Prince Charles’s coronation should include a reading from the Koran, a Church of England Bishop has said. Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a retired Bishop of Oxford, said that such a gesture at the traditionally Anglican service would be “creative” and make Muslims feel “embraced” by the nation.
Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, the retired bishop, who continues to serve as an assistant in the Anglican diocese of Southwark, said that the Church of England should be “exercising its historic position in a hospitable way.”
Speaking of a civic service held at Bristol Cathedral last year, he said that authorities had agreed that a passage from the Koran should be read out before the Christian service started. “It was a brilliant creative act of accommodation that made the Muslim high sheriff feel, as she said, warmly embraced but did not alienate the core congregation,” he said.
“That principle of hospitality can and should be reflected in many public ceremonies, including the next coronation service.”
Prince Charles has previously stated that when he becomes king he wants to be seen as “Defender of Faith”, rather than “Defender of the Faith” – a title traditionally used by British monarchs, first bestowed on Henry VIII by Pope Leo X in 1521.
However, some Christian groups have criticised the idea. Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute told the Daily Mail: “Most people will be amazed at the idea that a Christian leader would consider the use of the Koran at a Christian service in a Christian abbey.
“People are just so disappointed when senior Church of England figures lose confidence in the claims of the Christian faith.”
Britain is one of the few monarchies to maintain a traditional Christian coronation service when a new king of queen ascends the throne, rather than a simple inauguration or swearing in. The service, which is always held in Westminster Abbey, involves the new monarch being formally crowned and swearing to defend the Church of England, of which they are Supreme Governor.
Due to Queen Elizabeth’s long reign, there has been no coronation service since 1953, during which time Britain has changed dramatically through mass immigration.
Andrea Minichello Williams, who serves on the Church of England’s General Synod, and is head of pressure group Christian Concern, said: “At a time when we are looking at what British values mean, we cannot have values in a vacuum. British values stem from our Christian heritage.
“We cannot pretend all religions are the same, or have the same benefits and outcomes for the nation.”