Theologically Anglicans and Roman Catholics are as different as chalk and cheese. So it was very surprising when Pope Benedict XVI recently offered an option to Anglicans worldwide to flock to Roman Catholicism while still maintaining part of their spiritual heritage. This offer is open to both clergy and the laity. Some people describe this as the most significant event in Christendom from the days of the Reformation.
This religious putsch is as sensational as any business takeover. But this is not revolutionary because even earlier many Anglicans, individually of course, have been allowed to convert to Catholicism. (There was one stray case of an Anglican diocese collectively converting to Catholicism, namely the Amritsar diocese in the year 1975.) The Pope who was a professor in a German University earlier is executing a nuanced merger of sorts with considerable elan and elegance. Many puritanical Anglicans have been cheesed off in the recent past by the growing number of female priests and openly-gay clergy. The Vatican is taking advantage of this growing discontent in the 'opposite camp' and making an open offer with carrots. The Church of England which governs the Anglicans permits married persons to become priests and bishops. Though the Vatican is not in favour of married clergy, as a special case it is permitting the married Anglican priests to convert and continue as priests after re-ordainment. This offer is extended to vicars and not to bishops.
Many business mergers fail due to cultural incompatibility between the merging parties. Management of heterogenous cultures within the same business unit is a challenge that has overthrown many otherwise capable leaders. Presence of married priests in an organisation that values celibacy as a prerequisite for its clergy is bound to create disaffection and discord. Theological differences between Roman Catholics and followers of Reformation cannot be easily papered over. Irrespective of whether this bold initiative of the Pope succeeds or fails, it will have lasting lessons for management experts who are for ever puzzled by their own inability to arrive at a set of dos and don'ts to facilitate a smooth merger.