Pentecostal Perspectives on the Coronation


At the time of the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, Donald Gee wrote that Pentecostals welcome the Coronation, for ‘the stately ceremony in the Abbey is a national, and for the king himself an intensely personal, acknowledgment and vow before Almighty God of the responsibilities of his exalted position.’[1] Although there may be parts of the text of the Coronation liturgy to which a Pentecostal might object, Gee saw the service as a whole as a good thing, for ‘We believe that in some measure at least the Coronation ceremony is a sincere acknowledgment of the One Who has promised that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths.’[2] In that sense, the Coronation leaves ‘abundant room for thankfulness that we are not nationally and officially godless.’[3]

 

Now, it’s probably worth mentioning that the historical period in which Pentecostalism began means that it has a rather different view of the Crown in matters of religion than some older Non-Conformists. Unlike the Old Dissenters, Pentecostals have never known persecution from either the Crown or His Majesty’s Government. Instead, early Pentecostals saw the Crown as a protecting force, guaranteeing their freedom of worship. A year earlier, on the death of King George V, Donald Gee wrote that British Pentecostals should be ‘thankful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which we so richly enjoy … [a] freedom [which] is largely owing, under Divine Providence, to the firm place which the British Throne and Constitution hold.’[4] Not only, then, have British Pentecostals always sought to ‘render unswerving loyalty to His Majesty’s Government as far as morally possible,’[5] but they have also insisted that ‘those who regard the Word of God will not be slow also to “Honour the King.”’[6]

 


Five aspects of the Coronation were particularly prominent in the thinking of earlier generations of British Pentecostals: two rather Protestant proclamations, two quasi-sacramental actions, and one significant symbol. (The idea of Pentecostals getting on board with quasi-sacramental actions might sound a bit odd to some people, but just think of the ways Pentecostals pray for the sick: by laying on hands, by anointing with oil, and even — in some places — by praying over anointed handkerchiefs. That’s the sort of thing we’re talking about when we say quasi-sacramental, so it’s not really a problem for Pentecostals at all.)

 

 

1. The Coronation and the Precious Word of God

 



At the beginning of the Coronation service, The King is given a Bible, and told that this Book is ‘the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.’ And this weekend, we not only saw the King receive the Bible with this proclamation, but kiss the Bible. In the presence of the Crown Jewels, the Coronation proclaims that the Holy Word of God is more valuable than the most precious gold or the costliest diamonds. Nothing — not even kingdom or crown — is to be desired, valued, treasured, and revered as the Holy Scriptures, the living and active Word of God. 

 

While all governing authority in the United Kingdom might technically flow from The King to his ministers, the Coronation declares right from the outset that The King is no independent authority in himself. The King stands under the authority of the Word of God, as is called to receive the Scriptures ‘to keep [him] ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and governance of Christian princes.’ And as this proclamation of the supreme authority of God’s Word and the absolute value of the Holy Scriptures is made to The King, it is made before all the people of his Realms, and the rest of the onlooking world. The world has seen The King in reverence kiss ‘the most valuable thing that this world affords’ — a Bible, not a Crown. 

 

 

2. The Coronation and the Protestant Faith

 



In the United Kingdom, the new monarch at his Coronation must make an oath to uphold the Protestant faith. ‘Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?,’ the King is asked, and he promises so to do.

In 1937, the Elim Evangel ran a series of articles on this oath, for, while the first question about the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel is clear enough, they wanted to make sure Pentecostals understood what was meant by the second part about ‘the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law’ and how they, not being members of the Church of England, could pray for the King in this promise. 

 

For those earlier Pentecostals, this was a good promise and one to support the King in by prayer; for although they did not share in membership of the Established Church, they were convinced that they shared in the same ‘Protestant Reformed’ faith. ‘May we Protestants realise the value of this oath, and may we stand firm against any tampering with it,’ declared the Elim Evangel.[7] Therefore, Pentecostals ‘rejoice when hearing [The King] declare that he will maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion, because the authority and life of that religion is the inspired Word of God. Let us pray that, in order to maintain that vow, our Sovereign may be led to diligently seek the wisdom that is to be found only in the Book.’[8] This Protestant faith which the King is pledged to uphold, is, as our Pentecostal forebears understood it (from the 39 Articles which set it out), a faith which flows from the authority of the Scriptures, and which proclaims the gospel of justification by faith alone through the atoning work of Christ alone. ‘All evangelical Christians pronounce a full-throated “Amen” to this … When the King promises to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion, we shall rejoice to know that the central gem of that religion is the finished work of Christ.’[9]

