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'My support for our Spice Girls bishop'

PUBLISHED: 16:49 12 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:57 23 August 2010

SUPPORT: Canon Chris Stone

SUPPORT: Canon Chris Stone

A FORMER chaplain has offered his support and prayers to the Bishop of Rochester ahead of his retirement next month. Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church of England s first non-white and only Asian bishop will take his last service at Roches

A FORMER chaplain has offered his support and prayers to the Bishop of Rochester ahead of his retirement next month.

Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church of England's first non-white and only Asian bishop will take his last service at Rochester Cathedral on September 12.

The 59-year-old announced his retirement after 15 years in the position stating his intentions to work in communities where Christians are in the minority.

Chris Stone, vicar of St George's Church, Church Street, Gravesend, worked closely with Dr Nazir-Ali, first as director of communications for the Diocese of Rochester from 1996 to 2003 and then as chaplain to the Bishop of Rochester from 2003 to 2007.

He said: "I have always enjoyed working with Bishop Michael and I have found him to be a person of great integrity and also a person who, as you move around the diocese, is very much loved respected for his ministry by lots of people.

"Everybody in the diocese is praying for Bishop Michael and god's blessing on this next part of his ministry however he is called by god in the future."

Rev Canon Stone remembers Dr Nazir-Ali fondly as a man who never lost touch with his congregation.

He said: "Bishop Michael surprised lots of people when he was asked some years ago if he could name all of the Spice Girls. He was the only bishop in the Church of England who could and that shows he was always in touch with modern culture in this country. That's certainly a fond memory I have of him."

Dr Nazir-Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan to Christian parents. He attended the Roman Catholic-run St Patrick's school in Karachi and began attending Roman Catholic services at the age of 15. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1976 and worked in Karachi and Lahore becoming the first Bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab in 1984, at the time the youngest bishop in the Anglican Communion. He became the 106th Bishop of Rochester in 1994 and in 1999 he entered the House of Lords as one of the Lords Spiritual.

Throughout his tenure as Bishop of Rochester Dr Nazir-Ali has proven to be an outspoken and controversial figure. In February last year he was placed under police protection after his family received death threats in response to his claims that some areas of the country have become 'no-go areas' for non-Muslims.

Rev Stone said: "Bishop Michael has never been afraid to speak out when he felt that he needed to speak out."

A vacancy committee has been set up by the Diocese of Rochester to oversee the appointment of the next bishop. Formal consultations will take place in November with clergy, church members and representatives from the community and a public meeting on the appointment will be held on November 12.

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