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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 182,077 baptized members in 624 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

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A NEWS RELEASE
From the Office of the Bishop

LUTHERAN WORLD FEDERATION ASSEMBLY IN WINNIPEG
MARKS HOMECOMING FOR GENERAL SECRETARY

Winnipeg, May 28, 2003 (ELCIC) -- When the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko arrived in Brunkild, Manitoba in 1974 as a young interim pastor of the local Lutheran congregation, he had never baptized a white child before.

Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and ordained in South Africa, Dr. Noko could not baptize white children because racial policies did not allow it. Even communion between whites and blacks was a struggle because of the politics in South Africa at the time.

For that reason, ministering to fellow Lutherans in Brunkild was a life-changing experience for Dr. Noko. He realized that the policies under which he had grown up in Rhodesia and South Africa had no basis. "It was a moment of change for me to understand that the differences we have are skin deep, that's all,"Noko said in a recent interview. "It was remarkable. People took you for what you are and nothing more."

Today, Dr. Noko is general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Geneva, Switzerland. On Sunday, July 27, 2003, he will return to the same Lutheran church in Brunkild with 10 other people from different countries. Wearing their native dress, they will worship and celebrate the rainbow of races and cultures that make up the international Lutheran community.

Dr. Noko's planned visit to his former congregation will occur during the LWF's Tenth Assembly at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, July 21 to 31, 2003.

The event is expected to draw over 1,000 participants, including over 430 delegates from the LWF's 136 member churches in 76 countries, plus journalists, translators, volunteers and visitors. It will be one of the largest religious gatherings ever held in Manitoba.

The theme of the assembly is "For the Healing of the World." Sessions and workshops during the assembly will focus on the relationship of the church to important social and religious issues. Discussion topics will include violence, economic globalization, AIDS, exclusion and injustice, interfaith relations, divisions in church and society, reconciliation and healing.

This is the first time the LWF assembly has ever been to Canada. Held every six years, it was last staged in Hong Kong in 1997. The event is hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), with head offices in Winnipeg.

More information is available on the LWF Assembly website at http://www.lwf-assembly.org. To apply for media accreditation to the assembly and thereby insure that you receive the advance documentation package, contact Janet Bond-Nash, in the Office for Communication Services at jbn@lutheranworld.org by May 31, 2003.


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