Speaking on the day that the Archbishop of Canterbury met Benedict XVI in Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, said it was time for Anglicanism to “clarify its identity”.
He told the Catholic Herald: “Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong?
“Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox – or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions.”
It is a good question, but is it answerable? Back when the Anglican three branch theory was somewhat plausible and didn’t make you laugh out loud thinking about it this would have been a very good question. Nowadays the branch theory could be used to describe the multiple branches within Anglicanism itself. Whenever two or three Anglican/Episcopalians gather in his name they form another province.
There is no single hierarchy that can speak for Anglicanism and even in days of a more unified Anglican identity the Archbishop of Canterbury was still a figurehead since every national/regional church has its own autonomy. In Orthodoxy even with the different national Orthodox churches there are always possibilities of them coming back into full Communion with the Church as has happened in the past. Anglicanism like Protestantism in general I don’t see how this type of large movement can happen. The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue as certainly made some advancements as far as agreement on some areas of theology, but of course even this is accepted by only a segment of Lutheranism.
The whole structure of Protestantism leads to individualism and for the foreseeable future it is going to be individual converts who will decide to come in the Church or the occasional rare occurrence of an individual congregation coming into full Communion with the Church. This is not to say that ecumenism on a larger level is pointless since it can lead to clarity even in disagreements and when there is unity in agreements that is all the better. But even if the Archbishop of Canterbury started to move Anglicanism in a Catholic direction and eliminated the multiple barriers that currently exist, just how many would go along with him?
Recently I read that Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson who was the son the Archbishop of Canterbury and a convert to the Catholic Church referred to ecumenism as YouComeInism. Pretty triumphalistic, but also pretty funny.