Primates and presiding bishops of the Porvoo Communion of Churches meet in Iceland, October 21st – 23rd to review the work of the Communion and reflect on further engagements. The meeting opens with a service in Reykjavík Cathedral, where The Most Revd Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, gives a sermon. The Rt Revd Agnes M. Sigurdardottir, bishop of Iceland will celebrate communion.
Primates and presiding bishops meet biannually. This is the first time that this meeting is held in Iceland.
The Porvoo Contact group will also meet in Reykjavík from October 21st – 25th.
A Communique from the consultation on diaconal ministry, held in Dublin in April 2013, is now available online. The communique will be discussed at the meeting of primates and presiding bishops in Iceland in October.
The fourth Porvoo Theological Conference was held in Dragør, in Denmark, October 8 – 11 2012. The theme was The Sacraments in the Mission of the Church. Delegates from all member churches participated.
Members of the Porvoo Churches live in rapidly changing contexts in which the traditional pre-suppositions for celebrating the sacraments and communicating the Christian faith can no longer be taken for granted. The major concerns addressed by the Conference include the following:
Lack of Christian confidence in a multi-cultural, multi-faith and increasingly secularised Europe.
The impact of the economic situation in Europe and its implication for Christian mission.
Tensions between social customs and tradition on the one hand and church commitment and membership on the other.
The increasing percentages of people who feel estranged from or have no contact with the church
The desire of the non-baptised to receive Holy Communion in some contexts
The possibilities and difficulties of inter-church marriages
The contributions of the world church to European Christianity towards understanding mission engagement
Giving some attention to the place of confirmation albeit conflicted in the initiation practices of the churches, the presentations of the Conference focused particularly on Baptism and the Eucharist. Both are understood to be fundamental sacraments of the church, making the church itself a sign to the world of the Kingdom, which is its mission to announce.
Snapshots of Contributions
The Keynote paper on the theme was delivered by Paul Avis who provided the Conference with insight into how the Church of Jesus Christ receives its essential identity from God in word and sacrament. The Church has a sacramental life because Jesus Christ is the sacrament of God and the Church is the sacrament of Christ because he works through her. The church is therefore an instrument of the mission of God.
Jonas Jørgensen spoke about Non-Western Perspectives on the Sacraments of the Church with examples of marginal forms of Christian practices in Bangladesh and South India, such as the Sufi Islam with Jesus as their prophet and the Christ Bhaktas. Some of the rites were similar to our western traditional liturgical practice, while reflecting a deep and principled concern for contextualisation.
Karl Sigurbjörnsson presented a paper on Understanding Discipleship as the Working-out of Baptism. He pointed out that discipleship as working-out of baptism is being an apprentice of the master, in a growing, learning and listening relationship, acquiring skills in faith, listening skills to the word of God, trusting skills in being carried and held by grace through suffering and pain, through sin and guilt, through life and death and being loved and forgiven. Discipleship is not about performance or achievement, it is all about grace received and given.
Ian Paton presented a paper on the Baptized in Mission. A significant point in his paper was that the gifts of baptism for the building up of the Body of Christ are received and employed in the context of real life – economic, social, political, professional and personal. It is this life which is being transformed to be a Christian life. Christians remain part of their society with a duty to exercise citizenship, and it is there that they serve and witness to God’s kingdom. The church is to witness God’s love. Renewing the church is not all about structures, strategies or committees, but trying to practice a life of prayer and the love of one’s neighbour. Such a baptismal ecclesiology could open up fresh possibilities for understanding and practicing a baptismal missiology.
Sandra Gintere reflected on The Unity given in Baptism as Foundation for Christian Reconciliation Work in the World pointing out the ecumenical complexities of the relationship of baptism and membership of the church. The identity of being a member of the universal church given in baptism is primary and that of belonging to a denomination is secondary. However, as she pointed out, due to lack of full communion baptism appears to make the secondary identity the primary one.
Christopher Cocksworth in his paper on Confirmation in the Missionary Practice of the Church discussed a variety of understandings of confirmation, pointing out the uncertainty in both theory and practice that exist in the churches. He advocated that confirmation be more closely related to empowerment for missionary activity in the world. He suggests that the sacramental initiation processes of the church should intersect with the evangelistic courses of parishes.
