In all the excitement and media coverage leading up to Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry, one significant (and theologically fraught) event was largely overlooked.
Back in March, almost two months before the wedding, a private service was held in which Meghan Markle was baptized with water from the Jordan River. The baptismal service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Gazette called reports of the event — including a subsequent confirmation ceremony — “surprising” and “head-scratching” since Markle is “a 36-year-old lifelong Christian.”
So why, exactly, did Meghan Markle get baptized and confirmed in the Church of England?
According to Ruth Meyers, who teaches Episcopal Church liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in California, Markle’s baptism or church membership status wouldn’t be an issue of concern since Prince Harry is a member in good standing.
Indeed, the Daily Mail reported, “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 Gazette explains: “The Church of England recommends couples either include a communion service during their wedding or take communion shortly afterward. So if Markle wants to take communion with Harry, she needed to be confirmed in the Church of England or another Anglican church, such as the Episcopal Church, which the Church of England welcomes to take communion at its services.”
So, if Meghan Markle wanted to take communion with her husband, she would have to be confirmed (become a member) of the Church of England or another Anglican denomination. But what is the reason for her baptism? There are two answers (and this is where the theology comes in):
1. Either Markle, who was raised Protestant and sent to a Catholic school, had never been baptized.
2. Or, Markle’s baptism was unacceptable to the Church of England. Here’s why: After Jesus rose from the dead, He instructed His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” To the Church of England, a baptism isn’t a real baptism if it isn’t done “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Some churches only baptize “in the name of Jesus.” If Markle wasn’t baptized in the name of each Member of the Trinity (or if she wasn’t sure how she was baptized), she would have to undergo what the Anglican Church calls a “conditional baptism,” in which the minister declares, “If you have not already been baptized, then I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” or something similar.
The Royal Family has been mum on Meghan Markle’s baptism and confirmation.