The Anglican Betrayal of Britain

For nearly 1,500 years, the Church of England defined English national character and infused the country with an indomitable spirit of independence. Those days are clearly finished.

The famous Shakespearean epithet Et tu Brute? (“You too, Brutus?”) has come to symbolize the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend. That epithet was pronounced with dramatic emphasis in Britain last Thursday when Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, made the case for the simultaneous practice of English law and Islamic sharia law in Britain.

Et tu Anglicans?

Williams’s first jab at British law and government came in the form of a tedious lecture delivered before the Royal Courts of Justice. Long story short, the archbishop started out innocently enough, explaining that his aim was to “tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state.” But Williams subsequently used the bulk of his talk to defend sharia law by explaining how grossly misunderstood it is, and cunningly making the case for the accommodation of Islamic sharia law in Britain.

For those with a heroic level of patience and an enjoyment for reading obfuscatory material, you can read the full diatribe against British sovereign law here.

The archbishop’s second jab came during an interview with the bbc World at One program, which was, ironically, supposed to quell the firestorm ignited by his lecture. With very little nuance or subtly, Dr. Williams defended Islamic sharia law in the interview and mused that the United Kingdom will inevitably have to accommodate sharia law if social unity and peace are to prevail.

A week later, the fiery bombardment of Canterbury continues, despite efforts by the archbishop and other Anglicans to douse the flames. The reason those efforts are failing, opined the Times’s Ruth Gledhill, is because “neither the archbishop nor his staff regard his speech as mistaken. They are merely concerned that it has been misunderstood” (emphasis mine throughout). Blind to the flaws of Dr. Williams’s remarks, the archbishop and many of his fellow Anglican leaders remain unrepentant.

The archbishop of Canterbury has been deluged with criticism since he made his remarks. Even the British prime minister has slammed Williams’s suggestions. But nothing highlights the magnitude of Williams’s treason—nor condemns the weak-willed response of Anglican leaders—more than the Church of England’s own history.

For nearly 1,500 years, the defining quality of the English church was its staunch refusal to concede authority and power to the imperialistic ambitions of a foreign power!

Most people are probably aware that the Anglican Church was formally established in the mid-16th century during the reign of Henry viii. The roots of Anglican independence, however, stretch as far back as the 5th century, when Roman influence began to diminish over its island colony.

“One of the reasons why the Reformation was successful in England,” writes British historian Paul Johnson, “was that there was absolutely nothing new about it. All its elements—anti-clericalism, anti-papalism, the exaltation of the crown in spiritual matters, the envy of clerical property, even the yearning for doctrinal reform—were deeply rooted in the English past” (The Offshore Islanders). There was nothing exceptional about the timing of Henry viii’s breach with Rome; it was an inevitable event that had been building for centuries.

On matters of doctrine, morality and spirituality, the church in Rome and the English church were, for the most part, united. So what was the exceptional issue that made the divorce between Rome and Canterbury inevitable? From the 5th century on, the characteristic distinguishing the English church from imperialist Rome was its distinct and enduring refusal to concede power to Rome.

This prevailing spirit of independence was once the defining quality of the Anglican Church, and the characteristic identifying it as a distinctly different breed of Christianity to that emanating from Rome. The credibility of the English church hinged on its staunch unwillingness to concede to the authority of foreign forces and influences.

That infectious spirit of independence was empowering. For centuries it infused Englishmen with a profound and enduring sense of national autonomy and inspired men, women and children to sacrifice blood, sweat and tears for “God, king and country.” It is the spirit of independence, once promoted and advanced by the English church, that lies at the heart of British national character. From the 5th century on up to the 1960s, English Christianity was a legitimizing force for the English government.

English kings and queens, empowered by the anti-clerical, anti-papal, independent spirit embodied in the church, used the church to establish government processes and build national unity. “The church became the principle instrument of civil government; the bishops were the king’s chief advisors, his chapel servants as well as spiritual ministers. The church codified the law, and put it in writing. Even before the church came, English society was developing a definite structure: but the church supplied the literate manpower and expertise to build a state machine” (ibid.).

