A leading liberal U.S. Episcopal bishop, John Bryson Chane, is in Iran today against the advice of the State Department, where he is meeting with leading officials of the Islamic Republic, NewsMax has learned from Iranian sources.
Bishop Chane’s entourage has withheld news of the impending trip from reporters, and even today refused to officially confirm that the bishop was in Tehran.
“Can’t help you. Don’t have his sked,” Bishop Chane’s spokesman, Jim Naughton, related to NewsMax regarding Chane's schedule. Chane made the reply overnight via e-mail from Washington. But in Tehran, three news agencies affiliated with the Iranian government touted the bishop’s participation in a conference hosted by a radical Shiite ayatollah that was aimed at “defeating the designs of the Zionists.”
After meeting in Qom with Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, Bishop Chane was quoted by the Mehr News Agency as saying that while war and politics separated him from his Iranian hosts, “we share common goals and targets, to spread the message of peace and brotherhood among all human beings.”
Shirazi didn’t see things the same way.
He told the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA), that the “Zionist media are waging a negative propaganda campaign” against Iran and against Islam, and that Bishop Chane’s visit was part of Iran’s efforts to counter it.
“The Zionists spread a negative picture of Islam among the Christians, and a negative picture of Christians among Muslims,” he added. “We should have more meetings [such as this] to neutralize this negative campaign by the Zionists.”
Chane was accompanied by the Rev. Canon John Peterson of the National Cathedral in Washington. The two men hosted former President Mohammad Khatami at the National Cathedral last year, where he gave a highly-publicized speech that was widely protested by Iranian-American groups and by Orthodox Anglicans in the United States.
Khatami issued a return invitation to Chane to visit Iran after that trip, the Bishop’s spokesman stated.
NewsMax contacted Chane’s office three weeks ago when rumors began circulating about an upcoming trip to Iran.
While denying any knowledge of an impending trip, spokesman Jim Naughton issued a stark warning to critics of Chane’s political activism on behalf of Iran.
“The Bishop took grief from people on the right for inviting Khatami to Washington, and then Khatami went and met with evangelical leaders while in the United States,” Naughton asserted. “So people should watch out for the name-calling,”
Naughton also pointed out that Michael Nazir Ali, “a leading conservative Bishop” of the Anglican church, “has also met with Iranian leaders.”
But Orthodox Anglicans told NewsMax that Bishop Ali’s visit to Iran took place during the installation of the new Anglican bishop of Tehran and was in no way a legitimization of the Tehran regime, as Chane’s visit is being painted in Iran.
During his sermon to install the new Bishop of Tehran on Aug. 7, Ali pointed out that his colleague’s name meant “free” in Persian. “My hope is that Bishop Azad (whose name means free) will free you to be followers of the risen Christ and help you to know what you have to put off and what to put on,” he said.
Iranians frequently demonstrate against the regime holding banners with the word “Azadi” — freedom — so the implications of Ali’s statement were clear.
The Rev. Canon James J. Doust, an Anglican cleric currently posted to the Middle East, told NewsMax this morning in Amman, Jordan that Chane’s Iran trip was “a very ill-advised move without sensitivity to the local situation or to the church in the local situation.”
“This is an unbelievably stupid move,” a U.S. clergyman who has worked extensively in the Middle East told NewsMax separately. “It makes the work of the new Anglican bishop in Tehran, Azad Marshall, much more difficult.”
By meeting with Iranian officials, even under the guise of a religious gathering, Bishop Chane was “allowing himself to be manipulated for political purposes,” a third Anglican official stated.
Bishop Chane and Canon Peterson have also announced that they will host a conference in Washington on U.S.-Iran political dialogue on Oct. 29, to which they have invited Trita Parsi, a noted apologist for the Iranian regime who was widely seen with President Ahmadinejad during Ahmadinejad's recent U.S. visit.
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