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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Nero is back in business—and coming soon to a neighbourhood near you

In the 68th year of her reign, my most gracious sovereign lady Elizabeth II, whose loyal subject I am twice over, first by birth and then by swearing allegiance to her as Queen of Canada, has all of a sudden suffered the fate of her predecessor, Charles I. Not that she has yet faced the axe, but the decision of the new-fangled British “Supreme Court” has most certainly cast Her Majesty down from her throne. The bottom line of the Brexit debate, ostensibly settled by the people when the Leave side won a handy majority in the referendum of 2016 but resisted to this point by the Remain majority in the House of Commons, concerns the identity of the chief earthly authority in the United Kingdom. Since Henry VIII enacted his famous ecclesiastical Brexit for non-theological reasons back in the 1530s, generations of English and British folk imbibed with their mother’s milk the constitutional doctrine that the highest authority in the State, under God, is the Crown in Parliament.

Instituted in 2005 under the premiership of Tony Blair, the oxymoron labelled the “Supreme Court” recently ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted illegally when a few weeks ago he advised the Queen to prorogue Parliament for a short period while he and his advisers prepared a new programme to be announced in the speech from the throne which will begin the next session of Parliament. With their judgement against the Prime Minister, the judges involved by simple fiat abolished the age-old prerogatives of the Crown, which are still exercised in the northern portion of this continent by the Governor General! Appealing as they rendered their judgement even to the laws of the European Union (!), the soi-disant “Supreme Court” turned the UK into a republic to be subjected forevermore to the overarching authority of the unelected bureaucracy, actually vile tyranny, headquartered in Brussels.

A step further backwards in British history might be taken to explain the infamous decision by a lower court, known as an Employment Tribunal, which, since it does not operate through a jury composed of the defendant’s peers, is actually a kangaroo court in the succession of the early Stuart Star Chamber, to outlaw confession of Gen 1:27. Persistent recitation of “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth” may and sometimes will henceforth result in fines and imprisonment and, who knows, before long in the infliction of involuntary euthanasia.

Before the emergence of the Oxford Movement in the wake of John Keble’s celebrated Assize Sermon of July 1833, the Church of England presented the visage of a Reformed church governed by an episcopate and marked by a minimum amount of dignified ceremony; much that we now automatically associate with Anglicanism was only reintroduced, mainly at a snail’s pace, in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.

So when that virtuous man George III worshiped regularly in Windsor chapel, no one would have thought of bowing to the altar, which was then an unadorned communion table. But one of his biographers records how, after collecting the offering and as he took it to the officiant, George would make three profound bows as he moved in the direction of the altar/table. His doing so must have been an impressive sight, since the British sovereign bows to none; but good King George, as he is remembered in this dominion of Canada, thereby signaled his glad self-subordination under the final authority of God. The crass totalitarians of the 20th century and the velvet-gloved totalitarians of our own time significantly decline to join his late majesty in rendering this hugely significant gesture.

Should it remain standing upon appeal, the decision by a lower court established to enforce political correctness to outlaw professed belief that “God made man in His own image; male and female made He them” will correspond to Emperor Trajan’s ruling, in his correspondence with Pliny the Younger, that obstinate profession of Christianity was in principle a capital offence. Non licet esse vos—you have no right to exist!

Curiously the UK (as Speaker Bercow’s de facto republic is still called) still features established national churches north and south of the border. Actually, the Church of England receives not a penny from the State for the upkeep of its architecturally gorgeous cathedrals, churches, and bishops’ palaces. But the Queen, titled Defender of the Faith, is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, whose senior clergy have a built-in role in the functioning of the State. The archbishop of Canterbury is the first subject of the realm, ranking immediately after princes and princesses of the blood royal, and he and twenty-five other bishops sit in the House of Lords. The Queen’s older subjects remember her reigning over officially Christian societies basking in the afterglow of Christendom.

Alas, the bishops in their gold copes and gold and silver pectoral crosses are nothing more than tinsel sprinkled over a cruel facade: Welby and his confreres (and these days sister bishops also) follow Thomas Cranmer in taking their orders not from Christ and His word in the communion of the historic Church, but from the Caesar of the day. As we cannot expect the higher clergy of the Church of England to denounce the decision of the Employment Tribunal, we understand all the more clearly the decision of a steady trickle of believing clergymen to resign their orders in the Church of England in order to minister, as Anglicans mainly of the GAFCON/ACNA stripe, outside the structures of the Establishment. I salute the courage of these men and pray God’s blessing on their labours.

For a generation I have telling my students that the days of the Apostolic Fathers are back with us, and I gather that Fort Wayne’s Dr Weinrich has been making this point for a longer time and with greater scholarship and eloquence than I possess. All of North America and Western Europe are now in the same boat, with only minor constitutional differences and regional variations here and there. But the average churchgoer in the Western world remains blithely unconscious of the apocalyptic hour whose chimes now strike: whenever and wherever Caesar sees fit, the followers of Christ Jesus are henceforth roadkill for the powers that be.

As we ponder the implications of startling developments long in the making, we do so in the octave of the holy angels. May Christ supply His people with the protection of His heavenly hosts.