The Porvoo Declaration, signed at Trondheim, Norway, 1 September, has drawn strong comment from Anglican and Lutheran leaders.
The Declaration, in which the signatory Churches acknowledge not only mutual baptism and communion, but also the office of bishop, bridges "a Reformation gap," according to Trondheim's host bishop, Finn Wagle. The agreement makes a mark in Church history comparable to the Reformation, he said.
Preaching at the service in Trondheim's Nidaros Cathedral, Bishop Richard Holloway, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, sharply criticised his own Anglican tradition. "If we are going to be honest about episcopacy today, we have to acknowledge that some of us have treated it as an idol that justified us," he said, "which is why so many Churches have rejected episcopacy."
Archbishop Groege Carey referred to the document as the most important ecumenical agreement of this century.
Lutheran World Federation General Secretary, Ishmael Noko, commended the Declaration as a "theological breakthrough." At an official reception after the service, he expressed hope that the new Anglican-Lutheran relations also "will have a salutary effect upon Anglican-Lutheran relations else she in the world." For example Porvoo will have a positive impact on African discussions.
Some 1,000 guests took part in he service including 24 bishops and 5 archbishops. The Most Revd George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Andreas Aarflot of the Church of Norway were among the many clergy and lay members of Anglican and Lutheran churches at the Eucharist. Two more services will celebrate the Declaration: 8 September in the Lutheran Cathedral of Tallin, Estonia and 28 November in Westminster Abbey, London.
About the Porvoo Declaration
Under the agreement, the Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland and the Lutheran churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries of Europe have agreed to interchangeable ministries and full eucharistic communion.
According to the Porvoo Declaration, the signatory Churches regard baptised members of each other's Churches as members of their own; welcome overseas congregations into the life of the receiving Churches; welcome those who are ordained as bishops, pastors and deacons in any of the 10 Churches, to minister in accordance with the receiving Church's regulations; and consult on significant matters of faith and order, life and work.
The Porvoo Common Statement, which includes the Porvoo Declaration, was the result of several major influences. The first was the series of theological conversations which took place between Anglicans and Lutherans in the Nordic and Baltic region until 1951, followed by several bilateral and multilateral ecumenical dialogues. The Porvoo statement also makes specific the deliberations contained in the Niagara Report from the 1987 consultation on the episcopacy sponsored by the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission.
Four plenary sessions of official theological conversations between the 12 European churches that drafted the Porvoo Common Statement were held during 1989-92. The final text of the Porvoo statement, agreed at a consultation in Jaervenpaeae, Finland, in October 1992, is named after the Finnish city, Porvoo, in whose cathedral the consultation participants celebrated the Eucharist together.
The nine church leaders who formally signed the Porvoo declaration in Trondheim were: for the Church of England, Archbishop George Carey; the Church of Ireland, Bishop John Neill; the Church in Wales, Archbishop Alwyn Rice Jones; the Church of Norway, Oddbjorn Evenshaug, chairman of the National Council of the Church of Norway, and Bishop Andreas Aarflot; Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Estonia, Archbishop Jaan Kiivit; Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, Archbishop John Vikstrom; Church of Sweden, Archbishop Gunnar Weman; the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop Richard Holloway; Church of Iceland, Bishop Olafur Skulasson.