WELCOME...

to Bishop David's blog. Here you can find news, information, articles and pictures about the Church of England Diocese in Europe. We have over 300 congregations or worship centres serving Anglican and (mostly) English-speaking people in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia and some central Asian countries.


For official diocesan information please click the diocesan logo on the right.



Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas to Eurobishop readers!



The lands of the Bible, places we know from the stories of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, and the soil of the Middle East where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and lived and where Christianity first took root, are still ravaged by war, violence and terror. It is hard to imagine what our sisters and brothers in Syria and Iraq, two countries which border on our Diocese in Europe, have witnessed this past year, and most recently the attack on the Coptic Church in Cairo underlines the fragility of life for minority communities across the region. Terrorism has of course also touched our own continent, most recently in Berlin.

Nevertheless the celebration of Christ's birth, the Prince of Peace, gives us hope. There are few finer words to summarise this hope than those of a Syrian Teacher of the Faith, St Ephrem the Deacon, (commemorated in the Church of England on 9 June). He died in 373. Here is an extract from one of his Christmas hymns:
The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord
Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day.
Your day is celebrated
from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away,
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival
will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace.
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth:
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind;
The cup of salvation for the thirsty;
The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare,
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren,
You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil,
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb
A happy, blessed and peaceful Christmas to all Eurobishop readers!



Monday, 19 December 2016

500 attend St Nicholas Helsinki's Carol Service


500 people attended the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols of St Nicholas's Anglican Church in Helsinki which was held in the Lutheran Cathedral in the centre of the city. The Anglican Carol Service is a major attraction in the Advent season in the Finnish capital, and is well attended by people of all nationalities and church affiliations. In the square below the Cathedral, Helsinki's Christmas Market is held. I am certain that there are also many who attend the carol service, who have been browsing around the market and who are drawn for some reason to enter the Church. Some who may have no formal Christian connection come perhaps for aesthetic reasons to begin with, or who are tentatively exploring the Christian faith, and find at the Carol Service, a warm and welcoming space for that exploration.


Our priest at St Nicholas's, the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, deliberately keeps the format of this service very traditional, even maintaining the scripture readings from the Authorised Version of the Bible. The number who attend seems to suggest that this time-honoured liturgy can still satisfy the spiritual needs of many people. In an age of "contemporary worship", (whatever that is), we need to acknowledge that many are hungry for what this service seems able to provide: a simple and accessible, recounting of the mystery of God's plan for our salvation which culminates in the incarnation of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. The excellent music provided by the St Nicholas Singers, and the familiar, yet deeply theological hymns and carols, provide an atmosphere of calm and reflection on the deep meaning of Christmas, amidst a frenetically-paced world. The lessons and carols speak for themselves - no sermon needs to be added to open up the meaning of the sacred story.

HE Ambassador Sarah Price
HE Sarah Price, the UK Ambassador to Finland, was present and read one of the lessons. I also invited the Church of Finland Bishop of Helsinki, Irja Askola and Metropolitan Ambrosius of the Orthodox Diocese of Helsinki to join me at the service, and together we blessed the congregation as a sign of the unity and love in Christ that all Christians share.



Left to right: Bishop Irja, yours truly, Metropolitan Ambrosius, Fr Tuomas, Fr Maximus

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Youth at St Paul's Monaco: light in the darkness and service to the world


St Paul's in Monaco regularly celebrates Confirmation and usually in the season of Advent. It is an appropriate time of the year to celebrate this sacrament as the Advent message of light shining in the darkness underlines the commitment of the newly confirmed to bear Christ's light in the world. In the confirmation liturgy the candidates receive a lit candle at the conclusion of the rite, and carry that candle out into the world.


This year in St Paul's I administered the apostolic rite of Confirmation to another class prepared by the parish priest, the Very Revd Walter Raymond OGS. This latest celebration has brought the number of candidates that Fr Walter has presented to me to 40 in total during his 8 years of ministry in the Principality. The spiritual life of the congregation seems in good heart!


The Advent confirmations also frequently coincide with the huge charity bazaar held each year, called the Kermesse. It is a major ecumenical event as well: the clergy of the Principality, Roman Catholic (including Archbishop Barsi of Monaco), Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant, gather for a festive lunch and time of sharing. The Spanish speaking parish and the Greek Church provide the food for the clergy, and this year, the Greeks broke into an impromptu folk dance at the lunch.



