A senior Church of England bishop has said that Prince Charles' coronation service should include a reading from the Quran so that Muslims feel "embraced" by the nation – a proposal which is being criticized by some Christian groups in the U.K.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford who now serves as an assistant bishop in the diocese of Southwark, made the proposal during a House of Lords debate, U.K.'s Daily Mail reports.
Reading the Quran at the coronation would mean the Church of England is taking the lead in "exercising its historic position in a hospitable way," as well as allow leaders of non-Christian religions to give their blessing to the new king, the bishop was quoted as saying.
Referring to a civic service in Bristol Cathedral last year, where the opening passage of the Quran was read before the beginning of the Christian service, Lord Harry said, "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."
More than two decades ago, Prince Charles, the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II, said he would like to portray himself as "Defender of Faith" rather than "Defender of the Faith."
However, Lord Harries' statement was denounced by Christian groups.
"Most people will be amazed at the idea that a Christian leader would consider the use of the Quran at a Christian service in a Christian abbey," the newspaper quoted Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute think-tank as saying. "People are just so disappointed when senior Church of England figures lose confidence in the claims of the Christian faith."
"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," Andrea Minichiello Williams, a member of the denomination's General Synod and head of the Christian Concern pressure group, was quoted as saying. "We cannot pretend all religions are the same, or have the same benefits and outcomes for the nation."
In the run up to the Easter earlier this year, British Prime Minister Cameron said, "I am proud of the fact we're a Christian country and we shouldn't be ashamed to say so."
A survey conducted in April by The Telegraph showed substantial support for the Cameron's view. More than 56 percent of respondents said they regard Britain as a Christian country. The figure rose to 60 percent among men and 73 percent among those over 65.
The survey also indicated that almost two-thirds of practicing Christians appear to be frightened of speaking out about their faith. About 62 percent said the rise of religious fundamentalism had made Christians afraid to express their faith. Besides, 62 percent who hold Christian beliefs but do not worship regularly said they feel Christians are given "less protection" than other religious groups by the state.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, earlier told a newspaper that Britain is now a "post-Christian" society, which, though remains haunted by Christianity.
Britain is "post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted," Williams, who is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, told The Telegraph in an interview. "A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers, and we are not that."
Williams, a member of the House of Lords, added, "It's a matter of defining terms. A Christian country as a nation of believers? No. A Christian country in the sense of still being very much saturated by this vision of the world and shaped by it? Yes."