Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: What does revelation mean to the Church?

BB NOTE: I came across the first article I wrote at the Cafe in April 2006, following a meeting with the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali at Truro. How extraordinary that the very first post focused on the Bishop of Rochester - a true leader in this current crisis. We were meeting with him in Common Grounds at Truro, a small group of lay leaders, for a time of teaching and discussion.

Here's an excerpt of what I wrote:

A highlight for me was how Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali characterized our current crisis as one about revelation (which is different from how it is usually characterized as being about the authority of scripture).

I found that quite compelling - how do we discern revelation in the church? It is clear that the Christian faith is a living faith which finds its identity not in the law but in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This means that our faith is personal - not private - but personal, which means the Holy Spirit is speaking. Bishop Michael said that the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself but aligns Himself with Christ - and so He will not contradict Scripture. The Gospel of John, he said, makes this very clear. If God is a new thing, He will not contradict what He has all ready done and said. The Scriptures are quite clear about what it means to live a holy life, as well as what the sacrament of marriage means not only to men and women, but as the primary illustration of God's relationship to His people.

After the discussion, about ten of us gathered over at Artie's for lunch. It was a sobering discussion as we talked about the relationship between the COE leadership and evangelicals in England. It was clear that the crisis we face in the Episcopal Church in the US is matched by similar issues facing the Church of England.

But one of the major points Bishop Michael made - and one that gave me much hope - is to see what it may be that God is doing in a larger picture. While we may be feeling alienated by the denominations we belong to, a realignment of historical proportions seems to be underway as Protestants, Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox forge relationships of common mission in the historic understanding of Christianity. Bishop Michael described attending Pope John Paul II's funeral and being struck by the sermon as being extraordinarily evangelical - in fact, he said, that sermon would not be given in the Church of England. The official representative from the Billy Graham organization was sitting near Bishop Michael and whispered that he wondered if there would be an altar call.

The picture Bishop Michael painted of such unity of purpose on the grounds of the Vatican is quite extraordinary. Even as relations have deteriorated in the official channels between the different branches of Christianity due to the long march of revisionism, unofficially the bonds are being strengthened with those who hold fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures.

1 comment:

Perpetua said...

Hi BB,

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali is going to be a speaker at the Mere Anglicanism conference later this month. Are you going to be going? I signed up, but got turned off by the Al Mohler posts at Stand Firm and haven't make my plane reservations. (Al Mohleer is also a speaker.) Now your post is making me re-consider.