Reflection on the 50th anniversary of the Leuenberg Agreement gathering in Vienna

20 July 2023

By the Revd Gill Newton, President of the Conference

ravelling overseas on a day when train strikes are taking place in Britain is not ideal! Nevertheless, Kerry and I were glad to eventually arrive safely in Vienna-Hutteldorf on the eve of the ecumenical gathering we had been invited to attend!

What a privilege to be amongst almost a hundred senior church leaders from protestant churches across Europe to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Leuenberg Agreement in such beautiful surroundings as the Europahaus Wien Conference Centre including the Miller-Aichholz Palace. 

The celebrations rightly began with an act of worship at the nearby Trinity Lutheran Church in Hutteldorf.  I was invited to read the scripture in English, but the worship was conducted in German, English and French – quite a Pentecostal experience!

An evening reception followed with food, music, and lots of speeches about all the agreement had enabled during the last 50 years.  An official photograph of the gathering was taken, and special note was made of the fact that when the agreement was originally signed in 1973, the senior leaders were all men!  Thankfully, it is a very different picture now!

During the morning of the following day, we spent time in worship, were challenged by the thinking of some young theologians and witnessed a moving ceremony in which leaders of the German Lutheran Church in Ukraine became party to the Leuenberg Agreement.  We also spent time in discussion groups focusing on diaconal work, reconciliation, communication including digital church and theological training.

The time spent with these European leaders revealed that we are all facing many of the same issues and further reflection on those challenges will take place at the next Communion of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) Synod due to be held in Germany in September 2023. 

However, I can’t help thinking that maybe the Leuenberg Agreement is something of a “hidden treasure” and as British Methodists, we could be making more of the fact that we are part of this covenantal agreement.  For example, as pointed out by our Assistant Connexional Ecumenical Officer recently, CPCE recognises full fellowship of pulpit and table among member churches, inter-celebration of the Sacraments and full acceptance of each other’s ordination.  Methodists in Britain have been members of the CPCE since 1995 and Anglicans since 2003.  So, what could our shared participation in the Leuenberg Agreement be adding to ongoing conversations regarding interchangeable and shared ministry between Methodists and Anglicans?

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