Tuesday, December 08, 2009

LWI News: North American Church Leaders Must Become "Communion Ambassadors"

From "LWFNews" <LWFNews@lutheranworld.org>
Date Tue, 08 Dec 2009 12:11:33 +0100

North American Church Leaders Must Become "Communion
LWF Region Plays Key Role in Lutheran-Mennonite Relationships
GENEVA, 8 December 2009 (LWI)  - Lutheran leaders from North
America are exploring what it means to be a communion of
communities in a globalizing world at a Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) regional seminar 1-12 December in Geneva, Switzerland.
The course aims to equip North American synodical staff as
"multipliers in deepening and widening ecumenical and communion
relationships in their respective communities," stated LWF
Regional Officer for North America Rev. Teresita C. Valeriano. 
"We in the North American region have a tendency to see
ourselves as self-sufficient," said Rev. Paul N. Johnson,
Assistant to the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Canada (ELCIC).  His hope is that this group of church
leaders will become "communion ambassadors" to help the region to
be connected more strongly to the wider LWF communion.
Organized in conjunction with LWF member churches the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the ELCIC, the
seminar is bringing together 22 church leaders as part of a
communion formation program. 
>Communion-Defining Ecumenism
Ecumenism figured centrally on the seminar's syllabus as
participants learned about developments in dialogues between
church communions and pondered the interface of these
conversations with realities at the synodical and local level.
Inter-denominational cooperation is routine for Rev. Larry
Ulrich in his youth ministry and mission work as Assistant to the
Bishop of the ELCIC Manitoba/Northwest Ontario Synod. However,
learning about what the LWF has accomplished in formal bilateral
dialogues "gives an official context for what we do for practical
Dr Kathryn Johnson, LWF Assistant General Secretary for
Ecumenical Affairs, emphasized this mutual dependence of all
levels of ecumenical engagement. 
She highlighted the "communion building" role of ecumenical
agreements such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of
Justification and the action on the legacy of Lutheran
persecution of Anabaptists to be taken up by the LWF Eleventh
Assembly in July 2010. 
The Anabaptist action will have particular implications for
North America, a region where the principal LWF member churches
live closely and already are in relationship with Mennonites, who
consider Anabaptists their spiritual forbearers. 
"There is a sort of amnesia among US Lutherans regarding the
history [of persecution]," noted Rev. Michael Trice, Director of
Ecumenical Formation and Inter-Religious Relations of the ELCA.
He said the ELCA has learned that it is critical to address the
role of memory in shaping current relationships. 
There is a need to feel accountable for the tradition one bears,
agreed Rev. Dr Maria Erling, Associate Professor of the History
of Christianity in North America and Global Mission at Lutheran
Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (USA). In this regard, the
proposed action is a "teaching moment."
"Ecumenism is a mission story," she affirmed, and the
Lutheran-Mennonite reconciliation process is an invitation to
extend discussion to a wider circle. 
A key challenge for seminar participants is to live out this
reconciliation in an intentional, congregational way. "The heart
of ecumenism is that we get engaged at a local level," emphasized
Trice. "You are on the front line," he told the North American
synodical staff.  
Dr Johnson seconded the need for seminar participants to
facilitate local reception of the action: "Look for the process,
help it in your own communities."
>Diaconal Church
The seminar also took a closer look at the diaconal calling of
the church, seeking to uncover realities underlying response
strategies to natural disaster, hunger, poverty, climate change
or illegitimate debt.
Walking daily with people in their pain and struggles has
"strong potential to transform churches into listening and
compassionate communities," remarked Rev. Martin Junge, LWF Area
Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, during a session
under the theme of the Eleventh Assembly, "Give Us Today Our
Daily Bread." 
Junge, who was elected in October 2009 to succeed Rev. Dr
Ishmael Noko as LWF general secretary, underlined that a
missional church is a diaconal church. He invited the North
America region to contribute actively to ongoing LWF discussion
on diakonia. 
During the remainder of the seminar, participants will
contemplate what it means to be Lutheran Christians in an
interreligious world; hear about the joys and challenges facing
churches today in the different LWF regions; and engage questions
of ecology and economy. 
The program also includes worship in the Ecumenical Center,
sessions with the director, dean and students of the Ecumenical
Institute at Bossey, a trip to the Taizé Community in France, a
visit to the United Nations and dialogue with staff from the
World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed
According to Valeriano, the participants will be looking to
"bring home" what they have learned. "We will find ways to
support each other," she promised, so that the church leaders can
give back what they have learned to their communities. (802
*      *      *
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF
currently has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the
world, with a total membership of 68.9 million. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian
assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in
Geneva, Switzerland.)



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