Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Bishop of Rochester stands down

Bishop Nazir-Ali
The bishop has made headlines with some controversial views

The Church of England's Bishop of Rochester has announced he will retire in September.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church's first non-white diocesan bishop, has been in the position for 15 years.

He received death threats last year after saying that some areas of the UK become no-go areas for non-Muslims because of Islamic extremism.

The bishop, who turns 60 in August, has said he wants to work with a number of church leaders after he retires.

He said: "We thank God for his blessings and for friends we have made in the diocese in the past 15 years.

"I am so grateful to God for the friendship and loyalty of those around us and ask for people's prayers as we take this step of faith 'not knowing where we are going'."

His clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams said: "Bishop Michael's decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops.

"His enormous theological skill, his specialist involvement in the complex debates around bioethics, his wide international experience and his clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague, and he has served the Church and the wider society with dedication and distinction."

The Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Rev Dr Brian Castle, said: "Bishop Michael has had a distinguished ministry locally, nationally and internationally.

"He has been a true prophet in the way that he has courageously spoken out against both injustice and compromising the Word of God."

His last service will be held at Rochester Cathedral on 12 September.

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