Troubling Times for Three British Institutions!

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Troubling Times for Three British Institutions!

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A nation's fabric is made up of its major institutions—religious, political, governmental and cultural. Human institutions help keep order and foster needed cohesion in any country. They are essential to the structural framework of any significant political/geographical entity.

Yet in 2002, Britain has been rocked by highly questionable behavior in three of its most venerated national institutions: the Anglican Church, the Conservative Party and the British Royal House of Windsor. In this article, we will examine and analyze the decline of these three major institutions with a view to what the future may portend.

Sharp divisions within the Anglican Church

The Times is one of the three or four best newspapers in Britain. Its roots reach back into the late 18th century. Ruth Gledhill is its respected religion correspondent. She wrote in a major feature article: "The Church of England is in 'meltdown' with thousands of churches facing closure and many dioceses disappearing by 2030, according to a report by Anglican researchers published today" (Oct. 30, 2002).

Ms. Gledhill further depicted the plight of the Anglican Church as a "demographic time bomb." While adult attendance is in marked decline, child attendance may be described as in free fall. She strongly stated that "the Church must urgently formulate a strategy to counter the decline if it is to survive."

All institutions are composed of fallible human beings, subject to the vagaries of human nature. We understand that. Division is a natural trait and must be actively countered by bold leadership and sound decision making. Currently, the most divisive issue in the Anglican Church is its ambiguous position on homosexuality.

As The Economist (Sept. 21, 2002) reported: "The new Archbishop of Canterbury takes a soft line on homosexuality that also infuriates traditionalists. This week the outgoing Archbishop, George Carey, warned of a split in the Church if Mr. Williams continues to support reforms that would, for example, allow the ordination of openly gay men to the priesthood, or the blessing of homosexual marriages."

Over the last two months the situation has worsened. The Sunday Times (Nov. 24, 2002) reported that "Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, believes that there could be a place for practicing gay priests in the Church of England...Williams has stated that the Church should reconsider its ban on the ordination of active homosexuals." Moreover, he recently said, "The question of the Church approving of active gay relationships has to be an open question...There are ways of looking at the Bible which allow the question to be raised."

Is homosexuality wrong?

According to this same article, "He believes Christian morality does not necessarily lay down that same-sex relationships are sin for priests." It gets worse! In spite of the current ban on gay ordinations, this Sunday Times feature article said: "As many as 1,000 of the Church's full-time clergy are thought to be gay, sometimes describing their companions as 'lodgers.'"

Years ago this reporter had occasion to interview a member of the Anglican priesthood by telephone and this particular priest admitted he was a practicing homosexual without even being asked about it. Further, although forbidden by canon law, hundreds of same-sex relationships between lay members have been quietly blessed by some vicars (see Sunday Telegraph article, "Church Law Defied as Vicars Bless Hundreds of Gay Couples a Year," Oct. 20, 2002).

To his credit, Richard Chartres, bishop of London, recently warned gay clergy in his diocese to cease their homosexual relationships or face disciplinary action. Also, William Taylor, rector of Bishopsgate in the city of London said, "Dr. Williams' views were immoral and divisive" (The Daily Telegraph, Oct. 14, 2002).

Sadly, still another article in The Sunday Times (Nov. 3, 2002) reported: "Williams recently reiterated his belief that he could find nothing in the Bible to support the idea that homosexuality was sinful."

Ironically, the secular Economist has a much clearer view of this aberrant behavior.

It said: "The real difficulty for the Church [of England] is that homosexuality, like all sex outside marriage, is explicitly condemned in the Bible. For many believers, abandoning that position for something more pragmatic seems a painful retreat into uncertainty" (Sept. 21, 2002, emphasis added).

The Anglican Church is troubled by many other problems, but abandoning the obvious biblical injunctions against homosexuality remains potentially the most damaging to reputation, clergy and congregation—and may possibly cause a major split.

The beleaguered Conservative Party

Ever since the party elite ousted Margaret Thatcher in 1990, the Conservatives (or Tories) have been troubled by serious leadership problems. Their one-sided defeats in the last two national elections (perhaps due in no small measure to the Tory Party's growing reputation during the 1990s for embarrassing financial and sexual scandals among Tory members of Parliament [MPs]) were so overwhelming in numbers as to leave this historic party in tatters. So far, various efforts at recovery have been thwarted.

