The leaders of the Lutheran Churches of Baltic countries met in Tallinn on the 3rd and 4th of November, 2009 to strengthen the unity of the Lutheran churches in the Baltic countries and to pray for the fellowship among Christians of the whole world. Recognizing that the ties between Christian communities in many places are challenged in our time, seven bishops of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania signed a joint declaration calling Lutherans for unity and spiritual renewal.
“Especially at times of the economic difficulties when so many people have lost their external foothold and inner peace, we invite our compatriots to expand their appreciation of their Christian roots and to utilize all the spiritual wealth that is revealed in the Holy Scripture and offered to everyone who turns to God and puts their trust on Christ” state bishops in their message from meeting in Tallinn. “The present crisis in the world economy is a fruit of a long term failure to act accordingly the principles which God has laid in the foundations of His creation. Consumerism and individualism of the modern society have taken their toll. To look for solution only by means of mending economy would mean to repeat the same mistake. A spiritual renewal must come first, a renewed sense of balance between rights and obligations, communion empathy, solidarity, and mutual support. We believe that the most convincing inner motivation for that change is found in an encounter of a person with the living Christ. To facilitate that encounter by word and deed is the first and foremost calling of the Christian church. Jesus Christ said: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt.28:19-20)”.
Bishops also invite local political powers to realize more clearly the spiritual dimension of the human life and the good fruits of a positive co-operation between state, municipalities, schools and the church. Teaching and implementing Christian principles strenghthen the family as well as the whole community. Liberty of conscience and freedom of speech belong to the values of society defining religious life not only as a private but also as a public social right which has to be fostered.
„At the present time a common witness of churches is vitally important, therefore we express our deepest concern about modern tendencies that weaken the fellowship among Christians and cause divisions in and among churches”, declare bishops. „The recent decisions made by some member churches of the Lutheran World Federation to approve of religious matrimony for couples of the same gender and to equate such conjugal life with marriage or to ordain non celibate homosexual persons for pastoral or episcopal office epitomize these tendencies that are tearing apart fellowhip among Christians. We affirm that the marriage is the conjugal life between a man and a woman and that a homosexual activity is incompatible with the discipleship of Christ. We believe that in following the modern trends, churches are departing from the apostolic doctrine of human sexuality and marriage. We see the Lutheran communion and eccumenical efforts endangered by such decisions and actions because they lead to a situation where the Lutheran churches, members of the Lutheran World Federation are not able to fully recognize each others ecclesiastical offices, to exchange the ministries and to participate together in preaching the Word and celebrating the sacraments.”
Bishops call upon Lutheran sisters and brothers to unity and co-operation based upon the foundation of Holy Scripture and loyalty to the Lutheran confessions. „Contemporary challenges demand a firm stand based upon timeless truths and values. The common understanding of the Gospel by churches is a treasure we cannot afford to lose and it needs to be passed on to the current and future generations. Our mission is to be faithful in that which we have received, God’s mercy. We are to serve our Lord and our neighbours thus until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:13)“, announce bishops in the declaration.
Joint message of the Baltic Lutheran bishops is signed by Janis Vanags, Archbishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia; Einars Alpe, Bishop of Daugavpils, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia; Pavils Bruvers, Bishop of Liepaja, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia; Mindaugas Sabutis, Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania; Andres Põder, Archbishop of Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church; Kuno Pajula, Archbishop emeritus of Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church; Bishop Einar Soone, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Full Declaration text: please find it HERE
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