From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Congress: Debt Forgiveness for the Millennium

Date 22 Oct 1998 06:52:06

Lutheran churches put human rights at the center of their program for the
year 2000

JOINVILLE, Brazil/GENEVA, 19 October 1998 (alc/lwi) - The General Secretary
of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Ishmael Noko, called on the member
churches of the LWF in Latin America and the Caribbean to join the Jubilee
2000 Campaign, which seeks to condone the foreign debt of Third World
countries on the eve of the third millennium.

Noko was participating in the ninth Latin American Lutheran Congress, which
ran from September 28 to October 2 in Rodeio 12 in the state of Santa
Catarina, in southern Brazil. Some 110 people, including delegates from 12
LWF member churches from Latin America and the Caribbean, guests and
journalists, attended the congress.

Noko, in speaking about the LWF priorities defined in the Hong Kong general
assembly in July 1997, emphasized mission and service. "We must try to
create sustainable communities and strengthen regional communion, integral
ministries, theological education and ecumenical commitment," he said.

"To be Lutheran is a synonym of being ecumenical," he continued, calling on
churches around the region to celebrate the Day of Lutheran Communion on
November 1.

In line with the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), which will hold
an assembly in the year 2000 under the slogan "Free to Construct Peace",
one of the LWF's priority programs in upcoming years on the American
continent will be "Reconciliation for Peace and Human Rights".

A new understanding of the church as community practice

In the global world we currently inhabit, churches must transform
themselves into spaces of community practice, incorporating the excluded,
making the invisible visible, said Guillermo Hansen, a professor from the
Evangelical Theological Studies Institute of Argentina, speaking on the
event's central theme: "Christian testimony in Latin America: A Lutheran
Contribution for the Third Millennium".

The world has changed. To admit this is the first step toward a new
understanding of the church as community practice, forging a cultural, not
only religious vision, added Hansen.

Brazilian economist Marcos Arruda spoke about the "Effects and Consequences
of Globalization for Latin America." He called on Churches to carry out a
prophetic role of announcing and denouncing in order to develop solidarity
actions and play a role in education.

"We need more male feminists," declared Argentine educator Ana Villanueva.
Villanueva, from the Desk of the Women in Church and Society program of the
LWF in Geneva, entitled her presentation: "Gender: a women's issue?".

Gender refers to social relations between men and women, she affirmed.
Society builds these relations, conceptualizes values and defines roles for
men and women. These relations have undergone changes throughout history,
and lessons can be both learned and forgotten. While gender is hardly a
synonym for women, a great deal of gender-related work does focus on women.
The role of the Church in this process is to affirm women's faith,
demanding justice for all humanity, she said. There is rich and varied
biblical material, which we interpret and apply to our reality. "The images
of God in the Bible are so rich and multifaceted that in order to speak of
God we must turn to masculine and feminine figures."

Villanueva observed that it would be very optimistic to say that women are
moving ahead regarding gender. Both men and women must still overcome
considerable obstacles, she said. There is a need for a conscious daily
effort so that men and women's roles do not oppress us.

The youth delegates suggested setting up a communication network. With
support from the Latin American and Caribbean News Agency, the young people
should have the opportunity to communicate and share their experiences,
news and life situations.

In a position paper addressed to the congress, the Latin American LWF
member churches pledged themselves "to further and to strengthen social
works which benefit the most disfavored people in our society". Further,
"training programs must be elaborated which not only serve the advancement
of knowledge but also promote community and solidarity". The churches
should orient their activities to three basic goals: education, social and
spiritual ministry and prophetic witness within society.

The working group on sexuality and gender stressed that it is urgent to
promote and strengthen education programs devoted to these themes. Further,
it noted that belonging to a particular gender conditioned, if not
downright determined, the distribution of power in our church, which in
turn strengthened discrimination and sexism in the already existing
patriarchal structures. The churches should also identify which situations,
within and without the church, produce a negative influence on gender
relationships, and should contribute to the elimination of inequality and
injustice. To this end, the churches should also elaborate teaching
materials for school and non-school training which offer a holistic view of

In the closing service, the church president Victoria Cortez from Nicaragua
exhorted Lutherans to find ways of bringing help promptly to the poorest of
society. Included in the challenges awaiting the church in the coming
millennium are overpopulation, racism, the poor and the excluded. "Let us
not be afraid of this holy spirit, this power, which impels us to achieve
justice and peace," she concluded.

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Lutheran World Information
Editorial Assistant: Janet Bond-Nash

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