A delightfully rib-tickling true story this, a farce in which half a dozen religions are involved.
The setting is a grand place sacred to Christians – a cathedral in Scotland.
The date of the farce is January 6, the twelfth night of the Christmas season. It is traditionally a night for joking, at least in the Anglophone world. Shakespeare has a bunch of naughty characters playing practical jokes in his play Twelfth Night. (Forbidden reading though – “boko haram” – in the English departments of American universities, because Shakespeare is dead, white, and male, and could you think of any better reasons than those?)
Christians call January 6 “Epiphany”. The Roman church decided sometime in the 4th century that “Jesus” was baptized by John the Baptist on that date.
It was also, Christians say, the date on which Three Magi (Zoroastrian priests) came to pay homage to the newly born “Baby Jesus”. (Which just goes to show Zoroastrians that Christianity wins – so there!)
Now the cathedral wasn’t just any old cathedral. It was St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, and (says the Washington Times) “on its website the cathedral touts that it adheres to ‘liberal theology’ and engages in ‘ministry which is affirming, inclusive, open and non-judgemental’.”
So already we have four religions in play: Protestant Christianity of the British kind, the reigning sovereign being its head; Zoroastrianism, long since capitulated; and Marxism as coupled to Catholic Christianity in Latin America, under the name “liberation theology”.
Enter religion number five:
On that day holy to Christians, right there in the cathedral, a Muslim woman – on the invitation of the clergy – “read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ“.
It might be expected that the head of the faith in the United Kingdom of England and Scotland would and should raise an objection, call it an outrage, summon those responsible to explain why they did it and stand reproved if not condemned.
And, indeed, one of the Queen’s chaplains did object, in strong terms.
The Scottish cathedral that allowed a girl to read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ should apologise to Christians “suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims”, the Queen’s chaplain has said. …
A [Muslim] girl sang Surah 19, which specifically denies that Jesus was the Son of God and says He should not be worshipped, during a service to St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.
Now the Rev Gavin Ashenden, one of the chaplains to Queen Elizabeth II, has said the reading could be described as “blasphemy”. …
In a letter to The Times, Rev Ashenden says:
Quite apart from the wide distress (some would say blasphemy) caused by denigrating Jesus in Christian worship, apologies may be due to the Christians suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere. To have the core of a faith for which they have suffered deeply treated so casually by senior Western clergy such as the Provost of Glasgow is unlikely to have a positive outcome. There are other and considerably better ways to build “bridges of understanding”.
He also wrote in a post for the Archbishop Cranmer blog that it was highly unlikely a Christian would be invited to proclaim the divinity of Christ at Friday prayers in a mosque.
There was no dialogue in the Epiphany Eucharist; only a refutation of what Christians hold most dear and upon which salvation depends. In over 30 years of interfaith conversations, I have never yet come across a Muslim community which allowed those passages in the Gospels acclaiming the divinity of Christ to be read in Friday prayers.
As outrage grew over the reading, the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church [David Chillingworth] said he was “deeply distressed at the widespread offence”, saying Christians cannot offend their own religion in the name of inter-faith dialogue.
We approach others with open hearts but we stand in the truth of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
However, the cathedral’s provost, Kelvin Holdsworth, was unrepentant and even suggested that those who were offended were actually attacking him because he is gay.
So here now is the sixth religion: Political Correctness, affirming its doctrine of “anti-sexism”.
Kelvin Holdsworth wrote:
Having a recitation from the Qur’an in a Christian cathedral in worship is not a new thing. So it has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered. This same Qur’anic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a young woman? Clearly those things are factors as they feature in some of the abuse.”
Oh yes, “clearly” that’s what this was all about! Not about Christianity, and not about the everlasting jihad of Islam against all who do not submit to its god. It was about being inclusive, open, and non-judgemental. Kelvin Holdsworth is not judging those who see a clash of doctrine in the event – which in any case should not be condemned for the decisive reason that it has happened before – merely reproaching them for blasphemy against his religion.
So did the Established Church judge, or reproach, or reprove, or even just gently correct Mr. Holdsworth?
Not on your nelly, as the British used to say.
The Established Church of the United Kingdom fired the Queen’s chaplain.
Though they didn’t put it quite like that. They put it like this:
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.”
You couldn’t make this stuff up. And you gotta laugh.