Anglican and Catholic churches could merge
Published Monday, February 19, 2007 11:11PM EST
Two worldwide Christian churches are said to be considering a reunion of sorts as they both struggle with declining attendance and one tries to avoid a split over the questions of homosexual priests and marriage.
Reports from the Times of London newspaper say that the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches have studied the possibility of joining forces under the authority of the Pope.
A 42-page document called 'Growing Together in Unity and Mission' outlines how the two churches could re-unite, hundreds of years after the Church of England emerged from its Roman Catholic roots.
The document comes at a time when Anglican leaders are meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to avoid a full-scale fracture in their church over long-simmering debates on what the Bible says about salvation, truth and homosexual relationships.
The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which was established in 2000, penned the document. Jointly led by the Right Rev. David Beetge (an Anglican bishop from South Africa) and the Most Rev. John Bathersby, (Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia), the commission's recommendations are being considered by the Vatican and the meeting in Dar es Salaam.
If the recommendations are accepted, the world's approximately 1 billion Roman Catholics and 78 million Anglicans could find themselves as one big church.
Despite the high-level discussions, church unification is unlikely to happen according to University of Toronto religion professor Robert Campbell.
But Campbell understands why the two are talking, pointing to declining attendance at Sunday morning services for both churches.
"The church is just somewhere to go to get your God nudge on Sunday and that's not enough of a role to keep the churches full or to pay the rent," Campbell said Monday.
The unity statement has not been formally released by either church. But news reports say senior bishops on both sides are backing it.
With a report from CTV's Austin Delaney and files from The Associated Press