After John Major succeeded Mrs. Thatcher as prime minister for several years, shadow party leadership passed to William Hague in 1997. And although he tried his level best, he was eventually hounded from the post. His replacement, Iain Duncan Smith, fared no better. In fact, The Economist recently described him "as the most isolated leader of the party ever."

Mr. Duncan Smith is torn between "modernizers" who criticize him continually for not being much more progressive and traditionalists who want him to hold firmly to the values of the past. Interestingly enough, homosexuality became a factor in the latest crisis. The Economist tells how he was recently ambushed over a "politically insignificant bill to allow unmarried couples, including homosexuals, to adopt children" (Nov. 9, 2002).

In trying to persuade his fellow Conservative MPs (using perhaps the most extreme form of Commons' party discipline) to vote against this controversial measure, Duncan Smith thought he would be backed for demonstrating his support for traditional Tory values. It backfired! Many Conservative MPs either voted for the bill or abstained.

Mr. Duncan Smith swiftly reacted by calling a press conference attacking "party plotters" for rebelling against his leadership, warning that the Tory Party could either "unite or die." This move backfired big time, producing fresh calls for his removal from leadership.

Regardless of motive, from a biblical point of view, this shadow Conservative Party leader deserves praise for upholding traditional family values by objecting to unmarrieds and gays adopting children. Yet much of the British press roundly condemned him for his politically incorrect views.

The Economist summed up the present and perhaps future plight of the Conservatives: "The real problem facing the Tory Party is not that it will lose its relevance—there remains in Britain a large centre-right constituency that cannot be redefined or represented by New Labour [presently in power], let alone by the Liberal Democrats.

Instead, the danger is that it will lose its talent and its will to live. The signs of that happening are already there" (ibid.).

The Royal House of Windsor

Most are well aware of the tragic troubles that have plagued the British royal family for the last 12 years. Many of these stubborn difficulties revolved around Diana, former princess of Wales (1961-1997). More than five years after her untimely death, her residual presence still haunts the House of Windsor. After a promising eight months marked by very successful jubilee celebrations, 2002 has proved to be yet another annus horribilis for the queen.

The Wall Street Journal Europe summed up the latest crisis to beset the British monarchy: "It is dizzying keeping track of all the axes grinding away both upstairs and downstairs, inside the royal palace and outside" (Nov. 13, 2002). Diana's former butler transported many of the princess's personal effects to his own home. When found out, a very expensive litigation soon followed. But the queen bailed the butler out in dramatic fashion, explaining that he had informed her of his intentions to preserve and protect Diana's mementos. The prosecution's case collapsed and the revelation halted the trial in its tracks.

The immediate spin-off has proved highly damaging to the royal image and media tabloids are having a field day. In addition to allegations of irregular handling of corporate gifts and other ethics violations, homosexuality entered the picture. A male rape among royal manservants was alleged, and although the accused said the incident was consensual, the presence of homosexuality in the royal palace seems undisputed.

Reacting to the current royal crisis, The Economist stated, "The feeling that the monarchy has degenerated into a loosely plotted soap-opera is growing. If the viewers get tired or irritated, they may switch off" (Nov. 9, 2002).

Three venerable British institutions

As well it might, The Economist observed, "There is an interesting but superficial comparison between Windsor's plight and that of other similarly venerable but mismanaged outfits—the Tory Party, Oxford University and the Church of England" (Nov. 16, 2002). In light of today's realities, the comparison is not so superficial. Some of the major institutions that helped build Britain find themselves in very serious straits, simultaneously.

To comprehend the significance of what is now happening to Britain and why, you need to understand the intriguing history of the grand old British race. The United Church of God publishes a free, full-color brochure that explains the interesting origins of Britain—why God uniquely blessed the nation with past glories and also why He is allowing deep troubles for the country now. After experiencing some troublous times, the nation will yet have a glorious future.

Please request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. WNP