Anglican Perspectives

The One True King

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

The coronation of King Charles III was filled with pomp and circumstance, which seemed to fit more in medieval England than modern-day England. Mixed in with the royal finery was the beauty of a truly historic Anglican service. The Westminster choir was angelic as they sung Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” during the anointing of King Charles III behind a screen which communicated that something sacred was taking place, too holy to be seen by just anyone. The vestments glistened with gold, silver, and fine cloth, and the service took place under the vaulted ceiling of Westminster Abbey. Surely, here was the glory of Anglicanism, the Church at her finest, crowning the next Christian King of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth.

But the Church of England and King Charles III’s reign share the same problem: an overabundance of externals with little substance today. There are other similarities. Both institutions are instituted by God. Both are steeped in tradition. Both have sacramental practices that are supposed to point towards an inward spiritual reality. In the coronation, the monarch is anointed with holy oil, receives the royal regalia, and is crowned with St. Edward’s Crown. But the oil, the regalia, and the crown all point to a monarchy that was, not the monarchy that is right now. Over the centuries the Crown has been stripped of its power and relegated to a ceremonial role whose greatest purpose is to stand above rival factions and unite the people under a symbolic, enduring institution in British history. The Church of England has also been reduced to a symbol of spiritual unity with whom less than half of the British people now identify.  The Church, like the King she just crowned, seems less than relevant to anyone’s life anymore.  

The British empire is now a commonwealth, over which the King is a figurehead without any actual governing power. Each nation has its own ways of life, its own laws, and its own government. The unity that now exists in the Commonwealth is purely fraternal and symbolic. In many ways, the spiritual legacy of this empire is the Anglican Communion, in which each province defines itself, and the “mother church” is merely a figurehead along with her archbishop. After the recent gathering of GAFCON Anglicans in Kigali, Rwanda, this reality was even more stark as Archbishop Justin Welby was declared unfit to be the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. The Church of England, like the Crown, is becoming a hollow shell of what she once was. She is still in possession of the externals: the land, the church buildings, the vestments, the choirs, and the pageantry but lacks any real power. How can the same Church that shields a king during his anointing in the name of holiness push sexual immorality and an unholy way of life, not only in England but also around the world? As the Church of England has stepped away from her responsibility to shepherd and guide not only her people but also the Anglican Communion, the power to transform lives has diminished year after year. The crown is still there, but it is increasingly an external sign with no inward reality.

The other end of this spectrum was GAFCON IV in Kigali, Rwanda. Representatives from the majority of Anglicans across our global Communion came together with little external fanfare other than the myriad faces representing the nations of the world that are inheritors of the Gospel. In addition, the majority of Anglicans are now represented by GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA).  Unlike the largely global north, developed countries in the Canterbury-led Communion, majority Anglicans may lack material wealth; however, what they lack materially is made up richly in spirit, in truth, and in power, the power to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to walk in the power of the Spirit.  At the heart of the GAFCON and GSFA majority is an inward zeal. Love for Christ and the Gospel was palpable at GAFCON Kigali as we expect it to be in the GSFA Assembly in Cairo next year. 

King Charles III may be a lame duck. So may be the once-great British empire, and so may be he who sits upon the throne of St. Augustine of Canterbury. Yet, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5) however irrelevant they may be. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The coronation of King Charles III is a reminder not to be sidetracked by pomp and circumstance or taken in only by the external traditions of a dying institution. It is a reminder that, while some in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth may support the monarchy, we must remember that as long as the monarch and the Church that crowns him rejects the true King by their way of life and their teachings, they have no real power.

The  coronation also reminds us to enthrone Christ in our own hearts as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus Christ is our one and only true King whom we await from heaven (Phil. 3:16). Our citizenship lies there, far beyond the states and political institutions we serve this side of glory.  True enthronement begins in the heart where the Kingdom of God  takes hold through the cross of Christ. Then, Christ’s very life spreads outward into every area of our lives, to our neighbors and families and friends, to the Church, and then to the world. The kingdoms of the earth start from the top down; they start with the externals and seek to subjugate those they rule. The kingdom of God starts from within, transforming our inner being and working its way out.

This is our one true hope in this world where even kings no longer hold real power, where churches emptied of all Gospel life are crumbling, and each one does what is right in his or her eyes. The lordship of Christ must remain our greatest hope and our greatest motivator. It is Christ alone whom we proclaim as King of kings and Lord of lords. In fact, this is what the majority Anglicans represented by both GAFCON and GSFA have been proclaiming for the last 25 years in the face of false teaching and rebellion in the structures of the Canterbury-led Communion.  Now is the time for all Anglicans across the globe to stand for the coronation and return of the one true King.

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