The Coronation and a campaigner’s repudiation of it
From John Field
Sir, — I am writing in response to the campaigner Symon Hill’s article “We owe no loyalty to the King” (Comment, 28 April). Symon Hill has fallen into the trap of picking out brief quotations from the Bible without reading the full text. First, may I suggest that he reads the whole of chapter 8 from 1 Samuel, especially the last part of verse 19. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and set a king over them . . .”, and then one needs to read on to chapters 9 and 10.
Second, I cannot accept that faithfulness to the Kingdom of God requires rejection of the kingdom of this world, unless one is in a country that defies the Christian faith.
Third, the King has followed his mother by saying that he is a servant to the nation. Symon Hill totally misunderstands the reason for bowing before Royalty. Bowing before Royalty is no different from bowing before a church altar to show respect to God. Military personnel salute one another if they are wearing their military cap badges to show respect to the Crown. Bowing to Royalty shows respect to the spiritual aspect of the Monarch, who has been anointed by God to serve his country.
Fourth, as a servant, he has proved time and time again that he is more than capable of carrying out all kinds of practical and menial tasks, from hedge-laying and gardening to scrubbing the decks of a warships and much more, besides being involved with the glitzy side of life. He has numerous skills and interests that involved him with people from all sections of society.
Fifth, the Crown has handed back the vast majority of its wealth to the Government, the income of which pays for the costs of the Crown. The Royal Family all pay the same taxes as any other UK citizen. Owing to the King’s business ability, he pays more tax than his position costs.
Symon Hill’s article describes the Coronation as “connecting Christianity only with privilege and pomposity”. Many of those who will be playing a significant part in the ceremony come from backgrounds that have had no privileges whatsoever. Has Symon Hill forgotten that Jesus mixed with privileged rich people, including Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, besides being surrounded by less privileged members of his society?
The Coronation will be an event watched by millions here in the UK and all over the world. It will encourage communities to put on a show and be proud of themselves. It will bring joy and relief from drudgery for many millions of people in the UK and all over the world. The event, with a plethora of royal families from so many countries, will help to heal any broken diplomatic issues and strengthen existing bonds. The King, with his wisdom and decades of experience, being privy to much that goes on in government, has a valuable part to play. He has more experience than any politician in this country.
Demonstrations encourage enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, and dissentions. By contrast, the Coronation embodies the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: Galatians 5.
Symon Hill will, I am sure, acknowledge that St Paul wrote wisely to the Galatians and other churches that he helped to establish. He, too, had a privileged upbringing as a Roman Jew, but was quite able to do menial tasks. A man with deep faith, who may not be a saint, has the ability, starting with his Coronation, to lift our spirits and embolden Christians to be more active. King Charles III deserves our loyalty.
Mill Farm Cottage, Trotton
Petersfield GU31 5EL
From Mr Peter Robinson
Sir, — Symon Hill suggests that, as Christians, we should owe no loyalty to the King. Paul’s Letter to the Romans says that every soul should be subject to the higher powers because the powers that be are ordained of God. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God” (Romans 13.1-8).
Peter exhorts us to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, “whether it be to the king as supreme or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God’ (1 Peter 2.13-15).
Paul’s letter to Timothy says that we should present “supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks” to all men — “for kings and for all that are in authority”; for this is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2.1-3).
This controversy is a timely reminder that we ought to compare scripture with scripture to come to a sound and balanced view.
127 West End Drive
Horsforth, Leeds LS18 5JX
From John Watkins
Sir, — Thank you so much for including the refreshing and uplifting article by Symon Hill. It was a glimmer of hope that I was not alone in my convictions.
Ever since I was a small boy, I was deeply convinced that this elevation of one particular family could not be right, and, as my Christian faith developed, I knew that all the pomp and pomposity that went with this vacuous adulation was not of God.
When, at ordination, I swore an oath of allegiance to Charles Windsor’s mother, I promised to myself that I would be fair and just to her. I trust that I will do the same for her son and for all those with whom I share this life.
18 Pound Close, Tarrington
Hereford HR1 4AZ
From the Revd Robin Paterson
Sir, — Hats off to the Church Times for providing so much information about the history of the forthcoming ceremony. Canon Angela Tilby contrasts with the patronising tone of Symon Hill, who writes from a position of relative wealth and privilege, as do I, even though I have to pare back my monthly food expenditure when I pay my annual “sub” to the CT.
Symon Hill should allow those of us who “struggle” to make our own responses to this National Day. I, for one, have never felt subservient or inferior to anyone.
22 Manston Way
Leeds LS15 8BR
From Dr Stephen Pacey
Sir, — The Archbishop of Canterbury has invited all to swear allegiance to the monarch. I can almost bring myself to understand this, since the monarch is Supreme Governor of the Church of England. What message, though, does it send to those Christians who, like me, are republicans? What does it say to those who are teetering on the brink of Christian faith?
