Here is the Press Release from the Church Society concerning the imminent visit of the Pope to Great Britain:
"State Visit of Pope - a betrayal
In the United Kingdom, our Protestant Constitution has served us well and continues to do so. It acknowledges the authority and standards of the Bible as God's true and inspired Word for the good of our nation.
The Church of England, as our established, national church, is founded on what is taught in the Bible and as loyal members of the Church of England who rejoice in that teaching; we oppose the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI and the status being accorded to him.
We recognise that on various moral issues, the Pope has not capitulated to the pressures of humanism and secularism. However, the historic doctrinal and other conflicts between the Church of England and the Church of Rome have created divisions which remain as deep and as unbridgeable as ever.
For instance, the Pope claims complete authority over all churches and governments. There is no justification for such claims since they are contrary to the Bible. The Church of England long ago repudiated these claims in its Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, which, under English law, constitute its doctrinal basis. In particular, Article XXXVII states “the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England”. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the infallible head of the universal Christian church, not the Pope. All governments are ultimately accountable to Him alone, not to the Pope.
Our nation decisively rejected the Papacy's claims to authority in the Sixteenth Century and has resisted them ever since. It should not endorse those claims now by welcoming Pope Benedict XVI, either as a head of state asserting authority over all other states, or as supreme head of the universal church.
A further ongoing conflict between the Church of Rome and the Church of England relates to the nature of eternal salvation from sin. It is the established teaching of the Church of England, in accordance with the Bible, that all men and women are sinners in God's eyes and can only be reconciled to God by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. As a result, neither the Pope nor any other priest, can procure salvation or act as mediator between God and mankind. However, the Church of Rome continues to reject the Church of England's historic biblical position and since the Council of Trent, has declared anyone subscribing to it to be anathema. In its ongoing rejection of the biblical gospel of salvation, the Church of Rome wrongly continues to lead men and women into placing their trust in the works and sacraments of the church, or in their own works or merits. Salvation from sin is not to be found that way; rather, it is to be found when men and women place their trust in the finished saving work of Christ alone, who bore the punishment for sin in his death on the Cross, substituting Himself for sinners and securing the salvation of all who put their trust in Him.
Welcoming Pope Benedict XVI on a state visit is therefore a betrayal of our Protestant Constitution and of the true and good news of salvation in Christ alone, as revealed in the Bible. He, not the Pope, is Lord of lords, King of kings and the one true Saviour."
Now the good thing about this approach is that not only can we all live in the 16th century (again), we can find ourselves in perfect agreement with Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, who also oppose the visit:
"We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:
Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.
Promoting segregated education.
Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.
Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.
Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Susan Blackmore, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, Jonathan Meades, Sir Jonathan Miller, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O'Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson"
Here is a thought: evangelical Anglicans could welcome the Pope with appreciation for the ways in which Roman theological exploration has developed and matured through the centuries, acknowledging that explanations for Roman doctrinal understandings have moved on from the mediaeval underpinnings which sorely strained the Reformers, and giving a tactful reminder of the differences which nevertheless remain. Further, evangelical Anglicans could affirm all that binds Romans and Anglicans together as followers of Jesus Christ, in distinction from the atheist secularists who vigorously push for the marginalization of the church and of Christian influence on public thinking and the development of society. We could even thank Pope Benedict for his courage in articulating a Christian vision for the future of humanity at the price of considerable vitriol (while reserving judgement on whether his contribution to the long saga of dilatory responsiveness to priestly abuse of children has been at least just and at best erring on the side of mercy to children).
But in the meantime some of us are a bit confused about whether we will be in heaven with the Church Society and Benedict, or in hell with Benedict and Dawkins :)