The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, gave up something rather more substantive for Lent -- and he won’t be succumbing on Saturday either. He’s given up being a bishop for good, unless we can persuade him otherwise. In future he intends to work for the benefit of Christian people who suffer religious persecution in foreign lands -- in other, less elegant words, he is going to be socking it to the mozzies. It is remarkable that he should be forced to leave his current position in order to fight for the human rights of persecuted Christians; you might have assumed that being a Church of England bishop was a pretty good platform from which to undertake such work. As it is, he will not have the full force of the Church of England behind him; he will be, so far as Lambeth Palace is concerned, an ex-parrot.BTW, I agree with Spectator commenter "Manfredo":
We do not hear very much from the Church of England about the plight of Christians, and particularly Anglicans, in hostile foreign environments. Under the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the church does not like to make too much of a fuss about murdered priests in the Sudan, the constant fears of samizdat believers in Riyadh, the continued state persecution in Turkey, the perpetual discrimination in Indonesia and Malaysia and Bangladesh. Or about the Punjabi Christian dragged before a court in Pakistan accused of having sent a blasphemous message on his mobile phone, the Muslim hordes screaming for the death sentence outside the court. The thousands of Christians in Bauchi, Nigeria, watching their homes burned to the ground and their leaders attacked by, again, Muslim mobs. The beatings and murders in liberated -- yea, praise the lord! -- Afghanistan. We don’t hear much about that stuff from anyone, be it the BBC, our politicians or most notably the Church of England.
You might expect the C of E to feel at least a little bit uncomfortable that Anglicans were being strung up or burned alive in the middle east and elsewhere. But it does not seem to be an enormous issue for the prelates. The problem being that it would bring Rowan, and the church, into conflict with the very Islamists with whom they are thoroughly enjoying their important ‘inter-faith dialogues’, by which they seem to set so much store. These inter-faith dialogues have never, ever, to my knowledge, touched upon Islamic persecution of Christians: all the traffic is in the other direction, and the Church of England thinks it is all going swimmingly.
The C of E is very pleased and proud of its inter-faith dialogues -- largely, I suppose, because when conducting them it always adopts a strategy of total capitulation, much as it does before any and every assault upon its ideology, be it from Islam or from the decadent depredations of modern Britain.
There may be another reason for Nazir-Ali’s Lenten undertaking, then. It may be that he is sick to the back teeth of the leadership of the Church of England. He has not said that he is, but he is a polite and affable chap apparently. But he has had this to say recently; he has lamented a ‘gradual loss of identity and cohesiveness in (British) society’ which he feels is down to the abandonment of biblical values. He thinks that we reside in a ‘values vacuum’. He has also complained that British people suffer from a ‘historical amnesia’ -- by which he means that we prostrate ourselves to apologise for slavery while forgetting that we also ended slavery, while the Africans cheerfully continued with it.
We forget to celebrate our tolerance and diversity, our willingness to allow the freedom of speech and the freedom of worship. Nazir-Ali concluded by saying: ‘The church is seen simply as the religious aspect of society, there to endorse any change which politicians deem fit to impose upon the public.’ You could not get a better description of the Church of England today, I would argue. It is a church which has manipulated itself into a position whereby it can accommodate any adjustment to its own faith and ideology in order to make sure that it is in step with what it believes to be popular thinking.
This is all fine and good, but "Yes, Prime Minister" nailed the C of E on all these points 20 years ago in an episode in which the perfect C of E prelate is described as a "cross between a socialite and a socialist," the question is debated whether believing is God should disqualify a candidate for a bishopric, and a cleric is said to describe the Bible as "a sort of Christian version of the Koran".
Those observations then had the same effect on the "church" that these observations now will have--none at all.