Inspired and encouraged: Leadership Conference of the Americas concludes from Brazil

From April 15-19, delegates from North America, the Caribbean and Latin America met for the annual Leadership Conference of the Americas in São Leopoldo, Brazil.

Participants met under the theme ‘Fear not! There is good news!’ A bringing together of sorts of church leaders, youth, council members, partners and women, the conference was hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IELCB) in honour of 200 years of Lutheran worship in Brazil.

“I was very pleased with the leadership meeting in Brazil. It gave us a chance to share our hopes and fears for our churches into the future,” said National Bishop Susan Johnson, who was in attendance representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

“Together, we want to explore the relationship between fear and hope in the Bible, God’s promise and God’s covenant with his people in our times, and the contribution of Lutheran theology can make to that,” said Rev. Sonia Skupch, regional secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, on the conference’s theme. “We want to be inspired and encourage one another in our mission as churches to be spaces where fear gives way to hope and where churches are invited to be heralds of Good News.”

One piece of the agenda was learning more about the host church (IELCB) and its work through hands-on experience, visits and presentations. Rev. Skupch shared a message of hope and faithfulness in her sermon during opening worship. “Do not be afraid,” she said. “The Risen One, God, summons all people, humanity, and creation to be part of God’s saving project, leading them to life in fullness. The invitation is inclusive and unconditional.”

Another particular focus of the conference was to encourage prayerful reflection in hopes of overcoming some of the many challenges faced by churches across the Americas. The more prominent fears included that of the polarization of people belonging to churches, financial sustainability, conflict and violence in certain regions, and a lower number of students entering seminary year by year. 

The regions’ women and youth networks also presented to delegates their strategic priorities for the years ahead. With the goal of strengthening communication and networking within the LWF, contact persons for all churches will be formalized moving forward. Further education on gender justice will carry on, while a major focus will be the elimination of gender-based violence. 

“Church leaders should not be afraid to encourage men, women and youth to build their capacities to speak up against and prevent gender-based violence,” said Rev. Sílvia Genz, president of the IECLB. “It will strengthen our churches and their credibility.”

Some of the regional youth network’s priorities included that of inclusion, climate justice, a focus on proper mental health and further empowerment to youth leaders. International language learning workshops and courses will be offered in hopes of strengthening interregional connections with hopes of better understanding one another within international circles.

Prior to closing worship, delegates to the conference officially adopted a message to the communion of churches in the LWF, addressing the fears of the regions’ churches with reference to the racism, conflict, and the climate crisis amongst others. But also pointing to signs of encouragement and hope in strengthening the voices of youth, while striving for an end to gender-based violence and caring for creation through climate justice. 

“These concerns connect with the global communion in many areas,” the message reads. “In particular, we express our solidarity with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) which suffers the effects of war. We call for a ceasefire and access to humanitarian aid for those in need… Silence in the face of fears and concerns is not an option. We accompany one another and walk together as one body in Christ”, remembering the message of the Gospel to “Not be afraid” and sharing the Good News.

-with files from LWF Information