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Royal family and the spiritual commitment of baptism

Royal family and the spiritual commitment of baptism

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor during a photocall in St. George's Hall at Windsor Castle on May 8, 2019 in Windsor, England. The Duchess of Sussex gave birth at 05:26 on Monday 06 May, 2019. | Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Archie. That’s a really cute name for a baby. Officially christened Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, he is the newborn son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan).  A few things to note: this christening (aka infant baptism) was compulsory for the royal baby, took place in a private ceremony, at Windsor Castle, by the Archbishop of Canterbury with unnamed godparents. 

From a worldview perspective, there’s a LOT to unpack there!

  • Baptism. What is it? Why do we do it?
  • Why was this particularly baptism compulsory?
  • If it’s an act of the Church then why was it not done in the context of a service of worship at a church?

British royalty are not only sovereigns of state, they govern the Church of England. The Queen is “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.” Royals are married in the Church and royal infants in the Windsor line of succession, which now includes Archie, are all baptized by the Church — without consideration as to the espoused or practiced faith of those involved.  Robust conversations could be had here about the dangers of over-identification between Church and State and/or infant vs. believer baptism. But let’s remind ourselves of the massive worldview shift we witnessed in the marriage last year of Harry to Meghan since we know very little about the private christening of their son.

Prince Harry’s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle was unique in that she is divorced, mixed-race and, well, not an aristocrat of any variety.  At the time it was described as a marriage that would surely modernize the monarchy.  But in what ways?  Consider the history of the British royals on the subject of divorce…and remarriage.

In reporting on the wedding of Harry to Meghan, The Associated Press noted that “Divorce has bedeviled Britain’s royal family for centuries. It has created problems not only when Prince Charles and Princess Diana ended their marriage in the most bitter fashion in 1996, but also when other royals, Princess Margaret fell in love with people who had been divorced and could not marry them for that reason.” But if we look back another 60 years we find that in 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated the throne because the Church of England and the Royal Court would not support his marriage to an American woman who was divorced (twice).

Why? Because the position of the Church of England had been that marriage is indissoluble.

But the Queen’s sister, Anne, fell in love with a married man who then divorced his wife but the Church would not allow them to marry. She then married (and subsequently divorced) Antony-Armstrong Jones and she was known to have relationships beyond that marriage. So the sanctity of marriage, which should be the real issue here, is clearly not the issue.  Fact is, three out of the four children of Queen Elizabeth II have divorced but in 2005 she refused to attend the marriage of her own heir, the Prince of Wales, Charles, with Camilla Parker Bowles.  (That wedding stands out in another way: it took place not in the church but in a civil setting.)

When Harry wed Meghan in May 2018 he did so with the Queen’s permission and the blessing of her attendance.

They were married in the Church. By a pastor. Using the liturgy…but not the official 1549 nor 1552 nor 1662 version. The language came from the revised 2000 version known as Common Worship.  Why?  Because the holy, indissoluble vows in the earlier versions simply would not have worked for a couple as sexually modern as Harry and Meghan nor for a congregation that included same-sex couples who understand themselves to be married.

The confusion is only multiplying as we learn that the Church of England will recognize marriages of people who are gender non-conforming, or transgender.  That means the Church of England now affirms same-sex marriage for at least some people.

But this post was supposed to be about Archie and his christening.

In Acts Chapter 2 following the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the birth of the Church, Peter addresses the crowd in what we might call the first evangelistic Christian sermon. He concludes and, picking up in verse 37 we read, “when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 

"And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is confirmation that a person receives Christ and responds to God’s grace in faith. Much like the liturgy of marriage, the liturgy of baptism is deep and wide.

Assuming the Duke and Duchess continued to prefer the newer liturgy it remains clear that the Church of England intends baptism to take place within the context of a full service of worship. Excising the baptism liturgy and removing it from the context of public worship is foreign to The Book of Common Worship.

The liturgy, in context, would include:

For every child to be baptized there shall be not fewer than three godparents, of whom at least two shall be of the same sex as the child and of whom at least one shall be of the opposite sex; save that, when three cannot conveniently be had, one godfather and one godmother shall suffice. Parents may be godparents for their own children provided that the child shall have at least one other godparent. The godparents shall be persons who have been baptized and confirmed and will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities both by their care for the child committed to their charge and by the example of their own godly living. Nevertheless the Minister shall have power to dispense with the requirement of confirmation in any case in which in his judgement need so requires.

The Minister shall instruct the parents or guardians of an infant to be admitted to Holy Baptism that the same responsibilities rest on them as are in the service of Holy Baptism required of the godparents.

At the time appointed the godfathers and godmothers and the parents or guardians with the child must be ready at the Font, and the Priest coming to the Font (which is then to be filled with pure Water,) and standing there, shall proceed as follows.

DEARLY beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin, and that our Saviour Christ saith, none can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost: I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that thing which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church, and be made a lively member of the same.

