Dr. Jaakko Rusama

An ecumenical breakthrough is a reality

 

The Anglican-Lutheran process in Northern and Western Europe has made good progress during the last ten years. This was clearly manifested at the Porvoo Day in Porvoo, Finland, October 11-13, at the conference commemorating the 10th anniversay of the Porvoo Agreement. The theme for the event was "Common mission and service".

Participants

About 90 participants from almost ten countries attended the event. An historic record was also made in Finland on Friday, October 11, at the Cathedral of Porvoo when 16 bishops from Anglican and Lutheran churches took part in the Lutheran Eucharist. The preacher was the Bishop of Uppsala, Sweden, the Rt Revd Dr Ragnar Persenius and the celebrant the Bishop of Porvoo, the Rt Revd Dr Erik Vikström.

It was the Bishop of Porvoo who is also the Lutheran President of the Anglican-Lutheran Society who had invited the Porvoo Community churches to send their representatives to the event. He also led the participants to sing the forthcoming Porvoo Hymnal at Porvoo Day. Coming to Porvo meant singing, praying, worshipping, discussing and rejoicing together.

Anglican participants came from England, Scotland and Ireland. The Archbishop of Canterbury was represented by the Bishop of Portsmouth. The Lutheran churches within the Porvoo community were also well present, apart from Finland, also Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania. At the event there was also the head of the Lutheran Church in Russia, the Rt Revd Dr Georg Kretschmar, and a representative from the Ingrian Lutheran Church, also in Russia.

 The members of the Porvoo Contact Group which monitors and deals with the whole Porvoo process took also part in the Porvoo Day. Warm greetings were received from the Evangelical Lutheran Church which has not yet signed the Porvoo Agreement. The Danes' commitment to the ecumenical movement was appreciated and in response they were assured that other Porvoo region churches were happy to develop good relations with them.

The whole event was a joyful gathering of church people from the Porvoo region. Many positive experiences were shared and it was stated by a number of speakers that the Porvoo Common Statement was a major breakthrough in the world-wide ecumenical movement in the 20th century.

It was again noted that in the Porvoo Community there were a number of state or folk churches involved. Therefore, there were many similar challenges which these churches today face in their respective nations.

Porvoo as an instrument 

The role and nature of the Porvoo Agreement was closely analysed in relation to other Anglican-Lutheran contacts by the Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Dr John Arnold in his paper "From Meissen to Porvoo and beyond". He had himself been part of the Anglican-German Protestant talks which led to the Meissen Agreement in 1988. They did not deal only with Anglicans and Lutherans as there was also a Reformed element with the talks as the Evangelical Church in Germany includes churches from both traditions. But what was then unique, said John Arnold, was that the talks began as trilateral talks between the Church of England and the churches in West and East Germany but they led to a bilateral celebrations in 1991. The political scene had changed during the talks. The Meissen Agreement has also two authoritative texts, in English and in German. The Porvoo Agreement, which was finalised in 1992 has its authoritative form only in the English language. He reminded that the Porvoo Community included about 25 Million Lutherans in Europe and about 25 Million Anglicans in Europe. Dean Arnold felt that March 1988 (Meissen) and October 1992 (Porvoo) were in many respects turning points in the history of the ecumenical movement. Episcopal succession was no longer an obstacle between the Anglican and Lutheran traditions. A wider interpretation has been adopted to the succession of the apostolic tradition. Therefore, the Porvoo process has also helped other dialogues which the Church of England and other Anglican churches have been engaged in in other parts of the world. The Porvoo Agreement has been instrumental with the Church of England talks with the Moravians, the French Protestant and now once again with the British Methodists. Positive developments have also been noted in North America with their agreement and similar progress in Africa.

Dean Arnold felt that the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1997) went even further than the Porvoo Agreement and yet, the Anglicans would not have difficulties to accept the Justification document.

Common mission

The Finnish Lutheran Bishop of Tampere, the Rt Revd Dr Juha Pihkala spoke of "Our common commitment to mission and service". He emphasized that ecumenism is the child and fruit of mission. The whole context of the mission of the churches has, however, changed. The religious multiculturalism produced by global migration and the refugee problem are major challenges to the European churches. Problems of religious education are seen in towns and new residential areas. What is important that Christian mission is firm on the trinitarian confession. When we speak of God's mission, it is always the activity of the Triune God. In this respect ecumenical dialogues have been instrumental. Different Christian traditions have helped each other to reject the banners of false oversimplifications. The role of the Holy Spirit is seen wider than just engendering and maintaining saving faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit is also involved in creation. It is the question of holistic mission: word and deeds, evangelism and diaconal service must be intervowen everywhere that the Church fulfils its calling and mission.

The event ended by an Anglican Eucharist in Mikael Agricola Church, Helsinki, where the new Bishop in the Church of England Diocese in Europe, the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell preached.

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