Signatory's Protocol by the Church of Norway on the Signing of The Agreement between Reformation Churches in Europe (Leuenberg Agreement)
Adopted by the Church of Norway General Synod on 19 November 1999
The Church of Norway expresses with pleasure its readiness to sign the Leuenberg Agreement. By signing this Agreement we give a concrete, written expression of our positive evaluation of it. In addition, however, we also wish to explain the way in which we understand our commitment as a signatory church.
The ecumenical position of the Church of Norway
The Church of Norway is involved in ecumenical relationships with other churches in manifold ways. Through the Porvoo communion between Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches and the Anglican churches in Great Britain and Ireland, we are in full church fellowship with these Anglican churches. We also have an agreement of altar and pulpit fellowship with the Methodist Church in Norway ("Fellowship of Grace"). Through the Lutheran World Federation we are in full church fellowship with the other Nordic folk churches and all other member churches of the Federation. We are also a member of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.
The close fellowship with other churches also implies a commitment with regard to other agreements being entered into. There should be theological compatibility between the various agreements and the ecclesial and theological tradition in which we stand.
On the Signing of the Leuenberg Agreement
On the basis of the above considerations, we wish to specify in the following points, the way in which we understand our signing of the Agreement. In so doing, we also specify our understanding of the Agreement.
1. With gratitude we recognize that the doctrinal disagreements between our churches have been sufficiently clarified through the Leuenberg Agreement. By signing the Agreement, the Church of Norway officially confirms this recognition.
2. We affirm the understanding of the gospel and the sacraments expressed in the Leuenberg Agreement. In this way, we put behind us the doctrinal disagreements which our churches have considered to be church dividing. On the basis of our agreement regarding the understanding of the gospel (L.A. § 33), we commit ourselves, through the Agreement, to offer altar and pulpit fellowship to the signatory churches.
This obligation rests on a conviction, expressed in the Agreement, "that together we share in the one Church of Jesus Christ and that the Lord frees us and commits us to common service." (L.A. § 34.)
3. The Church of Norway stresses the importance of the doctrinal dialogues that have been conducted between the signatory churches since 1973. The deepening of ecclesiastical and sacramental understanding is an important factor in our positive assessment of the Leuenberg Agreement and our joining the Leuenberg Fellowship. We wish to underline the need for further theological discussions. In line with the other churches of the Leuenberg Fellowship, we cannot enter into altar and pulpit fellowship with churches practising re-baptism.
4. Against the background of the ecumenical agreements into which we have entered, it has become clear to us that both the meaning and the structuring of ecumenical church fellowship will vary according to context. In all our churches there are forms of pastoral oversight ("episkopé"). Such a function is necessary in all churches. The concrete structure and understanding of such a ministry of oversight may, however, vary.
In the Porvoo agreement, the Church of Norway has stated, together with the other Porvoo signatory churches, that fellowship in word and sacrament is made explicit through the ministry of oversight which is exercised by the pastoral ministry in the church and by the ministry of bishops on whom the ministry of oversight is bestowed in a particular way. Together, these are an outward sign of church unity.
Both through ecumenical dialogue and through our own church history we have learned to value this tradition. The role of the episcopal ministry in the Church of Norway has facilitated the achievement of church fellowship with Anglican churches. This does not for us preclude recognition of other churches which do not have an episcopal ministry, or the possibility of full church fellowship with such churches.
5. In signing the Leuenberg Agreement, we acknowledge our close relations to the signatory churches of this Agreement. Signing the Leuenberg Agreement does not mean that we support a development of Protestant synodical structures in Europe. Co-operation with the signatory churches of the Leuenberg Fellowship should not lead to obstruction of other ecumenical relations.
6. The realization of church fellowship takes place on both theological and practical levels, in daily life among the churches that have entered into the fellowship. We value the challenges that follow from our signing of the Agreement and from the altar and pulpit fellowship which it represents. It is our hope that we, as the Church of Norway and as a member of the Porvoo communion, will be able to contribute through the Leuenberg church fellowship to the mutual enrichment of our traditions and our church life.
7. On this basis of, and in line with, the agreement achieved in the Leuenberg Agreement, which is compatible with the confession of our church, we wish hereby to declare church fellowship with the signatory churches of the Leuenberg Agreement.
Signing the Agreement takes place in the conviction that the call to unity of the churches in Jesus Christ is also realized in, and by means of, the fellowship of the signatory churches of the Leuenberg Agreement.
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