(RNS) Trevor Grundy–Is British monarch ”˜Defender of the Faith’ or ”˜Faiths’?

As Britain awaits the appointment of the next archbishop of Canterbury to lead both the Church of England and the far-flung Anglican Communion, there’s renewed attention on the woman who officially gets the final say: Queen Elizabeth II, the “Defender of the Faith.”

The current archbishop, Rowan Williams, ends his 10-year tenure in December. A Church of England committee is sifting through candidates — two of whom will be submitted to Prime Minister David Cameron, whose top choice will be submitted to the queen for final approval.

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15 comments on “(RNS) Trevor Grundy–Is British monarch ”˜Defender of the Faith’ or ”˜Faiths’?

  1. Br. Michael says:

    The Queen is of course defender of the faith-a title conferred by the Pope on Henry VIII, for defending the Christian (Catholic faith) against protestantism. It is not faiths, but the Christian faith and
    if the sovereign no longer wishes that title then she or her successor should renounce it plain and simple.
    She is also head of the Church of England. In both cases it seems that she reigns but does not rule and must implement government policy when they insist over her objections. Accordingly, if she in not going to actually be Head of the Church of England, then likewise she should surrender this title. Rather give it up than make it a hollow mockery.

  2. Cennydd13 says:

    Umm, if one is actually the head of an organization, he or she is empowered to act for tthat organization, and therein lies the rub. Obviously, Her Majesty the Queen may indeed be the Defender of the Faith (and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), but she is not empowered to act for, and in the name of, the Church of England. Church and politics do not mix, as we’ve proven in this country, but in England, they’ve been trying to do that for over 500 years, and all that Parliament has done is muddle up the works……or so it seems to me.

  3. Cennydd13 says:

    And speaking of “faith,” there is only ONE Christ-centered faith: [b]Christianity.[/b] Far too often, we hear of the “catholic faith,” or the “Anglican faith, or Methodist faith, etc,” when in fact we are all of the “Christian faith.”

  4. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    It all depends – we are quirky. Henry VIII was called defender of the faith at the behest of the Pope as King of England [the realm consists of England and Wales as one jurisdiction] and became supreme governor of the Church of England which is the established church, in England. However Scotland is a separate jurisdiction and there the Scottish Episcopal Church was disestablished, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland took over many of its functions. In Scotland the monarch also has a religious role, but it is different to her role in England. Under the United Kingdom of England and Scotland, later joined by Ireland, and then becoming just the province of Northern Ireland the monarch’s titles are passed on not by title from Rome, but by the proclamation of Parliament, i.e. the legislature.

    With the exception of a few unpleasant episodes we have been broadly welcoming of other religions, and the right to practice ones religion as say a jew or a muslim comes from the establishment of the Queen’s Peace and the liberties of citizens under her Peace. There has been no absolute right to religious freedom, but it has grown up over time, and for example it was England under Queen Anne who invited in the persecuted jews of the Iberian Peninsula and the persecuted Huguenots under Louis XIV.

    So the role of the Queen as Defender of the Faith is shorthand for the promises she makes at her coronation to defend the established protestant religion and Church of England at her coronation. It is specific to that role and has broadened to include Christianity in these Isles. It has no role in relation to other religions.

    That is not to say that there is no general right to practice religions other than Christianity, Parliament permitting, nor that the monarch does not protect them in her general secular capacity, but she has no religious role laid down by Parliament or precedent for a title of ‘Defender of Faiths’.

    If however, Parliament wishes to broaden her role to include other faiths, that would be another matter, and presuming those other faiths would wish the monarch including her successor to have such a role, a rather large assumption, as the Muslim person tactfully alluded to.

  5. AnglicanFirst says:

    “…when in fact we are all of the ‘Christian faith.'”

    Wellll, ecumenically speaking that may be an idealized ‘stretch goal,’ but some of us who profess to be followers of Christ view the theology of others who also profess to be followers of Christ as being ‘incorrect’ or ‘errant’ or ‘heretical.’

    There is also a sacramental element that is not shared or shared in the same manner among all Christians.

    And then there is the very important issue of the Apostolic Church and the issue of ‘church order.’

    And so on.

    Do we just throw all of these things out of the window, join hands, sing cum-by-yah and dance inanely in a happy circle?

  6. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    The issue of the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury under the Royal Prerogative [those bundle of rights inherent in the monarchy not necessarily laid down in Parliament] is interesting. Over time the appointments of senior clergy including bishops has been delegated to statutory church bodies to decide.

    However, if one gets a position such as we have at the moment, where those bodies are not able to come up with the expected decision, query whether the monarch [perhaps on the advice of her prime minister] can break the logjam by making her own decision under the Prerogative, much as she does when there is a constitutional logjam such as after an inconclusive election and no one is able to form a government; one of the rare occasions where the constitutional monarch does get to make her own decision.

    In this case we are in uncharted territory, notwithstanding the rather terse and pompous statements coming out of the official bodies about ‘more time’ being needed. I am no constitutional expert, but I see no difference between the breakdown in the system for electing a government and prime minister and the breakdown we currently have in the system for electing the ABC. One of the strengths of our constitution is it does in the final analysis provide for pragmatic resolutions of such impasses by the monarch under the Prerogative, and who knows, perhaps we will see another instance, although I imagine it will be exercised under advice from her prime minister in the usual way.

