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DavidV

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A rarity for me is the decision to delve into a somewhat more esoteric subject, however keeping entirely within the context of the British monarchy. That being the relationship of the doctrines of British Israelism and Armstrongism to the British monarchy and to monarchism.

British Israelism is a doctrine and movement that developed in the 19th Century arguing that the English-speaking nations were somehow descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and that the Royal Family is of Davidic descent. It gained some currency during the height of Britain's imperial power, and even the support of some of our elites, although it remained a minority current. Still, organisations like the British Israel World Federation (BIWF) and Brit Am, as well as a number of small churches, espouse the doctrine to this day.

Perhaps the controversy around British Israelism revolves around the alleged racial connotations of the doctrine, and also its complex and uncertain relationship to Zionism, although many British Israel advocates are quite supportive of Israel today. An ideologically similar movement developed in the US known as the Black Hebrew Israelites espouse similar theories about the origin of Africans, though they remain apart from both mainstream black religion and from actually racialist religious movements (such as the Nation of Islam and the Nuwaubians).

Likewise, British Israelism is sometimes confused with more explicitly racialist forms of Christianity like Christian Identity (most notably espoused by the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations) and Kinism, while other white nationalist movements have lately tried to adopt the cloak of "traditional" Christianity (mainly Catholic, Orthodox or Calvinist). However, British Israel groups consciously distance themselves from this.

However, one of the most prominent exponents of a British Israel doctrine was the pioneering radio evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) of the Worldwide Church of God.

The Worldwide Church of God became famous for its practices like Sabbath and belief in British Israelism (including the Davidic descent of the Royal Family), and other beliefs that put it outside the mainstream of Christianity. The WCG reached its peak during the 60s and 70s until Armstrong's death in 1986, in common with the fad for embracing New Religious Movements.

Like some other movements, such as the Unification Church (aka Moonies), its heterodox beliefs did not preclude it from seeking mainstream reach and respectability. Armstrong himself met many world leaders including royalty. The WCG became known for its extensive media operations - The World Tomorrow on radio and TV, The Plain Truth magazine - and also educational institutions. This brought it considerable income and property and a global reach. Although in common with other NRMs there was no lack of controversy and scandal, they seemed/seem less objectionable than many NRMs are, and that includes some larger and more famous ones.

When Armstrong died in 1986, his successor Joseph W. Tkach transformed the church into a mainstream evangelical Protestant denomination. A transformation even more radical than Vatican II, and essentially embracing a new religion. Unsurprisingly, this did not sit well with traditionalists who adhered to Armstrong teachings. Already, Armstrong's son Garner Ted Armstrong split for the church for other reasons in the 70s to form his own church which continues today. But the result of the WCG's transformation was to repudiate all its traditional beliefs and legacy of its founder, and thus changing its name to Grace Communion International in 2009.

We have seen the result of what happens when you do that. The WCG/GCI no longer has the media presence it once had, and no longer has the property, media and educational enterprises it had under Armstrong, and lost a great deal of its membership as a result.

Thus, a host of Armstrongist churches emerged as a result of schisms from the WCG. One of the first post-1986 schisms is the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG) led by Gerald Flurry and his son Stephen. Based in Edmond, Oklahoma, the Philadelphia Church of God is known for its media operations with the website The Trumpet, with the Philadelphia Trumpet magazine, Key of David TV show and Trumpet radio shows.

The PCG as a traditionalist schism adheres to Armstrongist and British Israel beliefs, and supports the British monarchy. Numerous articles on its website and broadcasting bear witness to this. As the church is viewed (or views itself) as the legitimate heir to Armstrong and his teachings, they have also emulated the educational and cultural institutions established by the WCG, with a school, college and auditorium.

Other WCG schisms include the United Church of God (UCG), Global Church of God (GCG), Living Church of God (LCG) and Restored Church of God (RCG), all of whom adhere to traditional Armstrongist beliefs including British Israel. Many of these sects also run their own media and educational operations. It is worth noting that a certain reverence for the British monarchy exists among many of these sects and is evident in their numerous publications. Through these, the splinter churches seemingly dwarf the parent WCG/GCI in profile even if they do not match WCG at its peak. A lesson to be learned there.

