A meeting of Anglican leaders in Der es Salaam, Tanzania, which sought to find common ground over the increasingly divisive issue of homosexuality, was overshadowed by a report in the London Times that some within the Anglican communion will unite with the Catholic church.
In recent years, there has been a rift between orthodox Anglicans faithful to Scripture, mostly in the developing world, and more liberal Anglicans in the West, over the issue of ordinating homosexuals and women to the priesthood, as well as the blessing of same-sex relationships. In 2004, Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was named a bishop in the American branch of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopalian church. That set shockwaves throughout the Anglican church, which has been trying to reconcile the irreconcilable opposites.
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has warned of a forthcoming schism if the Western church does not return to the historical teachings of Christianity.
The division has given greater urgency to some orthodox elements within the Anglican Communion to seek closer ties to the Roman Catholic church. While initial media coverage of the Times report of Growing Together in Unity and Mission, a 42-page draft statement by the International Anglicans-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, depicted it as an imminent unification, the report explicitly stated that is not the immediate goal. The statement said the goal of the commission was to seek ways to move forward towards unity between the churches, through “common life and mission.”
But some observers recognize the acceptance of modern liberalism within the Western Anglican church cannot be reconciled with religious orthodoxy and even if those that remain faithful to the traditional Christian teaching do not unite with Rome, it is unlikely they are to remain under the Anglican umbrella, either. During church services in Der es Salaam, seven conservative bishops refused to take Communion with bishops from the West.