Enjoying And Renewing Historic Links

Jo Jan Vandenheede writes; "12 - 16th September saw the Anglican-Lutheran Society holding its international conference in Révfülöp (Lake Balaton, Hungary). Around 60 participants of about a dozen countries came together around the theme 'Fear not little flock: the vocation of minority churches today'. Besides the many interesting lectures and discussions, there was regular worship in both traditions, and outings (for example to Tihany Abbey)."

The Importance of Listening to Minorities

Pay attention to those on the margins. They have a lot to say but are not often listened to. That was the message that came out of a conference in Révfülöp beside Lake Balaton in Hungary organised by the Anglican-Lutheran Society ( 12th-16th September 2014. People from some of the smallest Churches in Europe gathered to share some of their experience with others belonging to so-called majority Churches from Canada, the USA, the UK, Germany and Scandinavia.

Professor Tibor Fabiny from Budapest introduced Hungary and its Church communities. Then, in a series of joint presentations, Anglicans and Lutherans from Portugal, France, Italy, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK explained their approaches to serving divided communities, diaconal ministry, involving the laity, ecumenism and spirituality. The issues they raised in their sessions were then taken up in small groups.

‘Minorities have much more to offer than we are aware of most of the time,’ said Praxedis Bouwman from the Communications Committee of Lutheran Minority Church in Europe. ‘And,’ she added, ‘minorities are most effective when agreeing among themselves.’

Dr Christiane Groeben, of the Lutheran Church in Italy, and Bishop Jorge Piña Cabrel of the Lusitanian Church (Anglican) in Portugal both agreed. They emphasised the importance of working with other Churches.

‘Unity is important for the Church’s Mission in today’s world,’ Bishop Jorge declared. ‘Ecumenism is not an end in itself but serves the most authentic Christian witness to the Gospel.’

Dr Groeben suggested that a key to greater unity lies in a willingness to listen. ‘Because we Lutherans are a small community in Italy we have to build bridges, interact with our neighbours, get to know them, learn about them and share resources with them. The goal is not to give up identity but to gain shared diversity,’ she said.

Annamária Buda of the Hungarian Lutheran Church and Madeleine Holmes of the Church of England Diocese in Europe shared their insights into diaconal service. In Hungary, Ms Buda explained, the Lutheran Church has set up a Department of Diakonia to enable the Church to engage with the growing number of social problems in the community often due to poverty, incapacity or old age. Mrs Holmes described how the minority Anglican Church on the European mainland forges links with its Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed neighbours to accomplish a vast range of pastoral care projects.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, reminded the conference of the role that can be played by minority groups in the ongoing process of reconciling divided communities, while Dr Roy Long (Lutheran) and Dr Robin Greenwood (Anglican) shared their ideas about involving the laity in the Church’s task.

‘Two things are not marks of the Church – size and organisation,’ said Dr Long. ‘The Church consists of ordinary people made extraordinary because they share the priesthood of Jesus.’ But the challenge for all Churches is enabling these extraordinary people to organise themselves in new ways to ‘stop going to church and to be the Church,’ asserted Dr Greenwood. ‘The Church has a responsibility for the formation of the laity as the dispersed Church.’

Dr Anne Burghardt from the Lutheran World Federation explained how Lutheran spirituality in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe has been shaped by the religious and political context. Worship, in both the Lutheran and Anglican traditions, formed the backbone of the conference, and everyone joined a local Lutheran congregation for Sunday morning worship and visited the Benedictine community at Tihany Abbey.

Further information from Canon Dick Lewis (Secretary, Anglican-Lutheran Society)

0044 (0)1777 719200