Archbishops: Anglican, Catholic Re-Unification Exaggerated

A new statement put forward by the members of the Anglican Communion and Roman Catholic Church has been making headlines after some news agencies viewed it as a proposal to reunite the two global church bodies under the Pope.

The document, "Growing Together in Unity and Mission," has not yet been officially published, but even before Anglican and Catholic leaders went public with it, media reports were misrepresenting its intentions and sensationalizing its conclusions based on a leaked document, according to two chairmen of IARCCUM (the International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission).

The 42-page statement had been made available at the recent Anglican Primates meeting, where head archbishops convened in Tanzania divided over the issue of homosexuality and the apostasies of The Episcopal Church. The text along with another statement, “The Church of the Triune God,” was presented in the midst of the gathering as it addressed the theology of the Church.

"Given that the Anglican Primates are currently discussing the nature of the Church, it was felt that the dialogue documents had something to contribute to those discussions," said Archbishop John Bathersby, Catholic Co-chair, and Bishop David Beetge, Anglican Co-chair of the international commission, in a statement released earlier.

Among the contents of the statement are areas of agreement and disagreement between Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as it assesses the state of their relations today. The churches disagree on the ordination of homosexuals and women, according to Bathersby, the first of which is currently dividing the Anglican Communion. And the discussion on reuniting the churches under a universal primate, the Pope, has been ongoing for the past 35 years, the Bathersby noted.

"While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day-to-day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican Communion head, also felt reports have been exaggerating their relations with the Roman Catholic Church.

"I think what you hear is a really rather remarkably garbled version of a document, which has appeared recently, which simply states where we are practically in the limits of cooperation between ourselves and the Roman Catholic Church – a document agreed by Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops around the world and suggesting what can be done in pastoral practice.

"It amounts to no more than that," said Williams at the conclusion of the Primates meeting on Monday.

The statement has been put forward to "foster discussion and reflection," explained Bathersby. The statement is still incomplete and currently being prepared.