A Koran reading on Epiphany at a Scottish church prompted Queen Elizabeth’s personal chaplain, the Rev. Gavin Ashenden, to resign in protest, a move which he defended Monday in an op-ed at a religious news website.
The reading from the Muslim holy text occurred Jan. 6 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, a church in the Scottish Episcopal Church. On its website the cathedral touts that it adheres to “liberal theology” and engages in “ministry which is affirming, inclusive, open and non-judgemental.”
PremierChristianity.com reported on Jan. 17 that the Koran text in question denies the divinity of Christ, an essential doctrine of orthodox Christianity.
For its part, the cathedral insists the reading was a gesture of goodwill toward the Scottish Muslim community, Premier Christianity reported.
“This was not bridge building so much as capitulation — and capitulation in a holy place, at a holy time in a fashion that denigrated the risen Christ,” Mr. Ashenden argued in a Jan. 23 post at Premier Christianity’s website. He noted that Muslim clerics would never do the converse.
“The flaw in Glasgow was thinking that reading the Koran in the Eucharist was some kind of reciprocal gesture the Islamic community was signed up to,” Mr. Ashenden wrote. “All we have to do is to ask how many mosques have read out the claims of Jesus during their Friday prayers? The answer is none. Not a single one.”
Mr. Ashenden, who has served as the Queen’s spiritual adviser for nine years, said he resigned his chaplaincy rather than wage his theological protest while personally in the monarch’s employ because “the success of the monarchy depends on the Queen not being drawn into political or cultural conflict. She needs to remain above it.”
While as sovereign Queen Elizabeth is supreme governor of the Church of England, in practice she has virtually no say in doctrinal disputes in the Church of England or the broader worldwide Anglican Communion.
“If you think it odd that a representative of the Defender of the Faith can’t defend the faith you are right. But then some things are odd,” Mr. Ashenden wrote. “But while the monarchy is Christian in its DNA, the country it presides over isn’t. That is going to produce some incongruities, and this was one of them.
“As so often in life, as Jesus warns us, we have to choose which god we serve,” Mr. Ashenden concluded. “During this last week, I found I had come to a moment when I had to make a choice. In the Christian life, there are times when one has to renounce once kind of honour in the hope of gaining a different kind of honour.”