Church of England in Turmoil

 A report in The Advertiser on 12 February 1997 stated that “civil war between traditionalists and modernists has broken out in the Church of England, as it tries to grapple with a further big drop in worshippers”.

Apparently the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has encouraged services that attract youth and in doing so has incurred the displeasure of his predecessor, Lord Runcie, who has warned against what has been styled as “dangerous rave-in-the-nave services”.

The Advertiser’s report went on to say that one “infamous Nine O’clock Service in the Yorkshire steel city of Sheffield” involved “rock groups, strobe lights, and gyrating bodies”, and said that it “was closed after the priest behind it was accused of exploiting young women”.

And yet, the paper reports that only hours after Lord Runcie’s attack was published, a lead singer of a Manchester Christian rock group “opened worship at St Mary’s, Cheadle, with ‘How ya doin’ out there; put your hands in the air… clap your hands, stamp your feet’”. “I know if I put a sign outside church saying ‘Youth Service Tonight’, we’d probably get no new kids coming”, the singer Andy Hawthorne told The Guardian newspaper. “But if we put video screens in and dancers and flashing lights and very loud music, we get 1000. It’s just a platform to do the same thing the church is always meant to do; teach the Bible and motivate people to follow Christ.”

It is no wonder that the apostle Paul warned of the terrible decline in godliness that would be a sad feature of the last days: “… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”; (2 Tim 3:4, 5) and again: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3, 4).

Even in our own country the Primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Keith Rayner, has attracted attention because of his reported views on homosexuals. According to The Advertiser on 13 February 1997 Dr Rayner stated that “The monogamous couple whether heterosexual or homosexual being together in the community is closer to the ideal lifestyle than being a promiscuous single”. The archbishop said that “the marriage between a man and a woman (is) the ideal form of a living relationship”, and that “the next ideal state was a monogamous gay couple”.

Our Lord warned that society in the last days would be “as it was in the days of Lot”, and apparently even the church is now adapting their views to those of society. The recent Sydney “Mardi Gras” is a glaring example of the way in which a lifestyle so abhorrent to God is being accepted as the norm in our society.

But God is not mocked, and the near return of our Lord will bring about the moral cleansing that our world so desperately needs.

UK Government Now in the Minority

 With the loss of an important by-election in late February, the governing Conservative Party in the UK is now in the minority in the House of Commons where they have 322 seats to 323 seats for all the other parties. However, Prime Minister John Major will probably be able to maintain government until the general election in May after the Ulster Unionist leader indicated his 9 members would probably support the government until then.

The stage is now set for surely what must be one of the most significant elections in Great Britain to be held this century. As The Australian of 1 March 1997 put it: “The issue is national destiny— whether Britain’s future lies within Europe or whether Britain will remain metaphorically, as well as geographically, an island off Europe, trying to be master of its own fate.”

The article goes on to say: “The immediate flashpoint is the Euro, the single currency, to replace those symbols of national power—the mark, the franc and the pound—in a decisive step towards a European Union, a union now the subject of deepening alarm across the entire continent.”

As Bible Students, we know that Britain is not the master of its own fate—God rules in the kingdoms of men and long ago “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

Our understanding of the Old Testament prophecies is that at the time of the end Britain will not be part of the European Community that sides with Russia in their Middle East invasion. Britain, as one of the merchants of Tarshish, will be amongst those who oppose the invasion (Ezek 38:10–13). It is fascinating to observe the jostling for power amongst the Conservative and Labour forces in the UK. From a human standpoint all the indications point to a massive Conservative defeat in the coming election. Interestingly, Labour was also tipped to win the last general election but was “pipped at the post” by the Conservatives.

But even if Tony Blair’s Labour Party is successful, this does not necessarily mean that there will be a rush from the new government to throw in its lot with Europe. Mr Blair is fully aware of the deep-seated feeling amongst many Euro-sceptics in his country, and he may wish to take things very cautiously at first. Perhaps at the end of the day even Mr Blair may find that to take Britain fully into Europe is a price too high to pay.

Whilst the outcome of any election is beyond our power to predict, we can take comfort from the fact that nothing happens other than according to God’s will, and in the end all will transpire exactly as portrayed in the Scriptures. We are living so close to our Lord’s return that perhaps we may be taken to judgment before the final relationship between Britain and Europe is resolved.

May it be our pleasure in God’s grace to share in the Master’s work in subduing all nations to the will of Yahweh in Heaven.

Jerusalem – A Burdensome Stone

 Once again Jerusalem is in the spotlight of world attention. On 26 February Israel’s right wing Likud government approved Har Homa, a controversial 6500 Jewish housing project at the edge of East Jerusalem. Midway between Bethlehem and South- East Jerusalem, the new settlement will sever one of the last land corridors connecting East Jerusalem with the West Bank.

There has been widespread condemnation of the decision, not only from the Palestinians but from around the world. The Arabs fear that the move by the Israelis will mean that East Jerusalem will be excluded in any agreement under the “final status” negotiations for Jerusalem laid down in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. The Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of an independent State but they see the Israeli moves as an attempt to cement Israel’s hold over the entire city, both West and East.

