Bishops push for new start on unity
by Christopher Howse THE BISHOPS of England and Wales committed themselves last week to seeking a formal meeting with nonCatholic Church leaders in Britain in the hope of making a breakthrough towards unity.
The move, decided at the bishops' conference, derives particular importance from its connections with the setting up of a new version of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission and with the planned visit to Rome next April of a delegation from the British Council of Churches and the Catholic bishops' conference.
In a declaration on Christian unity the bishops said: "We are inviting the leaders of the other Christian Churches to consider meeting with us in formal conference so that we may face together, in a spirit of trust and confidence, the new situation which has arisen in the light of recent developments." Cardinal Hume, commenting on the declaration, suggested that two more important developments had been the meeting of Pope John Paul in Canterbury with representatives of the Anglican Church and the British Council of Churches, and the sorrow felt by Catholics at the failure of the unity covenant attempted between the Church of England, the Methodists and the Free Churches.
A formal meeting between Catholics and other Christian leaders had already been hinted at by Dr Philip Morgan, Secretary of the BCC. He was at the announcement of the Catholic bishops' resolution on Thursday last week and welcomed the declaration.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, also said that he would accept the invitation to join talks, though one day earlier, in the Church of England General Synod, he had regretted the reluctance of the Catholic Church in England to join the BCC.
The Catholic bishops' plan may well push the question of whether the Church should join the BCC into the background.
In their declaration, they say: "We shall be very ready to consider our present reservations about strengthening our association with the British Council of Churches." But the careful wording of the document reveals no admission that working in parallel with the BCC need entail an application for membership.
Cardinal Hume, speaking as Turn to page 8