From the Worldwide Faith News archives

European Consultation Prepares for LWF Assembly

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Mon, 24 Feb 2003 10:50:03 -0600

Austrian Bishop Urges Genuine Dialogue,
More Than Threats for Military Action against Iraq
Representatives of LWF Churches in Vienna for Europe Pre-Assembly

VIENNA, Austria/GENEVA, 24 February 2003 (LWI) - The Europe region
preparatory consultation for the July 2003 Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly opened in the Austrian capital
with a call to prayer for peace and an appeal to the global
community to avert the use of military force against Iraq.

In his sermon during the Sunday opening worship service of the
February 23-26 LWF Europe Pre-Assembly Consultation, Bishop Herwig
Sturm, head of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession
in Austria, said "I pray that Saddam Hussein will think of the
people of his country and spare them this war," and that United
States President George W. Bush would not consider "destruction"
as part of his responsibility in this world.

Sturm expressed hope that the world community, especially the USA
and Great Britain, would not only threaten to use military force
as the last resort in Iraq, but would also conduct an honest
dialogue with the aim of mutual security and the reconstruction of
that country. In recent weeks, people from all walks of life have
participated in demonstrations worldwide pressing their
governments not to support the use of force against Iraq. The US
accuses Iraq of violating United Nations resolutions by refusing
to give a full account of its chemical biological and nuclear
weapons' programs. Iraq insists that it has complied with the UN

The Austrian bishop noted that the LWF pre-Assembly is taking
place at a time when war in Iraq is becoming more and more likely
and imminent. In Vienna as in other places, thousands of people
have been praying for peace and tens of thousands have
demonstrated in the streets, along with millions world-wide. In
Austria this involvement has most recently given rise to
accusations against Christians, that they are naive, deluded or
even hypocrites. As bishop of some 355,000 Lutherans, Sturm asked
if "the participation of Christians in the struggle for a peaceful
solution implies that they are not willing to look reality in the
face." It was his prayer that the knowledge and approach
demonstrated by Christians in ecumenical dialogue and
inter-religious conversations could also be of benefit to the
political sphere.

Sturm emphasized that the church is not a "naive white-washing
club," but rather sees the world as it truly is - harsh,
frustrating, full of contradictions and efforts made in vain by
everyone trying to make things grow and bloom. Into this world, he
said, God's word is sown as a seed, "quiet and defenseless, but
with the power to create and liberate life." It is freely
available for all people especially for those who have been
treated so unkindly by fate, by other persons or structures of
violence and injustice, said Sturm.

But he also criticized Christian churches saying that "The world
is waiting for models of encounter which dispel hostility and
reconcile, and for bread which nourishes, while we are fiddling
with our churches' image, or ways to preserve them, or fighting
for the best places."

The European preparatory meeting for the LWF Assembly is being
held in Vienna at the invitation of the Evangelical Church of the
Augsburg Confession in Austria. It is the second of five regional
meetings prior to the Assembly, with the aim to deliberate the
Assembly theme and content from the viewpoints of the different
regions. The Tenth Assembly, under the theme "For the Healing of
the World," will take place 21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada,
hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Issues of economic globalization, cooperation among LWF member
churches in Europe and preparations for the Assembly are at the
center of discussions at the regional consultation. Its program
aims to prepare the Assembly delegates for both the content and
practical aspects of the Assembly's work. The consultation also
offers the delegates opportunities to exchange views and invites
them to coordinate their common interests and concerns for
inclusion in the Assembly agenda.

Some 80 persons are taking part in the consultation, including
more than 60 Assembly delegates drawn from the region's LWF member
churches. Around 1,000 participants are expected at the Assembly
including 436 delegates from the 136 LWF member churches. The
Assembly is the LWF's highest decision-making body, meeting every
six years.

The first regional preparatory meeting was held January 23-26 in
North America, in Denver, Colorado, USA. Further meetings are
planned for Asia, March 2-6 in Medan, Indonesia; Africa, March
23-26 in Nairobi, Kenya; and Latin America and the Caribbean,
April 6-9 in San Salvador, El Salvador. A women's pre-Assembly
took place 14-19 November 2002 in Montreux, Switzerland. The last
of the preparatory conferences, a world-wide youth conference in
July 2003, will take place near Toronto, Canada.

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 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,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information service.
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 acknowledgment.]

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English Editor: Pauline Mumia
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