On the other hand Israel and in particular Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu have made their position perfectly clear to the whole world. When Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 war they subsequently annexed this part of the city and declared it part of their eternal and indivisible capital. Mr Netanyahu has on more than one occasion loudly proclaimed that Israel will never go back on that decision.

Pressure from the International community against Israel has intensified. The PLO leader Yasser Arafat visited the USA in March and met UNO officials and President Clinton to lobby for the Arab position over the city. The UN Security Council subsequently drew up a European sponsored resolution criticising Israel’s plans to build housing in East Jerusalem, calling the Israeli decision illegal. Fourteen of the fifteen council members, including Great Britain, voted in favour of the text, and it was only the lone veto vote by USA which blocked the resolution from passing. But even though the USA exercised the right of veto she is far from happy about Israel’s stance. Besides, the USA veto has put her at odds with some of her closest allies.

Sympathy for the Arab cause from around the world is increasing daily and Israel is becoming more and more isolated even by her “friends”. It is no secret that European Union countries, particularly France, are becoming increasingly frustrated by what they see as Israel’s hard-line position. The rift between Israel and the European Union is also widening. What will be the outcome of this latest dispute over the City of Peace, which still remains a burdensome stone for all people? (Zech 12:3). Do not the descendants of Abraham have a divine right to the city of their forefathers, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of God which is soon to be restored? Of course they do! But the world has no interest in the promises made to King David so long ago (2 Sam 7).

It seems clear that the continuing wrangle over the status of Jerusalem will be one of the issues that will draw all nations against Jerusalem to battle (Zech 14:2). Israel will be greatly humbled in that day but even more so will the aggressors. Only when all nations recognise that Yahweh is King over all the earth (v9), will Jerusalem truly be a City of Peace—a place of worship for all peoples.

NATO Looks East

 In July this year NATO leaders are to hold a Summit in Madrid. One of the items on the agenda will be the acceptance of three newcomers to the Alliance—almost certainly to be Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

The acceptance of these three ex-Communist Warsaw Pact countries illustrates how much Europe has changed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But on the other hand the move by NATO has not pleased Russia. Russia is vehemently opposed to NATO’s expansion, saying that it threatens her security by bringing NATO forces virtually to her back door,

Mr Yeltsin has warned of new divisions in Europe if NATO expansion proceeds, claiming the move will isolate Russia on the continent. In response, NATO has put forward a proposal to reduce conventional arms totals on the continent, hoping to calm Moscow’s fears that NATO could pile up weapons on Russia’s borders.

On the other hand some commentators have presented the view that the timing of the expansion by NATO could have the effect they least want, namely strengthening the position of Russia’s nationalist hard-liners at a time when the Kremlin lacks strong leadership. An article in The Australian Financial Review of 30 January 1997 is quite illuminating.

With Boris Yeltsin’s presidency under threat because of his health problems, any Russian antagonism to NATO expansion will only play into the hands of the rowdy crew lining up to take his place. NATO could find itself the symbol of Russia’s many frustrations in any new presidential election.

Make no mistake, the issue cuts to the quick of a confused Russia searching for a new identity after more than seven decades of communism. Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who brought the curtain down on the Soviet empire, penned a telling warning in a recent article for The New York Times:

“Many here believe that Russia, thanks to efforts of the West, is already being deindustrialised, demilitarised and deprived of defensible borders, and that, all along, the West has had grand designs to obliterate Russia forever as a major European power,” he said. “Does the West grasp that its actions can compromise the future of democracy in Russia? And that a country so humiliated and thrown on the defensive could find itself driven to counter-measures that could reverse the cause of European detente?”

Despite such warnings, the West presses on, like the Bourbons, having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Yeltsin’s health suggests that the window to establish democracy in Russia might be very small, with the country already in a leadership transition stage.

In his acclaimed new book Europe, A History, Professor Norman Davies says that if democratic Russia does not prosper, it will start to fragment still further. “In that case, autocratic Russia will try to reassert itself with a vengeance”, he says.

Brother Thomas, basing his comments on the prophecies of Daniel, also had something to say about the Russian autocrat.

“From these premises, then, I think, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Autocrat of Russia, when he shall have attained to the plenitude of his power and dominion, is the subject of the prophecy contained in the thirty-eighth and thirtyninth of Ezekiel. This personage at present is only ‘Autocrat of All the Russias’, that is, of Ros, Mosc, and Tobl; while the Emperor of Austria holds the position of Gogue and Magogue. But, as we have seen elsewhere, the Austrian and German empire is doomed to extinction by fire and sword; so that when this is broken up the Gogueship will be assumed by the Autocrat, or ‘prince of Ros, Mosc, and Tobl.’”

As Christadelphians we have always believed from Bible prophecy that the Russian bear is yet to rise again on the world’s stage. Only Christ will stop the Autocrat of all the Russias.