Dear Friends of the Anglican Realignment,
Within the Anglican family, the role of the English Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the beloved Queen herself are touchstones for much of the Anglican Communion. Recently, many Americans have had their eyes fixed on St. Mary's Hospital, where a new heir (or heiress) to the throne may soon be born. I say new heir while realizing that he or she will have to wait in queue, with a grandfather and father ahead. The birth of royal babies is always a wonderful new chapter, full of hope and expectation for the future, and along with others we wait for word of a new arrival.
Other news from England has, however, been distressing. I refer to the legislation enabling same-sex marriage which was pushed forward by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, passed by both houses of Parliament and then placed before the Queen for her Royal Assent. The result of this legislation will be the restructuring of the entire concept of marriage within England (with very little consideration given to the consequences, I might add).
The Queen has a number of responsibilities, and one of them is to give her Royal Assent to legislation presented to her by the Prime Minister. I understand from British sources that for her to fail to give her assent would cause a constitutional crisis. But another responsibility that the Queen holds is head of the Church of England, and she additionally carries the title "Defender of the Faith," and all that may go with this.
It is not clear what would actually happen if the Queen declined to give Royal Assent to legislation because it violated her own standards and beliefs and/or her Coronation Oath. Would the monarchy collapse? Would the Prime Minister have to resign? Certainly no one would wish there to be a constitutional crisis, but could there be an issue so important that the monarch might decline to give Royal Assent and risk the consequences? If preservation of the Judeo-Christian concept of marriage isn't significant enough an issue, what might be? Many in the United States trace not only our church and culture back to England, but our own ancestors as well. What happens in England IS important to the rest of us, and we do care.
When I asked a trusted source in the Church of England what would happen if there were a constitutional crisis, he said that no one really knows. He referred me to remarks made by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a former Lord Chancellor, pertaining to the Queen's possible Royal Assent to the homosexual marriage legislation. The remarks appeared within an article in the Sunday Telegraph on June 1 and reflect the discussion prior to Queen's actual Royal Assent which given this week. Lord Mackay was asked if signing this legislation might put the Queen in breach of her Coronation Oath.
Lord Mackay, who opposes same-sex marriage, said that ministers should ensure any legislation presented to the Queen is consistent with the Queen's promise. He said: "The Queen, under our constitutional arrangements, is expected to act in accordance with the advice of her ministers, given ultimately through the Prime Minister. The idea of the Coronation Oath was that it would never be in conflict with that advice and therefore it is the responsibility of the ministers of the Crown to see that whatever advice they give is consistent with the proper construction of the Coronation Oath."
Addressing an audience in London last month, the peer added: "My hope is that a contradiction between what is advised and what was sworn should never arise."
At an even earlier date, Lord Mackay spoke in a lecture in the Middle Temple on Wednesday, May 9, and was asked whether the Queen's possible signature on a same-sex marriage bill would be a breach of her Coronation Oath. He replied, "If the Queen has sworn to do something, is it right for her to have to give her assent to something which she has sworn not to do? That is the essence of the problem…." This can be listened to here, 26 minutes in.
Unfortunately, that very situation has now arisen, and some are asking serious questions. Has the Coronation Oath been violated, which is "to 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…?" What is the perspective of the Queen's advisors about what that oath means in practical reality? How can assent be given to something which for all practical purposes does negatively impact the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England?
Some within the Church of England are now asking if it is time to dis-establish the Church of England. Can the Queen continue to be the head of the Church of England if she is required to give assent to legislation such as this? As an American Anglican, I have great personal admiration and respect for the Queen. As a fellow Christian, I am sad that England and its Queen have come to such a pass as this. England's society and its Church have reached the point where they no longer share the same Christian faith and values with each other.
The question of the Church separating from the government would seem, as one British cleric volunteered, to be in accord with the guarantees of the Magna Carta. Perhaps the Church of England has reached the time to "come out from among them and be separate" (2 Cor. 6:17).
Many in the American Anglican family have queried us from time to time about various troubles in the church, both in America and in England, and asked, "When is the Queen going to say something?" Sadly, now I will have to reply that in regard to this particular issue, she has spoken. She gave her assent.
Keep your eyes upon Jesus, for the entire church is his bride.
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