At a meeting this week of the Primates and Presiding Bishops of the Porvoo Communion, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church was one of 14 signatories to a letter urging the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to persuade the Russian President to stop the war in Ukraine.
The Porvoo Communion, which unites the Anglican Churches in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Iberian Peninsula and Lutheran Churches in Nordic countries, the Baltic, and Great Britain, met in Tampere, Finland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the communion. The Primates’ Meeting usually takes place every four years and should have taken place in 2021, but due to the pandemic had been postponed for a year.
A session consisting of presentations and discussions was devoted to each of the three themes of portrait, unity, and vulnerability.
In the session on unity, participants shared their horror at the Russian war in Ukraine. All continue to pray for peace and for a just outcome for the people of Ukraine, and for the return of stability to the whole region. At a separate session, the primates and presiding bishops agreed to send a letter to His Holiness Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, which says:
“Together we want to express our horror at the war in Ukraine, particularly how deeply concerned we are at the renewed systematic targeting of civilians and local infrastructure in your neighbouring country of Ukraine by Russian military. These are acts against humanity, violating the principles of the Geneva conventions, and they bring the war into another level of cruelty and death for the Ukrainian people.
“At this moment, together we call upon you, Your Holiness, to do your utmost to convince the Russian President to immediately halt these attacks and end this war. We as churches should share the joint ecumenical commitments to follow Christ’s commission to love and to protect those most vulnerable, and to demonstrate that we all, including Your Holiness, should be peacemakers wherever we are.
“We assure you of our prayers and trust that you will do everything in your power to influence those making these decisions that escalate the war and other decisions made to destabilize Ukraine. For the sake of all, including the soldiers and their families in Russia, we urge your Holiness to do whatever is in your power to bring this war to an end.”
For the first theme of the meeting, papers tracing a portrait of the Porvoo Common Statement had been prepared, and there was discussion about whether the original intentions should be developed by exploring further forms and expressions of communion.
On the theme of vulnerability, the experiences of the churches during the Covid-19 pandemic and what they have learned for the future were the subject of presentations which reflected on new and sometimes challenging ways of being church discovered during the pandemic, and on how different ways of deepening spiritual life had to be sought.
Miriam Weibye, the Provincial Church Relations Officer, also attended the meeting as a member of the Porvoo Contact Group.