Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, Month, Year, Volume# and Issue#
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
The 10th Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) held in Winnipeg declared itself a communion of churches. Instead of describing itself by its political structure, it described itself by its nature as an expression of the church universal.
Being a communion means that the LWF is a living body. We are not simply an organization of administrative structures, but a living family related through baptism. What happens to my friend's church in Slovakia is as crucial to me as what happens in the MNO Synod of the ELCIC. As Kathy Magnus, Regional Coordinator for North America reminds us: 66 million Lutherans DO make a difference (to each other)!
We have tried to give Canadian church members a few opportunities to become acquainted with their cousins around the world. The Fomgbami family from Cameroon became familiar in every synod, helping members to appreciate Lutheran life in French-speaking Africa. Each synod has a companion synod elsewhere in the LWF world. Sponsored study tours are another way to learn. One family in BC got so attached to friends in Tanzania that life in that church has become part of their life too.
Hosting the 10th Assembly of the LWF in Winnipeg in 2003 was faith-changing for many of us, and church members in 78 countries remember us warmly as their hospitable friends.
The LWF is celebrating 60 years of history. A lot has changed in those 60 years. The communion began as a recovery effort after World War II when nothing could ever be the same again and refugees from Europe wandered the world looking for help. Young people became cynical, secular and sometimes Marxist. But the empires of Marxism have come and gone. Today the world's refugees come from the global south. Members of the first LWF Assembly were mostly white males in black church vestments; the delegations of the LWF today are multiracial and multicultural and the great global challenges are HIV/AIDS, global warming, globalized capitalism and terrorist guerrilla warfare.
I hope that you will take some prayer time this month to rise above your own preoccupations so that you can see the rest of the continents, their countries and their people. You will see that political and national boundaries are not marked on the planet's real surface. Those are imaginary boundaries printed on the maps and plans of would-be power-brokers. The real planet is an organic whole, united by its common source in God and its common call to be a blessing to each other. We Lutherans are not the only ones trying to address that challenge, but . . . 66 million Lutherans DO make a difference!
As you begin to receive pre-convention propaganda threatening to divide this church, I hope your prayers also will orbit higher and realize that there's a whole world of life and death ministry that counts on our participation in this body. This larger ministry is as much the ministry of this church as the ministry of a congregation in Sherwood Park, Alberta or Toronto, Ontario. This little church of ours is a major contributor to the family. I hope you realize the importance of this global family before you allow a few people to mess around too much more with its precious capacity to respond. This isn't about our domestic squabbles.
This is about being In Mission for Others!
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, March 2007