October ~ 2003 ~ Anglican-Roman Catholic news & opinion
When Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher returned from his historic visit to Pope John XXIII in 1960 he reported that the Holy Father asked him when the Anglicans would come back to the Catholic Church. Fisher replied: ‘We cannot come back but we can go forward together.’ At the time this revelation stunned and excited both Anglicans and Catholics. It appeared to mark one the most hopeful moments in the 424 bitter years since Henry VIII broke with Rome and changed the ‘Church in England’ into ‘the Church of England’
On reflection the comment raises more questions than it answers about the one Church that existed before the schism, and about the Churches that might be going ‘forward together’. If there is no going back to the oneness of the Church before 1534, in what sense will the Churches be one in the new togetherness?
A glance at the early Church in Britain, and a more detailed look at some of the various manoeuvrings toward going ‘forward together’ can give us a somewhat better understanding of the difficulties involved.