Project Canterbury Report of the Committee Appointed to Confer with
Representatives of the Church of Finland
In Accordance with Resolution 38 of the Lambeth Conference, 1930
(Published by authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.)
GLOUCESTER. July 25, 1934.
MY LORD ARCHBISHOP,
In sending to your Grace the following report of our meeting with the representatives of the Church of Finland at Helsingfors, I should like to take the opportunity of giving your Grace a short account of the conference.
First of all, let me say how very hospitably and pleasantly we were entertained by the Church of Finland. The conference took place at the Strand Hotel, Brändö, situated on the seashore on one of the delightful wooded islands which surround the harbour of Helsingfors, and all the arrangements were most pleasant. We were received by the President of the Republic, and the whole delegation dined with the British Minister. In such time as was available we had the opportunity of making some acquaintance with the work of the Church in Finland. On the Monday evening before the conference there was a special service at St. Paul's Church, a very fine new Basilica, at which there was a crowded congregation of over 1,000 people, almost entirely working class. There were two sermons--one preached by Bishop Lehtonen, the other by Dr. Raven. We were taken to visit a very fine Deaconesses' Home, to which about 400 trained Deaconesses belong (there are between 1-2,000 altogether working in Finland), and we visited a fine and interesting old church in the country, where again there was a very large congregation, and the Dean of Chichester preached. Bishop Lehtonen and I, after the close of the conference, went to see the Archbishop, who is in a poor state of health, and was living in a country house of his situated, as all such houses are in Finland, on a lake.
The impression that we have obtained is that the Church of Finland has a very strong hold on the great mass of the people, who are also much interested in Church affairs.
The important thing to notice about the conference is that there were present at it several who had not been at Lambeth--Bishop Kaila of Wiipuri, Bishop Max von Bonsdorff of Borga, Dr. Tarkkanen (who looks after the Foreign Missions of the Church), Dr. Mannermaa, Dean of Oulu, and Professor Gulin of the University of Helsingfors. Most of these represented the traditional school of theology in Finland; they were most friendly throughout the conference and accepted our conclusions readily and whole-heartedly.
We had already examined carefully the theological position of the two Churches, with regard particularly to the Christian faith and the Sacraments, and we had, as your Grace is aware, come to the conclusion that there was substantial unity between the two.
The particular points on which discussion arose were, first of all, justification by faith. The Church of Finland, like all Lutheran Churches, lays far greater stress on the doctrine than we do; in fact, it has been the basis of their religious life. The English formularies were quite satisfactory, but it was recognised that the attitude of mind of a large portion of the Church of England on the subject was different from that of Finland. In old days there had been a good deal of strong pietistic influence. While recognising the difference of outlook and temperament of the two Churches, we were able to come to a satisfactory statement of a theological opinion on the subject.
Strong criticism has been directed from time to time against the Lutheran form of confirmation. It is maintained that it is not the same in any way as the English rite. It was pointed out that the Lambeth Conference had definitely avoided demanding any agreement with regard to confirmation, and that it was probably wise in doing so, as there was no rite about which there was greater variation in the Christian Church; but it did not seem fair to say that the rite in the Church of Finland had no resemblance to our own confirmation. Although the ceremony of laying on of hands is only occasionally used, the service contains a prayer which covers very much the same ground as our own, and implies strengthening by the Holy Spirit and the gifts of perseverance.
Our main discussions were on the question of Order. There are two difficulties. The one (which I think is well known) that in the year 1884 all the Bishops in the Church died at the same time and the succession was broken; nor would it have been possible to obtain the assistance of Bishops from outside to continue the succession. We did not think it necessary to discuss the position of an Episcopate which failed to be properly consecrated through the imposition of force majeure, as it gradually became clear that the members of the conference were prepared to recommend that, as occasion occurred, any irregularity there was should be corrected, and that Bishops from Sweden and England should be invited to take part in consecrations. It might be noted that the Archbishop of Upsala took part in the consecration of Bishop Lehtonen. His consecrators were the Bishop of Wiipuri, acting for the Archbishop of Abo; the Bishop of Borga; and the Archbishop of Upsala. I may add that in the consecration of the new Bishop of Esthonia the Archbishop of Upsala and Bishop Lehtonen will take part.
A much more serious question is raised by the canon of the Church of Finland, which allows the Dean of a Diocese to ordain during a vacancy. The reasons which had caused its adoption were explained; and we emphasised the importance which the Church of England attached to Episcopal Ordination.