St Paul's has a very active presence at the Kermesse, with many volunteers from the parish working hard on various stalls. Fr Walter emphasises that this giant charity event also provides the confirmation candidates with an excellent opportunity to roll up their sleeves in service to the community - another dimension to the sacrament in which they pledge to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving their neighbour as themselves.





 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Memorial Prayers at Westminster Abbey for Coptic Christians killed last weekend: faith, forgiveness and a cry for justice


It was very moving last Wednesday 14 December to join in a prayer vigil led by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, at the Innocent Victims' Memorial at Westminster Abbey. The prayers were offered in honour and memory of the 25 Coptic Orthodox Christians, mostly women and children, who were killed in the bombing of St Peter's Church in Cairo last weekend.

The Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair of the Abbey welcomed all to the prayers. Addresses were given by the Archbishop Justin Welby, Bishop Angaelos and HE Mr Nasser Kamel, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK. As the names of the victims were read aloud, 25 red roses were laid between 25 lit candles, representing the blood that they shed for their faith, and the light they will continue to represent in the memory of their family, friends, and communities.

Bishop Angaelos spoke of the tragedy of families broken apart just before the Feast of the Nativity, and of the need for faith, forgiveness and justice:
"People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance…reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life. The importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, is to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”


HE The Ambassador of Egypt,​ added,
“These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people,​  regardless of their religious affiliation, ​will never succeed, ​nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken. Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt. Let me remind you - as we also approach ​the Nativity celebrations - that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her newborn from tyranny and intolerance." 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Readers come together to explore pastoral principles for their ministry

The Readers and Readers in Training, with the Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, (3rd from left)
A  workshop for our lay ministers (Readers) was held recently. It was entitled "Pastoral Principles for Readers". It was very well attended and clearly well received. One of the participants, Simone Yallop, a reader in training in the Anglican Church in Twente, Netherlands, wrote this article:

In the weekend of 28-30 October 2016 a group of 22 Readers and Readers-in-Training gathered at St Columba’s House in Woking for a Diocesan workshop on Pastoral Principles. Under the expert leadership of the Revd Elaine Labourel (Diocesan Director of Readers) and Ms Alexandra Wheeler, we learned about what pastoral care really is and how to build pastoral relationships. Using various exercises, generally in groups of two, we discovered what it is that makes a good listener as well as what to do and what not to do during a pastoral visit.

Alexandra addresses the group
The workshop was also an excellent opportunity to exchange news from around the Diocese, to meet up with old friends and to make new ones. It was a good time of worship and fellowship.

In the final session we were given the example of an ideal pastoral encounter in Luke 24:13-35 as Jesus came alongside his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In their despair Jesus listens to them, he gives them freedom to react, he mirrors and reflects back, he reminds them of what they already know in the scriptures and he builds a bridge of trust. When he is recognized in the breaking of the bread, Jesus disappears and lets them move on.

After an uplifting Eucharist we also moved on, full of inspiration, to return to our own parts of the Diocese.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Congratulations to St Andrew's Puerto Pollença: celebrating 30 years

From the left: Fr Nigel, Mark Mallet-White, Fr David, the Revds Vivien and Ron Larkin
On St. Andrew's Eve, 29th November, the Anglican Church at Puerto Pollença celebrated 30 years of its ministry. St Andrew is the patron of this congregation. Although active for these 30 years, only a couple of years ago, the congregation moved to a new multi-purpose premises, which is well used by this active parish, led by their priest, the Revd Nigel Stimpson.

The entrance to St Andrew's multi-purpose building
Some parishioners from the congregation in Palma, together with their priest, the Revd David Waller, joined Fr Nigel and two clergy from the Uniting Church in Australia, the Revds Ron and Vivien Larkin, who assist under the provisions of the Ecumenical Canons. After the service good use was made of the multi-purpose building, as we shared lively conversation, lovely food and some excellent wine. Some members of the congregation present that evening had been there at the beginning of the Church in Puerto Pollença 30 years ago.

During the celebratory Sung Eucharist, I confirmed one of the parishioners, Mark Mallet-White.


