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Praying for the Royals

No, not the baseball team. The royal family of England.

When Queen Elizabeth died a few weeks ago, I added two prayers to our Sunday prayers of the people. We gave thanks for the departed queen's life and witness, and we prayed for her successor, Charles III. But I forgot that not everyone knows or remembers what the word 'Anglican' means. So several folks wondered why we were praying for the political structures of England when we aren't British. Well....

For starters, the Scriptures exhort us to pray for all manner of people: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Secondly, England's political ties and socio-economic roots run deep in the histories of many countries around the world, including our own. Queen Elizabeth had a long and influential reign. Changes in leadership bring uncertainty and unease, so we should pray for a good transition of leadership for England because the ripple effects of such transition will be truly global.

But then there's our ecclesiastical heritage. We are an Anglican church, after all. The word Anglican basically means English. We are part of the English fellowship of churches around the world that have their dual titular heads in the monarch of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Queen was, and the King now is, considered the Defender of the Faith of the Anglican Church. Until parts of the Act or Supremacy of 1558 were repealed in recent years, the monarch was considered to be the Supreme Head of the Church (of England) on Earth – Christ being the yet greater Head of the Church in Heaven. Since Henry VIII broke with the Pope, the Crown has appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury (although now the Prime Minister actually makes the choice, but still in the name of the King or Queen). The Archbishop of Canterbury is the honorary tip of the spear, the leader that organizes and heads the other structures of unity in the Anglican communion – he calls the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, he chairs the Primates meeting, and he is President of the Anglican Consultative Council. And again, he ultimately holds his post under the Crown.

And yet one more thing. The liturgy we use every week for our worship is a gift of the English Reformation in the mid 16th century. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, pulled together the various and common local rites used throughout the English Roman Catholic Church and the devotional practices of the monasteries and created the beautiful and formative Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in 1549. After several revisions, the 1662 BCP is still the official prayer book of the Church of England and it has spawned similar BCPs all over the world. Our worship on Sunday is one such descendant of those early BCPs.

All of the above is highly abbreviated and simplified, but it hopefully makes some sense out of our recent prayers for the royal family across the pond.

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