What is the Porvoo Communion?

The Porvoo Communion is a Communion of churches, mostly in Northern and Western Europe, that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”. The churches that originally signed the agreement are The Evangelical-Lutheran Churches of Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland, and the Anglican churches: Church of England and of Ireland, Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Two Anglican churches from South Europe also belong to the Porvoo Communion. They are the Lusitanian Church in Portugal and the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia has not signed the Common Statement, although it participated in the talks leading to the Porvoo Common Statement and has observer status in Porvoo meetings. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark was an observer until 2010, and signed the Porvoo Declaration in October of that year. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain became observers in October 2010.
The name Porvoo comes  from Porvoo Cathedral in Finland where the Eucharist was celebrated on the final Sunday of the conversations leading to the Common Statement and thus finally to the Porvoo Communion.

Why these churches?

The  National churches in Northern Europe, which participated in the first steps towards the Porvoo communion, have a great deal in common: their history, liturgy, identity and their understanding of the Church’s mission today bear great resemblances and they are all episcopal churches, that is churches where the office of oversight, episkope, has been constant from the time of the Reformation. Other churches which have joined at different steps shared most of these elements and have greatly enriched the Porvoo Communion.

 What are the key factors in the Porvoo Common statement?

In the Common Statement the Porvoo churches reached an agreement on the nature and purpose of the church, on its faith and doctrine, specifically on the apostolicity of the whole Church, on the apostolic ministry within it, and on the episcopal office in the service of the Church.

The Eucharistic Service

It is fitting that the Porvoo Communion should take name after the Porvoo Cathedral in Finland where eucharist was celebrated on the final Sunday of the conversations. Eucharistic hospitality is an important factor in the Porvoo communion and, to quote the statement, the churches acknowledge:

–  that in all our churches the Word of God is authentically preached, and the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist are duly administered;

and commit themselves:

– to welcome one another’s members to receive sacramental and other pastoral ministrations;
– to regard baptized members of all our churches as members of our own;

The Episcopate

The acknowledgement of oversight or episkope is also a uniting factor in Porvoo. All the Porvoo churches had maintained the tradition of episcopal oversight from the time of the Reformation, but not all maintained an unbroken apostolic succession.  The Porvoo Common Statements deals with this in chapter IV.

The conclusion is that the churches acknowledge that each church has maintained an orderly succession of episcopal ministry within the continuity of its pastoral life, focused in the consecrations of bishops and in the experience and witness of the historic sees.

The Porvoo declaration states:

“we acknowledge that the episcopal office is valued and maintained in all our churches as a visible sign expressing and serving the Church’s unity and continuity in apostolic life, mission and ministry.

And the churches commit themselves to welcome persons episcopally ordained in any of our churches to the office of bishop, priest or deacon to serve,[..] in that ministry in the receiving church without re-ordination; – by invitation and in accordance with any regulations which may from time to time be in force.”

This last sentence is important, for even if the churches made significant progress regarding a common understanding of the episcopate there remains the question of women in the episcopate, which is one of the issues where there is not full agreement yet.

Not a new denomination

The Porvoo churches agree on certain fundamental issues, but Porvoo is not a new denomination. The churches maintain their identities, Anglican and Lutheran.

 

Life of Porvoo

The Porvoo churches are committed to growing together as churches in mission and service, praying for and with one another. The Communion has been a blessing for the churches in various ways:

– many dioceses have established twinning with a diocese from the other church family, which has enriched both churches greatly
– pastors from Lutheran churches have worked in Anglican churches and vice versa
– bishops have participated in inauguration of bishops from other traditions, participating in the laying on of hands
– primates have met biannually
theological conferences have explored common issues,
consultations have been held on various issues, including interfaith,  the diaconal ministry and on human sexuality.
– people from different professions within the churches have met and shared resources and ideas.

Every year a prayer diary is published, where every Porvoo diocese has a place an a topic for prayer, and in many Porvoo churches these prayers are included in the Sunday worship.

The Porvoo Communion has no central office or overheads. In every church there is a contact person for Porvoo and these contact persons meet every year. Two bishops are co-moderators of the Porvoo Contact group, one from the Lutheran family and one from the Anglican family; and two co-secretaries, also from both church families.

 

Visible unity

There are many visible signs of Porvoo in the life of the churches – if you look. But there are also many that have never heard of it.

As with every ecumenical venture, this is a journey where we hope in time to inspire many more and enable our churches to truly grow together in life and mission. We do not regard our move to closer communion as an end in itself, but as part of the pursuit of a wider unity, a step towards the visible unity which all churches committed to the ecumenical movement seek to manifest.

Porvoo Information Pack 2014