CofE must be 'distinctive'

The former Bishop of Rochester has spoken of his desire to see the Church of England be more distinctive in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In a society afflicted by high levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol consumption, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said the good news of Jesus Christ must be shown to meet the "deepest needs" of people.

In order to be effective in this, he said the people who make up the Church of England must be "properly equipped" and "used for ministry".

"Resources need to be released away from lawyers, experts and civil servants towards such equipping of those in the pew," he said.

"This will lead to a lightening of bureaucracy at every level and to church gatherings which are characterised by prayerfulness and attention to God's word rather than the 'dead hand' of parliamentary procedure."

Reading out his letter to the Archbishop on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, Bishop Nazir-Ali said the Church would need to discover forms of ministry that "respect both equality and distinctiveness" regardless of the outcome of the current debate on the ordination of women.

Affirming his support for Establishment, he cautioned that this could not mean that "the Church is expected to own every passing fad or every trendy fashion in contemporary society".

"The Church of England excels at being 'salt', working away invisibly to preserve, enhance and nourish but has the time come to be more like 'light' in the darkness, drawing people to Christ by being distinctive?"

He concluded: "It must rather model being a distinctive moral and spiritual community which is committed, nevertheless, to serving the nation as a whole, whether it is established or not."