The Coronation Ceremony of an Earthly King - Grounded in God’s Word
When King Charles became Britain’s monarch upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, he took an oath to uphold “the true Protestant religion.” Charles has for years taken pains to say that he prizes the “inclusion of other people’s faiths and their freedom to worship” in the United Kingdom. In other words, as he has said, “While at the same time being Defender of the Faith, you can also be protector of faiths.”
I am quick to add that I don’t know where Charles stands spiritually. He is reportedly a “high church” Anglican, meaning he favors a form of worship with greater formality than that found in most other Protestant traditions. However, Charles has been eager to extend a welcoming hand to his country’s other Christian traditions as well as practitioners of other religions. He has long advanced Catholic charities and spoken out passionately about the persecution of both Christians and minority religions.
Everyone knows about Charles’s checkered marital past and strained relationship with his son Harry. Yet we can be grateful for a world leader who takes faith seriously and discusses his own faith publicly.
When the new king is crowned in a few days, his ceremony will echo Britain’s historic commitment to the Protestantism of the Reformation. It will be full of great hymns and liturgy that quotes extensively from Scripture. For example, Charles will be formally welcomed into Westminster Abbey by a young person who will say, “Your Majesty, as children of the Kingdom of God, we welcome you in the name of the King of Kings.”
Later on, an official of the Church of Scotland will give Charles a Bible, “the most valuable thing this world affords,” in order to keep the new king “ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes.” And there will be a reading from Colossians 1, part of which Paul speaks of the God “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
Of course, the actual faith of Charles and the Queen Consort, Camilla, cannot be known from afar. But that Charles is pledging loyalty to historic Christian teaching is quite remarkable in our secular age.
Charles’s coronation comes at a time of crisis for the Anglican Communion worldwide. The just-concluded Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) that met in Kigali, Rwanda, was attended by men and women representing an estimated 85% of the world’s “worshipping Anglicans.” The leaders there issued a powerful statement, the “Kigali Commitment 2023,” a reproof to heterodox Anglicans — who live predominantly in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. “Despite 25 years of persistent warnings by most Anglican Primates, repeated departures from the authority of God’s Word have torn the fabric of the Communion,” wrote the bishops and other Anglican leaders. “These warnings were blatantly and deliberately disregarded and now without repentance this tear cannot be mended.”
The statement cites the February 2023 vote by bishops in the Church of England to “enable same-sex couples to receive God’s blessing. … Since the Lord does not bless same-sex unions, it is pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The statement powerfully indicts the leader of the worldwide Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — at least at one time a committed Evangelical — as abetting this departure from the faith, saying it “renders his leadership role in the Anglican Communion entirely indefensible.”
So, this is the fractured church over which Charles will now become, at least in England, the “Supreme Governor.” A test of Charles’s dedication to the orthodoxy he will promise to defend will be if he makes any public statements about the direction of “his” church. He cannot force a return to historic Christian teaching any more than he can rule the British government by fiat. However, he has spoken on many other issues, from recycling to architecture, with some courage. Whether that courage will translate into any commentary on why “the faith once delivered” is worth upholding remains to be seen.
Regardless, we can still pray that a service so full of the Word of God will have a robust effect on the hundreds of millions who watch it. The King of kings merits this kind of worldly attention.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.