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Address by the Most Revd. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh

Posted on: September 27, 1996 4:25 PM
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Address by the Most Revd. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh

Romans 8, v14 "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God".

These words from the Second Lesson in this historic service speak directly to our reason for being here as fellow-Christians from so many Churches. Can any of us doubt that it has been anything less than the Spirit of the living God which has brought us to Tallinn? Our journey to this Cathedral has not only begun in Denmark, England, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Wales or here in Estonia. Our journeys began a long time ago with the first stirrings in the faithful hearts of those who sought God's will for His Church on earth. Our journeys began with the Man of Galilee who prayed that one day we might all rejoice in the glory of an at-oneness in God the Father of us all. The Porvoo Declaration now takes its place among the great declarations of faith from the early days of the Church. What does it say in its open words:

"on the basis of our common understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church, fundamental agreement in faith and our agreement on episcopacy in the service of the apostolicity of the Church ..."

Those words represent much study and dialogue. The represent heart-searching and prayer. They represent deep theological analysis of the truth as each of our Churches have understood the revelation of Almighty God. In the words of a modern Irish writer "we have looked, we have listened and now we see".

Today we have not come to engage in lengthy theological debate. We have come to celebrate before God the achievement of an agreement which we pray represents God's will for our individual peoples. We thank God for what has been achieved. But we recognise that as with the Christian story itself, we have not reached an ending - only a stage on the road, a milestone of historic significance - but still only an opportunity to pause before we move on to further understanding of each other, further co-operation and further individual and collective understanding of God's love and purpose for His Church.

The Porvoo Agreement has been built on the experience of links between Anglicans and Lutherans. An important stage in that process was the Niagara Report of the Anglican-Lutheran Consultation on Episcope in 1987. That progress was continued with the Meissen Agreement in the last five years and the work on agreement between the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. All of these were themselves stages or sign posts along the road. Now we celebrate an agreement which brings together Anglicans and Lutherans in northern Europe. What happens now could make a profound and highly significant contribution to the new Europe which is steadily emerging around us. But for all of us there are searching questions to be asked and to be answered as the Porvoo Agreement takes root.

The Porvoo Declaration has much to say to us about the nature of episcopacy, the meaning of KOINONIA (fellowship), the significance of ministry and the importance of dialogue. Something is now required of all of us. This celebration has brought us to the mountain top - but as with all spiritual progress, we cannot remain here. We must return to our own lands to open our hearts and minds to the ways in which the Porvoo Declaration can be implemented. So much remains to be done.

In my own country, Ireland, there was some years ago a road junction in the west which caused much bewilderment for tourists. At the junction there were several signs pointing the way to the city of Dublin. The only trouble is they were all pointing different directions!

As I think of the ecumenical pilgrimage I find the picture of that road junction speaks so clearly of our dilemma, our frustrations, indeed of our problems. We all desire to see and know the will of God. We have a common destination. But we all have our own ideas of priorities, of directions, of distance and of purpose. The infinite patience of God allows us to make our human reactions to the revelation of His purpose. It is a time like this, in a service such as this, that we are faced with the reality which must overcome our individualism: "for all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."

That Spirit has led us to this moment. We can only surmise where it will lead us now.

Led by the Spirit, led by the prompting of God, we travel on from Tallinn. Let not our hearts or minds dwell only on what may be the difficulties in our path. Let us glorify God for what has already been achieved - and let us follow the signs as children of the one God.