Archbishop Welby’s Loyal Address to His Majesty on behalf of the Church of England
As the nation prepares to come together this year on May 6th to celebrate the coronation of His Majesty The King, I wish to begin by reminding us of the tribute we have paid, and continue to owe, to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. February marked the 71st anniversary of her Accession to the throne.
Throughout the many years that followed, we were blessed with a shining example of Christian faith and duty, which was recognised and mourned by Church, nation, by much of the world, last year. We remain encouraged by her discipleship and strengthened by her legacy. And now over 70 years later, we recommit our service to His Majesty King Charles III.
The King reigns in a very different era. The world has changed hugely since 1952. New challenges have emerged, new opportunities have arisen. History has progressed and had its effect. Science and technological developments have been more rapid than any of us could forecast. Culture has changed. Climate change has become the great threat of our times. We are once more observing a European war. And yet, as the years changed, the steadfast presence of Her Late Majesty The Queen was a source of reassurance. And we are fortunate that the same reassurance is now found in His Majesty King Charles III.
We know that His Majesty has been extremely prescient with regard to these changes. For many years, he has spoken of the importance of protecting our climate, something which the Prince of Wales has also taken up. He was probably 40 to 50 years ahead of his time in recognising those threats. Like his beloved father, the Duke of Edinburgh, he has been aware of, and fascinated by, the potential of scientific and industrial solutions to our modern problems. These are issues of profound importance to the Church of England and above all to the Anglican Communion. Christians around the Communion are at the forefront of climate change and we remember our brothers and sisters that are in countries that are already bearing its brunt. One of the things I heard this last weekend in South Sudan was the huge areas of the country still covered in water by the enormous floods of earlier this year, stagnant water now giving rise to a malaria epidemic on a scale they’ve never before experienced.
At home, the Church of England maintains an ambitious, but necessary, net zero carbon by 2030 as its objective. Churches care for the natural environment and their local communities. Christians are working together to protect our planet.
And we know also that the King has been extremely active in the interfaith area. And yet, at the same time as drawing others into dialogue from different faiths around the world, he has spoken out passionately for the plight of Christians who are persecuted. Here at home he has brought together so many of the different faiths and cultures in this country to enable better understanding. This coronation year will be a time to celebrate the culture that he has begun to create, and for which we long: of recognising how difference and diversity make us stronger and the common values that you unite us.
I have, as has been reported on the news, had several nightmares about things going wrong at the coronation, but I’ve been inspired and comforted reading about the tips and mistakes of previous Archbishops. Archbishop Fisher is said to have kept a flask of brandy with him on the day of the Queen’s coronation. Given the service lasted four hours one understands why. Archbishop Lang and the other bishops at the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth perhaps finished their flasks before the ceremony. Archbishop Lang thought the Dean had given him St Edward’s Crown the wrong way round, one Bishop stepped on the King’s train, and another put his thumb over the words of the oath when the King was about to read it! I do look now at the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Bishop of Durham because it was one of them.
It is a privilege for the Church of England to be at the heart of this momentous event. We remain the only European country where there is a religious coronation. And I know that churches and cathedrals churches all over the land will join and lead their local celebrations over that extraordinary weekend.
As we gather together to discern the will of God for the Church of England, we take great comfort in knowing, for certain, that the prayers of His Majesty The King are with us. In turn, we offer our own steadfast prayer that the Lord might succour and strengthen His Majesty The King and the Queen Consort. May The King be blessed with the wisdom and grace necessary for his reign as his late mother was in hers. And may he be blessed by grace as he seeks to point towards the Kingdom of Heaven, over which the King of Kings reigns eternal: the King for all of us.
Delivered at the February 2023 General Synod of the Church of England by Archbishop Welby.