VATICAN CITY - As the Anglican Communion threatens to break up, one large group of Anglicans is blazing a trail to Rome, and another could follow suit.
The Traditional Anglican Communion, an autonomous group of 400,000 clergy and laity separate from the Anglican Communion, has drawn up detailed plans on how to come into full communion with the Holy See.
After 12 years of consultations, both internally and informally with the Vatican, the group - with the help of a Catholic layman - is preparing a “Pastoral Plan” asking the Vatican for an “Anglican Rite Church” that would preserve their Anglican heritage while allowing them to be “visibly united” with Rome.
The Traditional Anglican Communion’s worldwide primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, hopes the group’s College of Bishops will approve the plan at a possible Rome Synod in February 2006.
The church’s members are so far reported to be unanimous in their desire for full communion. If formally agreed, the proposal would then be presented to Vatican officials.
If Rome approves, the Traditional Anglican Communion, a worldwide ecclesial body based in Australia, could become the largest Anglican assembly to return to the Church since the Reformation.
In a statement released earlier this year, Archbishop Hepworth, a former Catholic priest, said the denomination had “no doctrinal differences with Rome” that impeded full communion. “My broad vision is to see the end of the Reformation of the 16th century,” he said.
The denominations has pursued unity with Rome since the Anglican started ordaining women as priests, a move that, Archbishop Hepworth says, was the “ultimate of schismatic acts” and irrevocably “fractured” the 1966 Common Declaration between Rome and Canterbury.
The historic agreement made between Pope VI and then-Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, obliged both communions to work towards unity through serious dialogue.