Oh, and for the record, this was now the 3rd time in a row that I have visited St Andrew's and been separated from my luggage by Iberia! The parish is getting used to this, and are able to kit me out appropriately.





Tuesday, 13 December 2016

RIP: The Venerable Fr Howard Levett SSC

Fr Howard at Diocesan Synod 2015
It is with great sadness that I convey the news of the death of the Venerable Fr Howard Levett SSC. He died on Monday 13th December at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where he was admitted last Tuesday the 6th. He was 72. He had battled with cancer a while back and the disease had returned and spread. During his last days, he received many visitors, mostly former parishioners and clergy friends and colleagues. I visited him just hours before his death. He was already unconscious, but I was able to pray for him and for the visitors who were around his bedside, and to anoint him in the sacrament of Holy Unction.

Fr Howard has had a rich ministry as a priest. Ordained in 1969, he has served in the Dioceses of Southwark, and London, as well as in Egypt as Archdeacon for 14 years. In our Diocese he was Chaplain of St George's Venice and Christ Church Trieste from 2010 to 2015. He was a member of our Diocesan Synod until his retirement.

So many will miss his wise pastoral ministry, his gifts as a teacher of the Faith, his keen wit and sense of humour, and his excellent company.
God of love, receive into your presence your servant Howard whom you have called from this life. Welcome him into the company of your saints, in the kingdom of light and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Feast of St Lucy: darkness will not overcome the light


Today is the Feast of St Lucy, the young woman martyred in Syracuse in 304 AD during the Diocletian persecution.

According to the Julian calendar used in Sweden until 1753, the night between the 12th and the 13th of December was Midwinter, the longest night of the year, when it was believed that extra protection was needed against darkness and evil. Hence in Sweden Sankta Lucia has become a major festival of light celebrated in churches, schools and homes. In the beautiful service St Lucy appears wearing a white gown, a crown of candles and a red ribbon around her waist as a sign of her martydom. She is accompanied by young people singing traditional Swedish songs and carols.

Each year in London Swedes and their friends come together for a great celebration of Sankta Lucia, to which I am invited, along with the clergy of Porvoo sister Churches. This year's celebration was in Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral.

We witness the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq, violent terrorist attacks like those of the past weekend, the bomb blast that killed 38 in Istanbul and then the attack on Coptic Christians worshipping in the chapel of SS Peter and Paul in the Cathedral compound in Cairo which killed at least 25, mostly women and children.  There is great darkness in our world. Lucia is a powerful symbol of our faith, that good will prevail despite the apparent increase in evil and people continuing to behave at their worst towards their fellow human beings. St Lucy's feast day today is a reminder of the blessed light we all need, as St John's Gospel says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it". (St John 1.5)


Monday, 5 December 2016

Issues in public ministry - an intensive (post-ordination) course


In the Church of England, after ordination, (or after a priest is received into the C of E from a Church not in communion with ours) a second phase of training is compulsory. This is called IME Phase 2. Various themes are covered in this training period which lasts 3 - 4 years, to assist clergy with their great demands in terms of spiritual and parochial leadership.

The Director of Ministerial Development, the Revd Canon Ulla Monberg, has recently completed directing another residential training session for our own IME Phase 2 candidates at St Columba's House, Woking. The group focussed on issues to do with observing boundaries in ministry, understanding transference and counter transference, dealing with the shadow self, safeguarding, priorities for ministry, and clergy well-being.

One of the resource persons for the sessions was the Revd Canon Philippa Boardman MBE, Canon Treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral. She invited the priests and deacons from across the diocese to bring maps from the places where they minister, which formed a cross on the floor of the chapel, providing an imaginative way to bring the participants together. This present IME Phase 2 class comes from Trondheim, Fuengirola, Athens, Aquitaine, Istanbul, Paris and Malaga.




Monday, 28 November 2016

"We are not heroes; we just do what our Lord expects" - Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Syria


It was a privilege on Sunday to join in a prayer service held at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church, led by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II. His Holiness is in London in these days for an apostolic visit. He is the 122nd successor to St Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch and All the East, and the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church whose headquarters are in Damascus. His Holiness is accompanied on his visit by their Eminences Archbishop Mor Severius Hawa, Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra and Mor Theophilus George Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli.

The service was a joyful gathering of the bishops, clergy and people from three of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Syriac, the Coptic and the Armenian. His Eminence Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Archbishop in London was also in attendance. 


His Holiness was born in Qamishli, a city on the border of Syria and Turkey, just about 70 kilometres from a monastery I stay in for retreat and prayer, Mor Gabriel, in the Tur Abdin area of Turkey. He spoke of the tragedy of the war, violence and terrorism in his country and in neighbouring countries of the Middle East. Probably close to 500,000 Syrians, of all religions and confessions, have been killed in the conflict. (We know of the close to 5 million Syrians who have fled the country, and over 6 million internally displaced).

There are many Christian martyrs and many disappeared. I continue to pray daily for two bishops, Syriac Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo and Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, also of Aleppo, abducted on 22 April 2013. There has been no word of them since. Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim is an old friend of mine.

Metropolitans Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi
Despite the high price Christians pay for remaining in their ancient homelands in the Middle East, the Patriarch in his address spoke movingly of their faith. He said, "We have been here for 2000 years as Christians, and even longer as the indigenous people of these lands. We remain here because the people need a sign of hope when so much has been destroyed, so much lost, even lives. We stay, not because we are heroes, but because this is what our Lord expect." He quoted our Lord in St John's Gospel, (15.20) "Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also'".

"So", His Holiness said,  "the Church stays, because we do not abandon the sheep. We are a permanent presence among them". Fittingly the host for the evening, His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church, presented His Holiness with an icon of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Our sisters and brothers of the Syriac Orthodox Church have much to teach us about the cost of discipleship.

HG Bishop Angaelos presenting His Holiness with the Good Shepherd icon



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Faith, hospitality and service to the needy: central to the life of Anglicans on the Costa del Sol


Anglicans continue to grow in faith and commitment on the Costa del Sol. On 30th October, the parish of Costa del Sol East hosted a joint confirmation service for their parish and the neighbouring parish of Costa del Sol West. It was an All Saints Day celebration and was held at St Andrew's Church in Fuengirola. 6 persons were confirmed that day.

The Revds Adrian Low (left) and Alaric Lewis
I was assisted by the priests of the two parishes, Fr Alaric Lewis (Costa del Sol East) and Fr Adrian Low (Costa del Sol West), as well as by Reader Caroline MacFarlane, also from the East. During the service two of the confirmands gave moving testimonies as to why they were taking this step in their Christian lives, to become active disciples of our Lord. The faith of all the candidates was inspiring.

Hospitality is a large element in the mission strategy of St Andrew's, Costa del Sol East. It seemed natural that following the Confirmation the Church was converted into a banquet hall for those attending.



The parish has a clear statement of its vision to be a welcoming spiritual home for English-speakers on the coast:
"As members of the Church of England, we seek first and foremost to offer praise to God through Jesus Christ, and fulfil Christ's commands to love one another, especially the poor. We have a vibrant worship life, and and are quite proud that we offer opportunities to praise God nine to ten times each week. Our services are rich and varied, and encompass the diversity that makes the Church of England so appealing. Whether one feels at home with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or whether more contemporary praise is more to one's liking, Saint Andrew's offers something for everyone.
We are mindful that not all of our worshippers are Anglicans, and so we strive to make sure that Christians of all denominations find a warm welcome and a message based on the Gospels."
That warm welcome appears to be working. A letter from a recent visitor, far from her home, was published in the recent parish newsletter, in which she said:
"One of the curiosities of Christian hospitality is that we have to accept people as they come.... At St. Andrew's, I was loved for who I am. I was not told to stop waving my arms around when I talk, or ignored because of my endless questions. I was accepted as a person, And when I arrived in Canada (in a snow storm), I felt nurtured and accepted by the Christian hospitality at St. Andrew's, Los Boliches, Costa del Sol, sunny Spain." 
It is good to know that a parish vision at times seems to deliver! Well done, St Andrew's.

Although the service was in the Costa del Sol East parish, many parishioners from the West parish came to support their sisters and brothers being confirmed. Among those visiting was Paul Carr, a member of Costa del Sol West. who was just about to leave for another period in Greece helping to care for the refugees there, with a charity, "Collective Calling" which he founded. Here is a brief interview about his work, which is rooted in his Christian commitment:




All Saints Anglican Church: a vital and growing international Christian community in the heart of Rome


The Feast of Christ the King was celebrated with great joy in All Saints Rome with four people receiving the sacrament of Confirmation and the Revd Dana English receiving a new licence as Assistant Chaplain. This past year, Dana completed the Church of England's mandatory "post-ordination training" period. Thus her status changes from being an Assistant Curate, which indicates the training phase, to Assistant Chaplain.

The Revd Dana English is licensed as Assistant Chaplain; while Churchwarden James Hadley (right) looks on
One of the features of this congregation is its thriving ministry to families and young persons, through Sunday School, confirmation classes, and other activities. Besides her regular liturgical, pastoral and preaching duties, Dana has particular responsibility for these Christian Education programmes, both for youth and for members of the parish in general.

Many young persons are involved in the servers' guild, a good way to use their gifts in the Sunday liturgy. All Saints, under the spiritual leadership of its Chaplain, the Revd Canon Jonathan Boardman, has been a fruitful place for vocations to the priesthood; I can count about 6 such vocations discerned and nurtured over the past 10 years.  (Fr Jonathan, incidentally, was not able to be at the mass on Sunday as he is recovering from some injuries sustained in a bad fall last week. His condition is, thankfully, improving).

Acolytes lead the Revd Dana English into the midst of the congregation for the proclamation of the Holy Gospel
The congregation at All Saints comes from every continent on Earth, and is a warm and hospitable home for visitors and long-term residents in the Eternal City. For instance, on Sunday, I had conversations with people from Italy, Brazil, Japan, the USA, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines and Pakistan!

All Saints is a "shop-window" of the Church of England and Anglicanism in the city of Rome, with rich contacts in the Roman Catholic diocese and with Roman Catholic orders and movements such as the Focolare and the community of Sant'Egidio,  The parish also plays an active part in wider ecumenical life in the city, from Waldensians and Methodists to Lutherans.

Anglican worship has been offered regularly in Rome since 1816, so this is the 200th anniversary year. The Church building itself was built later. The architect was George Edmund Street, one of the leaders of the Gothic Revival period in England. On Sunday, one of the Churchwarden, Mr James Hadley was responsible, (with help from parishioners Loris Gaudenzi and Rebecca Harden) for some magnificent flower arrangements, which brought the architecture of the building to life, and added to the joy of the feast.



Friday, 18 November 2016

Sharing the story of the Church of England with the University of Athens

Deacon Christine engaging with the students from the University of Athens
Every year groups of students from the University of Athens are welcomed to a Sunday morning service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in that city.  They are studying History, Theology or Comparative Religion and are eager to learn about the Church of England, its roots and its place in the world today.

As the service progresses the differences between an Orthodox service and an Anglican one become apparent. As well as the architecture and interior design of the church, they are particularly interested in such aspects as the role played by women in the service as lay assistants, readers or sides-persons, the broad mix of nationalities represented within the congregation and, perhaps most striking, the preparation of the sacrament at an altar which is in full view of the congregation. Another striking difference, they say, is the strong participation of the congregation through words and song and they also enjoy seeing members of the Junior Church present their artwork and sing at the end of the service.

After the service either Father Malcolm or Deacon Christine Saccali are available to answer questions, as are members of the congregation.

St. Paul’s interacts with its host country in many ways and at many levels and this particular link is another example of the spirit of ecumenism that marks all of our Church's relationships with the society in which we live.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Italian language ministry in Italy: Part I

Fr Luciano, Mother Teodora, Archdeacon Vicki and Sra Faustina Bruno
For several years there have been small communities of Old Catholic Italian speaking Christians in Italy. At one time they were under the oversight of the Old Catholic Bishop of Germany, and then later under the oversight of the Old Catholic Bishop of Switzerland. In 2011, the Swiss Old Catholic Bishop wrote to this diocese to say that he was relinquishing oversight of these Old Catholic groups and that they would decide to affiliate with either the Church of England, or the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

Since 2012 I have been working with those former Old Catholic clergy and congregations who have requested formally to come within the jurisdiction of the Church of England. We have welcomed these sisters and brothers in Christ warmly, and are seeking ways, within the norms of the Church of England, for certain Old Catholic traditions to be maintained within their new affiliation, the main such tradition being their own Old Catholic liturgical rites celebrated in Italian. The main congregations are centred in Florence (San Vincenzo di Lerins) , Rome (Dio Padre Misericordioso) and Perugia, with small diaspora groups elsewhere. 

