The 60th anniversary celebrations of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II were both a demonstration of the ability of the Church of England to rise to the state occasion and a poignant reminder of how far we have declined as a nation in the lifetime of our reigning monarch.
Watching TV footage of the coronation, I heard more than one commentator remark on the oil with which the Queen was anointed, symbolising that monarchy was conferred on her by God.
And this was no ‘abstract’, ‘all faiths’ God. The oil was administered, and the crown placed on her head, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. And, before this, he had asked her on oath: ‘Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of England, and to the churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?’
Well, never again, we may be sure! The day after the coronation was replayed on our televisions, the House of Lords approved the legalising of marriage between two people of the same sex — something which, had you foretold it in 1953, would have been deemed as unlikely as swimming pools on the moon.
And, as Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has pointed out, it is hard to see how the Queen will be able to square her coronation oath with signing such a bill into law. That is a potential constitutional crisis which no one seems to be taking seriously, so we should surely be praying for her Majesty in this regard.
The picture is complicated, however, by the fact that homosexual acts are rapidly becoming acceptable within the Church of England, with increasing numbers of clergy and bishops prepared to abandon the traditional teaching
And, just as with the acceptance of women’s ordination, and now consecration, it is increasingly difficult for traditionalists to sound anything but reactionary. Partly this is because there are so many voices speaking the other way, partly it is because the traditionalist arguments haven’t always been well put. A very good discussion paper presented to Church Society early in June pointed out how difficult it is even to achieve a coherent definition of ‘complementarianism’, given the range of views this embraces.
Yet the work must be done, and not only urgently but effectively. The proportion of good evangelicals in the Church of England has rarely been higher, their equipping and training has perhaps never been better, yet they actually punch below their weight when it comes to shaping the ‘culture’ of the institution. They are treated as marginalised, and they are often content to occupy the margins, as if that were the ‘right’ place to be.
Thus, for example, as I write this, it is 218 days since Wallace Benn retired, leaving the Church of England without a single complementarian evangelical bishop. What is worse, he was the last such to be consecrated, and that was in 1997. Does it matter? Not if you don’t think bishops are important. But then, if that’s your view, what are you doing in an episcopal church? (The answer, by the way, is sitting on the edge waiting to fall off — or be pushed.)
associate minister of the churches at Henham, Elsenham & Ugley, near Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire
This article was first published in the Ju;y 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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