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Testing the Porvoo Agreement: An Ordination in Norway

Stian Heggedal was an Anglican seminarian when he lived at the Lay Centre for his semester as a student in Rome in 2009. Today he is a priest of the Lutheran Church of Norway, ordained at Nidarosdomen, the Cathedral Church of Trondheim. Yet, he will have the faculties of an Anglican priest as well, and be able to serve in either church. His first pastoral assignment is with the Military Ordinariate of Norway, where he will begin as a chaplain lieutenant stationed near Lillehammer.

The ecumenical achievement that makes this possible is the Porvoo Communion, which was established by the signing of the Porvoo Common Statement, twenty years ago in the very same cathedral where Stian received his presbyteral ordination.

As early as 1938, work began towards a closer union between the established churches of northern Europe, which are variously Anglican or Lutheran. The church of Norway was one of the first handful of signatories in 1992, with the Church of Denmark being the latest to join, in 2010. It includes 14 member churches and some observers, consisting of the Anglican and Lutheran churches in the British Isles, Scandinavia, the Baltic states and the Iberian peninsula.

The churches are all episcopal in structure, rather than congregational or presbyterian, and most are established state churches. An ordained priest or pastor in one can serve in another, and in theory at least, it does not matter anymore which church you are ordained into. An Anglican seminarian can be ordained by a Lutheran bishop, and still be validly Anglican.

Yet in practice, it did not quite work that way. Stian had to officially join the Lutheran Church of Norway about two weeks before his ordination. Finance, personnel, and administration seem to delay what theology and sacramental practice have already allowed to happen!

As for the ordination itself, i am sorry to report that my camera died, which was only discovered at the end of the weekend. However, i will note that i was surprised at how small the attendance was. Family members and friends, and a few church officials, but for two ordinands, there were about 50 people present, including three of us who had studied with Stian in Rome – myself, Eveline from the Netherlands and Cosima from Germany. The presiding bishop of the Church of Norway was present, but served as neither the presider at Eucharist nor the principal minister of ordination. In fact, one ordinand offered the homily and the other offered the Eucharist.

On a personal note, i have to say that i liked Norway for the fact that it was the first time in my life i was up before the crack of dawn every day. Granted, dawn cracked at about 10:00am, and sunset was at 2:00pm, but still… It was a very good trip!



Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

In January, i was in Trondheim, Norway for the ordination of a friend of mine as a pastor in the (Lutheran) Church of Norway. More about that in another post, but here’s something about the Cathedral, which was for centuries the northernmost cathedral in the world.

Located at about the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, the city that is now called Trondheim was founded as Nidaros by King Olaf I Tryggvason, in AD 997 – that would be the same King Olaf who received Leif Eriksson and introduced him to Chrstianity, just before the latter made his famous voyage to establish “Vinland” – modern-day Newfoundland, Canada.

The diocese was erected by St. Olav (King Olaf II Haraldsson) in about AD 1030 and elevated to metropolitan see in 1153 with suffragan sees in Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles. The cathedral was constructed during the later part of the 11th century and the entirety of the 12th. In the mid-1530s the Church of Norway came under the influence of the Lutheran reformation, and, like the Church of England, broke communion with Rome, and became an established church. For four centuries there was no official Catholic presence there, until a mission was re-established in the 1930s; now the de-facto Catholic cathedral of the Territorial Prelature of Trondheim sits just across the road from Nidarosdomen, in a squat temporary building. (A capital campaign is underway to build a new Catholic church there.)

Nidaros Cathedral houses the remains of St. Olav, patron of Norway – though the exact whereabouts have been unknown since a 16th century iconoclasm. The only known relic of St. Olav is his arm, which is located in the (Catholic) Cathedral of Oslo.

Next to the Cathedral one can still find the archbishop’s palace, though there is no longer an archbishop. The (Lutheran) Bishop of Nidaros has his offices there, and hosted us for an intimate reception after the ordination. The presiding bishop of the Church of Norway also officially has some offices there, as Nidaros is the primatial see of Norway, though she spends most of her time in Oslo, the national capital.

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