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Platinum Jubilee: Supreme, if not the governor — how the Queen is viewed in the Communion

27 May 2022

Rebecca Paveley asked global Anglican leaders for their views of the Queen’s place


The Queen among guests at a garden party in the Buckingham Palace grounds for participants in the 1968 Lambeth Conference. At the Queen’s side is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey

The Queen among guests at a garden party in the Buckingham Palace grounds for participants in the 1968 Lambeth Conference. At the Queen’s side is the ...

THE Queen is admired and respected in countries in the Anglican Communion for her faith and dedication to service — although how much of that feeling resides in her personally or in the office that she holds “remains to be seen”, Archbishops from across the Anglican Communion have said.

Primates from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Hong Kong, Canada, and South Africa spoke about their views on the Queen’s relationship with the Anglican Communion, as she celebrates her Platinum Jubilee year.

In some countries in the Commonwealth, this year of celebration has heightened questions and tensions about links to the monarchy — as in the Caribbean and Canada. When the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Canada earlier this month as part of a Platinum Jubilee tour to Commonwealth countries, indigenous leaders asked for an apology from the Queen as “the head of the Anglican Church” for the “assimilation and genocide of indigenous children” in the colonial era.

The Archbishop of Canterbury recently apologised for the “terrible crime” of the Anglican Church’s involvement in the country’s residential schools for indigenous children. Now, indigenous leaders want the Queen to offer a similar apology.

The Primate of Canada, Dr Linda Nicholls, said that the issue was not having an impact on most Canadians’ “deep fondness” for the Queen. “Canadians do have a deep fondness for the Queen in her state role as Head of the Commonwealth,” she said. “Visits here are welcomed — and though there are some rumblings of changing that relationship in the future — the ceremonial and historic nature of the relationship is honoured.

“Whether that fondness will extend beyond the current Queen to future Kings remains to be seen. Prince Charles and Camilla have been well-received during their current visit to Canada.”

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, agreed that much of the admiration for the Queen was rooted in her personally, and in widespread respect for her dedicated service. “Much rests on the persona of the leader,” he said, describing her as a “beautiful and delightful person”.

He said: “I hope that both during her reign, and that of whoever succeeds her, her ways of loving the Church will help make the Anglican Communion a visible instrument of unity, peace, and reconciliation in the world.”

The Queen’s personal Christian faith and her devotion to duty meant that she was respected by people of all faiths and none, the Primate of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Most Revd Philip Richardson, said. “Her Majesty the Queen is widely admired around the world for her leadership; she is an exemplar of service. She is also a person of clear and articulate faith who is an inspiration and encouragement to so many.”

The Crown also plays an important part in the constitutional fabric of Aotearoa New Zealand through the Treaty of Waitangi, he said. “This treaty was strongly sponsored and supported by the Anglican missionaries at the time, who actively encouraged the chiefs to sign the treaty.

“The Crown and the Anglican Church today both have an obligation to ensure that significant historic breaches of the treaty are redressed, and that the treaty is upheld, and the rights of the indigenous people of Aotearoa are protected. In that sense, both Church and Crown are bound by history and current obligations to honour the treaty.”

He said that “many in New Zealand are watching the events of the Platinum Jubilee with both genuine interest and gratitude.”

The Primate in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Michael Lewis, said: “Our Province covers almost every sort of nation you can think of: stable and unstable, at war and at peace, democratic and authoritarian, monarchy and republic. I’d say there are very few where Her Majesty the Queen isn’t held in anything but the highest honour, and admired almost with awe, both within and beyond our own churches as a symbol not only of stability, but of faithfulness to God. Muslim rulers have often said just that to me.

“Certainly, the person and personality of the Queen is a factor. At the same time, Prince Charles is very well known in most of our countries as a man of profound faith, deeply knowledgeable about the region.”

In Hong Kong, respect for the Queen is a matter purely of personal observance, the Primate of Hong Kong, the Most Revd Andrew Chan, said. The “God save the Queen” line in liturgy has been changed to “our leaders” in matins and evensong.

“There are some individuals, of course, who do observe things like the Queen’s birthday privately, but I don’t think we even have her in our official prayer rota during that time — or when she is in failing health. Such observances remain a personal matter,” Archbishop Chan said.

It was the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he continued, which pinned the Anglican Communion together, and the part played by the Queen was largely symbolic.

Dr Nicholls agreed. Any estrangement between the Crown and the government of Canada would not affect the relationship of the Anglican Church of Canada to the Communion, as “those relationships are separate and distinct,” she said.

And, in South Africa, Dr Makgoba said: “Whatever happens to the role of the monarch in future, the institutional arrangements — in which the leader of the Church of England heads the Communion as first amongst equals, and the Church of England hosts the Lambeth Conference and the ACC — will stay in place.

“Together with mission partnerships and other links, these relationships of communion are beyond the monarch, and will remain.”

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