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UK News

Former Queen's chaplain explains conversion to Catholicism

by Cara Bentley

'Church of England is continuing to pursue a progressive agenda which I think it will sincerely regret,' says former Queen's chaplain as he converts to Catholicism. 

Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen and Anglican priest has decided to join the Catholic Church after re-assessing church history and viewing how the two denominations respond to cultural changes.

Speaking to Premier, Gavin Ashenden said: "I began to gain a strong sense that Christianity was under very serious assault and that we had to find a new way of understanding the task in front of us.

"As I looked to Anglicanism - I'm really sorry to say this because one hates to be critical - but in every single generation the Church either converts its surrounding society or it gets converted itself. There's no 'steady state theory' I don't think in relationship between church and society.

"It seemed to me that Anglicanism was trying to placate secular society and progressive values and I thought that was where spiritual death lay.

"Although I'd spent some time over the last 20 years acting and writing and speaking and saying, 'look, I really think this is the wrong direction' - I've lost the argument wholesale and the Church of England is continuing to pursue a progressive agenda which I think it will sincerely regret, but the Catholic Church, although it shares the same struggles because we all live in the same culture, has the integrity and the roots to win the struggle and I felt the Anglican Church was determined to lose it."

Explaining his theological motives for his conversion to Catholicism, he said: "The problem with salvation by faith alone was it was a perfectly proper reaction to a distorted theology in the 1400s but there's no need to constantly react to something that happened in the 1400s.

"It seems to me, reading the New Testament, that Jesus said very clearly that salvation depends upon the way we believe and the way we act."

Dr Ashenden was ordained in the Church of England in 1980, after studying at Oak Hill theological college.

He served as a parish priest and then a university chaplain before becoming the Queen's chaplain from 2008 until 2017.

He left that role after rejecting the reading of the Qur'an at an Anglican service and feeling he could not speak out publicly about it.

He then became a missionary bishop in the Christian Episcopal Church, which has Anglican traditions but is not official part of the Anglican Communion.

Gavin Ashenden will be received into the Catholic Church by Bishop Mark Davies on Sunday at Shrewsbury Cathedral. 

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