We were asked what was the official teaching of "Apostolical succession." I pointed out, in reply, that the term "Apostolical succession" did not, as far as I was aware, occur in any official document of the Church of England, that it was a deduction from the rule in the ordinal. But I referred at some length to the statement on the ministry in the report of the Committee on unity in the Lambeth Conference of 1930, quoting in particular a considerable part of pages 114 to 116. I emphasised the great importance of the succession as an external sign of Christian continuity and of Christian unity, and the need for a unified ministry, pointing out at the same time the statement: "We emphatically declare that we do not call in question the spiritual reality of the ministries now exercised in non-episcopal communions." All the representatives were prepared to recognise the value of the Apostolic succession in relation to continuity and unity.
As regards the canon permitting ordination by a Presbyter in emergencies, it was pointed out that it would be extraordinarily difficult to alter it. It is part of the law of the State as well as the law of the Church, and to deal with it would be more difficult than for the Church of England to pass the new Prayer Book. Stress was laid on the point that the custom had prevailed only slightly, and would prevail less in the future. All the Finnish delegates were prepared to undertake to eliminate as far as possible Presbyterian ordination, but they could not bind their Church. We laid great stress on the importance of appointing a Bishop to preside over their Mission Church in South Africa. We pointed out that if that were done it would make relations with the Church of South Africa very much easier. So long, however, as the possibility of Presbyterian ordination exists, it will be difficult for the full and formal intercommunion which we both desire to be arranged.
With regard to the report that we have sent to your Grace, I should like to make a few observations. In the first place, as regards the general agreement in Christian doctrine, I believe that it is an understatement rather than an overstatement. The essential thing is that all the delegates of both Churches recommend that gradually the ministry should be unified by each taking part in the other's consecration; that we grant the members of the Church of Finland the right to communicate in the Church of England: and we recognise the possibility of members of the Church of England communicating in Finland without making any recommendation; and that we look forward in the future to mutual conference between the Church of England and other Churches in communion with it. It was felt on both sides that it would not be desirable that we should advance too rapidly. There are elements in both Churches which are suspicious; but we think that the quite definite step which is taken, which will result in the regularisation of the Orders of the Church of Finland, means a real step in advance for Christian unity. I am,
My Lord Archbishop,
Yours most sincerely,
A. C. GLOUCESTR:
To their GRACES THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AND THE ARCHBISHOP OF TURKU (Abo)
WE, the commission appointed by you to consider the relations of the Church of England and the Church of Finland with one another, report as follows:
We have considered with great care the agreements and differences in the doctrine and customs of the two Churches, and have to report that on the most fundamental points of doctrine there is agreement. Such relations between the two Churches as we recommend do not require from either Communion the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion or of all sacramental or liturgical practice characteristic of the other, but imply that each believes the other to hold the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. We are of opinion that both Churches hold the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
We recommend therefore:
I. That if the Archbishop of Turku (Abo) shall invite the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a bishop to take part in the consecration of a bishop in the Church of Finland, he shall commission a bishop for such a purpose; and in the same way, if the Archbishop of Canterbury shall ask the Archbishop of Turku (Abo) to appoint a bishop to take part in the consecration of a bishop in the Church of England, he shall commission a bishop for such a purpose.
2. The Anglican delegation recommends the admission of communicants of the Church of Finland to communion in the Church of England, and takes note of the fact that the Church of Finland is already accustomed to admit to Communion at its altars communicants not belonging to the Lutheran confession.
3. That if at the time of the Lambeth Conference or at any other time there shall be a conference between bishops of the Anglican Communion and bishops of other Churches in communion with it, bishops of the Church of Finland shall be asked to attend it, and that the Church of Finland shall invite Anglican bishops to similar conferences if they are held in the future.
ALEKSI LEHTONEN (Bishop of Tampere).
ERKKI KAILA (Bishop of Wiipuri).
MAX v. BONSDORFF (Bishop of Borga).
J. A. MANNBRMAA (Dean of Oulu).
U. PAUNU (Vicar of Valkeala).
MATTI TARKKANEN (Mission Director Emer: of the Finnish Missionary Society).
E. G. GULIN (Professor, Helsinki).
A. C. GLOUCESTR:
A. S. DUNCAN-JONES (Dean of Chichester).
A. E. J. RAWLINSON (Archdeacon of Auckland),
CHARLES E. RAVEN (Regius Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University).
PHILIP USHER (Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Gloucester).
CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS (Vice-Principal of St. Boniface College, Warminster).
The 19th of July, 1934.