But the English church’s connection with English law went beyond helping the government define and codify law; the church’s involvement in the national government gave legitimacy to English law, enhancing its role and reputation in the hearts and minds of Englishmen, and defended English law against attack from foreign powers and influences.

For nearly 1,500 years, the independent spirit of the Anglican Church was a source of courage for Britons, infusing the nation with an indomitable sense of independence and a uniquely strong sense of national unity.

History can be a merciless judge; but it’s the most honest of them all. The long history of the English church as a national bulwark against foreign attack and invasion powerfully and inexorably condemns the defeatist principles outlined recently by the archbishop of Canterbury.

Rowan Williams’s willingness to see Britain make judicial concessions to Islam guts the Church of England, and the nation of Britain, of its most defining and empowering quality: its long-standing ability to refuse to concede influence to invading foreign powers!

Without this quality, the Anglican Church lacks definition and strength. It becomes virtually worthless to the monarchy and national government, and it becomes nearly indistinguishable from any other Protestant church. Granted, that is the path that Anglicanism has increasingly pursued since being progressively drawn into Rome’s wide-open maw since Vatican ii. All that Rowan Williams has done is accelerate the process of Anglican confusion by not only being open to Rome’s beckoning call, but also being prepared to cave in to the Vatican’s chief competitor, Islam.

Without its historical spirit of independence and persistent refusal to concede authority to the influence of foreign powers, the Church of England transforms from a publicist of British sovereignty and a defender of British law to an enemy of the state.

The implications of what Rowan Williams suggested in his attack on English law are staggering, says Melanie Phillips:

One law for all is the very basis of legal and social justice and is the glue that binds a society together. Law is the expression of a society’s cultural identity. If there is no one law, there is no one national identity and therefore no society but instead a set of warring fiefdoms with their own separate jurisdictions.

Ultimately, the impact of last week’s remarks by the archbishop of Canterbury could break the back of the already ailing reputation of the Anglican Church. Time will tell. In recent years, the archbishop of Canterbury has deserted his role as the spiritual and moral bastion for the 80 million Anglicans around the world by loosening, even abandoning, the Church of England’s standards on issues such as the ordination of women as priests, premarital cohabitation and homosexuality.

The office of the archbishop of Canterbury, once the standard-setter of the Anglican Church and the empowering force behind that church’s—and the national government’s—defining sense of independence, has transformed into a law-despising, liberalized office used to appease foreign incursion rather than defend national sovereignty.

The implications of the devolution of the reputation of the Anglican Church will be tremendous. Most notably, the demise of the Church of England will create a massive vacuum in the Protestant world. But one church’s demise can be another church’s opportunity. Kept away from the levers of power in Britain for centuries, the church in Rome will exploit the opportunity and move to fulfill its dream of restoring its religious supremacy over what has been long known in Roman Catholic tradition as “Mary’s Dowry.” Already, as reported by the Times last year, “In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the pope” (Feb. 19, 2007).

Expect Roman Catholicism to replace the Church of England as the rock of stability in the Protestant world.

For half a century, Herbert W. Armstrong served as editor in chief of the Plain Truth. He often prophesied of an event that for decades many considered an impossibility—the unification of Protestants with their Roman Catholic mother church.

In October 1961, the Plain Truth wrote, “The pope will step in as the supreme unifying authority—the only one that can finally unite the differing nations of Europe. … Europe will go Roman Catholic! Protestantism will be absorbed into the ‘mother’ church—and totally abolished.”

Today, that insightful forecast, which was founded on a prophecy in Isaiah 47, is coming to fruition, and the Trumpet is helping readers remain abreast of its development. Read, for example, two of our most recent articles on this subject: “Anglicans Submitting to the Pope” and “Anglicans Turning Catholic.”

The damage inflicted on the Anglican Church by the latest remarks from the archbishop of Canterbury will add fresh impetus to this momentous trend.