“God’s mission has never been about numbers. It has instead always been about the wonderful story of liberation, transformation and the promise of new life,” said Rev. Dr Martin Junge, general secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in a presentation to the 2019 National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) on Friday, July 12, 2019, meeting in Regina.
Junge reminded the convention of the four foundational pillars on which the LWF is grounded. These were developed by first Executive Committee of the LWF when they came together in 1947, right after Second World War.
He then explained how service, mission, theology and unity are the foundational pillars still shaping us today.
The first one related to the suffering of people because of war. Today, the LWF serves more than 2.3 million refugees worldwide. It is one of the largest faith-based implementing partners of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The second calling of our communion relates to cooperation among churches in mission. “One of the crossroads at which we stand as a global communion of churches today is to go beyond this one-directional perspective,” he said.
Things have changed: our largest member church today is in Ethiopia. The second largest is Tanzania. Churches struggling with their viability and sustainability can be found today both in the South and in the North.
“Our communion needs to grow into a new reality, in which each church will always and at all times understand itself as one being at both the giving and the receiving end, learning from each other, adding value to each other.”
The third calling that brought LWF member churches together at the time of its foundation was the theological work. “Churches realized how theology had been used to promote discrimination and to whitewash violence and oppression,” Junge said.
“A church on its own, is a church at risk”, he noted. “And this is particularly true as it relates to the ‘grammar’ of its witness, hence, for its theology. This is why we have been working together, to understand what informs our understanding of Scripture.”
The fourth pillar is about unity. Junge reminded the convention that, “To be Lutheran is to be ecumenical!”
He pointed out that, “We are not … where we should be, sharing the gifts of God at the table that is never ours but God’s alone. I invite you to continue supporting our joint ecumenical journey. This, too, is a way of journeying together for the sake of reconciliation.”
“The church has a past, but it doesn’t belong to the past,” he concluded. “It belongs to the present and has a future, because of God. God continues making things new, on this very day, nurturing and guiding God’s people as they live their baptismal vocation in everyday life.
“Sisters and brothers, there is no other time to be the church, than the current times. And therefore, there isn’t a better time to be the church, than this one.”
The ELCIC is a member church of the LWF, a global communion of 148 churches in 99 countries in the world and its over 75 million members.