Church leaders of the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Northern Europe met this weekend to deepen their fellowship in the Porvoo Communion. Coming from different backgrounds, and with a rich variety of experiences, they affirmed their commitment to address together some of the challenges facing people in Europe today. These challenges include the erosion of traditional values, often accompanied by an inarticulated search for spirituality. There was a strong conviction that the churches, as part of that society, can work in partnership, to meet some of the major issues people are facing. There was also a review of changing patterns of the relationships between Church and State in the countries concerned.
Fifty million Christians in Northern Europe were represented at this gathering of their church leaders at The Christian Institute, Turku, Finland from 12 – 17 March 1998. This was the first such meeting of Anglican and Lutheran church leaders from Britain and Ireland, and from the Nordic and Baltic countries following the signing in Autumn 1996 of the Porvoo Agreement.
In 1992, the Cathedral city of Porvoo, Finland gave its name to this declaration which would set up a new relationship of communion between the ten signatory churches. As a result, members of each church are now regarded as belonging to the others. The agreement is already making possible a new partnership of ideas, experience and resources to respond jointly to the challenges and opportunities in today’s Europe.
The participants from the churches – lay, clergy and bishops – were welcomed by the Archbishop of Turku and Finland, the Most Reverend John Vikström. Also present were ecumenical observers from other churches: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed.
A highlight which symbolised the growing together within this new family of churches was the celebration of the Eucharist with the people of the city of Turku in their Cathedral on Sunday 15th March.The preacher was the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend David Hope, and clergy from several countries administered the Holy Communion.
The Primates of the churches will meet next year. A theological consultation is planned for in two years time and a further Church Leaders’ Consultation will be in four years. In the mean time the work will be carried forward by a contact group. Its new co-chairmen are The Right Reverend Erik Vikström, Bishop of Porvoo, and the Right Reverend John Neill, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Ireland.