The Daily Telegraph (October 5, 2016) reported that at a service to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s visit to Pope Paul IV, ‘Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury have publicly pledged to press on towards the full reunification of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches’.
Only a couple of obstacles remain. Once overcome, the way would be open for the Church of England to come back under the Pope’s authority.
What are those obstacles? Rome’s denial of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone? Rome’s attitude towards the Word of God, that it is but one part of the repository of truth, along with tradition and the Church’s magisterium? The vaunted claim of the Bishop of Rome to be Christ’s Vicar on earth? The doctrine that the Pope, speaking ex cathedra, is infallible? The assertion that there is no salvation outside of the Roman church? The blasphemous worship of our Lord’s mother? The pagan veneration and intercession of the saints? The lying ‘miracle’ of transubstantiation? The placing of intermediaries, in the form of priests, between God and man?
No. The only obstacles are the introduction of female ordination in the Church of England, and the present attitude towards same-sex relationships—an attitude which has yet to be formalized, as the parties concerned within the C of E are far from a consensus on the matter. The implication is that once a way forward has been established, no further obstacles to reunion remain.
Bishop Joseph Hall (1575–1656) wrote a treatise entitled ‘No peace with Rome’ in which he set out the fundamental differences between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. He concluded that it is not possible to have peace with Rome. Unless Rome were to change fundamentally, there could be no agreement between the reformed and the unreformed. Were Rome to change in the required matters, she would cease to be Rome.
It is perfectly obvious to all observers that Rome has not changed. Yes, she has learned to speak in a way that appears to embrace other interpretations, and she has ceased to be openly hostile to ‘different traditions’. Yes, liberal theology has worked its harm in Rome’s system as much as it has in Protestantism. Yes, there are calls from some within Roman Catholicism to introduce female ordination. Rome is not the monolith she would have us believe. But neither is she a trustworthy guide in spiritual matters. If the Church of England reunifies with Rome, Protestants of other denominations beware; all will suffer as a consequence. Let us pray against this deserved judgment of God upon us.