The Lutheran archbishop of Finland speaks softly and easily, but his intensity escalates when he talks about increased cooperation between his church and Anglicans.
"We have agreed to treat members of each other's churches as our own," said Archbishop John Vikström at the ELCA churchwide offices in Chicago. He was referring to the Porvoo Agreement that will declare full communion between Baltic and Nordic Lutherans and Anglicans of England, Scotland and Wales. Vikström will preach at Westminster Abbey in London Nov. 28 when the agreement is celebrated (see also page 11).
"It's coming together as closely as possible without merging," Vikström continued. "We are glad to give this gift to the ecumenical movement at the end of this century."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will vote on a similar full-communion proposal at its assembly next year.
Ilkka Makela, a Finnish pastor who heads that church's ministry to Finns abroad, said that because of the thousands of "modern migrants" living in New York, the Finnish church is sending clergy to work in close cooperation with several ELCA congregations in the Metropolitan New York Synod.
The three-year project is a joint venture of the synod, the ELCA Division for Outreach and the Finnish church. An estimated 2,000 to 5,000 Finns live in New York, with another 3,500 in the Washington, D.C., area.
"They are business people, students, diplomatic staff," said Makela, "who are not being spiritually served."
Makela and Vikström were part of a three-member delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland that took part in the 100th anniversary of Suomi College, an ELCA-related institution in Hancock, Mich.
"Suomi proves in a fruitful way that Finnish spiritual and cultural values are relevant and modern in this big country of the United States," observed Risto Cantell, the church's director for international relations.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers