Signing of The Porvoo Declaration
Signing of The Porvoo Declaration

The signing of The Porvoo Declaration by the chairperson of the Danish Inter Religious Council and the bishop of Copenhagen took place in Copenhagen Cathedral on Sunday October 3rd 2010 following a celebration of Holy Communion. The signing was witnessed by the bishop of Iceland and the bishop of Newcastle, co-chairpersons of the Porvoo Contact Group. It set in train the next phase of the Porvoo Agreement and of the common life of Lutherans and Anglicans in Scandinavia, the Baltic States and the British Isles. Those attending were lay, clerical and episcopal members of the Churches of Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland and, of course, Denmark. Representatives of St Alban’s Church, Copenhagen, were also present as was Bishop David Hamid, assistant bishop in Europe. On the evening of October 2nd evensong was sung in St Alban’s Church.

Members of the Danish Church had been participating Observers in Porvoo from the beginning. The outstanding theological difficulties which had impeded the Danish signing were addressed and the resolution of such outstanding matters was greatly facilitated by the patient work of the Very Reverend John Arnold, formerly dean of Durham and the Right Reverend Kenneth Stevenson, formerly bishop of Portsmouth.

The Danish signing of Porvoo comes out of one of the longest continuous set of theological conversations, beginning in 1909. The Anglo-Nordic-Baltic Theological Conference, now under the chairmanship of the bishop of Clogher, began as a house-party convened by Bishop Stevenson’s grandfather, then bishop of Aarhus. The bishop of Copenhagen spoke of the conscientious attempt of the Danish Lutherans to be good pastors in a modern age. He also spoke of the desire of the Danish Church to be full participants in Porvoo. The chairperson of the Danish Religious Council in turn spoke of the thirst for dialogue and the willingness to dare which the Danes bring to the Porvoo family. The Primus of Scotland, speaking on behalf of the Anglicans present, referred to his admiration for the way in which Porvoo churches minister in societies both ancient and modern and for the ways in which Scandinavian communities have consistently addressed the gap between rich and poor which many other European countries have simply watched as it widened.

Participating in the Danish signing of Porvoo gave a sense of the importance of allowing churches and the institutions and people who are their building-blocks to decide in their own good time, after reflection and the formulating of questions which need to be answered. The Porvoo Communion has emphasized apostolicity in the ecclesiological understanding of succession and has therefore given important clues for the future in holding together as dynamic concepts mission and ministry. Both confidence in one’s own tradition and versatility in grasping the tradition of another emerge as theological virtues in a living participation in the life and the future of Porvoo. Sharing in the rich tapestry of lived experience across Europe by Anglicans and Lutherans adds strength and depth to one’s own witness in faith to God in one’s own place.