No matter that happens today (the big US news is tragic), for millions of people the force of gravity in global news will pull toward St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
We are talking about a wedding rite in the Church of England, so royal wedding coverage has included all kinds of dishy details about liturgical issues rarely seen in the press. That has been the case for several months now for one simple reason: American actress Meghan Markle was raised as a Protestant by her mother Doria Ragland, while her father is an Episcopalian (and, thus, part of the global Anglican Communion).
Thus, an unanswered question still hovers in the background, because of silence from Kensington Palace: Precisely what kind of Protestantism are we talking about, in Markle's case? For a refresher on this drama, see my earlier post: "Royal wedding quiz: Must a 'Protestant' be baptized in order to become an Anglican?" In that post, I noted:
... 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.
There continue to be clues that Markle was the "wrong kind" of Protestant, since she was baptized -- Again? -- before being confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Anglican. How does that theological question affect the royal rite?
Read carefully this passage from an explainer piece in The Washington Post, that ran with the headline: "Why Meghan Markle, raised a Christian, still got baptized before her royal wedding."
“Miss Markle did not need to become an Anglican in order to marry Harry in church, but at the time of their engagement last November she made clear she had chosen to be baptised and confirmed out of respect for the Queen’s role as the head of the Church of England,” the Daily Mail wrote.
The Church of England recommends that couples either include a Communion service during their wedding or take Communion shortly after getting married. That means that Markle, if she wants to take Communion with Harry (italics added by tmatt), did need to be confirmed in the Church of England or in another Anglican church, such as the Episcopal Church, which the Church of England welcomes to take Communion at its services.
Wait a minute.
Don't most (or is it all, these day?) churches in the Anglican Communion practice what is known as "open Communion," which means that it's acceptable to receive Communion during Holy Eucharist, even if one is not an Anglican? (Yes, I am aware that some Anglican churches are more "open" than others, seeing as I once saw Communion given to worshipers' pets during a St. Francis "Missa Gaia (Earth Mass)" at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.)
The norm is this: Worshipers are free to take Communion at an Anglican altar if they are Christians who have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. With that in mind, keep reading the Post explainer.
Markle studied the rites and sacraments of the Church of England for several weeks under the tutelage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, according to the Daily Mail. When he baptized her, she then completed her confirmation immediately after. He will officiate the royal wedding on Saturday, where Bishop Michael Curry, the head of the Episcopal Church in the United States, will also preach.
Now, if the couple has a Communion service during their wedding ceremony Saturday, both will be able to take Communion (italics added by tmatt) in the Anglican church because Markle is confirmed.
No, that confirmation rite didn't determine whether Markle would be able to join her royal husband in the act of taking Communion. Something else must have been going on, in terms of her background.
Later on in the Post piece, there is an interesting comment that many would see as a contradiction to the earlier information.
This passage is highly detailed and, to my reading, correct. This is long, but worth reading:
But while the Communion service explains Markle’s confirmation, which anyone joining the Anglican church needs to complete, it doesn’t explain the baptism, which doesn’t need to be Anglican to count. That part leaves royal-watchers guessing.
There are two most likely possibilities: One, that while Markle’s parents -- both of whom are Protestant -- raised her as a Protestant Christian and sent her to Catholic school, they simply never baptized her, and this is Markle’s first baptism. Or two, that she had a baptism that the Church of England won’t accept.
Hold that thought, because that was crucial information. Read on:
Why? That requires us to turn to Scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus rises from the dead, he instructs his disciples: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s the phrase that the Church of England and many other Christian denominations have used ever since.
But in the 20th century, Meyers said, a new movement gained steam. Some pastors pointed to other parts of the Bible, particularly the Book of Acts, when the disciples baptize believers simply “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Some churches, especially evangelical and Pentecostal (italics added by tmatt) churches, changed the wording they used when they baptized children and adults.
The Church of England, Meyers said, does not accept a baptism unless it was conducted in the name of the Trinity of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If Markle was baptized only in the name of Jesus, she would need to be baptized again.
So what's the point? What's the question that no one seems to want to ask, and why?
Part of the problem -- I would assume -- is that Doria Ragland is an African-American, which raises the odds that Meghan she was raised in a church that is part of a "Oneness Pentecostal" body that is non-Trinitarian, including in its language for baptism rites. It that was the case, that would certainly have been a rite that Anglicans would consider incomplete or invalid.
If that was the case, the Markle would have needed to baptized in the name of the Trinity in order to receive Communion -- even under the "Open Communion" standards of most Anglicans. If she had received a Trinitarian baptism, she would not have needed baptism in order to receive the sacrament.
In other words, the Post got half of the equation right and half of it wrong.
Yes, something was going on here, liturgically, that needed to be cleaned up in order for Markle to receive Communion -- but confirmation wasn't the issue. The practice of "Open Communion" (rejected by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians and some others) would have taken care of that.
No, the problem appears to have been the status of her baptism.
Now, what if Markle truly wanted to be baptized and confirmed as a show of respect for the Queen and the state Church of England?
Well, that might raise eyebrows, too. Why? Well, if Markle was raised in an ordinary Protestant flock and was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, then Anglicans would not require her RE-baptism. In fact, they would frown on that.
Confused? Well, the Anglophiles may still be debating these details tomorrow during the hours of pre-wedding commentary on television news channels around the world.
Rise and shine.