A NEWS RELEASE
From Lutheran World Information
LWF Council Meeting
& 60th Anniversary Celebrations in Lund, Sweden
20-27 March 2007
PRESS RELEASE N0. 02-2007
Living in Communion Is a “Sheer Gift”; LWF President Mark S. Hanson Addresses Council Meeting
LUND, Sweden/GENEVA, 21 March 2007 – While living in communion takes considerable effort and can appear to even be counter-intuitive, countercultural and unnatural at times, it is a “sheer gift,” said Bishop Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) when he addressed participants in the 20-27 March LWF Council meeting and 60th anniversary celebrations in Lund, Sweden.
The meetings are taking place under the theme, “Living in Communion in the World Today.” In the Address of the President to the LWF Council meeting, Hanson urged delegates to consider deeply their work as a communion and find strength in the many unique perspectives that individual members bring to the LWF.
Hanson is presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
He framed his opening remarks around three words, “hesitance, urgency, joy,” and spoke of how it would have been like to attend the 1947 LWF founding assembly in Lund: “I can picture delegates hesitating as they first approached the entrance to that assembly,” he said. “Could there truly be a common future for Lutherans? Did they truly belong together?”
The LWF president noted that because the churches did come together, “the roots of the LWF were forged” by the sense of urgency in which Lutheran churches around the world responded when aid and assistance were required to help several hundred thousand Lutherans displaced at the end of World War II.
The new realities that emerged because of the hesitancy and urgency led to ecumenical respect and dialogue, and to joy. “Joy because just as new forms of cooperation and dialogue were coming to be both among Lutheran churches and between them and long-estranged sister churches, at the same time whole new networks of governmental and non-governmental international dialogue and cooperation were being born,” said Hanson. The new LWF, he noted, “was more than a single light in the darkness; it was part of a new constellation of hope.”
“Hesitance, urgency and joy” are still relevant words to help describe the current atmosphere and gathering of Lutheran churches for the LWF meetings and anniversary celebrations in Lund, said Hanson. He noted there was hesitancy because of ongoing debate around political, academic and theological issues. The struggle against poverty and HIV and AIDS compels Lutheran churches to come together with a sense of urgency. The joy that was first experienced by the coming together of Lutheran churches during the first assembly has “grown so vigorously and has developed so far in its self-understanding and work that now the LWF finds itself in this historical moment with a rich and compelling vocation phase, ‘Living as communion in the world today.’”
Hanson said the words which form the theme of the 2007 events, “Living as communion in the world today,” are a natural extension from the theme of the founding assembly—The Lutheran Church in the World Today.” The shift from “Living as Lutherans” to “Living in the world” represents the outward focus of the LWF and its focus on ecumenical relationships.
Reflecting on the 2007 theme, Hanson argued that while living in communion could be considered counter-intuitive to the LWF’s goal of full ecumenical communion, “If our communion is life-overflowing,” he said, “then a Lutheran communion can exercise profound ecumenical vocation.”
Referring to his own country, the USA, Hanson remarked that “We are now exporting not only products, we are exporting prosperity gospel preaching evangelists to your countries who are beckoning Lutherans away from their Lutheran churches.” He appealed for assistance from the global communion, “holding the preaching of the gospel in the United States accountable, for it being the crucifying gospel of God’s radical grace in Christ through faith rather than some other distortion of the gospel that we so now export and is pure heresy.”
The LWF president noted that living a full communion relationship would not be easy, rather it would mean challenging old assumptions, listening to one another and becoming, “accountable to others with different angles of vision, with different insights, blind spots, strengths and temptation.” But “together we can discover how to speak the gospel more truly. Together we can challenge each other to engage in God’s mission more courageously. Together through the eyes of others we will begin to see ourselves more clearly, even critically.”
Hanson requested the member churches to consider a number of difficult, complex and pressing questions as they reflect on their role in both the Lutheran and ecumenical communion. He cited issues such as finding agreement on ethical questions with other churches with whom the LWF shares little or no ecclesiological commonality; what and who establishes the LWF’s priorities; the organization’s financial future and new income sources while holding each other accountable for membership fees; and how ecumenical and inter-religious work can be done most effectively.
The number of LWF members and nuances of issues for the organization may have changed over the years. For the LWF president, “The question for the next sixty years is the same question which brought our forebears together sixty years ago. Where is God leading us now? How do we love and serve our neighbor today?” (887 words)
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An estimated 500 people including over 100 church leaders are attending this year’s Council meeting, church leadership consultation and the LWF 60th anniversary celebrations. Also attending are officials from LWF partner organizations, invited guests, stewards, interpreters and translators, LWF staff and co-opted staff, and participants in the three-year LWF international training program for young communicators. The Council is the governing body meeting between Assemblies held every six years. The current Council was appointed at the July 2003 Tenth Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada. It comprises the President, Treasurer and 48 persons elected by the Assembly. Other members include advisors, lay and ordained persons, representing the different LWF regions.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world representing nearly 66.7 million Christians.
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.
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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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To view highlight's and reflections on the ELCIC's participation at the 2007 LWF Council meetings and the 60th Anniversary Celebrations, visit: http://elcicatlwf.wordpress.com/
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