 

 

3. The Anointing

 



The most striking image of Saturday’s Coronation was not The King crowned, holding the orb and sceptre, and seated on the Stone of Scone in King Edward’s Chair, but rather the glimpse when the anointing screen was removed and we saw The King stripped of his royal robes, kneeling humbly before the King of Kings. The anointing itself was hidden from view; a moment not for public consumption, but rather an intimate moment between the King and God. Here the Coronation displays the fact that a King cannot entrust himself to the force of the crowds, nor the power of riches. Rather, he must come humbly before the Lord God to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Holy Spirit who can ‘prosper the works of [his] hands: that by the assistance of his heavenly grace [The King] may govern and preserve the peoples committed to [his] charge in wealth, peace, and godliness; and after a long and glorious course of ruling a temporal kingdom wisely, justly, and religiously, [he] may at last be made partaker of an eternal kingdom, through … Jesus Christ our Lord.’ The anointed demonstrates that the King needs the Lord, for his reign, for his life, and for his salvation. The King before whom everyone else bows — the King who bows to no one — must bow before the Lord God.

 

George Jeffreys wrote of the significance of the King’s anointing, insisting that it demonstrates to all that ‘the Coronation of the King is not merely a civil ceremony, … he is set apart to a Holy Office as the “Lord’s Anointed.”’[10] Yet, we must not confuse the King’s office as one anointed by God with the true anointed one to whom all anointings point us. It is Christ’s ‘anointing to which all others pointed,’ and the King is anointed only ‘to serve God and his subjects.’[11]

 

 

4. The Crown as an Icon


 

For earlier generations of British Pentecostals, monarchy was not only seen as an expedient form of government, but also as an earthly representation of heavenly realities. In fact, the best way to describe this would be as an icon. (By this I mean an icon in the sense that marriage functions as an icon lifting our eyes to the great mystery of the marriage between Christ and the Church.) Upon the death of George V, Donald Gee reminded Pentecostals that ‘the pomp and pageantry which will mark these days during which a great modern empire is fittingly showing its sorrow, respect and affection for its late Ruler’ should cause us to lift ‘our spiritual eyes steadfastly towards that Throne where the seraphim continually cry one unto another “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts! the whole earth is full of His glory.”’[12] 

 

The next year, after the Coronation, another writer in Redemption Tidings wrote that ‘It was most impressive to listen in to the Coronation of our beloved King and Queen—it lifted and led our thoughts and hearts on to that Higher and Greater Coronation towards which we all both labour and travel. Then, shall we also cast all crowns down before Him—if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.’[13] 

 

The Coronation (and kingship more generally) serves as an icon which lifts our eyes and hearts to the King of Kings above. As E.C.W. Boulton put it, ‘spiritually speaking’ a Coronation points us to that throne which is ‘the dazzling summit to which all true life in God moves.’[14] And so ‘the Coronation of the King is a vivid reminder.’[15] An icon, in fact; for the ‘majestic scene’ in Westminster ‘takes us on the wings of faith to a future meeting between a King and His people.’[16] As we behold the splendour of the Coronation in the Abbey, we should lift up our hearts to ‘rejoice in the glorious hope that by Divine Grace we shall personally behold that Eternal Coronation of the Lamb of God before the assembled hosts of earth and heaven.’[17]

 

 

5. The Removal of the Royal Crown at the Table of the Lord



 

You might have noticed on Saturday that Their Majesties’ crowns disappeared before the Communion, only to reappear again afterwards. Or you might not have noticed this at all. It was a small detail in a day filled with rich symbolism. Yet early Pentecostals wrote about this quite a bit. For neither a King nor anyone else can ‘appear at the Lord’s Table on any other grounds than that of a sinner saved by grace.’[18] At Communion we stand ‘in the presence of the King of Kings,’ and in His presence even an earthly King must ‘lay aside his insignia of royalty’ and cast off his crown before his Saviour-King. No matter how much earthly power or prestige you might have, or how little, there is no other way to be saved than by relying on the precious shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. We cannot cling to anything of this world for salvation — whether our works, our reputation, or a royal crown; rather, casting them aside, we must cling to the cross alone.

