Former Conservative Party Leader's Son Refused Ordination by Church of England

Nick Howard, the son of former Conservative Party leader, Michael Howard, has spoken out about his rejection from being ordained by the Church of England.

|PIC1|Howard, who completed his theology degree just this summer, was refused ordination for what was described as his "unwillingness to listen" to others' viewpoints.

Speaking to a UK Sunday newspaper, Howard told that he strongly held evangelical beliefs on issues such as homosexuality and multifaith worship, and these convictions led to him being branded as a "troublemaker", he suggested.

During his theological studies at Cranmer Hall, Durham, he commented that he refused to be swayed to viewpoints that went against his beliefs, and in protest he refused to take Communion at the college's weekly evening service, preferring to remain in his pew.

He reported, "An ethics tutor at the college was saying publicly that you can be in a gay sexual relationship and follow Christ. That is incompatible with the teaching of the New Testament."

Howard was encouraged to offer equal spiritual value to Muslim, Sikh and Hindu religions as part of "multifaith ministry". In relation to this he stated: "As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for Sikhs and Muslims, too, so I long to share the good news with them so that they can be saved. It felt a bit awkward sitting there when everyone else was going up [for Communion] but I couldn't physically have done anything else because I can't pretend someone shares the same religion as me if, in reality, they don't."

His tutors said that his "unwillingness to listen" would make him unsuitable as a vicar. The decision has dismayed Howard, and others have felt that his commitment to core foundations of the Christian faith should be welcomed by the Church.

He now works for the Association of Evangelists, travelling around the country giving talks in churches, schools and universities.

He said, "In many ways, my current job is everything I've ever wanted to do - to explain the faith to people who don't know it or understand it.

"But I'd love to do it in the name of the Church of England. The Church needs reforming but I'd like to be involved from the inside rather than pointing fingers from the outside.

"The great problem is that the Church is a mixture of people with lots of versions of the faith. If you're going to hold it together, you've got to be committed to not rocking the boat. Boat-rockers are rather unwelcome. But if I am rocking the boat, it's only because I think we may be about to capsize."

Howard's three-year postgraduate qualification, paid for by the Diocese of Oxford, would have cost about £40,000 tells 'This is London' publication.

He continued explaining, "I knew the college wasn't happy because they gave me a warning in my second year.

"But I was surprised that they went that far. My only fault was wanting people to hear the Christian message as taught in the Bible.

"If I'd tried to pretend we all believed the same thing when we didn't, that would go against the whole reason I want to be in Christian ministry."

At a time when the Anglican Communion is fighting for its unity amid controversies over homosexuality, some believe that Howard's views would be upheld by a majority of the worldwide members, as the Churches in Africa and South America in particular are known to hold similar views.

Howard, who gained a 2:1 in his postgraduate theology degree at Cranmer Hall, said, "I felt they were trying to change the message of the Bible so that it fits more happily with the culture that we live in.

"The college sent me to Bradford on a course entitled Ministry In A Multi-faith Context. In the first session, we were told that we should be building the kingdom of God with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus and that we would be bringing people into the mosque, temple or church as a place of worship."

Immediately Howard tells that he was "horrified".

He tells that for him, despite his upbringing as a Jew, Christianity is the "one true faith" and should be promoted as such.

As a number of commentators criticise Cranmer Hall for its rejection of Howard, Anne Dyer, the warden of Cranmer Hall, has said, "The decision to ordain somebody lies with the person's diocesan bishop. There are several parties that give the bishop advice and the principal of the college is one of those parties."