This is an easy read about an extraordinary man, commonly known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’. Not many people in their 40s deem it an appropriate time to pen their autobiography, but the author has packed a lot into this volume.
White has counted among his personal friends at least three archbishops of Canterbury, a pope, Yasser Arafat and Billy Graham. He practised as an anaesthetist before training for the Anglican ministry. He then found himself in a ministry of reconciliation, negotiating the release of hostages in such trouble spots as Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, northern Nigeria and Baghdad.
He has sought to bring peace between Christians, Muslims and Jews and has displayed immense courage, diplomacy and compassion. Learning that he is married with two young sons, as well as suffering from a chronic illness, only increases our admiration.
Who is he? He is an Anglo-Indian. His parents were Pentecostal and Strict Baptist, respectively. Yet, he was drawn to Anglicanism in all its forms — Anglo-Catholic, Charismatic and Evangelical.
White is unable to record a conversion experience, but believed in God and the Bible from the earliest age. He speaks a lot about prayer, God’s leading and presence and rises daily at 5.30 am for a lengthy ‘quiet time’.
Like Zwingli, Martin Luther King and Ian Paisley, he has mixed politics with Christian ministry. For a time, he was a leading local authority councillor in London, something maintained in addition to his parish duties.
Are there lessons for us in the story of this larger-than-life figure? We may not have his range of gifts (or his size 16 feet!), and we may not have witnessed miraculous healing in situations of dire suffering, conflict and poverty. However, he displays extraordinary faith and is willing to risk everything to preserve peace and seek reconciliation.
Are we too comfortable, with our heads well below the parapet in an ‘evangelical bubble’? Our churches would endure less conflict and misunderstanding if we too sat down to carefully understand other people’s points of view.