Dialogue with Other Religions is Important for a Functional Society

The Rt Revd Martin Wharton

“Churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as those in the British Isles, will actively work to compile guidelines and good examples for the churches’ future religious dialogue efforts.”

This was one of the conclusions of the four day gathering in Sigtuna of Porvoo Church Leaders, known as the Church Leaders Consultation, CLC.

-The dialogue with different religions is extremely important for society to function and for us to be able to live in harmony with other religions and faiths and respect our fellow citizens. So says Church of England’s Martin Wharton, who is the co-chairman of the Porvoo Contact Group.

According to him Islam, Judaism and Hinduism have many similarities with Christianity.

-We as churches must be more intrepid in this area. There is only one race and that is the human race. We are all brothers and sisters, he goes on to say.

Alison Elliot

When summing up the meeting Alison Elliot from the Church of Scotland spoke about the identities of the churches in the new society of Europe today, where cultural diversity, migration and cross-boundary meetings are a part of everyday life.

-We need to question our own identity and be brave enough to test the limitations of our own view of ourselves, she says.

The Porvoo Churches is a fellowship of Lutheran churches, primarily those in the Nordic and Baltic countries, together with the Anglican churches in the British Isles. The meeting in Sigtuna was a consultation meeting of the church leaders, which is held once every four years.

The future challenges that were identified were:

The Porvoo Churches need

– to develop a distinct process for how, and on what issues, the churches should consult one another.

– to develop frameworks for the churches who would like to become new members.

– to establish a cross-boundary network, for example for child and youth initiatives.

Gothenburg will host a meeting on dialogue with other religions

The Porvoo Churches will work actively to compile guidelines and good examples for the churches’ future religious dialogue efforts. A separate meeting dedicated to dialogue with other religions will be held in Gothenburg in 2011.

In October 2010 there will be a celebration to mark the Church of Denmark becoming a member of The Porvoo Churches. Previously the Church of Denmark has participated as an observer. Because of this new membership the ecumenical map will expand – with the Church of Greenland also becoming part of The Porvoo Churches.

More than 50 delegates gathered in Sigtuna from Anglican churches in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain and Portugal, as well as from Lutheran churches in Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Iceland and Sweden. The Lutheran church of Latvia and the Church of Danmark were present as observers.

Comfort and Challenge

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Dr. Alison Elliot

Dr. Alison Elliot gave inspiring Bible studies to the Porvoo Church Leaders Consultation Sigtuna. In the first Bible study dr. Alison spoke of Comfort and Challenge.

– We like our ecumenical communities to be comfortable places, and we’re often embarrassed when they’re not, said Dr. Alison Elliot in a study on comfort and challenge for the churches where she looked at John 12. 1-8 and also asked how we as Churches express a Christian perspective on a public issue in the public square, where the discourse is one of evidence based rationality?

In the second Bible study dr. Alison asked questions on preparing for the future in the shadow of the past, looking at Jes. 53.

– But this passage presents God as endlessly innovative in his faithfulness, unconstrained by past triumphs but shaping his actions to the needs of the present. This God doesn’t cut and paste his previous solutions. He’s endlessly fresh and creative. He’s the God for today’s bewildering times.

Being faithful to tradition, open to new learning

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Revd Steinunn A. Björnsdóttir, The Very Revd Johan Dalman, The Rt Revd Martin Wharton

The Rt Revd Martin Wharton, bishop of Newcastle and co-chair of the Porvoo Contact group reflected on the example of St Cyril, a fourth century bishop of Jerusalem, in his sermon at the beginning of the Church Leadership Consultation in Sigtuna. St Cyril was faithful to the tradition he inherited, yet responsive to new questions, new opportunities and open to new learning and new insights. His contribution to making the gospel alive, understood and relevant to people around him still influence our liturgy today.

The full text of the sermon.

Pictures from the consultation