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When Harry marries Meghan
May 17, 2018
All the world’s abuzz with talk of this weekend’s royal wedding. For Christians, a wedding ceremony is a sacred celebration that includes promises that a couple makes before God. Meghan and Harry are both members of the Church of England, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and one of the expressions of the Christian faith. Peter Robinson (PR) Professor of Proclamation, Worship and Ministry here at Wycliffe College, sheds some light on the anticipated proceedings for us below.
Q: The Queen is the “Supreme Governor” of the Church of England. What does that mean?
PR: Although Queen Elizabeth’s role as the Supreme Governor over the Church of England is largely symbolic she takes the role of Defender of the Faith seriously.
Q: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner will both reportedly officiate at the service. Explain the hierarchy of those gentlemen’s roles in the Church of England.
PR: As the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Connor is one of 33 honorary chaplains to the queen. As such he serves as the leader over St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. With the wedding taking place in St. George’s chapel he is the natural choice to officiate at the wedding alongside of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop of the Church of England, and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Q: What is the significance of the fact that the Most Reverend Michael Curry will deliver the sermon at Friday’s Royal wedding?
PR: The Episcopal Church is the United States-based member church in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Most Reverend Michael Curry is the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, and he has been asked to preach at the wedding. One can only speculate as to why he was chosen but it is likely in a desire to have an American Representative assisting with the officiating because Meghan is an American. It doesn’t hurt that he is also African-American and is reputed to be a good preacher. It will, nonetheless, be a brief homily, likely only four minutes in length.
Q: How much flexibility does this young couple realistically have in terms of their order of service?
PR: While Meghan and Harry have promised to have a day of fun and joy with Harry currently sixth in line to the throne they will be following basic royal protocol.
Meghan was secretly baptized and confirmed into the Church of England in March by the Archbishop of Canterbury. While Meghan and Harry have chosen the music for their wedding (including a gospel chorus) it is not likely that they will be writing their own vows. Rather, following Kate and William’s lead, they will likely be using the “Series One” revisions (authorized in 1966) to the English Book of Common Prayer (which contains structured services followed by Anglicans in worship) because it allows the bride to drop the promise to obey her husband.
The liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer for the Solemnization of Matrimony is centered on God as the one who instituted Marriage and elevates the importance of Marriage as signifying the Mystical union between Christ and the Church. As such the liturgy reminds us that marriage is not to be entered into lightly or unadvisedly but reverently, discreetly, soberly and in the fear of God.