Jaakko Rusama identified Challenges forMission Theology Today. He described the rapid shift of the centre of world Christianity to the Global South. The mission of the church is a window to what happens in the life of all religions. He argued that a new evangelism for the transmission of the Christian faith would need to reflect cross-cultural interdependence.
Michael Jackson’s paper Eucharist: A Sacrament of Unity and Mission in one key thought pointed to the perspective of Michael Ramsey. Michael Jackson observed that Ramsey provides a strategic backdrop for an understanding of the Eucharist in the Porvoo context. It respects the New Testament shape of the Eucharist and takes us far beyond any static and memorialist understanding of Holy Communion. Eucharist is firmly set in the context of the Incarnate and Ascended life of Christ. This perspective, he went on to say, accommodates well the very resolute Porvoo perspective that the unity and mission are those of Christ.
Peter Stjerndorff gave examples from his pastoral ministry to illustrate the theme Eucharist – A Sacrament of Hope. He described how people at various times and in some contexts have felt themselves excluded from the Eucharist because of a sense of its seriousness and holiness and their own unworthiness. This situation has kept them away from experiencing the joy and hope of the sacrament. However, all people should be welcome at the Lord’s table because Eucharist can inspire hope in those whose lives are oppressed and affected by difficulties of different kinds.
Tomi Karttunen in his paper Lutheran Teaching of the Lord’s Supper and its Implications for Mission traced the rediscovery of Martin Luther’s realistic thought in the Eucharist. Tomi argued that God as the giver of everything good is the basis of Luther’s theology of Holy Communion. Luther’s understanding of the Holy Supper underlines that the Holy Trinity, God as self-giving love who sends his Church, Christ’s disciples into the world to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed, in the unity of faith and love and carried by the proclaiming hope for the world, is the basis of the mission of the Church.
Rachael Jordan presented The Sacramental Life of Fresh Expressions of Church, which is a more recent movement within the Church of England and other denominations to reach the un-churched and the de-churched. This is an answer to the challenge posed by the fact that an increasing proportion of the English population has no direct contact with the church. Fresh Expressions gathers people together outside traditional forms of congregation to guide them towards a position of faith and active discipleship.
Gwynn ap Gwilym reflected on Archbishop Rowan Williams lecture The Fellowship of the Baptized and its implication for the Porvoo vision. The Archbishop explains baptism and the identity of a baptized person by saying that baptized identity is being where Jesus is; and Jesus is both in the neighborhood of God the Father and in the neighborhood of the sinner. This experience of the baptized is not the experience of endings but of repeated new beginnings. To be in the place where Christ is means being vulnerable. The baptismal body, the Church, is a wounded body and those wounds are often self-inflicted, but it is also a self-healing body because it is Christ’s body. Rowan Williams draws consequences from this for the situation of inter-church marriages. They could be a mark of the self-healing body. This could also be applied to the Churches in the Porvoo Communion.
The Porvoo Communion will soon have a new website. The website will be hosted by the Church of Finland but its content is a cooperation of members from various Porvoo Churches. The site is currently under construction.
“How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” was the theme of a Porvoo Consultation on Diaspora and Migration in Uppsala, Sweden from 21 to 24 March 2012. The Consultation was attended by 22 members of the Porvoo Churches and observer churches.
In section b (iv) of the Porvoo Common Statement, members commit themselves “to welcome diaspora congregations into the life of the indigenous church for mutual enrichment.” In the light of increasing migration into northwest Europe and consequent ethnic diversity both in the indigenous churches and in what had been described as “diaspora congregations”, it was appropriate to consider this principle in a changing context.
The consultation heard case studies from representatives of Norwegian, Latvian and Chinese congregations inLondonand from Finnish and Sudanese Anglicans inFinland, and visited Finnish and Anglican churches inStockholmas well as aChurchofSwedenparish, hosting an Ethiopian Mekane Yesus (Lutheran) congregation. Both the presentations and the visits raised questions about the static and dynamic roles of culture and language for identity among migrants and diaspora communities.
