This is the name given to a report issued at the conclusion of theological conversations by official representatives of four Anglican Churches and eight Nordic and Baltic Churches in 1989-1992. The Porvoo Common Statement included the text of the Porvoo Declaration, which the participants commended for acceptance to their Churches.They were the Churches of England and Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland, together with the Churches of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Churches of Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Lithuania. Acceptance by the signatory churches means that for the first time the Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland have now moved into visible communion with other national Churches in Europe.
The report is named after the Porvoo Cathedral in Finland, where the Eucharist was celebrated on the final Sunday of the Conversations. (Porvoo is pronounced ‘Porvoh’, with the stress on the first syllable.)
To draw the Churches involved into a new and closer relationship for the sake of greater unity and more effective mission.
|The Estonian Evangelical-Lutheran Church||19 April 1994|
|The Church of Sweden||24 August 1994|
|The Church of Norway||15 November 1994|
|The Scottish Episcopal Church||9 December 1994|
|The Church of Ireland||16 May 1995|
|The Church of England||9 July 1995|
|The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Lithuania||29-30 July 1995|
|The Church in Wales||September 1995|
|The Evangelical-Lutheran of Iceland||17-27 October 1995|
|The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland||8 November 1995|
|The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Denmark||3 October 2010|
Why these churches?
The churches covered by this agreement have a great deal in common: their history, liturgy, identity and their understanding of the Church’s mission today bear great resemblances. They are all episcopal churches and almost all of them are the national church and the continuing manifestation in its own land of the historic (western) Catholic Church.
Why only these churches?
The Porvoo Communion is not an ecumenical club but an ecumenical venture which in due time may grow in the number of churches involved. Comparative and fact-finding conversations between the Porvoo, Leuenberg (91 Lutheran, Reformed and United churches in Europe) and Meissen churches (Evangelical Church in Germany – EKD) have already taken place.
The bilateral relationships between the individual churches involved are of course also continuously nurtured and furthered.
What is it about?
Chapter I of the Porvoo Common Statement is called ‘Setting the Scene’, and explains the motivation for the Conversations and for approving the Porvoo Declaration. Section C discusses our churches’ common mission in the new Europe – understanding mission in its broadest sense, including what we would call social responsibility issues. One of the important features of Porvoo is the fact that it is in the social and political context of the new Europe.
Chapter II gives the other motivation for the Porvoo – the ecclesiological. The churches are called to overcome what has been ‘denominational self-sufficiency’. Porvoo is important as part of the overcoming of the divisions of the Church which resulted from the Reformation. It is part of the restoration of the unity of the Western Church.
Chapter IV deals with the question of the historic episcopate. The situation in the churches involved are different. The Baltic Churches have not always had bishops, but they now not only have bishops, but bishops who stand in the historic succession of the laying on of hands. The churches of Sweden and Finland, like the Anglican churches, have inherited that historic succession. And in Denmark, Norway and Iceland the churches have preserved the continuity in the episcopal office, but at the time of the Reformation did so by an occasion priestly or presbyteral ordination.
The Porvoo Common Statement, para. 52, argues that apostolic succession in the Church is like a rope of several strands. If one strand, such as the personal tactile succession, is broken, other strands, such as for example, the continuity of historic sees, can hold it. According to this understanding, as para. 53 points out, ‘the mutual acknowledgement of churches and ministries is theologically prior to the use of the sign’, and its resumption ‘ does not imply an adverse judgement on the ministries of those churches ‘which previously did not use it. This has freed churches such as the Church of Norway to embrace the sign, without denying their past apostolic continuity, as para. 52 says.
This clears the way for the Porvoo Declaration in para. 58. Which, as it now has been approved by the greater part of the churches, has established a communion of episcopal, historic national or folk churches, stretching across Northern Europe from Greenland to the Baltic States. This involves commitments para. 58 b. affecting all the members of the signatory churches, as well as ministers and church leaders.