Great gifts come in small packages, as the adage goes, and the Village Groups at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly proved this. The 821 participants worked in groups to discuss the implications of the Assembly theme For the Healing of the World in ten sub-themes.
The sub-themes were: God's Healing Gift of Justification; God's Healing Gift of Communion; Healing Divisions Within the One Church; The Mission of the Church in Multi-Faith Contexts; Removing Barriers that Exclude; The Church's Ministry of Healing; Justice and Healing in Families; Overcoming Violence; Transforming Economic Globalization, and Healing Creation.
The Village Groups were termed "a central feature" of the Assembly, because they were the settings where Bible study discussions occurred and where "important implications of the Assembly theme" were pursued. Discussions in the village groups generated ideas which were presented in the final Assembly Message to guide the LWF for the next six years.
Assembly delegates were asked to indicate their choice of the Village Groups before they traveled to Winnipeg.
Since the October 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) between the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church renewed ecumenical attention has been focused on the doctrine of justification. The village group explored relationship between justification, healing and 'new creation'. Salvation as forgiveness of sin, liberation from bondage and spiritual healing are needed today.
Another group studied God's healing gift of communion as manifested in the healing power of prayer and the Eucharist, which transform people into a communion of love. Healing is needed of "differences and wounds" related to ethnic or cultural identities, and disparities in size and finances. The group discussed how communication could support and build up the communion.
Divisions within the One Church of Christ continue to hinder its witness to the world. However, progress has been made in ecumenical relations in recent years. The group focused on the meaning and power of the Sacraments as means to keeping the church united.
Every church member and congregation is called to participate in the mission of the church in multi-faith contexts through dialogue and living and working together. The key aspect of this mission is reconciliation among people of different faiths. The group explored how this could be done.
In churches and societies, barriers of discrimination continue to exclude people with physical or mental disabilities. Those affected by HIV/AIDS face additional kinds of discrimination. Others are discriminated on the grounds of race, ethnicity, caste, age or gender. The group discussed the impact of historical wounds of exclusion on human relationships.
Bodily and spiritual healing has long been considered part of the church's pastoral and diaconal calling. The ministry of healing is grounded in the Word, sacraments and prayer. While some church groups exercise healing through prayer and exorcism, others do so mainly through diaconal ministries. This is the focus of another group.
Justice and healing address family, gender and sexuality issues as well. The group concentrated on challenges of violence in families, societies and between communities. Conflicts within and between countries devastate land and peoples. How can memories be healed and cycles of violence overcome? How can LWF member churches advocate with others, particularly through the 'Decade to Overcome Violence,' for the sake of justice, peace and reconciliation?
Economic globalization was the focus of another group. While globalization has a bright side, the negative side includes fragmented communities and overexploited earth.
Human beings have spoiled or destroyed much of God's good creation, concluded yet another group, and asked: "How can creation be restored, and our relationships with the rest of nature healed?"
Assembly planners included village groups to enable every delegate to actively participate in the process of shaping the LWF agenda for the future, not only to vote in the plenary sessions.
The Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) took place 21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." It was hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There were almost 800 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth Assembly including 369 delegates from the 133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets annually, and by its Executive Committee.
Further information including photos, video and audio news, is posted on the Assembly Web site