From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF Tenth Assembly Writing Team Begins Work

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Tue, 18 Dec 2001 16:14:50 -0600

Implications of "For the Healing of the World"

GENEVA, 18 December 2001 (LWI) - A group of Lutheran theologians
invited to write on the biblical texts and "Village Group" topics for
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly began their work
at a first meeting here November 22-27.

The Writing Team discussed, planned and began working together on the
various texts that will eventually become the LWF Tenth Assembly
Study Book that will be used by member churches as they prepare for
the next assembly, focussing on the theme, "For the Healing of the
World." The publication serves as the basic resource for the
programmatic content of the assembly, which will meet 21-31 July 2003
in Winnipeg, Canada.

The Assembly, comprising representatives of each of the LWF member
churches, is the Federation's highest decision-making body, meeting
normally every six years. The Ninth Assembly took place in Hong Kong,
China in 1997 under the theme, "In Christ - Called to Witness."

At their first meeting the twelve writers from the different regions
of the Lutheran communion explored together with staff the varied
meanings and implications of the Tenth Assembly theme.

It was acknowledged that this is a challenging theme, which is likely
to make some Lutherans nervous. "As Lutherans, we see ourselves as
pastors, not as healers," said Paul Isaak, a professor of theology
and ethics at the University of Namibia.

For many people, the theme evokes the literal meaning of "healing."
"Healing is a topic that was imposed on me in my pastoral work as
bishop. We need to hear what people are crying for. We have to
address the healing ministry of Jesus Christ," said Manus Buthelezi,
former bishop of the Central Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in South Africa.

"Healing is a topic we as Lutherans have lost sight of; we need to
pay more attention to the body," declared German theologian
Christoffer Grundmann, currently a professor of religion and the
healing arts at Valparaiso University in the United States of

Other writers emphasized the metaphorical meanings of
"healing"-related to the social, economic and political disparities
and wounds in the world. "The individual and social dimensions of
this theme must be kept in tension with each other," stressed Cynthia
Moe-Lobeda, a theological ethicist from the USA. This will occur
especially through Assembly village group foci: "God's Healing Gift
of Justification," "Removing Barriers that Exclude," "Restoring
Persons to Wholeness," "Overcoming Violence," "Justice and Healing in
Families," "Transforming Economic Globalization" and "Healing

There are ten Assembly Village Groups, each focusing on specific
elements of the theme. The groups will be the place for Bible study
discussions, reflections on the theological substance of the LWF as a
communion of churches, and consideration for the various aspects of
the Federation's work.

Tiit Pddam from Estonia, who is also a member of the LWF Ninth
Assembly Planning Committee, suggested the theme could build upon
previous assembly themes, and deepen theological thinking within the

Healing also has particular relevance for the church as indicated by
village groups focused on "God's Healing Gift of Communion," "The
Healing Mission of the Church in Multi-Faith Contexts," and "Healing
Divisions within the One Church."

Healing is one of the dimensions of salvation. Guillermo Hansen from
Argentina pointed out that "justification brings us back to creation
in a new way." Furthermore, "in considering the oneness of the
church, we need to give attention to local dialogues and experiences
in the regions, with different models of unity, including unity that
grows out of diaconia."

The group was reminded by Assembly Coordinator Arthur Leichnitz that
the theme is "For the healing of the world." Healing implies not only
restoring wellbeing, but a wholeness or newness that God will effect
in the future.

Writing team members concurred that healing must be distinguished
from curing. "As a person with disabilities, I am healed; I don't
want to be cured. I believe in a disabled God, in a God who promises
to be with us in our bodies as we are," said Brazilian pastor Iara
M|ller. Inspired by a theology of the cross, the group talked about
how pain would not be necessarily taken away. In healing people come
to terms with their lives as they are. Turid Karlsen Seim, New
Testament professor at the University of Oslo, Norway reminded the
group that Jesus, when tempted, chose "not the miraculous road, but a
stony road."

The five biblical scholars on the team helped to finalize the texts
for worship and Bible studies. They will write on two texts for each
assembly day related to the different daily emphases which together
constitute an overall prayer. 

"In writing, I will be asking what kind of healing is going on in a
text, and what are the means of healing," said Norman Habel from
Australia. Some of the texts are more problematic or ambiguous when
it comes to the healing theme, but are likely to open up exciting
cross-cultural discussion.

Barbara Rossing, New Testament professor at the Lutheran School of
Theology, Chicago, USA, emphasized the radical vision in the
Revelation texts with God coming to dwell with us and all of
creation, rather than our being raptured into heaven. "New Jerusalem
contrasts with the Roman Empire and all its injustices, including
through economic globalization today. The Garden of Eden is recreated
in the center of a city." Its vivid imagery of trees and rivers is
likely to figure prominently when the Assembly gathers in Winnipeg,
she said.

Anastasia Malle, who has been teaching Old Testament at Makumira
University College, Tanzania, pointed out that in some of the Isaiah
texts, salvation is clearly tied to creation. "We need to help people
participate in these rich images."

In dealing with a text from the first part of Exodus, Monica
Melanchthon, a professor of Old Testament and Women's Studies at
Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, India, noted that there were
many people and strategies involved in God's liberating action,
beginning with the midwives.

Many of the Assembly texts will be narratives from Luke's Gospel.
Turid Karlsen Seim, who will write on these texts, pointed out that
the different forms of healing portrayed play a certain role in
convincing and generating controversies that are normally not
resolved but invoke responses. "As the texts speak for themselves,
they will transform us," noted Buthelezi.

Some of the LWF staff persons also met with the group to help relate
the Assembly Study Book content with the Federation's ongoing and
projected work. "We are excited about developing a volume that will
engage experiences of member churches, catalyze good discussion in
relation to the Assembly, and provide the basis for new LWF
commitments," observed Karen Bloomquist, director of the LWF
Department for Theology and Studies, who as Assembly Content
Coordinator will serve as overall editor for the publication.

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 133
member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5 million of the
64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its
member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical
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 information service of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted, material
presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of
its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the
notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with

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PO Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Editor's e-mail:
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Fax: (41.22) 791.66.30

Frank Imhoff
Associate Director, News & Media Services
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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