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OXFORD, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A distinguished Anglican bishop who was a member of Britain's House of Lords has been received into the Roman Catholic Church and will be ordained a priest Oct. 30, Church Militant has learned.
Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, former bishop of Rochester, England — once the see of English martyr St. John Fisher — and a champion of persecuted Christians in Islamic countries, has joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
"I write to let you know of my reception into the ordinariate established for Anglicans who wish to be in full communion with the See of Peter," Dr. Nazir-Ali announced.
"I am doing so because I believe that the traditional Anglican desire to adhere to the fullness of apostolic, patristic and conciliar teaching can now best be maintained in this way," he explained.
An Ordinariate priest told Church Militant that "Dr. Nazir-Ali is the most high-profile convert from the Church of England to Rome for the last 100 years, probably since the conversion of the intellectual giant Msgr. Ronald Knox."
"Michael is one of the most prodigious intellects of our time, a heroic apologist for the faith, a bulwark against radical Islam, a laser-sharp cultural commentator, a persuasive preacher, a passionate evangelist of the highest caliber, and a brilliant linguist and poet," the priest said.
Nazir-Ali will be ordained deacon by Abp. Bernard Longley of Birmingham Oct. 28 and Cdl. Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, will ordain the former Anglican prelate to the Catholic priesthood Oct. 30 at the Ordinariate pro-cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory at Golden Square in London.
In a confidential email obtained by Church Militant, Nazir-Ali wrote to friends and supporters — several evangelicals holding strong views about Catholicism: "If you think that this will affect our partnership in any way, please let me know. I shan't be offended at all if that partnership is brought to an end or modified in some way; instead, I praise God for all he has made possible."
Dr. Nazir-Ali, who is married to Valerie Cree and has two sons, Shamaoun and Ross, was received into full communion with Rome Sept. 29 — the feast of his namesake St. Michael the Archangel.
Church Militant also learned that efforts were made at the highest level of the Vatican to dissuade 72-year-old Nazir-Ali from converting to Catholicism.
"First, Nazir-Ali isn't the kind of convert we are looking for under the Francis pontificate. Second, such a high-profile conversion is a setback to ecumenism. Third, Pope Francis seems to have always indicated he believes in the validity of Anglican orders," a senior Argentinian-based Anglican cleric who knew Cdl. Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires told Church Militant.
In his confidential email, Nazir-Ali explained why he chose to join the ordinariate:
The promise to safeguard legitimate Anglican patrimony within the ordinariate is encouraging. My hope is that this patrimony will be able to contribute the riches of Anglican liturgy, biblical study, pastoral commitment to the community, methods of doing moral theology, hymnody and much else not only to the ordinariate but, beyond that, to the wider Church.
"At the same time, I look forward, of course, to receiving riches from other parts of the Church," he added.
The first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England and an Islamic scholar who is fluent in Urdu and Farsi, Pakistani-born Nazir-Ali faced biting criticism from his liberal fellow Anglican bishops for not toeing the Church of England's politically correct line on Islam.
An indefatigable campaigner against Muslim apostasy laws in Pakistan and a prolific writer on Islam, Nazir-Ali said he regretted the church was not doing enough to convert Muslims to Christianity.
"The so-called 'blasphemy law' has caused considerable grief for Christians and other non-Muslim minorities since even the expression of their belief can be construed as insulting the Prophet," he wrote in a foreword to Freedom to Believe: Challenging Islam's Apostasy Law.
After a 15-year apostolate as the 106th bishop of Rochester, Nazir-Ali resigned his bishopric at the age of 59, announcing he would devote the rest of his life to working for persecuted Christians in Muslim-dominated regions.
In 2008, the bishop received death threats after criticizing Islamic extremists for creating "no-go areas" for non-Muslims in Britain. However, thousands of white working-class Britons wrote to him and in the media commending him for his truth-telling and courage.
Nazir-Ali, who also served as bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan, blamed multiculturalism for segregating religious groups and said Britain's abandoning the Christian faith had led to a "multi-faith mish-mash."
The ideology of Islamic extremism had further alienated "the young from the nation in which they were growing up and turn[ed] separate communities into 'no-go' areas," he wrote in Britain's The Sunday Telegraph.
"If it had not been for the Black-majority churches and the recent arrival of people from central and Eastern Europe, the Christian cause in many of our cities would have looked a lost one," he argued.
Bishop Nazir-Ali's comments "have angered many working in interfaith relations, who say he has undermined years of patient work," the liberal Church Times commented.
In 2011, hours after more than half a million people participated in London's 2011 Gay Pride, Dr. Nazir-Ali called upon the Church to uphold the "traditional teaching" of the Bible and pleaded with homosexuals "to repent and be changed."
"The issue of homosexuality has been one of the biggest causes of friction between Dr. Nazir-Ali, the bishop of Rochester, and the liberal wing of the Anglican Church," the left-wing Independent noted.
Dr. Gavin Ashenden, a recent high-profile convert to Catholicism and former chaplain to the Queen, told Church Militant Nazir-Ali had persevered to the very end hoping that he and other conservative Anglicans could create an alternate orthodox Anglican Communion.
The evangelical bishop was one of the pioneers responsible for creating the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in 2008, categorically rejecting same-sex relationships, moral compromise and doctrinal error.
"I was delighted to hear the news that one of Anglicanism's most illustrious of bishops and competent of theologians has been received into the Catholic Church," Dr. Ashenden said.
Ashenden explained that "without the gift of the Magisterium, Anglicanism has no effective defense to save it from capitulating to the spirit of the age" and "the ecumenical experiment of Anglicanism" was bound to fail.
"Across the world, Anglicanism has been seriously wounded by its own synodal process," Ashenden noted, referring to GAFCON's fracturing over the recent ordination of five women bishops by African Anglicans in defiance of GAFCON's own moratorium.
Nazir-Ali was also unable to make common cause with the recently established Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), a breakaway from the Church of England that is orthodox and doesn't ordain women but is, nevertheless, part of GAFCON, Ashenden observed.
A statement from Anglican primates at the September 2021 GAFCON meeting acknowledged "there is disagreement and ongoing discussion on the issues of the ordination of women as deacons or priests and the consecration of women as bishops."
Nazir-Ali, who holds a master of letters from Cambridge University, an earned doctorate from the Australian College of Theology, and six honorary doctorates from universities around the world, was one of the final two candidates for archbishop of Canterbury in 2000.
Following a concerted campaign by Britain's mainstream media and liberal establishment against his candidacy, pro-LGBT Dr. Rowan Williams was appointed archbishop of Canterbury.
Nazir-Ali is the author of 12 books and enjoys writing poetry in English and Persian. He was a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and chair of its Ethics and Law Committee (1997–2003).
He currently serves as president of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD), an apostolate seeking "to prepare Christians for ministry in situations where the Church is under pressure and in danger of persecution."
Last month, Anglican bishop of Ebbsfleet Jonathan Goodall was received into full communion with Rome and is awaiting ordination to the priesthood, Church Militant reported.