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Ninth Biennial Convention
Augustana University College, Cambros AB
June 12 - 15, 2003

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Report of the Lutheran World Federation

Dateline Mozambique—"I have been in the village since 1960. Never until 1995 did we see such things as water pumps, schools, mangos and bananas, We were drinking water from the river, now we have safe drinking water. We received mosquito nets and malaria cases have been reduced." You are there through the Lutheran World Federation.

Dateline Nairobi—Like any children, their chuckles are a warm welcome to their home. But beneath their bright-eyed stares at visitors are heart-rending tales. Most of the 40 children at the New Life Home in Nairobi, Kenya are dying. Whether orphaned or abandoned, the babies have one thing in common, their mothers were or are HIV positive. You are there through the Lutheran World Federation.

On behalf of the Rev. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), President Christian Krause, and the three other LWF member churches in North America (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Diaspora, and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad), I bring you greetings and offer thanks for your ongoing support of the work of the LWF. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and its predecessor bodies have been prominent in the LWF since its inception in 1947 when 47 Lutheran churches around the world responded to the devastating human need in a post-war Europe. Early in the life of the LWF, two North American church leaders served as president of the LWF: Franklin Clark Fry, president of the United Lutheran Church in America and subsequently of the Lutheran Church in America served as president from 1957–1963 and, Fredrik Schiotz, president of the American Lutheran Church served as LWF president from 1963–1970. We continue to be blessed by the work done in those early years. We are a church with historically close connections to our global Lutheran family.

Who are we?

Today we are nearly 62 million of the world’s 65 million Lutherans. We are 136 church bodies in 76 countries. Our Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s international relief, rehabilitation and development agency, maintains 24 service programs, and emergency operations in 31 countries with over 50 international staff and 5500 local staff. In 2002, DWS allocated more that $80 million in program and emergency support around the world. This makes us part of one of the largest humanitarian assistance agencies in the world!

The LWF is more than an aid agency. Through the LWF Department for Theology and Studies we have some of the best scholars writing on issues and concepts that confront a 21st century church. What makes the LWF distinctive is a living faith that engages the challenges the human community faces today. Theological reflection on this living faith as it interacts with the world is the life stream of the LWF as a communion of churches.

Through the work of the Office for International Affairs and Human Rights, the LWF advocates for justice, peace, the transformation of cultures of violence and oppression, and strengthens the advocacy capacity of member churches.

The Department for Mission and Development focuses on promoting and strengthening the life and witness of the churches. At a time when the tension between globalization and pressing local needs is felt, the churches are constantly challenged to engage in holistic and inclusive ministry. We are a complex, multi-faceted Lutheran family who together, all 62 million strong, do make a difference!

While the churches in the North struggle to maintain current membership, many churches are thriving.

Worldwide Lutheran Membership 1993 2001 Percentage Change
Africa 6.2 11.9 47.8%
Asia 4.5 7.1 36.2
Europe 37.6 36.6 -2.6
Latin America  1.3  1.1 -15.1
North America  8.6  8.5 -1.5
World 58.3 65.3 10.7

Membership numbers represent millions.

What do we have to learn? How can we hear and learn from their experiences in evangelism and outreach? As member churches of the LWF, we have a common space in which to come together to pray, sing, dialog, learn, discuss, agree and disagree. What does it mean to us as North Americans to be in communion with the wider world of Lutherans? How will we rethink our use of this church’s resources? We must give energy to training new leaders who think globally. How will we learn to make shared decisions? If power is the ability to translate intentions into actions, then what does that mean for the ELCIC? For the LWF? Can we rejoice in the clear understanding that while we may be separated by oceans and significant land mass and culture, we are indeed a healthy, creative family with our sisters and brothers in the LWF?

Regional Office for North America

The LWF regional offices have been developing as a program to help member churches within each region give life to the vision of Lutheran communion. In 1997, the dream of having an LWF regional office in North America was realized. A joint agreement with the LWF, the ELCIC and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America provides the shape and oversight of the office. Headquartered in the Lutheran Center in Chicago, the officer reports directly to the LWF director for Mission and Development in Geneva. The officer’s responsibilities include building relationships and communication between the ELCIC and the ELCA for the purposes of mission in North America, facilitating the sharing of gifts of LWF members with the ELCIC and the ELCA wherever possible, assisting in fund raising (LWF Endowment Fund), and coordinating with the Canadian/ USA National Committees of LWF for interpretation and education about the LWF within North America.

In late 2001 the Rev. Arthur Leichnitz (ELCIC) resigned the office to move to Geneva to serve as the Coordinator for the LWF Tenth Assembly. In January 2002, Kathy J. Magnus, former vice-president of the ELCA, accepted the call to serve as the LWF Regional Officer for North America.

The ELCIC is represented on the 49-member council by Bishop Ray Schultz. Rev. Susan Johnson serves as an advisor to the council. Robert Granke serves the LWF as the Director for the Department for World Service in Geneva and Mr Erling Nielson serves on the Standing Committee for World Service.

Tenth Assembly

North America is honoured to host the Tenth Assembly of the LWF in Winnipeg, Manitoba this summer. For the Healing of the World is the theme of the Tenth Assembly to be held July 21–31, 2003. This will be the first time an assembly has been held in North America since 1957.

North America will be a global mission event this summer.

  • In mid July 160 youth from around the world will gather at the University of Guelph for the LWF Pre-Assembly Youth Consultation.
  • From July 14–20 global guests will visit eleven ministry sites across Canada. They will sing, pray, worship, witness, listen and experience together. Transformation of lives and communities will occur. Pray that the richness and depth of these visits will be a blessing to synods, congregations and individuals.
  • The Assembly itself will be July 21–31. ELCIC members will be present as delegates, council members, advisors, visitors and volunteers.
  • Beginning on August 1 and continuing for a week, global guests will join ELCA members in 37 ministry sites.

ELCIC delegates to the Assembly are:
National Bishop, Raymond Schultz, Rev. Susan Johnson, and Christie Morrow.

Assembly Bible Studies and Village Group materials can be accessed for use on the LWF Assembly web site www.lwf-assembly.org. This Assembly will elect a new president and a new council. Please pray for those elected that they might have wisdom, courage, and insight for leading the LWF in the next seven years.

Conclusion

The ELCIC continues to make significant contributions to the mission and work of the Lutheran World Federation. These include the many contributions that individuals, institutions and the ELCIC make in leadership, study and service within the LWF. The contribution also includes strong financial support for the LWF as we make our common witness and service. We work together in emergency humanitarian assistance, sustainable development, evangelism, communication, Christian education, theological education, ministry with women and youth in church and society, studies and theological reflection, advocacy with international affairs and human rights, and in continued attention to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

Through God’s grace, we are able in solidarity, in communion to share our pain, joy, burdens and gifts and in that process begin to understand what Luther was describing when he explained what occurs through the sacrament of the altar: "…through the interchange of Christ’s blessings and our misfortunes, we become one loaf, one bread, one body, one drink, and have all things in common. In this way we are changed into one another and are made into a community by love." As Lutherans, our call is For the Healing of the World. Let our actions and the deep, vibrant faith of the people of this church make it so.

Respectfully submitted,

Kathy J. Magnus
Regional Officer for North America

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
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