|The Bishop of Newcastle, Co-Chairman of the Consultation|
The consultation was felt to be timely, given that in our countries legislation on marriage is changing, and these changes are drawing responses from our Churches. For instance, Sweden passed a gender neutral marriage law in 2009. The Church of Sweden subsequently revised its liturgy of marriage accordingly.
I was invited to the consultation as a “keynote listener” - a kind of rapporteur - to feed back to the consultation what the participants were saying to each other. It was 4 days of honest exchange and dialogue. The Churches affirmed that their central and shared task is to witness together for Christ in a complex and changing Europe. The representatives recognised that throughout its history the Christian Church has had to face the challenges of a changing society. The consultation affirmed that the Church is in but not wholly of the world as she seeks to live and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ afresh in each generation.
During the days together members from each Church shared their official teaching on marriage, as well as their pastoral experiences. There were also presentations covering aspects of the scriptural foundations for marriage, the development of doctrine, and human genetics.
The consultation concluded that differences over the introduction of same-sex marriage remain unresolved. The Churches hold a variety of views and pastoral practices along a theological spectrum. Some believe same sex marriage to be a legitimate development in the Christian tradition, whilst others see the potential for a serious departure from the received tradition. Nevertheless the consultation affirmed the benefits of "belonging to one another" and the value of honest encounter. The strong relationship of the Porvoo Communion, provides a “platform of sustained communication in the face of issues which raise difficulties for [the Churches]”