From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Europe Pre-Assembly: Personal Encounters Important for the LWF

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Wed, 26 Feb 2003 09:23:19 -0600

Optimism Marks Renewal Process in Churches of Central and Eastern

VIENNA, Austria / Geneva, 25 February 2003 (LWI) - It is through
personal encounters that the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
acquires a face, declared Bishop Herwig Sturm, Evangelical Church
of the Augsburg Confession in Austria, during the LWF Europe
region pre-Assembly consultation.

Speaking to journalists on February 24 in the Austrian capital,
Sturm said it was a great honor for the 355,000-member church to
host the LWF Tenth Assembly preparatory consultation. For the
Austrian church, one of the Federation's founding members in 1947,
the meeting is an opportunity to "put faces to names," and also
clearly bring out the goals of the various LWF programs, making it
easier to implement them in congregations.

On the agenda of the February 23-26 Europe pre-Assembly is the
content and program of the LWF Tenth Assembly, to be held 21-31
July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada under the theme "For the Healing of
the World," explained the LWF Treasurer, Ms Inger Johanne Wremer,
Church of Norway. She noted that the Assembly's conclusions would
determine the LWF's work for the next six years. In ten so-called
"village groups", Assembly participants will discuss topics such
as economic globalization, family violence, HIV/AIDS and justice.

As a fellowship of 136 Lutheran churches world-wide, the Assembly
would also address the obligation of resource-sharing, the
treasurer emphasized, with the aim of enabling smaller chrches
with limited financial means also to participate fully in the
Lutheran communion. Wremer noted that even before Winnipeg, the
LWF has been working to remove barriers that exclude people. She
cited HIV/AIDS and various forms of discrimination including the
effects of economic globalization, which can be both negative and
positive, but in her opinion is an indication of increasing
injustice. Another central theme to be discussed at the Assembly
is the continuing dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church since
the 31 October 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the
Doctrine of Justification.

Dr Julius Filo, Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg
Confession in the Slovak Republic, called for a return to
Christian values in Europe in its process of reunification. As the
continent grows back together, it is the churches' task to uphold
the fundamental ethical and spiritual values that have been
influenced by Christianity, Filo said.

As LWF Vice President for Central and Eastern Europe since 1997,
he noted that the LWF member churches in the region aim to have
other churches share in their process of renewal, which is marked
by optimism. Since the fall of the "Iron Curtain," he pointed out,
these churches have been confronted with the negative as well as
positive effects of globalization. In such a situation, he said,
developing the capability to accept the positive aspects, while
resisting the negative ones, is a great challenge. Filo, who is
Bishop of 373,000 Lutherans, considers it urgently necessary to
introduce a process of sharing of all gifts.

The opportunity for conversation with LWF member churches that are
both larger and smaller than her own pleases Rev. Ilona Fritz, who
in May 2002 was elected President of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For her small church
with 15,000 members, she says, it is "enormously important" to be
part of a worldwide communion. It joined the LWF in 1947.

The Lutheran church in the Netherlands, currently in the proess of
uniting with the Reformed churches there, is faced with the
decisive question of whether the resulting 2.5 million-strong
church will then belong to the LWF. Fritz points out that a
further challenge in the unification process is the acceptance of
women in positions of leadership, to which conservative groups in
the Reformed churches object. Fritz considers it a special
advantage of smaller churches that they are often more flexible in
decision-making processes than large churches.

(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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