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Bishop locked out of churches over Turkish priest 15 janvier 2008

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, Religion, Turkey / Turquie.
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The Guardian (UK), Monday January 14, 2008, pg. 24

Helena Smith

The head of the Anglican church in Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, was locked out of six churches in Turkey by their congregations after his controversial decision to ordain a local convert to the priesthood.

In an unprecedented step and amid fears that the ordination would endanger the lives of congregants in the mainly Muslim country, furious Christians denied the bishop access to any of his own churches to conduct the ceremony at the weekend. He was forced to carry out the ordination in a small Calvinist chapel in Istanbul.

It was the first time in the 430-year history of the Church of England in Turkey that a sitting bishop has faced such protests. A heady mix of nationalism, anti-western sentiment and Islamic extremism has resulted in Turkey’s tiny Christian community being increasingly targeted.

In the past 18 months, a Roman Catholic priest was shot as he prayed at the altar of his church, another was knifed, and three Protestant missionaries were murdered by a group of teenagers who had posed as believers during a bible study class.

The violence has been accompanied by a spate of verbal assaults on priests, and the vandalism of churches. In this climate, hatred for converts to Christianity is especially shrill.

Rowell pressed ahead with the ordination of Engin Yildirim, a convert whose proselytising activities have caused controversy, despite opposition from the 1,500-strong Anglican community.

Many, including the British historian Norman Stone, who divides his time between Turkey and the UK, said the ordination would put Turkey’s Christians and British community at unnecessary risk.

« After all that he has done, we have only one word to say to this rogue bishop: resign! » said Andrew Boord, the secretary of Istanbul’s church council. « The danger is to our lives, not to theirs, long after they have left this country. »

Canon Ian Sherwood, the community’s chaplain, who was informed of the ordination only the day before in an email, said: « Much of the bishop’s life has been in the shelter of Oxford University. Now that he has serious responsibility he seems to be unaware of the suffering he causes faithful people. »

The bishop’s office in London refused to comment on the row.

This is not the first time Rowell has upset congregants in Turkey, or indeed other parts of his diocese in Europe. In 2004, he backed controversial Foreign Office plans to lease a historic chapel in the grounds of the British Consulate – attacked by suicide bombers months earlier – to a Turkish hotelier intent on handing it over to belly dancers.

Before the bombings, the chapel had received a major renovation under the watch of Roger Short, the consul general killed in the November 2003 attack.

Outraged worshippers, who had long paid for the chapel’s furnishings and upkeep, prevented the move after a campaign.


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