On 27 March, an agreement was signed by Martin Modéus, the archbishop of Sweden, and Michael Curry, The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop.
The signing of the agreement is expected to have various practical provisions, such as the establishment of a framework for the cooperation of congregations outside of the two churches. Several Church of Sweden representatives from abroad were present during the ceremony alongside the representatives of the Old Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to name a few that gave a wider ecumenical dimension.
"The agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden is another significant expression of the growing fellowship between Anglican and Lutheran traditions. We believe that we can cooperate on important challenges to the mission of the church in the world today. So this is a welcome and joyful ecumenical step forwards,” said Archbishop Martin Modéus, Church of Sweden.
The relationship between the Anglican and the Lutheran churches dates back to the 18th century. They belong to different traditions, but they have maintained a strong relationship. The Church of Sweden is a part of the Lutheran tradition, while The Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican tradition.
“There have been already from the 18th century, various forms of practical cooperation. And then, moving on to modern times when the ecumenical movement started at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, there are also contacts between The Episcopal Church and other Anglican churches, and the Swedish Church in various ecumenical contexts. And then moving to today, in the last 20 odd years or so, there have been good examples of cooperation between our expatriate congregations in Europe and the Episcopal expatriates for European congregations,” said Rev. Dr Christopher Meakin, Domprost Emeritus, Church of Sweden.
Meakin shared that the reason why it took place in Paris, and we're calling it the “Paris Agreement,” is because the original initiative to start this process, which has led to the memorandum, actually started in Paris in 2009.
“The then Episcopal bishop of Europe, who's based in Paris, proposed a resolution to their convocation, that we should deepen our relationship because he thought that there had been such good examples of cooperation in the European context between the expatriate congregations. So it started there with his initiative. And then in 2010, when the Caucasians had to approve the resolution, we had our first meeting in Paris. And now the signing is also held in Paris because the presiding bishop is coming to lead the celebration of the 100th anniversary of their Cathedral in Paris,” said Meakin.
He further said that this agreement strengthens the ongoing and growing fellowship between Lutheran churches and Anglican churches worldwide.
“The Church of Sweden is already part of such a communion fellowship, called as you probably know, the Porvoo communion between Lutheran churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries and the Anglican churches in the British Isles, and the Iberian Peninsula that has been in place since the 1990s. And in America, there's also fellowship between The Episcopal Church and the Lutheran church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and also the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church in Canada, these four churches have a fellowship. So you can say it's also in a sense, adding further aspects to this worldwide development of close relationships between Lutherans and Anglicans,” said Meakin.
Reflecting on the event, Julija Naett Vidovic and Marc Boss, representing the World Council of Churches, said, “the choice of the date of March 27, a day of commemoration on The Episcopal Church’s liturgical calendar for the early ecumenical pioneer Charles Henry Brent, gave this event a very special ecumenical dimension.”
They further added that before the “Paris Agreement” was signed, the speeches made it clear that it reflected the spirit of collaboration and an ecumenism of life and heart. They also shared that the message delivered by Margaret Rose, ecumenical deputy was very powerful. It encouraged to strive for the development of goodness in each one of us.
The goal of this ecumenism is to respond to the various challenges that the Christian world faces today. In light of the Kingdom of God's teachings on immigration, pluralism, and respect for fundamental rights, churches must work together to address these issues, added Vidovic and Boss.