Queen’s Chaplain Steps Down, Calls Reading of Quran in Church Service a ‘Fairly Serious Error’

One of the chaplains to the queen resigned following his criticism of the reading of the Quran during a church service held at St Mary's Episcopal in Glasgow earlier this month.
Rev. Gavin Ashenden Gavin Ashenden

One of the chaplains to the queen resigned following his criticism of the reading of the Quran during a church service held at St Mary's Episcopal in Glasgow earlier this month.

The Rev. Gavin Ashenden, in a blog published on his website, explained he needed to resign from his post, which he held for nine years, to avoid any misunderstanding that his statements against what took place in the service were released on behalf of the Queen.

As one of the 33 chaplains to the Queen, his actions could be misinterpreted as representing the monarchy. In choosing to vacate his post, he would be able to freely “speak on behalf of the faith,” he said.

“If I did choose to speak out, as a matter of integrity and responsibility, I ought not to do it while I was in possession of the office of ‘Chaplain to the Queen,’” Ashenden wrote. “Because I think it a higher and more compelling duty to speak out on behalf of the faith, than to retain a public honour which precludes me doing so at this time, I resigned my post,” he continued.

Ashenden got involved in a controversy when he openly criticized the reading of the Quran during a church service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in celebration of the Feast of Epiphany. According to the church, Muslim worshipers were invited and allowed to take part in the service as part of the church's efforts to strengthen interfaith relationships.

However, during the service, passages from the Quran saying Jesus was not the Son of God were read in Arabic, causing many Christians to feel offended that this was allowed at a church service, particularly one that was meant to celebrate the wise men’s visit to Jesus when He was a child as an acknowledgment of Him being God in human form.

 Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet but does not believe He is God.

Ashenden felt compelled to speak out against the Quran reading, which he considered to be “a fairly serious error.”

“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,” he told BBC Radio 4 in an interview. "Of all passages you might have read likely to cause offence, that was one of the most problematic.”

In a letter he wrote for The Times, he also demanded that the church apologize to Christians who are enduring intense persecution from Muslims.

"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.,” he said. “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.”

Ashenden said he decided to resign after speaking with officials from Buckingham Palace.

The Scottish Episcopal Church issued a statement saying that while building strong interfaith relationships is one of the commitments of the church to foster the work of reconciliation, efforts to do so “must be founded on truth.”

“We approach others with open hearts but we stand in the truth of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” the Scottish Episcopal Church said. “Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise.”

Tags : queen's chaplain resigns, Rev. Gavin Ashenden, Scottish Episcopal Church, reading of Quran in church service, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Mary's Episcopal Church Glasgow, Queen Elizabeth II