Outspoken U.K. Bishop Steps Down to Help Persecuted Believers

An outspoken cleric who became the Church of England's first non-white bishop emphasized the critical role that Christians play in society as he stepped down from his post following 15 years of service.

In his last service as the bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali said the Christian faith was "necessary" for the life of the country and urged Christian leaders to point out the main cause behind many of society's ills – namely, the breakdown of the family.

"It is obvious to many people that the weakening of family life is responsible for what we face on our streets, in our classrooms and in homes," Nazir-Ali said as he led his last service at Rochester Cathedral this past weekend.

"It would be irresponsible for a Christian leader not to point this out," he added.

As the bishop of Rochester, Nazi-Ali came to be well known locally and even internationally for having been an outspoken defender of the importance of Christianity in the United Kingdom.

Last year, the bishop found himself embroiled in a row after saying that Islamic extremism had rendered some areas of the country "no-go" areas for non-Muslims.

Shortly afterward, Nazir-Ali said the erosion of Christianity in Britain is leaving the country with a "moral vacuum" that radical Islam is ready to fill.

"We are now... confronted by another equally serious ideology, that of radical Islamism, which [like Marxism] also claims to be comprehensive in scope," he had said. "What resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?"

Now that he's stepped down, Nazir-Ali plans to concentrate on supporting persecuted Christians in majority-Muslim countries.

According to a spokesman, the Pakistan-born cleric, who turned 60 last month, 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.

Nazir-Ali holds dual Pakistani and British citizenship.

Christian Today reporter Jenna Lyle in London contributed to this article.