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Episcopal and Swedish churches finalize full communion agreement

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop of Uppsala Martin Modéus sign a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden during a March 27 service held at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, France. They are surrounded by from left, the Rev. Margaret Rose, Bishop Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop Mark Edington and the Rev. Christopher Meakin. Photo: Jeremy Tackett/The Episcopal Church

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Church of Sweden‘s Archbishop Martin Modéus on March 27 signed in Paris a memorandum of understanding that establishes a full-communion relationship between the two churches, reports the World Council of Churches.

The signing of the agreement is expected to have various practical provisions, such as the establishment of a framework for the cooperation of congregations outside the two churches. Several Church of Sweden representatives from abroad were present during the ceremony alongside representatives of the Old Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, giving a wider ecumenical dimension to the event.

“Our two churches have more than 200 years of shared history in Europe and the United States. This full-communion agreement is one more sign of the beloved community that we so need in these times. Our partnership in addressing the challenges of climate change, supporting refugees, and racial justice binds us even more deeply to worldwide ecumenical efforts,” Curry said. 

“The agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden is another significant expression of the growing fellowship between Anglican and Lutheran traditions. We believe that we can cooperate on important challenges to the mission of the church in the world today. So this is a welcome and joyful ecumenical step forwards,” Modéus said.

The memorandum of understanding, known informally as the “Paris agreement,” was approved in 2022 by the Episcopal General Convention and the Church of Sweden’s General Synod, Episcopal News Service reported.

For a long time, the Church of Sweden — the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden, which was until 2000 the state church — has had a good relationship with the Episcopal Church, Modéus told Episcopal News Service. “And it’s important to get it written down. And there’s this meeting [that happens] between churches, it teaches something. We learn practical things, but also get to see ourselves in new ways,” he said. “It’s a blessing of God that we are different and it’s a sign of the diversity of the church, and it’s good for us all.”

The Church of Sweden is a part of the Lutheran tradition, while the Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican tradition.

“There have been already from the 18th century, various forms of practical cooperation. And then, moving on to modern times when the ecumenical movement started at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, there are also contacts between the Episcopal Church and other Anglican churches, and the Swedish Church in various ecumenical contexts. And then moving to today, in the last 20 odd years or so, there have been good examples of cooperation between our expatriate congregations in Europe and the Episcopal expatriates for European congregations,” said the Rev. Christopher Meakin of the Church of Sweden, who was present at the signing.

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