Partakers in Christ
Address at the Community Dinner of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church in Berlin 1 May 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ. I am happy to greet you on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It was a joy to worship with you, to listen to the Word of God and to join in common prayer with you, and above all, to share in the Holy Communion with you. As an ecumenical guest it is a great honour to take part in the opening of the Bishops’ Council of the United Methodist Church.
Be not afraid, this bunch of paper I am waving is not my speech for tonight. It is the considerably new ecumenical agreement we have reached in Finland between the Lutheran and the Methodist Churches. This Agreement was a result of a theological dialogue of five years. It bears the title Partakers in Christ. The Agreement was signed in 2010. It brings the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the two Methodist Churches, one Finnish speaking and the other Swedish speaking, into a close fellowship with one another.
In the course of the dialogue, a common understanding was relatively easy to find. Lutherans and Methodists are not much distinct from each other. The central doctrinal topics to clarify among us were those of justification and sanctification, the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, and the Ministry. As we know, the very same issues have been part of many other dialogues, too. No wonder that we were also very much helped by the international ecumenical development.
Particularly helpful were two documents released by the UMC in America, namely the one on Baptism, By Water and the Spirit (1996), and the one on Eucharist, This Holy Mystery (2004). Apart from those, our dialogue was greatly assisted through the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which was adopted by the World Methodist Council in 2006. These documents, among the agreements of other Lutheran and Methodist Churches in Scandinavia, gained much success in Finnish ecumenism. Furthered and deepened in our own theological dialogue, they made it possible for us to take decisive steps into a communion of altar and pulpit, which includes a mutual recognition of ordination.
The Agreement exists in Finnish and in Swedish, but there is an English translation available on the internet. Luckily I also happen to carry a few hard copies with me for those who might wish to study it in English.
As Lutherans and Methodists in Finland, we find ourselves today in a process of strengthening our ties and enhancing our common witness and service in each local context. In the end, all ecumenical agreements are made in order to further the mission of the Church. Being partakers in Christ, we have been given a gift and a task. God has sent us to witness on the Love of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As a small token for the unity we share in faith and in mission, I wish to give you this little glass dove. The dove is a biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit. In this red colour, it is also a reminder of the coat of arms of my diocese, the diocese of Tampere. I want give this to the Bishop of the hosting church EmK, Mrs. Rosemarie Wenner and wish every blessing to the United Methodist Church and its Council of Bishops. May the Lord Jesus Christ guide your meeting through his Holy Spirit.