Hinduism No Barrier, it Seems, to Keeping Job as Priest in Church of England

September 8, 2006

Author: Ruth Gledhill

Source: The Times Online


A PRIEST with the Church of England who converted to Hinduism has been allowed to continue to officiate as a cleric.

The Rev David Hart’s diocese renewed his licence this summer even though he had moved to India, changed his name to Ananda and daily blesses a congregation of Hindus with fire previously offered up to Nagar, the snake god. He also “recites Gayatri Mantram with the same devotion with which he celebrates the Eucharist”, according to The Hindu, India’s national newspaper.

The Hindu this week pictures him offering prayers to an idol of the elephant god Ganesh in front of his house. However, he still believes he is fit to celebrate as an Anglican priest and plans to do so when he returns to Britain.

Mr Hart, a former chairman of Christian Aid in Loughborough and chaplain at Loughborough University, now serves in the Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, a village in Kerala, southern India.

He was initiated as an Anglican priest in 1984 and, before leaving for India, was serving the Diocese of Ely, which covers most of Cambridgeshire and part of Norfolk, and living in Stretham. Anthony Russell, the Bishop of Ely, sent Mr Hart his licence, along with a personal letter, just three months after Mr Hart published a book, Trading Faith: Global Religion in an Age of Rapid Change, in which he writes about his conversion to Hinduism.

Mr Hart is the international secretary for the World Congress of Faiths, the world’s oldest interfaith organisation, and is a strong advocate of pluralism. He says in his book that Hinduism accepts the divinity of Jesus and is an especially tolerant and open faith. He adds that he changed his name to Ananda because of its Sanskrit meaning, happiness.