SULLIVANS ISLAND, SC: Date for Easter should not be fixed, says former Bishop of Rochester

By David W. Virtue in South Carolina

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazi Ali told a group of global Anglican leaders that he supported the call for a common date for Easter for the Eastern and Western churches, but said that it should not be a fixed date, but tied to the celebration of Passover.

“A fixed date “further distance the celebration from the Jewish Passover, with which of course it is intrinsically linked because Jesus suffered at the time of the Passover, [and] he’s understood as the Passover lamb sacrificed for us.”

“If governments and local authorities want to have school holidays for a fixed period then that’s up to them, but I would not want Christians to be further distanced from their Jewish roots and Easter’s connection with Passover.”

“For the Christian Church, to retain the link with the Jewish Passover overrides these considerations,” Bishop Nazir Ali said.

The former bishop who is now director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report to primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Canterbury last week that they had agreed in principle to enter into talks with other Christian churches to set a common date for Easter. However, the prospects for an early agreement appear remote as the Russian Orthodox Church has said that it would encourage Anglicans to adopt the Julian calendar, but they would never accept the Gregorian calendar.

At the closing press conference of the Canterbury primates gathering on 15 Jan 2016 Archbishop Justin Welby said a fixed date for Easter — acceptable to Catholics, Protestants, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches could be reached in “between five and ten years’ time.”

“I wouldn’t expect it earlier than that not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years.

Dr. Nazir-Ali, a prominent conservative evangelical bishop has warned against fixing the date of Easter to the same Sunday each year.

Dr. Nazir-Ali has joined the Yorkshire town of Whitby in being among the small but influential number of people who oppose changing the current dates for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.

Whitby was the site of the Synod of Whitby in AD 664, which adopted the Roman practice for setting the date of Easter. Dr Nazir-Ali told VOL that there are two issues here. There has been lengthy discussion between Eastern and Western Churches, which follow different calendars, about a common method of calculating the date of Easter.

“If such an agreement were to be reached, the date of Easter would still vary but it would be the same for all the churches. The other proposal is to fix the date for a particular Sunday to facilitate civil holidays etc. I oppose the change because of the festival’s Biblical links with the Jewish Passover.

“Whilst the first proposal has much to commend it, the second would effectively separate Easter from the Jewish Passover to which it is closely connected both theologically and historically,” he said.

“This would be highly undesirable as it will further distance Christians from their Jewish roots and also affect their understanding of ‘Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us’ (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“In many languages, Pasch or Passover remains the usual term for Easter. This link should not be broken. It is my hope that church leaders are considering the first, not the second proposal.”


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