Fashion catwalk at cathedral is 'antithesis of Christian gospel'

(Photo: Diocese of Southwark)

The Queen's former chaplain, the Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden has criticised Southwark Cathedral for hosting a high profile fashion catwalk featuring scantily clad models.

Models, many of them wearing revealing cuts and sheer fabrics, walked down the central nave of the cathedral on Monday night for British designer Julien MacDonald's show as part of London Fashion Week.

Dr Ashenden, who was ordained at Southwark Cathedral, told The Daily Telegraph that while it wasn't necessarily a "bad thing" for the cathedral to try and cross the Christian-secular divide, the content of events allowed within its walls should be in keeping with Christian values and ethics.

He suggested cathedral authorities should think more carefully about the causes they give a platform to. 

"Southwark Cathedral has made its premises available for fashion in the past and one of the things they try and do is build a bridge between secular society and the Christian church and that's no bad thing," he said. 

"The problem comes comes when the ethical content of what they are trying to host is in direct contradiction to Christian values. It's like what happened with Rochester and Norwich - it's the Disneyfication of entertainment." 

He continued: "The cathedral should ask itself to see if the complaints about the fashion industry - as promoting a narcissistic self referential display for the very rich - is indeed conducive with the values of the Christian gospel.

"I think the fashion industry is the antithesis of the Christian gospel. It's about the exposure of the poverty of our souls and that's about hiding the state of the soul in an excess of glamour.

"A cathedral ought to think twice before it provides a platform to a cultural venture like this."

 A spokesperson for the cathedral defended the decision to host MacDonald's show, saying it had been "professional" and "respectful". 

"His show brought many people into the Cathedral who might not otherwise have come, and many recognised it as a beautiful and special place. The show was delivered in a professional, respectful and energetic way," he said. 

"Fashion and its impact on the environment, how we use clothes as part of daily life and what clothing is appropriate are important issues for Christians and others to engage with as aspects of modern living."

Cathedrals have divided opinion with their efforts to reach new audiences beyond the Christian fold.  Over the summer, Norwich Cathedral was criticised for erecting a helter skelter inside the nave, while Rochester Cathedral came under fire over a crazy golf course.