From the time of England’s break from Rome in the 16th century, the British Monarch has been the titular head of the church, heading an ecclesiastical structure entirely separate from the pope-centered Roman Catholicism that has dominated continental history. The Act of Settlement, passed in 1701 and still in effect, preserves this independence by requiring that the person assuming the throne be Anglican and specifically excluding a Catholic or anyone who has married a Catholic. The present queen, when she was crowned in 1953, swore an oath “to maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed religion established by law.”
Upholding this oath factors heavily in Britain’s independence from Europe because, since the pope claims authority over all Roman Catholics, a Catholic British monarch would owe primary allegiance to Rome over and above that owed the British crown.
The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC):
From its beginning, the tac has had a spiritual affinity with Roman Catholics. Shortly after it formed, it began informal consultations with the Vatican on how to gain formal recognition as part of the Catholic Church. The primate of the group, Archbishop John Hepworth, has said, “We have no doctrinal difference with Rome.”
This is quite a stunning statement coming from an Anglican archbishop. Set aside the many smaller differences the Protestant Reformed religion traditionally has with Roman Catholicism, and still there remains a very large elephant in the middle of the room: government.
Authority within the Roman Catholic Church, by stark contrast, emanates from one man, traditionally called “the Vicar of Christ,” the one and only “Successor of the Prince of the Apostles”—the pope.
The tac is willing to swallow that pill. Archbishop Hepworth says, “Unity with Peter is a biblical imperative,” referring to the pope’s claim to be the rightful successor to the Apostle Peter. “What is important, and we are having to learn as a community,” he says, “is to ask not what we think, but what the church says, and five centuries of bad habits are going to die hard.”
For half a century, Herbert W. Armstrong served as editor in chief of what was, during its apex in the 1980s, the world’s most popular newsmagazine, the Plain Truth. Its pages often prophesied of an event that for decades many considered an impossibility—the unification of Protestants with their Roman Catholic mother church. Mr. Armstrong foretold the event as far back as 1934, the year the magazine began.
A sample, from the October 1961 Plain Truth edition: “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.”
It is because of statements such as these that the Trumpet, which follows the Plain Truth’s pattern of Bible-based news analysis, has closely watched efforts by religious leaders to bring Protestant churches back into communion with the Vatican. These latest moves among Anglicans fit the mold in an astonishing way.