THE Bishop of Tampere in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Dr Matti Repo, brought greetings on behalf of the ecumenical guests. He addressed the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, the changing positions of the Churches on human sexuality, and the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, among other topics.
“We have been shocked by the recent acts of violence in Britain,” he said. “Lamenting the loss of life and praying for the victims, we, as your ecumenical partners, stand in solidarity with you as you continue your work for reconciliation, peace, and justice.”
On the Reformation, Dr Repo highlighted the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, agreed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1999. Since then, it had been endorsed or adopted by other Christian bodies, including the World Methodist Council in 1999 and the World Communion of Reformed Churches just two days before the start of the Synod meeting.
Last year, the Anglican Consultative Council, at its meeting in Lusaka, had affirmed the substance of the joint declaration, which was “evolving into one of the most widely accepted ecumenical agreements”, Dr Repo said. “It will unite Churches in the conviction of salvation through faith in Christ.”
Dr Repo also addressed the change of policy by Nordic Lutheran Churches in marrying same-sex couples. “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has not taken this step,” he said, “but the issue is presently under a debate in our Synod. No changes in the policy or the liturgy have been made. Nevertheless, a new awareness of the variety in human sexuality had arisen, as well as a new sensitivity to minorities and a stronger emphasis on being an inclusive Church.
“At this point, the Bishops’ Conference has issued pastoral guidelines for an informal prayer together with same-sex couples who have married at a civil registrar.”
Dr Repo concluded his brief speech with a reference to Brexit. “Now that Britain is preparing to leave the European Union, it is even more important for the Churches to strengthen their relationship,” he said.
“Unity in Christ is deeper and more substantial than any political or financial union. The Church of Christ surpasses all boundaries, even where human efforts for integrating states do not prove successful.
“As Christians, we share the same vocation to be witness to God’s love in the power of the Holy Spirit. May God bless you and guide you in your work.”