LWF General Secretary Burghardt addresses regional church leadership consultation
(LWI) – In a communion whose experiences are as diverse as its regions, countries and communities, church leaders have the task of bringing the voices of the people they serve into “this space so that we can discern these contextual issues together.”
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt made these remarks today in her address to leaders of LWF’s member churches in Africa, meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Africa Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation (ALCLC), 27 June to 1 July.
Referring to the challenges in today's contexts, she drew the churches' attention to increasing individualism and the inability to be empathic about other people’s needs and thus disregard one’s responsibilities in society. “These are all worrying tendencies, which call churches to pay more attention to pastoral care and to equip pastors and pastoral care workers with counseling skills."
In her address, the general secretary elaborated on LWF’s Thirteenth Assembly theme, “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope” and the ministry of churches in today’s contexts. She pointed out that most causes of suffering and injustice in the world stem from division, and that in a fragmented and polarized world, the churches have the two-fold task of bearing witness both within and outside the communion. “Our message of unity must echo from the breath of life, the spiritual unity that we experience uniting the different parts of our body that is the LWF.”
Discernment from a faith perspective
Burghardt referred to spiritual narratives, such as the prosperity gospel and other narratives that promote division within the church through teachings and preaching about ecclesial or social gains. She reminded churches of their responsibility to discern and reason from a perspective of faith. “We are called to raise a prophetic voice against those that cause injustice and oppose the conditions that sustain life,” she said.
She shared her strong conviction of LWF’s need to continue investing in a strong theological and spiritual foundation and education that supports critical thinking, as the best way to resist “destructive narratives and equip one another to build bridges and doors that open to new life.”
Turning to the message of hope, Burghardt encouraged churches to draw on faith for reassurance that God the creator, redeemer, and sustainer knows and loves all creation. She said that Lutheran tradition “takes human brokenness seriously and at the same time claims the primacy of God’s grace and love towards human beings that calls us to give our best to make the new creation more visible in the world around us, against all odds.”
Rev. Lilana Kasper (left), Executive Director of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) and Bishop Sageus Keib, Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), follow the address of the LWF general secretary. Photo: LWF/MYS /Aser Seifu
Church in the public space
Referring to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that are still ongoing, Burghardt expressed appreciation for the Lutheran communion’s solidarity that enabled many member churches to offer tangible assistance, bringing relief to thousands of people in congregations and local communities. She cited her recent visit to Tanzania and Uganda, which like many other countries experienced a rapid increase of teenage pregnancies during the pandemic. “It was good to see that our LWF member church in Tanzania has been very active in advocating that these young mothers are allowed to return to school.”
The general secretary shared her joy that the ALCLC could take pIace in-person, which embodies “a very Christian longing.” Our embodied reality matters and people in the church cannot remain indifferent to the realities around them. “We are called to seek ways to best walk our talk, to be the messengers of hope and reconciliation, peace and justice, and raise the voice of the church in the public space,” Burghardt added.
Bishop Dr Joseph P. Bvumbwe, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, moderated the session. He also serves as LUCSA President, and he is seen here with Rev. Latyr Diouf, President of the Lutheran Church of Senegal. Photo: LWF/MYS /Aser Seifu
By LWF/P. Mumia
The Africa Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation (ALCLC) brings together delegates representing all leadership levels of LWF’s member churches in Africa. The objective of the bi-annual meeting is to support churches in deepening relationships, building a shared theological understanding and reflecting together on being a resilient church in times of challenges. The 27 June -1 July ALCLC will be jointly hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, in Addis Ababa.