Former chaplain to the Queen quits church and converts to Catholicism as he attacks CofE’s transgender stance and failure to defend Christian values
Queen’s former chaplain converts to Catholicism and slams the Anglican Church
Dr Gavin Ashenden said CofE must realize Christianity is engaged in a culture war
He said the Church had ‘swallowed wholesale’ trendy politically ‘correct’ causes
Ann Widdecombe said his conversion was a sign of CofE’s ‘downward trajectory’
By STEPHEN ADAMS and JAKE RYAN FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 23:00, 21 December 2019 | UPDATED: 23:21, 21 December 2019
A former chaplain to the Queen has converted to Catholicism after becoming exasperated at the ‘astonishing’ failure of the Church of England to defend Christian values and the faith itself.
Dr Gavin Ashenden was chaplain to the monarch for a decade, resigning from the post in 2017 after objecting to the Koran being read during an Anglican service.
Now, he has quit altogether to join the Catholic church, launching a stinging attack on the Anglican church in the process.
He said the Church had ‘swallowed wholesale’ trendy politically ‘correct’ causes such as transgender rights rather than offering a ‘Christian critique’.
He also accused it of failing to stand up for those accused of ‘thought crimes’ for stating their Christian beliefs.
Last night, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, also a Catholic convert, claimed his ‘high-profile’ conversion was a sign of a Church of England that had been ‘on a downward trajectory for decades’.
She said: ‘One of the reasons I left the C of E in 1993 was because it didn’t seem to know what it thought on anything at all. Nothing has improved since then. Indeed, it’s got worse.’
By contrast, she said, the Catholic church offered religious certainty and she urged other prominent Anglicans to consider converting too.
Writing in today’s MoS, Dr Ashenden says the Church of England must realize that Christianity is engaged in a ‘culture war’ against those who not only do not share its values, but actively want to silence Christians.
Instead of being on the ‘front line’, he claims the C of E has acquiesced to the ‘increasingly intense demands of a secular culture’ under Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury – and he adds that he fears it has even ‘switched sides’.
He writes: ‘Freedom of speech is slowly being eroded; those who refuse to be “politically correct” risk accusations of thought crime; and Christians are being unfairly persecuted… Too often, when called upon to defend Christian values, [the C of E] has remained astonishingly silent.’
He cites as evidence recent guidance warning CoE schools that having boys’ and girls’ uniforms might ‘create difficulty for trans pupils’ and a case where a magistrate and NHS director was sacked for saying he thought children did best in traditional families.
‘In each generation Christianity has a choice: convert its surroundings or be converted by it,’ Dr Ashenden writes.
‘Regrettably, I have come to believe that the Church of England has given up on the essentials of the faith at points where it really matters… I now believe only the Catholic church has the courage, integrity and conviction to hold the Christian ground.’
The Reverend Canon Giles Fraser, Anglican priest of St Mary Newington in South-East London and formerly Dean of St Paul’s, said: ‘I do not completely recognise the picture he paints. Our pews have people from a full range of political opinions, including those of us who agree that the Church should not bow down to contemporary culture.’
A C of E spokesman said: ‘Our prayers and best wishes are with him as he starts this new chapter of his spiritual life.’
Dr Ashenden was one of a number of Her Majesty’s personal chaplains, based at St James’s Palace, London.
He resigned in January 2017, a week after involving himself in a debate about whether an imam should have been invited to give a Koran reading during a service at an Anglican cathedral in Glasgow which included a passage arguing Jesus was not the Son of God.
He said allowing a reading ‘denigrating Jesus in Christian worship’ caused ‘wide distress’ at a time when some Christians in the Middle East were ‘suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims’.