Jonathan Aitken with Thatcher Bishop of London

The Rev’d Jonathan Aitken – being ordained is like ‘a new life’

Former Tory Cabinet minister, convicted perjurer and bankrupt the Rt Hon Jonathan Aitken MP is now the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken, deacon at St Matthews, Westminster, and chaplain to the Prison Service. The Privy Council status is gone. The political power of Chief Secretary to the Treasury has dissipated. The scars of perjury and bankruptcy remain, but the soul is healed. At the age of 75, after finding God in the depths and theological study at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, Jonathan Aitken has been ordained a deacon in the Church of England; his vocation to bring comfort and hope to those in prison. It’s like “a new life”, he said, standing outside St Paul’s Cathedral. “I’m honoured, humbled and delighted and still slightly surprised.”

Amazing, isn’t it, how God can still surprise us with his miracles of rebirth, redemption and restoration. He can even renew the heart of a disgraced Tory who lied on oath after swearing on the Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The perjurer has become a pastor. The prisoner has become a comforter to the depressed, lonely, self-harming, assaulted and bereaved. He has been where they are, and now prays alongside them. “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell,” said the missionary CT Studd.

The man once flanked by the first woman Prime Minister is now flanked by the first woman Bishop of London. The political lust for power has become a spiritual taste of divine beauty. The lies of wickedness have become the truths of Scripture: the darkness has become light; the counterfeit is made authentic. Jonathan Aitken now knows the nature of virtue and holiness; a world of wonderful and glorious truth in the gospel; of moral excellence, righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness. And in his charity, in his kindness and mercy, he has chosen to reflect the image of God where it is most needed; where sin and human ugliness meet justice and retribution. He seeks to reconcile them as he found reconciliation; to accept as he found self-acceptance. O, all he’ll do most of the time is sit and listen, which must feel like a fruitless labour to one who is so used to proclaiming his convictions and laying down the law. But in that listening is salvific action, forgetting what is past, and reaching forward to what lies before…

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Pt 1:5-11).

Thank God for the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken, who now helps us to distinguish amazing grace from counterfeit dignity, and true peace from hollow happiness. If he can help convince us of our lies and deceit, or shine a light on our hypocrisy and false confidence, he will be of great use to the saints and a true servant of Christ. Encourage him and pray for him, as he now does those who lie in prison, for there is none so deplorable or unpardonable that Jesus cannot redeem and sanctify them – no, not even a morally delinquent Tory.