Church leaders from the Anglican and Lutheran Churches of Northern Europe met in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, from 7th to 12th March 2002.
Since 1996, the Churches of Britain and Ireland and most of the Nordic and Baltic countries have been involved in close partnership through the Porvoo Agreement. There has been regular and lively ex-change between the churches at every level, and further contacts are planned, for theologians, mission and youth workers, and church leaders.
The focus of this meeting was “Church Leadership in a Changing World”, and there was wide ranging discussion of what leadership meant within the Church and also whether it is realistic to talk about the Church exercising “leadership” in society. There is a conviction that this leadership in society is still vital – but that it should never again be a means of dominance or control. The Gospel must challenge the impatient and over-simplified debates of public and political life.
We are conscious of the very different tasks that face our Churches. Some have close historic links with the state. Others such as the Baltic Churches are finding a new role and new challenges in the reconstruction of civil society after the Soviet period. We were privileged to see some of the ways this is developing in the city of Tallinn. We visited various medical and social projects working with the destitute, especially orphans, street children and the terminally ill, under the auspices of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. As we discussed Christian service in the community, we had some vivid examples before us.
On the Sunday we shared in the Eucharist celebrated in Tallinn Cathedral by the Archbishop of Estonia, Archbishop Jaan Kiivit. A sermon from Bishop Bruce Cameron, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, reminded us how all European Christians now shared something of the “exile” experience within a secular world, and have much to learn from the Churches of the Baltic nations.
This meeting marks a major new step in integrating the vision of the Porvoo Churches in mission and evangelism as well as ministry. We are actively exploring new forms of collaboration in training and pastoral work, in witness and theology, and we look forward with enthusiasm to learning more from each other, and sharing our testimony to the God who has called us, in the fast changing Europe of the new century.
We are deeply grateful to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church for making us so much at home during these days and we commend to God the demanding work done by the Church for all the Estonian people.
The Co-Chairmen of the Porvoo Contact Group:
The Rt Revd John Neill
The Rt Revd Ragnar Persenius
Tallinn, 12th March 2002