A Church of England Bishop who received death threats after saying that parts of Britain had become “no-go areas” for non-Muslims is quitting to work with persecuted Christians.
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali’s new role is likely to see him involved in helping Christians in the Middle East and Pakistan, the land of his birth.
He has also revealed that he intends to work with Muslim converts to Christianity in Britain.
Commentator Melanie Phillips said it was “a shocking rebuke to the church, that he has to leave his post of influence and authority as a bishop in order to carry out the church’s core duty to defend its own against attack.”
As Bishop of Rochester, Dr Nazir-Ali gained a reputation for speaking out on controversial topics such as Islam and homosexuality.
In a letter to clergy in his diocese, the bishop said: “I have decided that the time is now right for me to step down as Bishop of Rochester. I have valued my modest part in the life of the Church locally, nationally and globally.”
A spokesman said: “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.”
Born in Pakistan to Christian parents who had converted from Islam, Dr Nazir-Ali is the Church of England’s first and only Asian bishop.
He was placed under police protection after claiming that Islamic extremists have made some areas of Britain dangerous for non-Muslims to enter.
He has also accused Muslims of double standards, seeking both “victimhood and domination”, and said the church is not doing enough to convert them to Christianity.
Recently Dr Nazir-Ali warned that Christianity in the UK was being sidelined by a “secularist agenda”.
He said: “Nurses cannot pray, the creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending nonbelievers, Christian marriage counsellors are removed because they believe in Christian marriage and Christian adoption agencies cannot be publicly funded because they believe that children are best brought up in a family with a mother and father to look after them.”
Dr Nazir-Ali controversially boycotted last year’s Lambeth Conference of bishops, choosing instead to address the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).
Gafcon delegates organised their own summit in opposition to Lambeth’s failure to condemn homosexuality among clergy.
In response to Dr Nazir-Ali’s announcement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “Bishop Michael’s decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops.
“In his new work with churches in minority situations, he will need all our prayer and support. It is a courageous initiative and a timely one.”