A NEWS RELEASE
From Lutheran World Information
GENEVA, 18 March 2007 (LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) returns to the Swedish city of Lund, to celebrate its 60th anniversary at the place where it was founded in 1947.
"Living in Communion in the World Today" is the theme of the 20-27 March LWF Council meeting, which will also include a church leadership consultation.
The 49-member LWF Council governs the LWF between Assemblies, normally held every six years. It meets every 12 to 18 months. The current Council was elected during the July 2003 LWF Tenth Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada. It comprises the President, Treasurer as well as ordained and lay persons from among the 140 LWF member churches. As this year’s meeting includes the anniversary celebrations, over 450 participants are expected, among them 105 Lutheran church leaders.
The consultation between the Council and the worldwide Lutheran leadership will start on Wednesday, 21 March. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari will address the participants during the 24 March session on the "House of Europe." Sunday, 25 March, is dedicated to the festive anniversary celebrations, which will take place in the Lund Cathedral and at the Lund University campus.
Talking to Lutheran World Information (LWI) ahead of the Council and Church Leadership Consultation, LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko underlined the importance of the international consultation: "I hope we can continue to build and strengthen Lutheran identity for the sake of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church of which the Lutheran communion is an inseparable part," he said.
Special Focus on Task Force Report on Marriage, Family and Sexuality
The general secretary gave special attention to discussion with regard to the Report of the LWF Task Force on Marriage, Family and Sexuality. "In our pluralistic societies, issues under this topic are often regarded as belonging to the private sphere of human life, where they must be dealt with under moral
responsibility by all of us as individuals," he said.
He explained that the focus on this topic within the LWF has been brought about by discussions in different parts of the world on the issue of human sexuality involving same-sex partners. "As more and more societies establish legal frameworks for same-sex partnerships, the churches, which for centuries have been
instrumental in the establishment and blessing of marriages, are being challenged to consider their practices with reference to this development."
In 2003, the Tenth Assembly acknowledged that this issue required attention as a pastoral and ecclesial matter in view of the potential for tension within and among the churches with respect to differing views and convictions. In response to the Assembly request, the LWF Council instituted the Task Force in 2004, whose report will be presented to the Council in Lund.
In this context, Noko stressed that the report is "not meant to settle the controversial issues as such, but aims to recommend, through guidelines, ways in which the churches may work through those controversies."
For the LWF general secretary, the paramount questions are: "How do we live together in the church with incompatible differences in a sensitive ethical matter? How do we live together with the diversities that exist between and among us within the global Lutheran communion and within the individual member churches
themselves? How does our Christian faith, and our confessional basis impact on the way we handle our different positions? How do we live communion when human beings generally react to strong disagreement by erecting barriers and reducing the views of others as sub-human."
Noko urged the LWF member churches to break through the negative spiral, reflect together and build on the uniting power of Christ. "What binds us together in faith is our unity in Christ, which we receive from God, and cannot achieve on our own. The common basis of our faith in God's atoning and justifying grace
in Jesus Christ can sustain the communion of believers even with the existence of incompatible views on significant matters," he stressed.
Halfway Point Between Two Assemblies
The general secretary pointed out that the LWF is at halfway point between its 10th Assembly in 2003 and the 11th Assembly in 2010. "The Lund gathering provides the member churches with a good opportunity to deliberate with the Council on very important issues that have emerged, and that have impact on the
Federation," he said. He mentioned current issues such as "marriage, family and sexuality, and the ministry of episcope within the apostolicity of the church."
For Noko, the Lund meeting is also "a good opportunity for non-European participants to take note of the fact that this region is not only an important political and economic space but also an important ecumenical space. It is essential for us non-Europeans to hear the challenges this region faces at this particular time, for example, the issue of enlargement and integration. In this direction, we have invited former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari to address the participants on the role of Europe."
Noko also highlighted the need for the LWF churches to have "honest and transparent discussions about the status of women in
the churches within the Lutheran communion."
The general secretary underscored the significance of a symbolic ceremony at the Sunday festivities, during which the leadership from the elders who were present 60 years ago in Lund, will be passed on to the youth representatives participating in the Council events. "This will be an important ritual in recognizing
the role of the young generation in the leadership of the Lutheran communion," he explained. (929 words)
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The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of nearly 66.7 million. 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. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
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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