Dr Michael Nazir-Ali

The Bishop of Rochester responds to an article by Terence Blacker, who said that the Church of England no longer engages in meaningful public debate
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The Independent Online

The Bishop of Rochesterresponds to an article byTerence Blacker, who saidthat the Church of Englandno longer engages inmeaningful public debate

The Bishop of Rochesterresponds to an article byTerence Blacker, who saidthat the Church of Englandno longer engages inmeaningful public debate

Terence Blacker claims that the voice of the Church of England is hardly heard in public debate these days ("Why the ethical atheists shall inherit the earth," 1 August).

One of the reasons for this, surely, is that the media is increasingly reluctant to report the Church's stance on a whole range of issues. Mr Blacker tells us that Robert Runcie's attitude to the Falklands conflict was one act of "mild rebellion" in a supremely cautious man. Has he forgotten that it was Mr Runcie who commissioned the Faith in the City report that first highlighted the plight of Britain's inner cities in the 1980s?

Throughout the Thatcher era, the opposition parties were so emasculated that the Church often became the unofficial opposition. Its voice was credible because there were clergy on the ground in local communities who understood what was happening. The present Government does listen to the Church, even though it may not agree with them. The campaign for the cancellation of the debt of highly indebted countries, the humane treatment of asylum-seekers and the importance of marriage and the family have all recently been high on the Church's agenda. Are these signs of a Church not being courageous or prophetic enough?

As a bishop, I am constantly addressing moral questions arising out of local or national policy that has an impact in my area. I am a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and chair of its ethics committee. Recently, I initiated a House of Lords debate on the need to improve Turkey's human-rights record in the light of its EU membership application. None of this sounds like keeping quiet for the sake of peace.

I do not know where Terence Blacker meets his clergy. I do not recognise them at all.

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