Resignation from the Office of Chaplain to the Queen

Gavin Ashenden writes of his decision to step down

I think it quite likely that on Sunday 22nd of January, Radio 4 will announce on the Sunday programme, that I have resigned my position as a chaplain to the Queen.

In an interview with them recorded for the programme, I said that I didn’t want to discuss the matter on air, because I didn’t want the important discussion about the mistaken syncretism in St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow on the Feast of the Epiphany, to be obscured by events in my life.

But since it is likely to be reported in, in some way or another, I am going to offer some clarification here on my website.

Radio 4 were very keen to know the circumstances of my decision.

The answer was that after a conversation instigated by officials at Buckingham Palace,  I decided the most honourable course of action was to resign.

I have held the position for the last nine years. But over the last few years people who objected to my defending the Christian faith in public wrote to both Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace to try to get the association ended.

When I was confronted with these attempts to silence or defenestrate me, my reaction was to ask “in what way is a priest defending the faith on behalf of a monarch who was Defender of the Faith, incongruous or improper?”

I have come to see that the situation is more complex than that. There is a very important convention that the Queen should not be drawn into public affairs where she is deemed to be taking a position. She needs to be above ‘positions.’ That is how the monarchy rides out political turbulence.

It is sometimes assumed, wrongly by under-informed people, that if a chaplain to the Queen (one of her many chaplains) speaks out on an issue of public importance, that he does so because he has the Queen’s ear.  The newspapers certainly like to imply something of the kind. It makes news.

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.

That being the case, I could most easily avoid any misunderstanding by not speaking out in the public space on matters of faith that I took to be important. This would  have the effect of silencing me and prohibiting me taking part in public debate.

On the other hand, 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’.

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.

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