King Charles III assumes titles Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, while Britain becomes more secular.

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As Britain’s new monarch, King Charles III inherits the titles of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. These titles date back to the Reformation with the Pope bestowing the first title on Henry VII for the king’s rebuttal of Martin Luther’s teachings. Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, designated herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, an act that designated Jesus Christ as the ultimate head of the church.   

Even though over half of UK citizens do not belong to any religion, with only one percent of those aged 18-24 identifying as Anglican, the British monarch remains the head of the Church of England. This position is largely ceremonial with the monarch serving as a guide to the Archbishop of Canterbury and addressing general synods.   

Given the monarch’s prominent role as figurehead for the Church of England, the late Queen Elizabeth II chose to uphold the church’s values against divorce by not attending Charles and Camilla’s civil wedding ceremony in 2005. The queen and Prince Philip demonstrated their personal support for the couple by attended a blessing service held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, as well as hosting a wedding reception for the couple.    

King Charles appears to take a more intellectual approach to the faith, along with a keen interest in interfaith dialogue. For example, in 1994, Charles triggered controversy when he said he would be defender of faith rather than Defender of the Faith. Lather he clarified his position indicating he would be Defender of the Faith but a protector of other faiths. Charles has a history of reaching out to those of other faiths, and even once claimed that there was a lot of “misunderstanding” about Islam in the West.

Charles’ coronation service will contain many symbols of Anglicanism such as the anointing with holy oil, blessing, and consecration by the archbishop of Canterbury. But this service will likely include other Christian denominations and other religions. Thus far, there has been no mention on if Charles will include atheist and humanist leaders in his coronation and future ceremonies.

As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School and Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith...

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