A royal chaplain to the Queen has resigned his position to allow himself free reign to criticise the decision to allow a reading of Muslim Holy book the Qur’an in a Glasgow Church.
The Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden spoke out in national media after a passage from the Qur’an was read during an Epiphany service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow earlier this month, describing the decision as an “assault on Jesus” and saying it had caused “serious offence” to Christians attending the service.
The Cathedral, which has received a number of offensive online messages since the service, has stood by its decision, which its says was aimed at promoting understanding between the two faiths.
The row came over the fact that the reading, by Muslim law student Madinah Javed, from the chapter of Maryam (Mary) described the birth of Christ but also made reference to the Islamic belief that Jesus is not the son of God and should not be worshipped.
The Muslim faith regards Jesus as a prophet, but he is not considered to have the divine nature prescribed by the Christian faith.
Rev Dr Ashenden, who had held the post for nine years, said he felt it was more important to be able to speak out than to retain his role, adding that the Queen needed to be “above positions”.
He said: “It is sometimes assumed, wrongly by under-informed people, that if a chaplain to the Queen speaks out on an issue of public importance, that he does so because he has the Queen’s ear. But of course none of the chaplains do have the Queen’s ear, and if they did, they would never say so.
“But, it does the Queen no good at all for it to be assumed by any of the public, or the fourth estate, that she does have a view that is being expressed by someone connected with her.”
He added: “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.”
The cathedral’s provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, has previously defended the decision to allow the reading, saying attempts for the two faiths to work together have “led to deepening friendships locally, to greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ”.