 

As one early Pentecostal leader, E.C.W. Boulton, wrote: ‘To Christian hearts the world over the most reassuring aspect of this royal investiture is the recognition of God, which finds its rightful place in the religious ceremony, a ceremony in which the Sovereign of this Realm acknowledges [his] dependence upon and subjection to Almighty God; a realisation and confession that [he] holds this high office by Divine permission, and that even [the United Kingdom’s King] is the servant and subject of the Eternal, that [his] throne and [kingdom] only exist by virtue of Divine decree.’[19]

 



This has just been a quick look at a few of the aspects of the Coronation in which earlier Pentecostals found particular significance. British Pentecostals weren’t na├»ve; in the midst of their enthusiasm for the crown and the coronation, they could also critique the policies of His Majesty’s Government and the disconnect between the life of the church and society from what was officially proclaimed in the Coronation rites and oaths. They were not simply carried along with the patriotism of the crowd. Yet, even in the midst of real problems which they identified in British society in 1937 and 1953, they found good within the coronation and prayed that through it, the most precious thing which this world affords would be seen in its true worth by many others. 

 

O Lord, our King and our God,

Who rules over the Kings and Kingdoms of this earth:

Grant the grace of Christ the King,

And the true anointing of the Holy Spirit 

To Charles, our King,

That He may receive and keep the lively Oracles of God,

Know Your Wisdom,

Trust in Your Gospel, 

And always cast His Crown at the feet of the Saviour-King,

To the glory of Your Holy Name.

Amen. 



[1] Donald Gee, ‘Coronation: Its National, Spiritual and Dispensational Aspects,’ Redemption Tidings 13.10 (May 7th, 1937), 1.

[2] Ibid. 

[3] Ibid. 

[4] Donald Gee, ‘Editorial: The Death of a King,’ Redemption Tidings 12.3 (February 1st, 1936), 11.

[5] AoG Consitutional Minutes, cited in ‘Editorial,’ Redemption Tidings 11.18 (Sept. 15th, 1935), 10.

[6] Donald Gee, ‘Editorial,’ Redemption Tidings 11.9 (May 1st, 1935), 11.

[7] T.A. Carver, ‘The Christian and the Coronation: The Most Priceless Gem in England’s Crown,’ Elim Evangel 18.19 (May 7th, 1937), 290.

[8] T.A. Carver, ‘The Christian and the Coronation No. 2: What is the Protestant Reformed Religion as Established by Law?,’ Elim Evangel, 18.20 (May 14th, 1937), 309.

[9] T.A. Carver, ‘The Christian and the Coronation No. 2: What is the Protestant Reformed Religion as Established by Law?,’ Elim Evangel, 18.20 (May 14th, 1937), 310.

[10] George Jeffreys, ‘A Momentous Day in History,’ Elim Evangel 18.19 (May 7th, 1937), 297.

[11] P.N. Corry, ‘The Ampulla and the Anointing,’ Elim Evangel 18.19 (May 7th, 1937), 299-300.

[12] Donald Gee, ‘Editorial: The Death of a King,’ Redemption Tidings 12.3 (February 1st, 1936), 11.

[13] ‘News from Mr and Mrs Boyd,’ Redemption Tidings 13.13 (June 18th, 1937), 11.

[14] E.C.W. Boulton, Jewels of the King (London: Victory Press, 1938), 1.

[15] Ibid. 

[16] George Jeffreys, ‘A Momentous Day in History,’ Elim Evangel 18.19 (May 7th, 1937), 297.

[17] Donald Gee, ‘Coronation: Its National, Spiritual and Dispensational Aspects,’ Redemption Tidings 13.10 (May 7th, 1937), 2.

[18] A.L., ‘A Coronation Story,’ Redemption Tidings 13.11 (May 21st, 1937), 16.

[19] E.C.W. Boulton, ‘Coronation Contemplations,’ Elim Evangel 34.22 (May 30th, 1953), 259.