Carmen Fowler LaBerge: Why the Spiritual Commitment of Baptism is So Important

Archie. That’s a really cute name for a baby. Officially christened Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, he is the newborn son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan).  A few things to note: this christening (aka infant baptism) was compulsory for the royal baby, took place in a private ceremony, at Windsor Castle, by the Archbishop of Canterbury with unnamed godparents. 

From a worldview perspective, there’s a LOT to unpack there!

  • Baptism. What is it? Why do we do it?
  • Why was this particularly baptism compulsory?
  • If it’s an act of the Church then why was it not done in the context of a service of worship at a church?

British royalty are not only sovereigns of state, they govern the Church of England. The Queen is “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.” Royals are married in the Church and royal infants in the Windsor line of succession, which now includes Archie, are all baptized by the Church — without consideration as to the espoused or practiced faith of those involved.  Robust conversations could be had here about the dangers of over-identification between Church and State and/or infant vs. believer baptism. But let’s remind ourselves of the massive worldview shift we witnessed in the marriage last year of Harry to Meghan since we know very little about the private christening of their son.

Prince Harry’s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle was unique in that she is divorced, mixed-race and, well, not an aristocrat of any variety.  At the time it was described as a marriage that would surely modernize the monarchy.  But in what ways?  Consider the history of the British royals on the subject of divorce…and remarriage.

In reporting on the wedding of Harry to Meghan, The Associated Press noted that “Divorce has bedeviled Britain’s royal family for centuries. It has created problems not only when Prince Charles and Princess Diana ended their marriage in the most bitter fashion in 1996, but also when other royals, Princess Margaret fell in love with people who had been divorced and could not marry them for that reason.” But if we look back another 60 years we find that in 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated the throne because the Church of England and the Royal Court would not support his marriage to an American woman who was divorced (twice).

Why? Because the position of the Church of England had been that marriage is indissoluble.

But the Queen’s sister, Anne, fell in love with a married man who then divorced his wife but the Church would not allow them to marry. She then married (and subsequently divorced) Antony-Armstrong Jones and she was known to have relationships beyond that marriage. So the sanctity of marriage, which should be the real issue here, is clearly not the issue.  Fact is, three out of the four children of Queen Elizabeth II have divorced but in 2005 she refused to attend the marriage of her own heir, the Prince of Wales, Charles, with Camilla Parker Bowles.  (That wedding stands out in another way: it took place not in the church but in a civil setting.)

When Harry wed Meghan in May 2018 he did so with the Queen’s permission and the blessing of her attendance.

They were married in the Church. By a pastor. Using the liturgy…but not the official 1549 nor 1552 nor 1662 version. The language came from the revised 2000 version known as Common Worship.  Why?  Because the holy, indissoluble vows in the earlier versions simply would not have worked for a couple as sexually modern as Harry and Meghan nor for a congregation that included same-sex couples who understand themselves to be married.

The confusion is only multiplying as we learn that the Church of England will recognize marriages of people who are gender non-conforming, or transgender.  That means the Church of England now affirms same-sex marriage for at least some people.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Carmen Fowler LaBerge