In my view, this invitation shows a serious error of judgement on the part of the Archbishop. It seems to me to be a little more than a latter-day example of medieval feudalism.
And what of the future? Charles has always been a controversial and divisive figure, and will no doubt continue to be so. What will the position of the Archbishop be if there is subsequent conflict between the behaviour of the King and the principles of Christianity? Will the Archbishop feel free to speak out, or will he be, as Thatcher said of Gorbachev, “a person we can do business with”?
I begin to have my doubts.
3 Dickinson Way
Newark NG23 6FF
From the Revd Kenneth Cross
Sir, — Reading Paul Vallely (Comment, 28 April) and the leader comment (same issue), I found myself asking: how in touch are we with millions of UK citizens? Recent research conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (The Guardian, 28 April) shows 45 per cent agreeing that the monarchy should “be abolished, was not at all important or not very important” — a historic low. Yes, the young may soften their opinions as they age, but downward trends are persistent.
One does not necessarily have to affirm Symon Hill’s republicanism to ponder, none the less, deeply the questions that he poses about monarchy, our Church’s inherent ties with it, and God’s Kingdom. We can still honour the late Queen. We can respect the King and hope that he might carry out overdue reform. But royalty’s immense wealth, unimaginable privilege, historic links to slavery, and current scandals and divisions are not side issues. They should give us cause for profound sobriety as we approach the Coronation.
I will be praying for the King, as I do for all in authority. I will also continue, however, prayerfully to ask deep questions of the institution. We need not fear doing this. Jesus had no cosy arrangement with the powers of his own time, and said to Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world.” If we don’t act prophetically as his followers, we risk severing meaningful connection with millions who do not like monarchy. They are not a rabble. We must listen to them deeply.
34 Manor Road
Minehead TA24 6EJ
From the Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke
Sir, — The participation of leading members of faith communities in the Coronation of King Charles III is very welcome, and will be appreciated throughout the Commonwealth. For example, the Chief Rabbi has distributed a booklet of prayers and thanksgivings to mark the Coronation.
Before her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II asked for prayers from people of all faiths. In response, the World Congress of Faiths arranged a special service. The late Queen was a Patron of the Council of Christians and Jews and almost always attended the Commonwealth Day Multifaith Observance at Westminster Abbey. The King has studied the Qur’an and other holy books and visited many faith communities around the world.
I hope that, in local communities, people of all faiths will be joining in praying for our new Sovereign.
Former Joint President of the World Congress of Faiths
Flat 6, Portland House
Teignmouth TQ14 8BQ
From the Revd Professor Ian Bradley
Sir, — Among the feast of goodies that you gave us in the Coronation special issue, I was especially taken with the extracts from past Church Times editorials. Aside from their condescending and dismissive treatment of “Dissenters”, what stood out for me was the insistence, so forcibly expressed in the issue of 4 October 1901, that “the King is not crowned at Westminster as a Protestant at all, but as a Catholic prince.”
What, I wonder, would your predecessor who wrote this make of the fact that at his Coronation in 2023 the King solemnly swears to maintain “the Protestant Reformed religion” and declares that he is “a faithful Protestant” determined to secure the Protestant succession to the throne as required by the terms of the Accession Declaration Oath? Many of us had hoped and predicted that the third coronation oath might be altered to a more inclusive commitment to protect all faiths and none. The Archbishop’s statement which precedes it about the Church of England’s position on this seems a rather poor and inadequate substitute.
Incidentally, while on this subject, I should point out two slight errors in Michael Brydon’s otherwise excellent article on the part played by the Bible in coronation services.
It was not just Queen Anne and the first three of her Hanoverian successors who were made to declare that they regarded the doctrine of transubstantiation, the adoration of the Virgin Mary, and the “sacrifice of the Mass” as “superstitious and idolatrous”. Subsequent monarchs continued to make this declaration throughout the 19th century, either at their coronation or their first meeting with Parliament, but both Edward VII and George V objected to its “crude language”, which, they felt, was offensive to their Roman Catholic subjects, and it was finally dropped in 1910.
And the correct title of the cleric who presented the Bible in the 1953 coronation, and will do so again in the 2023 one, is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland: he or she moderates our annual assemblies and certainly would not claim, or be able, to moderate our broad national Church with its wide variety of strongly held views.
University of St Andrews
Fife KY16 9DN
Family’s best shape
From Mr Peter Davies
Sir, — I was much saddened to read that, summing up Love Matters (News, 28 April), the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, concluded that there was “no one best shape” for the family. Oh, yes, there is, and it starts with marriage, meaning a ceremony and certificate.
By ignoring this “one best shape”, the Bishop omits biblical teaching and church tradition, let alone national statistics, which show that marriage is the best way to secure lasting companionship and to raise children. Once again, the C of E has followed the spirit of the age rather than its founder, Jesus Christ. May this report be rejected by their Graces as well as by the Synod.
7 Heath Close, West Kirby
Wirral CH48 3JL