If you hang out much with Anglicans, you know that many are not fond of references to King Henry VIII, and especially the role that his private affairs played in the history of their church. I have, as a reporter, heard my share of complaints about that -- especially during the decade when I was an Episcopalian.
However, it is kind of hard to talk about the history of the English Reformation without mentioning the guy.
In the end, the Church of England split off from the Church of Rome. For most people, especially low-church Anglicans, this (a) makes it part of the wider world of Protestantism. However, it should be noted that some people argue that (b) the Anglican via media -- a "middle way" between Protestantism and Catholicism -- is its own unique form of faith. The odds are good that some Anglican readers will be offended by my description of (a), (b) or (a) and (b). This is complicated stuff.
This brings us, of course, to the love life of Prince Harry and faith identification of his live-in significant other turned fiance Meghan Markle.
We will start with an Evening Standard piece that caused a bit of Twitter buzz. The double-decker headline proclaimed:
This is why Meghan Markle will need to be baptised before she marries Prince Harry
Kensington Palace has confirmed that Meghan Markle will be baptised before her wedding next May
It appears that this report has been removed from the newspaper's website, but here is a cached version, allowing readers to know what all the buzz was about. The crucial section said:
Meghan will begin the process of becoming a UK citizen and will also need to be baptised and confirmed before the ceremony as she is currently a Protestant.
But what does this mean and how does it work?An adult baptism is very similar to a child’s baptism as all of the steps are the same.
Wait for it.
The report later added this liturgical commentary:
Meghan will also need to take part in a confirmation ceremony to complete the process of initiation into the Christian community.
The faith given during the baptism is now confirmed and made strong and means the person accepts the responsibility for their faith and destiny.
This leads us to Twitter reactions, such as:
Also then there was this blast over the editorial bow:
The faith angle of the Markle story is certainly an interesting subject. What does the word "Protestant" mean in this context, as opposed to the word "Anglican"?
That's a question worthy of discussion, but there are other layers to the puzzle. Some might hint at royal opinions about the match?
For example: If Markle is already a Protestant Christian, why is she being baptized? I have never heard of anyone being re-baptized in order to be confirmed as an Anglican. Protestant converts to Anglicanism, under ordinary circumstances, are simply confirmed. Catholics are "received" into the church, since they were already part of an ancient Communion (there's that via media, part Catholic-part Protestant factor, again).
Was she part of some Christian movement that did not do a normal, small-o orthodox baptism rite? It's easy to assume that she had some form of Christian identity, since the American actress is a spokesperson for the Christian charity World Vision.
Here's hoping that some of these questions get sorted out. However, some religious leaders in cyberspace have their doubts about whether the UK media will be able to handle questions of this depth.
How did other news organizations handle this puzzle? Here are a few samples, starting with The Express:
The American actress was brought up as a Protestant by mum Doria Ragland, despite attending a Catholic school. Her father, Thomas Markle, is a member of the Episcopal Church of the United States and part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
But his 36-year-old daughter, a divorcee, will be baptised and confirmed in the Church of England, of which the Queen is the head, before her wedding. ...
Meghan being baptised and confirmed, probably in the same ceremony, is being seen as a nod to the Queen’s strong faith.
So half Protestant, half Episcopalian? How about The Daily Mail?
Meghan Markle will be baptised into the Church of England to please the Queen, despite her Catholic schooling and 'Jewish first wedding'.
Miss Markle, from Los Angeles, will be both baptised and confirmed as she prepares for her church wedding with Prince Harry, in May.
The bride-to-be is Christian, a member of the Protestant faith who went to a Catholic high school. Her mother Doria Ragland is Protestant while her father Thomas Markle is Episcopalian.
So that's Protestant, Episcopal and sort-of-maybe Jewish. Then The Telegraph offered very little faith commentary:
Ms Markle, who attended a Catholic school in Los Angeles but is Protestant, will be baptised and confirmed before the Church of England wedding. Shortly before her wedding, the Duchess of Cambridge was also confirmed.
One more, perhaps? Here is the all-important BBC wording:
Ms Markle, 36, a Protestant, will be baptised into the Church of England and confirmed before the wedding.
A spokesman for the prince said the pair would make sure the wedding "reflects who they are as a couple".
This is all rather vague and confusing and, thus, some wits would say that it's perfectly Anglican.
Yes, it would be good for experienced religion-beat reporters to sort this out. However, let's also note something else. At this point, journalists are working with public-relations material from, note the attributions, a "spokesman for the prince" and/or the "Prince’s communications secretary."
Perhaps the confusing starts there? Just asking.
FIRST IMAGE: Screen shot from NBC News.