported Christians serving Muslims in such practical ways as in schools and hospitals.
Church councils with the authority to teach and to make decisions are necessary for authentic Anglicanism. “We need to be a conciliar church. In the last few years I have been frustrated by decision after decision after decision that has not stuck. We cannot have this for a healthy church,” said Bishop Nazir-Ali.
In the past, the Anglican Communion’s instruments of unity have been enough to maintain the communion’s identity. However, those days are over. “In the crisis that is facing us at this time we have found them not to be enough. Because in the end they were based on English good manners. In our world we have found that English good manners are not enough.”
Bishop Nazir-Ali also spoke of Anglicanism’s “translatability” and the need for a increased emphasis on mission to those who have not yet heard the Gospel. Sadly, just as the need for Christian witness is greatest, there is a reluctance to speak about faith in Jesus, even among Christians. “Let us pray we are able to recover the Christian nerve in the west and to make sure the gospel is not lost,” said Bishop Nazir-Ali.
Bishop Nazir-Ali completed his address with words of encouragement for GAFCON pilgrims. “If you are anything gathered here together, you are the beginnings, the miraculous beginnings, we may say, of an ecclesial movement for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of Christ’s church.”
When asked about his attendance at Lambeth in the news conference, Bishop Nazir-Ali said that his not going to Lambeth later this year is a matter of conscience for him. “My difficulty in attending has to do with being in Eucharistic fellowship with and teaching the common faith alongside those who have ordained a person to be bishop whose style is contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Bible and of the Church down the ages.” Though he added that if the impediment were removed, he would gladly attend.