King Charles III could bring new approach to Defenders of the Faith

King Charles III  could bring new approach to Defenders of the Faith
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LONDON – At her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was anointed with holy oils by the Archbishop of Canterbury pledged in her role as “Supreme Governor of the Church of England” and “Defender of the Faith” to govern not only by British law but by the “laws of God”.

She was true to that vow. Her devotion to “Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace” was a fundamental and defining, if sometimes overlooked, pillar of her life.

Now that her son Charles III. Assuming office, he has reportedly assumed full responsibility for his religious titles. But he will bring a significantly different personal vision of religion and spirituality to the role.

What kind of monarch will King Charles III be? Unlike his mother.

“The Queen has expressed her Christian faith very clearly, but Charles’s is of a different nature,” said Ian Bradley, professor emeritus of cultural and intellectual history at the University of St Andrews, who has written extensively on faith and the monarchy. “His is more spiritual and intellectual. Charles is more of a “spiritual seeker”. “

While the monarch’s authority is largely ceremonial within the Church, it does matter. For example, the king will formally confirm all new bishops. And statements from the Crown, especially about something as personal as belief in God, carry special weight.

Especially in her later years, Elizabeth expressed her faith clearly, often quoting the “guiding light” of Jesus, particularly in her annual televised Christmas message, which was watched by millions.

Many attribute her changed tone to her Christmas message in 2000, when she said, “For me, the teachings of Christ and my personal accountability to God provide a framework within which I seek to live my life.”

The Queen has sometimes been referred to as the “last true believer,” said Stephen Bates, the Guardian newspaper’s longtime, now retired, correspondent for religious affairs and royal affairs. “She is the most religious sovereign since [Protestant] Reformation” of the 16th century, he said.

While public statements of faith are second nature for US leaders — when not required — they are unusual in Britain, a very secular nation, where an aide to former Prime Minister Tony Blair once quipped, “We don’t do God.”

“We have a certain uneasiness about our politicians and our leaders expressing their faith, and to a degree that extends to the monarchy,” Bradley said. “It is considered un-British.”

Despite declining church membership and influence in daily British life, the monarch remains a powerful church symbol; British coins feature the Queen’s likeness and Latin letters meaning “By the Grace of God, Queen and Defender of the Faith”.

Like his mother, Charles is a regular churchgoer and it is clear that he is Christian. In his first address to the nationThe day after the Queen’s death, Charles cited his “responsibility” to the Church of England “in which my own faith is so deeply rooted”.

“In that belief and the values ​​that it inspires, I have been raised to cultivate a sense of duty to others and to have the utmost respect for the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our parliamentary system of government,” he said. It was remarkable how quickly he placed faith in the context of the more mundane “values” and “duty”.

In a 73-year life as king in office, when he was able to speak more freely than he can now as monarch, Charles seemed to stake one out less doctrinal religious and spiritual attitude – even with its own title.

Charles said in a Documentary from 1994 that he was more of a “defender of the faith” than “the Faith.” He questioned the impulse to prioritize any particular interpretation. “People have fought to the death over these things,” he said, “which strikes me as a strange waste of human energy when we’re all actually looking for that aiming for the same end.” Instead, he said, he prefers to embrace all religious traditions and “the pattern of the divine that I believe is in all of us.”

When asked the question again more than two decades later, he said clarified his statementssaid: “It has always seemed to me that one can be a defender of the faith but also a protector of the faith.”

The title “Defender of the Faith” dates back to the 16th century when it was bestowed on King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X for his defense of Catholicism. When Henry broke with the Catholic Church, he retained the title, but now defended the Anglicanism of the Church of England.

Charles has a long-standing commitment to the environment, with a passion Bradley described as “eco-spiritual.” In his 2010 book “harmony‘ Charles called for a ‘sustainability revolution’ to reverse environmental threats to the planet, which he attributed in part to ‘the spiritual dimension of our existence’ having been ‘dangerously neglected during modern times’.

Prince Charles, once dismissed as a plant-talking nerd, is bringing his green credentials to COP26

In the book, Charles opposed “empiricism,” the view that God must not exist because science cannot prove God’s existence. This kind of thinking, he wrote, “bends the soul out of the picture.”

In an increasingly multicultural nation with a full rainbow of faiths, Charles has long expressed interest in and support for all faiths, especially Islam and Judaism.

His mother has also pushed new boundaries in this regard. She was the first British monarch to enter a mosque. Unlike her predecessors, she met a number of popes. In her 60th year on the throne, in 2012, she said the Church has “a duty to protect the free exercise of all faiths in this country.”

Pope Francis, as well as British Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh leaders, have praised Elizabeth profusely since her death.

As the Queen revealed more about her faith, British society became more secular.

Church membership has declined sharply over time, according to the National Center for Social Research, with just 12.5 per cent of Britons considering themselves members of the Church of England in 2020, down from almost 36 per cent in 1985. Of those who in 2020 considered themselves Anglicans considered, more than 40 per cent said they ‘never’ attend religious services.

Much like the United States, in recent years British society has relied less on and structured itself around the institutions that once formed the basis of everyday life. The center’s research showed that the number of people claiming to have “no religion” has risen from 34.3 percent in 1985 to almost 49 percent in 2020.

As the number of believers falls, hundreds of historic churches have been decommissioned and converted into homes, offices, pubs, spas, shops and even sports centers with climbing walls.

The Church has changed in important ways, including a decision in 2002 to allow divorced people to remarry in the Church. Three years later, Prince Charles and his longtime partner Camilla Parker Bowles – both divorced – were married in a civil ceremony, which was immediately blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a chapel at Windsor Castle.

Now king, Charles is the first divorced monarch since Henry VIII — although two of Henry’s prolific string of marriages technically ended in annulment rather than divorce.

Only in 2018, as Charles’ son Prince Harry got married American actress Meghan Markle said in the same chapel where her father’s marriage was blessed that a royal wedding of a divorced partner took place with the full blessing of the church.

How the Church of England changed on divorce, from Henry VIII to Meghan Markle

Still, Charles’ admitted adultery (with Camilla) during his marriage to Princess Diana before their 1996 divorce doesn’t sit well with some Brits.

“It’s hard to celebrate a man who was an adulterer and has professed if occult religious beliefs,” said Bates, the former Guardian correspondent. “If the monarchy stumbles, where is the established church?”

In a way, Charles’ brand of faith – with a greater focus on spirituality than dogma – puts him more in line with the British public.

Bradley said a small movement within the church already wants to formally detach it from the monarchy and government. In a country with so many faiths and so many people who don’t identify with any faith, Bradley said critics of the church “would wonder if it can really claim to be the church of the nation anymore.”

“He gave us a lot of confidence,” said Zara Mohammed, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, the largest group representing Britain’s roughly 3 million Muslims. “We consider him an admirer of Islam and a friend of British Muslims. It’s brilliant to see him grasp how Britain has changed. He sees a more holistic picture and the power of collaboration across faiths and communities.”

While a change of monarch is unlikely to bring people back to the Church of England, Charles could be a more relatable “defender of the faith” for some church members.

“He represents those people who may not have a living faith but have a feeling that there is a loving God,” said Andi Britt, 58. Britt, a human resources manager at IBM in London, arrived with his wife Jane at flowers on Sunday morning Laying down in honor of the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

“He represents a faith and a God who welcomes people no matter how close they feel,” said Britt, who describes himself as a “dedicated Christian” and a member of the Church of England. “I think he represents a lot of people who just aren’t as sure or don’t have as strong beliefs — people of faith, of other faiths, or of no faith.”

Boorstein reported from Washington.

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