  7. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    [blockquote]Do we just throw all of these things out of the window, join hands, sing cum-by-yah and dance inanely in a happy circle?[/blockquote]
    Yes, as Christians we do, not to become the same, but to be together. It seems to me that those are Christ’s instructions to follow Him rather than engage in tilting at windmills as we do at the moment.

  8. Cennydd13 says:

    7. Jousting and tilting at windmills against each other is not Christ’s way, and if we are to be faithful followers of His, then it should not be ours as well.

    Unfortunately, we’ve allowed this to happen, and it has diminished us.

  9. Formerly Marion R. says:

    The title “Defender of the Faith” has legitimacy because it was conferred by the Pope, at least originally. This is not to say that no one else could confer it- say, for example, the WCC or the Ecumenical Patriarch- but, like it or not, Leo X was a particular person at a particular point in history who had a specific credibility to confer such a title.

    By what right would Charles or anyone else take a title such as “Defender of Faith”? By whom could it credibly by conferred? The UN? The Nobel Peace Prize Committee? The Freemasons? George Soros? Google?

    And what stops just anyone from assuming the title, or arranging to have it conferred upon themselves? Like Deepak Chopra? Or Kim Jong-un? Even Katharine Jefferts Schori or Maureen Dowd?

    Assuming a royal title in this day and age is a dubious enough proposition as it is. Doing so while also indulging our late fetish for plasticity and self-definition is a concrete farce.

  10. AnglicanFirst says:

    Reply to #7 and 8.

    How would you define heresy?

    Apparently by your ‘standards’ there are no standards.

    By such a measure, there would have been no difference between the Samaritans and the the Jews of the Old Testament.

    And, the divergences between those who call themselves Christians can be as wide as the divergence in belief/practice between the Samaritans and the Jews.

    I guess we Christians just live in a “cum-by-yah” of no standards of belief, no catechism, choose your creed, syncretism, the Ten Optional Commandments, ‘feel good religion,’ etc.

  11. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #10 AnglicanFirst
    The short answer – There are differences between Christian denominations, but it does not mean that we define one another as ‘heretics’. So no, singing cum-by-yah together [if we must!] does not mean that anyone thinks the ten commandments etc. are optional.

    Check out the New Testament by the way; in a number of places Jesus makes it clear that there are no differences between the Jews and the Samaritans. Indeed in many cases he prefers the latter to the former for his ministry [John 4:9-13; Luke 10:25-37] , going out of his way to do so, to the bewilderment of his disciples, who quite understandably just don’t get it.

  12. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #9 Formerly Marion R.
    [blockquote] By what right would Charles or anyone else take a title such as “Defender of Faith”?[/blockquote]
    In the United Kingdom, by right of the Crown in Parliament, the source of legal authority here, much as the President’s titles [such as Commander in Chief] are determined by the US Congress. It happens all the time as things change, such as the more recent decision that it was no longer credible to include the title ‘King of France’ in the UK monarch’s titles, in 1801 or Emperor of India in 1950.

  13. AnglicanFirst says:

    “Check out the New Testament by the way; in a number of places Jesus makes it clear that there are no differences between the Jews and the Samaritans.”

    Jesus did not say that the Jews were the same as Samaritans in their religious belief.

    As I remember reading, the Samaritans were as worthy of receiving the Gospel of Jesus as were the Jews.

    But they were not, in terms of religious belief, ther same as the Jews. To observant Jews back then, the Samaritans were apostates and heretics.

  14. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #13 AnglicanFirst
    [blockquote]Jesus did not say that the Jews were the same as Samaritans in their religious belief.

    As I remember reading, the Samaritans were as worthy of receiving the Gospel of Jesus as were the Jews.[/blockquote]
    I am not sure Jesus gave an analysis of the religious beliefs of the Samaritans. As I understand it the Samaritans received the Pentateuch in common with Jews, but not the other Hebrew scriptures. They did worship God in common with the Jews from which stock they were also descended. Jesus made no comment either way on whether Samaritan beliefs were heretical, but it seems unlikely that he would have rejected their acceptance of the first five books of the Old Testament.

    [blockquote]As I remember reading, the Samaritans were as worthy of receiving the Gospel of Jesus as were the Jews.[/blockquote]
    I think the references you want are inter alia Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28. As you may also remember there was considerable debate in the early church about whether the non-Jews [heretics as you put it] were indeed worthy to receive the Gospel, and once received whether their non-Jewish practices [absense of circumsision, non observance of Jewish meat regulations] debarred them.

    The answer as you may also remember was that one should not put stumbling blocks to peoples faith in their way and indeed circumsision was not to be required and meat other than meat dedicated to idols could indeed be eaten.

    I think therefore that creating false divisions by calling those who may not share our practise or beliefs over church order etc, heretics is not helpful, and only places hurdles in the way where they should not be.

    So yes, Cum-bay-yah together it is, just as the Romans and the Anglicans, Orthodox and so on are doing in the synod currently going on in Rome, which is a positive step in the right direction, but with still some way to go.

  15. John Boyland says:

    #13 and #14:
    John 4:19-22

    19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

    So, yes, Jews know more than Samaritans and “salvation is from the Jews”. But “the hour is coming” (and now is) when one worships the Father in a new way.