- A big ecumenical Anglican-Lutheran conference at lake Balaton has just ended now. What is your impression about the meeting?
- It was a very happy occasion, one characterised by much laughter and the opportunity for friendships to grow. We were all encouraged by the stories
of remarkable minority churches -ones which made an impact on their societies out of proportion to their small membership numbers.
- What kind of themes have you got there?
- During the conference we explored four principle themes: Divided Communities, Diakonia, Involving the Laity and Ecumenism. Each of these
was addressed by both an Anglican and a Lutheran speaker. We were also highly privileged to have a lecture on the Spirituality of
Central/East European Lutheran Churches by Anne Burghardt. She is an Estonian Pastor now working for the Lutheran World Federation Office in Geneva.
- In the year 1992 came out the statement between Anglicans and Lutherans. How effects this the relationship of the two churches?
- The Porvoo Common Statement (PCS) was a landmark in European ecumenical history. It challenged both Anglicans and Lutherans to adjust their
understanding of the church.
Anglicans shifted ground by affirming that Episkope and Apostolicity could be authentically present in the life of churches which lacked the
tactile apostolic succession of bishops. On this basis they accepted the existing members, sacraments and ordained ministers of the signatory Lutheran churches as interchangeable with their own. There would be no 're-ordinations' of clergy wishing to move between the two churches.
At the same time the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches accepted the idea that leadership by bishops was a normative principle in church life and not just a matter of convenience. Those Lutheran churches which lacked a tactile succession of Episcopal consecrations opened themselves to its future reception as an enrichment of their lives. They made this move without either breaking or weakening their existing full communion arrangements with LWF (and other) partners with different polities.
- In Hungary there are not so many Anglicans. But maybe it came into question whether our church should sign this statement? Which effects do you hope after the conference in the relationship of the two churches?
- True there are not many Anglicans in Hungary, but the St. Margaret's chaplaincy in Budapest enjoys very friendly relations with the ELCH and
the accession of the latter to Porvoo would make a difference to the chaplaincy. There are a couple of practical examples.
1) Hungarian Lutheran clergy could be invited to preside at the Lords Supper when the Anglican chaplain was on leave or there was a vacancy.
2) A Hungarian Lutheran bishop could be invited to conduct the confirmation of Anglican candidates rather than waiting for a visit by a
bishop from England. In the Anglican system only a bishop can confirm and this can sometimes cause pastorally unhelpful delays. Scandinavian
Lutheran bishops assist Anglican expatriate chaplaincies quite routinely in this way and it is much appreciated.
The benefits would not however all be in one direction! It would also help Hungarian Lutheran migrants to the UK to find in the Anglican church
a natural home in their new country. It would also be possible for Hungarian Lutheran pastors to be appointed to posts in the Church of England (and indeed several other Anglican signatory churches). This could be a real help to, for instance, a Pastor whose husband/wife needs to
spend a period in the UK for professional/academic reasons.
- I know that for years there has been a scholarship between the two churches. Does this relationship exist?
- Yes it certainly does: it is tenable for three months at the college of the Resurrection at Mirfield (West Yorkshire). The scholarship is now
entering its fifth year. It was set up collaboratively by Bishop Fabiny, myself and Father Peter Allan -Principal of the college . Over the years
we have welcomed not only theological students but also pastors and Lutheran university teachers on sabbatical leave. It was a pleasure to
have most of them gathered together in one place at Ordass Lajos Conference centre last week!
- How do you look at on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?
- In two principle ways. First, as a chance to ask 'How does the church need reforming todays' and secondly as a spur to efforts at recovering the
unity amongst Christians which was lost during the 16th century. History/ heritage are important, too, but they are not everything.
- You are an Anglican priest. Can you tell us about your personal faith way, how you became Christian? Have you got any conversion- experience?
- I'm not sure I can talk about one experience. It was a progressive awakening. Reading Mathew's Gospel through when I was 8/9 years old had
quite a strong effect but it laid dormant until my early teens. The strong Anglican ethos of my boarding school in Dorset opened the way to baptism
and participation in church life. I was baptised and confirmed in the same service when I was 15 in the school chapel by the bishop of Salisbury.
Calling to ordination began quite early. From the age of 14 it felt like a question which needed to be explored. It all started with reading what
Martin Luther had to say about the nature of Christian ministry for a Reformation history essay. It was a couple of years later though, during
a walk in my college garden in Cambridge, that I felt God was really asking me the question directly and giving me a confidence to answer it
which was not my own!
- Is there any theological field, which is special for you?
- By instinct I am a church historian and my published work has focused on the English reformation and historiographical analysis of its
interpretation in later historical writings. However there are some other areas of interest which are gaining in importance for me: historical theology, ecclesiology and hermeneutics/the history of scriptural interpretation.
- What is your role now in your church? Can you tell us any specialities of your service?
- I am a parish priest in the Diocese of Newcastle serving in Wallsend - a former mining and ship building community on the north bank of the River
Tyne. Aside from the regular round of parish duties I oversee a refugee project on behalf of the local ecumenical council. I also help to maintain
our diocesan twinning link with the Diocese of Møre in the Church of Norway (which is also twinned with the Northern District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary!) and serve as a trustee of the Anglican-Lutheran Society.
- How do the Anglican Christians live in your country?
- Recently there have been some heartening developments. In the midst of the economic and social turbulence in recent years the way the Anglican
bishops have spoken up for the poor in parliament (where they have reserved seats) has gained respect for the church in wider society. This
has been backed up by a vigorous local revival of Diakonia in the parishes (especially in providing food aid to families who are struggling). After
many years of, at times painful, debate we have agreed a way forward on women bishops. We have done this in a way which respects the consciences
of those who disagree with the development. We are sticking together as a family and the Church of England, which is more at peace within itself then for
a long time.
It is not all easy though. There are tensions in the church about the degree to which homosexual practice is to be accepted. Sunday attendance
and census adherence declarations are continuing to fall. In many places the number of paid clergy posts is being reduced and congregations
God calls us to be hopeful but also to avoid complacency!