A NEWS RELEASE
From Lutheran World Information
LUND, Sweden/GENEVA, 22 March 2007 (LWI) - The General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, has appealed to churches in the Lutheran communion to take up the urgent task of building bridges of healing between and among Lutheran churches that have no fellowship among themselves.
"Our credibility as Lutheran churches is constantly undermined by the fact that we are not in pulpit and altar fellowship with each other in spite of the common confessional writings. This persistent division gives the impression that there are other reasons that divide us rather than confessional stands," said Noko in his report to the LWF Council gathering in Lund, Sweden from 20 to 27 March. He expressed hope that the dialogue between the LWF and International Lutheran Council could lead toward such reconciliation.
This year's meeting includes a global Church Leadership Consultation and celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the LWF. The Church of Sweden is hosting the LWF events in the city where the Federation was founded in 1947.
The general secretary's report focused on the practical challenges of being in communion today; the Lutheran communion and the one holy, catholic and apostolic church; renewal of the LWF and; the 11th Assembly in 2010 as a potential landmark. Other issues included the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 theses; the issue of family, marriage and sexuality; and the episcopal ministry within the apostolicity of the church.
The general secretary pointed out that the LWF's engagement in bilateral dialogues had led to new avenues of reflection and practice, which justified why new phases of dialogues, even with traditional partners were being established. He mentioned, among others, the new dialogue commissions that were set up with the Anglican Communion and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and new stages that are being explored in these relationships. Noko especially paid tribute to the "meticulous work" of theologians in the member churches, the Geneva secretariat, and the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, for managing to reconcile the century-old theological differences between the church families.
On the LWF's renewal process - endorsed by the Council at its 2005 meeting in Jerusalem - Noko said it was important to genuinely and openly listen to the churches' voices. Renewal, he noted, "is not a bureaucratic exercise" but a process characterized by mutuality, consultation and accountability. He pointed out that "since mission and diakonia cannot be outsourced, we need to design a qualitatively different LWF" that would enable the member churches and their organizations to effectively undertake its mandate together, without a sense of competition, tension and alienation.
On the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Noko emphasized the significance of an ecumenical commemoration, and affirmed the LWF's central role in the preparatory phase.
Turning to the next LWF Assembly, the general secretary said it would be a historical landmark achievement in the ecumenical movement if the 11th Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, could be designed to point the way to a new stage in the ecumenical participation of Christian world communions.
Noko expressed concern that despite significant progress made so far, women continue to be excluded in both church and society. He affirmed the LWF's commitment to supporting the ordination of women and men, and encouragement to churches, in which this was not yet the case to dialogue with their sister churches. "There are about 20 women, something no one would have thought of 60 years ago," he remarked.
He noted that although the LWF member churches have agreed to ensure a minimum 40 percent participation of women, many church meetings and consultations excluded women's participation. "Unless and until we attend to gender mainstreaming in the life and work of our churches, we cannot truly be witnesses to gender justice in our societies."
Noko commended the Indian churches for making the Dalit issue a central priority and noted that the LWF member churches in India and the World Council of Churches are planning a global ecumenical gathering on Dalit liberation.
He underscored the LWF's support toward indigenous peoples' struggles as mandated by the Tenth Assembly in 2003, and noted that an international consultation on the issue took place in September 2006 in Karasjok, northern Norway, while one is planned for the Asian region in 2007. However, it was a still a major challenge to mainstream indigenous people's concerns and ensure that their "spirituality becomes a shared spiritual property of the church for the edification of all the saints," he said. (785 words)
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An estimated 500 people including over 100 church leaders are attending this year’s Council meeting, church leadership consultation and the LWF 60th anniversary celebrations. Also attending are officials from LWF partner organizations, invited guests, stewards, interpreters and translators, LWF staff and co-opted staff, and participants in the three-year LWF international training program for young communicators. The Council is the governing body meeting between Assemblies held every six years. The current Council was appointed at the July 2003 Tenth Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada. It comprises the President, Treasurer and 48 persons elected by the Assembly. Other members include advisors, lay and ordained persons, representing the different LWF regions.
During the LWF Council Meeting, the LWF Office for Communications Office may be contacted at mobile tel no. +46/76-276 1311
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The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world representing nearly 66.7 million Christians.
The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units.
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