Kristina Hellqvist, advisor to the Church of Sweden for refugee and integration issues, provided some statistics about migration in Europe, and a summary of some recent issues, and Barbara Moss from the Church of England Diocese in Europe spoke on “Challenges of Integration”, emphasizing that integration is not the same as assimilation; both the hosts and the new arrivals must be prepared to be transformed by the process.
The same theme was illustrated in the first of three bible studies ably led by Revd DrJohn Perumbalath, who presented the book of Ruth as an example of Naomi, on her return home, providing for the needs of Ruth, the young immigrant, for a home and security. The second bible study, from 1 Peter, identified the theme “Christians in Exile” as applied to diaspora congregations then and now, pointing out that all Christians are migrants in the sense of being people on a journey: they have not yet arrived, and never should – a message echoed in the final statement of Mika Pajunen’s account of Finnish Anglicans: “Our story is not over – keep moving!”
The talks and visits were supplemented by discussions in small groups and workshops on three themes:
The significance of different causes of migration for the particular identities of diaspora congregations;
Diaspora congregations becoming part of the indigenous churches;
Challenges raised by second-generation members of diaspora congregations.
Keynote listeners Bishops Jana Jeruma Grinberga (LutheranChurchinGreat Britain) andDavid Hamid(ChurchofEngland Diocesein Europe) and Revd Dr Christopher Meakin (ChurchofSweden) attended the small groups and workshops, and summarized the highlights of the proceedings.
1. To ask the Porvoo Contact Group:
to explore how the sharing of stories, including biblical narratives, which has been such an important part of this consultation, may be brought to a wider audience;
to find ways of encouraging further theological reflection;
and to develop and collate appropriate resources for our member churches.
2. To ask the Porvoo churches, in collaboration with their national ecumenical instruments, to collect existing guidelines or draw up new ones for the sharing of church buildings and other resources, including sample contracts and other working agreements, in order to identify and inform about good practice.
3. Recognizing that changing patterns of migration have led to the formation of gathered congregations within Porvoo churches with a geographical parochial system, to ask those churches to reflect on how members of these diaspora congregations may be welcomed into membership of the host church in the place where they worship together.
4. To ask the Porvoo churches:
to encourage their clergy and ordinands to become competent in engaging with cultural differences;
to build up databases of deacons, priests and pastors able to minister in languages other than the majority languages and English;
to ensure that the speakers of these languages can find, in their own languages, access to this information.
5. To encourage host and migrant congregations to become involved together in the local ecumenical scene as equal partners with their Christian brothers and sisters, sharing their gifts for mutual enrichment.
The Primates and Presiding Bishops of the Porvoo Communion of Churches met in Llandaff, Wales, on October 3. -4., to review common work undertaken since the last meeting, to discuss areas of common concern and to share information about important issues in their respective churches.
The biannual meeting of the Primates and Presiding Bishops is one of the consultation processes in the Porvoo Communion of Churches, who have committed themselves to “share a common life in mission and service.”
In reviewing the work carried out since their last meeting the Primates and Presiding Bishops commended the “Guidelines for Interfaith Encounter” which had been further developed at a Porvoo Consultation in 2011, and also the work on responding to conflict which is part of an on-going process for consultation within the Communion. Information on these consultations can be found on the website of the Porvoo Communion, www.porvoochurches.org under “resources”.
In discussing the current economic crisis in Europe the Primates and Presiding Bishops recognized that this affects all the countries and churches in different ways. Unemployment is rising in most of the countries. Changing patterns of migration have created a challenge to the churches in providing pastoral care to the new migrants. A Consultation on Diaspora and Migrant Churches will be held by the Porvoo Communion in March 2012. The Primates and Presiding Bishops also called for a consultation on Economy and Ethics, recognising the effect that the current economic environment has on their countries and the moral responsibility of the richer churches towards the poorer churches. The next consultation of the Communion, to be held in Finland in November 2011, will be a Consultation on Marriage. The consultation will enable the Porvoo churches to share each other’s understanding and experiences as well as each other’s traditions, histories and differences.
The Porvoo Communion is visible in different areas in the life of the churches, for example in twinning and visits between dioceses and congregations, and in the mutually enriching engagement of diaspora congregations in the life of the churches of the Communion. The Primates and Presiding Bishops asked that creative work with young people across the Communion should be explored.