So what do we make of British Isralism and Armstrongism in relation to the monarchy and monarchism? Most of us adhere to a traditional, orthodox form of Christianity and thus will have no time whatsoever for religious sects which are heterodox and have modern origins. Yet at the same time we cannot ignore their support for the British monarchy and belief in Britain and its place in the world.
Ponocrates

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Reply with quote  #2 
No offense, but this sounds like a bunch of rubbish.  Why not connect the lineal descent of British monarchs to the people who once ruled Atlantis?
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DavidV

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Reply with quote  #3 
LOL. The point is that I am not making an endorsement of these beliefs but rather pointing out that they were once not unpopular in some circles and that organisations espousing these beliefs are still in existence today.

I noted the support for the British monarchy among the various churches espousing these and related doctrines, and the generally positive view of Britain and the monarchy in their publications. Even if we do not buy into their beliefs, I thought it was interesting to mention this.
royalcello

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Reply with quote  #4 
My Canadian great-great-aunt Violetta Samells (1890-1982) was a British Israelite. I met her at her 90th birthday party in 1980 when I was two. She lived all her life in Oshawa, Ontario. She is the only other member of my family known to have been a royalist. She had a large collection of magazines and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Royal Family. Unfortunately, after she died, my grandmother (her niece, also born in Canada, but moved to the US as a child) threw most of that stuff away, figuring no one would be interested in it. As I was only four, I was not in much of a position to object and claim it. I wish my grandmother (now also deceased) hadn't done that.
DavidV

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Social Credit Premier of Alberta William Aberhart was a believer in the doctrine, and a number of relatively small Pentecostal and other churches espouse it, so it was certainly a current found in conventional Trinitarian Christianity.

It was after World War II that Herbert W. Armstrong became its leading advocate, incorporating it into the doctrine of his new church. If you read old issues if the Plain Truth online on hwalibrary.com, you'll find articles on the British monarchy and others as well. Armstrong met with the Prince of Wales, King Hussein in Jordan and apparently even Saudi royals as well. Most of the splinter sects that maintain Armstrongism have glossy magazines, news sites and social media sites which continue that tradition.

So fancy that, a religious movement (WCG) with considerable assets and profile decides to go on a revolutionary change of its teachings quite unprecedented in history, and the result is the loss of its income, assets and followers.
Ponocrates

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Reply with quote  #6 
I'll let you be the authorities on this.   :-)   Strange notions.
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"For every monarchy overthrown the sky becomes less brilliant, because it loses a star. A republic is ugliness set free." - Anatole France

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DutchMonarchist

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Reply with quote  #7 
Support for monarchy is already so limited sometimes, I guess you can't be too picky. As long as you don't start to believe these ideas yourself...
DavidV

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Reply with quote  #8 
I guess what was worth noting here is that we are talking a somewhat heterodox religious movement - a particularly if not peculiarly American phenomenon of the 19th and 20th Centuries, and the general growth of "alternative" faiths (regrettable from a traditionalist point of view) in the 60s, 70s and 80s - that was able to synthesise and develop a theology that can support the British monarchy or certainly enshrine a certain mystique around the institution.

The 19th Century saw British Israelism, Restorationism, Adventism and other currents develop, with Christian and pseudo- or non-Christian religious movements emerging from those.
Ethiomonarchist

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Reply with quote  #9 
It's almost, but not quite, an Anglo-Saxon version of Rastafarianism...
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DavidV

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Reply with quote  #10 
Somewhat, but the Black Hebrew movement is a more accurate analogue in terms of theology and worldview. Armstrong was certainly quite successful and prominent in his day through his broadcasting efforts, magazines (circulation of the Plain Truth peaked at 8 million copies) and meetings with world leaders including royalty:


In this you might say he was more comparable to Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, or the Transcendental Meditation movement, both of which used their considerable resources and activism to buy credibility. I have mentioned this once before. While Armstrong and the WCG didn't reach the raw numbers of Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or the Moonies,

Armstrong himself was a member of the Seventh-Day Church of God, which was one of several splinters of the Millerite or Adventist movement. Undoubtedly many of the beliefs of WCG and its successors were influenced by them, but Armstrong added British Israelism (the United States and Britain in Prophecy was one of his signature books) and various heterodox teachings.

Gerald Flurry and his son Stephen on the 2011 Royal Wedding:
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