Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
I'm looking forward to a very important meeting in January. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Renewal Committee is meeting for the first time to discuss the vision and shape that the Lutheran communion should have in the decades to come.
Some folks think that the various confessional bodies should no longer meet for separate assemblies, but that we should meet in common, worldwide. Each family at such a worldwide assembly might have a day or two of in-house business, but for the most part, the gathering would be to celebrate the one Christian gospel to which everyone holds. If that were to happen, the shape of the World Council of Churches would be altered because part of its mission toward visible unity would be accomplished.
Some folks wonder why we still put so much energy into Christian ecumenism when understanding and conversation among world religions is far more crucial to the welfare of the world. If the Jews, Christians and Muslims are right that there is only one God, then all people worship the same God. There is no other god to worship. I guess we can choose to believe that other faiths worship some god of their own making, but that would be hard to reconcile with the parable of the shepherd searching relentlessly for those still out there (John 10:16). If anything, God is hard on irresponsible shepherds who let people get so scattered (Jeremiah 23:2).
We know, however, that all church bodies experience some worldwide tension because churches from different countries and regions see the rest of the world differently from each other. Inequities of wealth and poverty are major factors. Political control and interference play big roles. The nature of whichever society of missionaries started certain church bodies has left indelible stamps on their approach to things. Subjects for open discussion in one region are taboo in another. Monocultures often relate to only one Christian or Muslim denomination, so that they have no experience even in talking to other members of their own families.
These are hard issues, but this is good work. Every time alienation and estrangement can be broken down, it becomes possible for one more imaginative person to envision the inbreaking of God's reign of peace. We don't do this for us. We do this so that there can be light where now there is darkness; so that some little child somewhere can grow in the faith that God actually loves this mess.
Renewal is slow work. It happens in little increments described in dry-sounding reports. No one person is ever the total genius of it. In fact, a community of members working in a relationship of trust is always a much better vehicle for the delivery of such a vision.
Our participation in this action is one of the ways that the National Church is In Mission for Others in the global arena.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, January/February 2007