Sermon for Christ the King 2014

Sermon preached on 16 November 2014 by Kelvin Holdsworth from Kelvin Holdsworth on Vimeo.

Well, I wonder how many of you have met the Queen. Or indeed any other head of state. For in a congregation that is as diverse as this one, we have people here from a variety of places – some from republics of various kinds, some from constitutional monarchies and some from states with forms of government that verge on the tyrannical. Some of us have always known some form of democracy. Others have come to this country seeking that form of government and the liberties that go with it. Some here want to change the way we are governed either by changing the configuration of the United Kingdom or by moving away from principles of hereditary succession and moving towards a system where the head of state is elected by the people.

And how seldom the church thinks about the different forms of rule that even the people gathered here will have encountered.

But I wonder how many of you have met the Queen.

The Feast of Christ the King is a bit of conundrum and quite tricky to preach on.

We often presume that the Feasts of the Christian Calendar have come to us from the mists of time, worked out long, long ago. But the reality about this feast day is that it dates back only to 1925 and was instituted for decidedly modern reasons by an Italian Roman Catholic church trying to stem the tide of secularism.

All of a sudden a Feast was created which emphasised the image of Christ the King. Now that image of Christ as King certainly existed before that but it was a novelty to make a festival out of the monarchical images of Christ that we can find in the Bible and focus on his kingliness and majesty.

We would be well to proceed with some caution with such a festival.

Not all the political movements in Europe in general and in Italy in particular in the 1920s were benign. We should be a little wary of a feast which seems to focus on something that is very political and all about God being seen in terms of power. Monarchy can’t be anything but political in one way or another these days.

But I wonder whether you’ve ever met the Queen. [Read more…]

What the Queen Said at Lambeth

HM the Q was at Lambeth Palace visiting the AB of C the other day and had quite a lot to say about the church. I must admit that I found some of it quite surprising and not perhaps terribly well advised.

Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.

It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.

I’ve absolutely no doubt that this made perfect sense in Lambeth and that everyone clapped politely. Certainly the Telegraph and others lapped it up.

That should not stop us asking whether what she said was actually true though. And also ponder who wrote it and why.

It does not seem to me to be a speech that was expected to be overheard in Scotland. It doesn’t make much sense up here.

After all, we are quite well aware that the Act of Settlement very precisely works to make sure that those from one brand of Christianity (the Roman Catholic Church) have no access to the throne.The significance of Tony Blair apparently feeling that he had to wait until he had stopped being Prime Minister before converting to Roman Catholicism should make us ask whether the English Anglican settlement is really the big tent that its supporters claim it to be.

And if we were to swap the Church of Scotland into that quote from the Queen and substitute National for Established, it would make no sense at all. I’m really pleased that the C of S is now appearing to say that it needs its ecumenical friends in order to fulfil its own sense of obligation to reach out to Scotland. However even the staunchest Presbyterian might hesitate before making the claim that the Church of Scotland has been there to secure safe space in the public domain for other expressions of faith.

I’m not terribly in favour of established religion either in the way it is found in England or in the privileges of the “national” church in Scotland.

It seems to me that whoever wrote that speech was really trying to have a sideswipe at the silliness of the most aggresive secularists.

However, I think that Gile Fraser did it better. And Andrew Brown did it even better than that.

Meanwhile, in fashion terms, someone should have realised that HM’s outfit in cardinal red would clash with the AB of C’s archiepiscopal purple rather badly but maybe she was trying to make a point. Are there no gay men working at Lambeth Palace who could have liaised with those at the Palace ….. ah no, wait a minute….

Of course, generally speaking, I prefer my bishops in black. Perhaps HM does too.