The work of gradual integration into our family continues, including the incorporation of congregations into the Associazione Chiesa d'Inghilterra, the Church of England's legal identity in Italy. Fr Renzo Radano (Florence), Mother Teodora Tosatti (Perugia) and Fr Luciano Bruno are already authorised for priestly ministry in the diocese. Already some vocations to the sacred ministry are being overseen by our Director of Ordinands, Fr William Gulliford.

Given this new development, namely Anglican worship in Italy in Italian, Archdeacon Vickie Sims and I have outlined to our Italian speaking clergy and people the ecumenical policy of the Church of England and our firm commitment to ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church in Italy and therefore our agreement not to proselytise among Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, these congregations, now within the Church of England, do provide a home for Italian speaking Christians of a Catholic tradition, but who are not part the Roman Catholic Church. We are enriched by their being part of us, and we look forward to all the ways that our Italian and English speaking parts of the Church of England can support each other, within the one family. 

In another article I will outline how another development in Italian language ministry is progressing.


 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Strong Porvoo links celebrated in Trondheim where April Almaas is our priest

Trondheim Cathedral
One of the realities of divided Christianity is the fact that it can take decades, even centuries, for historic divisions to be healed. Different contexts for the divisions mean that different ways of progressing towards the restoration of communion often need to happen in different parts of the world. An example of this pertains to the varied ecumenical relations between Anglican Churches and Lutheran Churches around the world.


Anglican Churches in the UK and Ireland are in a relationship of visible communion with the Lutheran Churches of most of the Nordic and Baltic States, thanks to the Porvoo Agreement whose 20th anniversary is this year. In North America, there are different agreements bringing the Episcopal Church USA into communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Anglican Church of Canada into communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). But these regional agreements are not yet all connected! Ecumenists refer to this as the transitivity question.


For over the past year the Venerable Brian Russell, Chaplain of Oslo, and I have had to work intensively with the matters of transitivity in Norway, particularly with regard to the Anglican congregation in Trondheim. There, a priest of the ELCA, the Revd April Almaas, has been been accredited for ministry in Church of Norway. When a vacancy in the Anglican congregation occurred, April was the suitable candidate for this post. We assumed that this would be possible under the Porvoo Agreement. Unfortunately, the Church of England is not yet in a position to transfer April's ministry into our own Church, despite being now a priest of the Church of Norway. This was because April was ordained by an ELCA bishop, and the transitivity questions between the ELCA and the C of E have not yet been sorted. With the support of our Church of Norway friends, and some sensitive diplomatic conversations with both that Church and the ELCA, we found a way forward. It is a sign of the strength of the Porvoo relationship that the bishops and ecumenical officers of the Churches were able to work together to reach a solution.


So on 24 September, in the great cathedral in Trondheim (Nidaros), the spiritual heart of Norway, a conditional ordination to the priesthood was celebrated. The rite was shared with the Church of Norway Bishop of Nidaros, the Rt Revd Dr Tor Singsaas, who also represented the Presiding Bishop. The Dean of Nidaros Cathedral, the Very Revd Ragnhild Jepsen together with many Church of Norway priests, and Church of England priests, participated in the laying on of hands. It was a joyful reconciliation of ministry, affirming the journey towards full communion between Anglicans and Lutherans around the world, for which we work and pray.


The following explanatory note about a "conditional ordination" was in the order of service:

In the teaching of the Church, ordination, like baptism may only be given once. April was ordained a priest in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Church of England has not yet been able to accept the transferability of his ministry, however. So in order to make the appointment of April possible, under the Porvoo Agreement,and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway and the Cathedral Dean of Nidaros, we are proceeding with what is termed a conditional ordination to fulfil what the Church of England is unable to acknowledge at this time. Thus the service is not considered a second ordination to the priesthood, and does not deny any possible charism of the ministerial priesthood in the candidate.