Welcome to this week's edition of the Bible in the News--This is Paul Billington speaking with you from Ontario in Canada.
The news story that we have chosen to focus on this week is the one from the TIMES newspaper in England, which announces plans to unite the Church of England under the pope. The word to notice in the TIMES front page headline is "under." If this plan goes ahead it will completely change the character of what was once "Great Britain," and will be one more step in bringing the country into line with the rest of Catholic Europe.
This change in Britain's religious constitution, as we may call it, would alter her position as we have known it for the past three or four hundred years. It was the translation of the Bible into English by William Tyndale and the consequent influence of the Bible, that really brought about the Reformation and turned Britain into a Protestant country. So the proposed changes are quite fundamental--even drastic.
John Ramsden who lives in London, is a keen Bible reader who keeps a close watch on events, so I spoke to him on the phone about this development:
Paul: John, We are hearing that there have been some significant developments in the religious world over there. We are hearing that secular Britain is turning Catholic. So what's been going on over there John?
Above, The Times Newspaper report, Feb. 19, 2007 and below, The Times - Feb. 15, 2007.
John: Yes, that's quite right Paul. Both the Daily Telegraph and the Times have led with front page headlines about what one radio reporter called "the virtual disintegration of the Anglican Community."
You know, at a time when 36 Church of England Bishops are meeting in Tanzania, in East Africa, contemplating the growing divisiveness in their own ranks over such matters as homosexuality, gay marriages, women bishops and so on--topics which incidentally, are abhorrent to the Catholic Church--suddenly, a 42 page report is leaked to the Times newspaper originating from the long established Anglo Catholic Commission for Unity. This reveals that they are in effect proposing the reunification of the churches under Vatican leadership. Hence the bold front page headline to the Times "CHURCHES BACK PLAN TO UNITE UNDER THE POPE."
Now this of course is bound to create even greater divisiveness within the Church of England and it is not surprising that many have noted with understandable cynicism the rather opportunistic timing of the announcement. With their "separated brethren," as the Catholics call the Anglican, in such disarray, there could not be a better time than to welcome disillusioned conservative minded Anglicans to a home which after all was their mother church!
And of course, very conveniently at this time the Vatican seems to have put the issue of celibacy on the back burner and appears to be down-playing its importance: hardly surprising in view of the fact that they have already welcomed amongst their membership so many married former Anglican ministers.
But you know Paul, what is so interesting to us about these developments is the TOTAL ABSENCE of any reference to what the Bible has to say on the matters or what guidance God has given those who claim to be his ministers.
When you consider the clear Bible teaching on matters relating to sex, marriage, women priests, it REALLY does demonstrate just how far organised Christendom is astray from the Bible...Or as one correspondent put it this week, "The reformation is over: it is dead and might as well be buried."
Paul: So what do you think the wider implications are in all this for the British nation, its monarchy and also its relations with the European Union?
John: Well Paul, those are very interesting questions, and we really do have to wait and see how things are going to work out. As the Catholic Church grows in influence in the UK one thing that many people are wondering about is just how long it will be before some in Parliament seek to repeal the Act of Settlement of 1702. Now this may seem a pretty ancient piece of legislation, but it forbids the monarch of England to marry a Catholic whilst of course, oddly enough leaving him or her free to marry a Muslim or a Mormon--both of which communities have been in the news in both Britain and America recently.
However, so far as Bible prophecy is concerned, we do know that sooner or later, as the the Old Testament prophets tell us, Britain, which they refer to as Tarshish, will have to become separated from Europe because of the role which Europe will have in the fulfillment of those prophecies which we find in the book of Daniel and Revelation. There are some remarkable things going on in this country indicating a drift away from the power of the European Union, and we are watching certain developments in that direction right now.
But you know Paul, perhaps we should take another look at this matter when Germany--the most powerful nation in the Europe takes over the leadership of the European Union in the Summer. I guess there will be quite a lot to say then.
The recent book by Michael de Semlyen: The Reformation versus the Counter-Reformation.
It will be interesting indeed to see how this matter continues to develop, for as the editor’s comment in the TIMES has said:
"...the Anglican Communion is not a single Church demanding adherence to a disciplined codex of canon law. It is a fellowship of 38 provinces, each with its own prayer book, traditions and legal structure, bound together only by bonds of trust and fellowship. When any one of those provinces takes a step considered by others to be morally or theologically unacceptable, there is no legal or institutional method for dealing with the breach. Tolerance and compromise--loving or begrudging--are the only way that the communion can be preserved. The alternative is schism. The communion now stands on the brink of schism."
The move will doubtless bring strong opposition from Evangelical groups in the UK. In fact a new book has been recently published by Michael de Semlyen of Dorchester House Publications entitled "The Foundations Under Attack: The Roots of Apostasy." Such people see the issue in clear terms. He writes:
"The battle over God's Word, its providential preservation, and from it, the correct identification of Antichrist is a crucial one. It has been fought over the centuries by followers of Christ against followers of Antichrist; the true faith pitted against the counterfeit; the Reformation versus the Counter-Reformation."
People who think this way are a very small minority, but it does show that the influence of the Bible and of the Reformation still has a few glowing embers. Whether this can ever burst forth into flame again is something that time will tell--but as John Ramsden has told us, Britain must separate from Catholic Europe and fulfill her "Tarshish" role in prophecy. Ezekiel 38:13 clearly points this out.
As we continue to watch events, join us here again next week for another edition of the Bible in the News. www.bibleinthenews.com or www.biblemagazine.com