Let us pray.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who of thy great mercy didst save Noah and his family in the ark from perishing by water; and also didst safely lead the children of Israel thy people through the Red Sea, figuring thereby thy holy Baptism; and by the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, in the river Jordan, didst sanctify Water to the mystical washing away of sin: We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being stedfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with thee world without end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

ALMIGHTY and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succour, the life of them that believe, and the resurrection of the dead: We call upon thee for this Infant, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: So give now unto us that ask; let us that seek find; open the gate unto us that knock; that this Infant may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. 

Hear the words of the Gospel, written by Saint Mark in the tenth chapter at the thirteenth verse.

THEY brought young children to Christ, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

After the Gospel is read, the Minister shall make this brief exhortation upon the words of the Gospel.

BELOVED, ye hear in this Gospel the words of our Saviour Christ, that he commanded the children to be brought unto him; how he blamed those that would have kept them from him; how he exhorteth all men to follow their innocency. Ye perceive how by his outward gesture and deed he declared his good will toward them; for he embraced them in his arms, he laid his hands upon them, and blessed them. Doubt ye not therefore, but earnestly believe, that he will likewise favourably receive this present Infant; that he will embrace him with the arms of his mercy; that he will give unto him the blessing of eternal life, and make him partaker of his everlasting kingdom. Wherefore we being thus persuaded of the good will of our heavenly Father towards this Infant, declared by his Son Jesus Christ; and nothing doubting but that he favourably alloweth this charitable work of ours in bringing this Infant to his holy Baptism; let us faithfully and devoutly give thanks unto him, and say,

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, heavenly Father, we give thee humble thanks that thou hast vouchsafed to call us to the knowledge of thy grace and faith in thee: Increase this knowledge, and confirm this faith in us evermore. Give thy Holy Spirit to this Infant, that he may be born again, and be made an heirof everlasting salvation, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. 

Then shall the Priest speak unto the Godfathers and Godmothers on this wise.

DEARLY beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized; ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him of his sins, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven and everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his Gospel, to grant all these things that ye have prayed for: which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties, (until he come of age to take it upon himself,) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments.

I demand therefore,

DOST thou, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?
Answer.I renounce them all.
Minister.DOST thou believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?
And in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son our Lord? And that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; that he went down into hell, and also did rise again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and from thence shall come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead?
And dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholick Church; the Communion of Saints; the Remission of sins; the Resurrection of the flesh; and everlasting life after death?
Answer.All this I stedfastly believe.
Minister.WILT thou be baptized in this faith?
Answer.That is my desire.
Minister.WILT thou then obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of thy life?
Answer.I will.

Then shall the Priest say,

O MERCIFUL God, grant that the old Adam in this Child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him. Amen.
Grant that all carnal affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. Amen.
Grant that he may have power and strength, to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh. Amen.
Grant that whosoever is here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. 

ALMIGHTY everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins, did shed out of his most precious side both water and blood; and gave commandment to his disciples, that they should go teach all nations, and baptize them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy Congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Then the Priest shall take the Child into his hands, and shall say to the Godfathers and Godmothers, Name this Child. And then naming it after them (if they shall certify him that the Child may well endure it) he shall dip it in the Water discreetly and warily, saying,

N. I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 

Then shall the Priest say,

WE receive this Child into the Congregation of Christ’s flock, *and do sign himwith the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. 

*Here the Priest shall make a Cross upon the Child’s forehead.

Then shall the Priest say,

SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.

Then shall be said, all kneeling,

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 

Then shall the Priest say,

WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant that he being dead unto sin, and living unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that, as he is made partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. 

Then, all standing up, the Priest shall say to the Godfathers and Godmothers this exhortation following.

FOREASMUCH as this Child hath promised by you his sureties to renounce the devil and all his works, to believe in God, and to serve him: Ye must remember that it is your parts and duties to see that this Infant be taught, so soon as he shall be able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise and profession he hath here made by you. And that he may know these things the better, ye shall call upon him to hear sermons; and chiefly ye shall provide that he may learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health; and that this Child may be virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life; remembering always, that Baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin and rise again unto righteousness, continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living.

Then shall he add and say,

YE are to take care that this Child be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue, and be further instructed in the Church Catechism set forth for that purpose.

If, indeed, this was the liturgy used in the christening of Archie then his parents, godparents and others in attendance, attested before the Lord to a number of significant beliefs and bound themselves to several serious spiritual commitments.

Are you baptized? If not, consider this an encouraging invitation to repent and believe. If you are baptized, how does reading this liturgy convict or encourage you?

My prayer is that Archie’s christening was a crystalizing event in the Windsor family and that they will raise up all their children in the way of the Lord, lead in the way of the Lord and serve in their royal roles in ways that honor Jesus.

This piece was originally published here.

Carmen LaBerge is host of the "Connecting Faith with Carmen LaBerge" radio program, author of Speak the Truth: How to Bring God Back Into Every Conversation and Executive Director of the Common Ground Christian Network

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