Twelve leaders from European churches of the Porvoo communion met together in Wales this week. The meeting, hosted by the Church in Wales, is taking place at St Michael’s College, Llandaff, on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is the first time the leaders of the Porvoo churches, who represent churches from Spain to Iceland, have met in Wales. They meet every two years to discuss common issues and build up stronger relationships between their churches. The meeting will begin with a service at Llandaff Cathedral tonight (Monday) at which the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, will preside and the Archbishop of Uppsala, Andres Wejryd, will preach. Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop in Wales said, “I am delighted to welcome the leaders of the Porvoo Communion to Wales for the first time and I hope we will inspire each other with our different traditions as well as strengthen the links we have already build up between our churches.” The church leaders coming to Cardiff are: Archbishop Kari Makinen, Finland Archbishop Andres Poder, Estonia Archbishop Elmars Ernsts Rozitis, Church of Latvia Abroad Archbishop Anders Wejryd, Sweden Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson, Iceland Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien, Norway Archbishop Mindaugas Sabutis, Lithuania Bishop David Chillingworth, Scotland Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, Lutheran Church in Great Britain Bishop Carlos Lopez Lozano, Spanish Episcopal Church Archbishop Rowan Williams, Canterbury.
On the recommendation of the Church Leaders Consultation in March 2010, the Porvoo Contact Group held a consultation on the theme Churches Responding to Conflict from 20th -23rd February 2011 in Tallinn, Estonia. The organisers are grateful to the host church, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, for the invitation to hold such a consultation in Tallinn. The churches met in the context of a widening conflict across the Arab world and upheld its peoples in prayer.
Keeping the goal of the common good of Christ’s church in mind, the consultation was a way to deepen knowledge, strengthen sharing, learn from one another and generate greater understanding. Furthermore, it was to make suggestions to the Porvoo Contact Group for further work on an appropriate framework for responding to situations of conflict within the Porvoo Communion of Churches. Serious tensions have arisen over issues of sexuality which have threatened communion.
The conference opened with Eucharist in the Cathedral at which The Rt Revd Karl Sigurbjörnsson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland presided and The Rt Revd Trevor Williams preached. The consultation closed with Eucharist in the Holy Spirit Chapel, presided over by Archbishop Andreas Põder of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and at which Bishop Michael Jackson was the preacher. Daily prayer accompanied the sessions.
The Bible Studies held by The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera of the Church of Ceylon formed a cornerstone to the deliberations. As a representative from the Global South he shared valuable theological insights gained from the context of conflict in his country of Sri Lanka and within the Anglican Communion.
Thematic inputs were given by Rt Revd Trevor Williams, Church of Ireland, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe (Churches Responding to Political and Religious Conflict), Rt Revd Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland, Diocese of Clogher (Churches Responding to Conflict – a Diaconal Perspective), Revd Prof Paul Avis (Authority, Conflict and Leadership) and Revd Prof Dr Tõnu Lehtsaar, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (Churches Responding to Conflict in Times of Societal Change – An Estonian Perspective).
In group meetings and workshops, participants explored their perceptions and ideas. The so called Keynote Listeners provided the plenary sessions with information from group meetings and workshops. The daily Public Conversations provided the reflecting process in which the keynote listeners were asked questions in an interview format to invite their reflections. The resource persons also acted as consultants for the consultation.
The consultation provided the Porvoo Contact Group with a range of important building blocks for further progress on a framework for responding to Conflict.
The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad was given an observer status in the Porvoo Communion during a meeting of the Porvoo Contact Group in Madrid, October 4 – 7 2010.
The Most Revd Elmārs Ernsts Rosītis, archbishop of the LELCA represented his church at the meeting, having been invited to the meeting as a guest, before decision was reached.
The church was closely involved in the making of the Porvoo Agreement where the representative of the Latvian Lutheran Church was the Dean of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Great Britain.
This brings the number of churches with an observer status in the Communion to three. The other two churches are The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia which has had an observer status from the signing of Porvoo and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, which became an Observer in March 2010.
The picture is from the website of a member church of the LELCA in Britain.