By Camilla Turner,
A chaplain to the Queen has resigned after publicly criticising a church that allowed a Koran reading during its service as part of an interfaith project.
The Rev Gavin Ashenden, who until this week was one of the 33 special chaplains to the Queen, said the reading was “a fairly serious error” and one which he had a duty to speak out about.
There are things we should not tolerate because they are destructive,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme.“I don’t accept the rather feeble accusation that intolerance is a bad thing.”
During a service at St Mary’s Episcopal in Glasgow earlier this month to mark the feast of the Epiphany, there was a reading of a passage from the Koran which said that Jesus was not the son of God.
The cathedral in Kelvinbridge had invited local Muslim worshippers to contribute to the service, which was aimed at improving relations between Christians and Muslims in Glasgow. But police were called after members of the church received “hate-filled messages” from far-right extremists after the service.
The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, said that the Scottish Episcopal Church would review the work of St Mary’s. He said the church was “deeply distressed at the offence which has been caused”.
Dr Ashenden wrote a letter to The Times newspaper earlier this week, where he called on the church to apologise to Christians “suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims” and added that the denigration of Jesus in Christian worship would be called “blasphemy” by some.
He told BBC Radio 4 on Sunday: “The problem with what happened in Glasgow was that although it was presented as a way of building bridges and a way of educating people it was done badly in the wrong way in the wrong place in the wrong context.
“It should not happen in the holy Eucharist and particularly a Eucharist whose main intention is to celebrate Christ the word made flesh come into the world.
“To have a reading from the Koran at that point was a fairly serious error for the Christian worshipping community, but to choose the reading they chose doubled the error. Of all passages you might have read likely to cause offence, that was one of the most problematic.”
He said that he had to make a choice between the “important honour” of continuing in the role of royal chaplain, and having the ability to speak out on matters he felt strongly about.
“I think it’s clear to me that accepting the role of chaplain to the Queen does not give one a platform where one can speak controversially in the public space,” he said.
“So in those circumstances I think one has to choose between whether one wants to accept an important honour or whether one chooses to continue a debate in the public space.
“I am fairly clear in my own mind that my duty to my conscience, to my order, to my understanding of Christianity and my vocation is that I am supposed to be speaking out in the public space on behalf of the Christ I serve.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “Dr. Gavin Ashenden has tendered his resignation from the honorary position of Chaplain to The Queen. The Royal Household has accepted the resignation with immediate effect.”