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PRESS RELEASE NO.
German Bishop Challenges Christians to Act
Energetically in the World to Bring About Healing
Kaessmann Sounds Assembly Theme, "For the Healing of the
Canada, 23 July 2003 - "I
grew up in the faith of my mother and my grandmother, who told me,
ĎWhen God calls you, youíd better go.í" With these words,
Dr Margot Kaessmann, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of
Hanover, Germany, opened her keynote address before the Tenth
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Winnipeg.
Kaessmann noted that she serves as the first woman in a
distinguished line of bishops of Hanover, including Hans Lilje who
played in important role in the formative days of the LWF.
address, delivered alternately in German and English, Kaessmann
called on Christians to engage the world with vigor in the hope that
the human community can live in justice and peace and thereby bring
about "the healing of the world," which is the Assemblyís
theme. Kaessmann declared that healing will not occur through the
globalization of an economy that does not respect cultural
differences. Rather global healing will come about through the
message of Godís love manifest in justice, peace and the
safeguarding of creation.
spoke before the 700 participants at the LWF Assembly, which takes
place every six years, and is hosted this year by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
of Jesus, Christians are able to give hope to the world. "We
hope for the new heaven and the new earth, hope that transcends this
world," stated Kaessmann, who is one of three women bishops
currently serving in Germany. "As Christians we are Godís
people drawn from all peoples Ė that remains the biblical
vision." This hope enables us to distinguish between a
"here and now" society that honors power and might and one
that practices solidarity, loves justice, achieves peace and
protects creation. "Healing," stated Kaessmann, "means acting as the
true stewards of this wounded world."
bishop of Germanyís largest regional Lutheran church with 3.3
million members, also challenged assembly delegates to bring about
the healing of the church. The ecumenical "Kirchentag"
church gathering in Berlin at the end of May 2003, which drew
200,000 participants, was the living sign of a vital church whose
growing unity cannot be held back by encyclicals. Despite this
positive sign, Kaessmann reiterated the convention theme and warned
that the church must also contend with its own wounds first if it is
to confront the wounds of the world.
She cited the
Lordís Supper as the concrete sign of healing for the world. The
community that takes shape around the Lordís Table is a healing
community, a tangible sign of restoration to health. If the church
wants to promote authentic healing in the world, it must acknowledge
the centrality of the Sacrament as a healing act not only between
God and persons but between persons.
share bread and wine with each other, then we can and must leave
behind the conflicts and burdens that separated us and experience
anew our life together," declared the bishop. "At the Lordís
Table, we come together, the poor and the rich, from the highways
and byways, the estranged, the disappointed, the lovers, the sick,
people from north and from south." The Eucharistic fellowship
has both human and social implications and serves as a reminder for
peace and justice. It calls into our remembrance "that we
belong together, transcending any barriers, as Godís people."
It calls us to ecumenical engagement.
cited as a condition for global healing that we see the world in
context, through eyes that are wide open but which look also through
the lens of Godís love. It shocks us to see what happened in
Yugoslavia, what still happens in Northern Ireland. Despite the fact
that in Central Europe we have enough to eat, schools for our
children, universal health care, many of us are burned out, empty
inside. Success in life is often measured just by the ability to
hold things together. Europe may indeed possess great wealth, but
there is much that is broken and in need of healing. Christians are
able to bring into this context the healing Word of God. They are
able to look at the world as it is, without closing their eyes or
If we want to
speak of healing, said Kaessmann, we must first examine our wounds,
as any good physician would: at those small wounds that manifest
themselves in the angry word, the betrayed trust, and also at the
large and gaping wounds of war inflicted on human flesh by bombs and
on refugees tossed to and fro; by the guilty parties who thwart
opportunity for development in Africa, Asia, Latin America, who
force child soldiers to employ brutal weapons, and who daily
sacrifice thousands to hunger. Such atrocities cannot be contained
In the face
of such horror, it is essential to understand that God himself is
wounded "by the destructions that we as human beings inflict on
one another," said Kaessmann. "The Jesus story insists
that we Ďunderstand God as both all powerful and powerless.í"
We donít require logical explanations for an omnipotent God who
also permits suffering. We are only called to have the courage to
trust that God wills us to life, not death. Christians must bear the
brokenness of human life and take part in "the way of the
reminded delegates that the HIV/AIDS pandemic no longer implies an
automatic death sentence for sufferers who receive the appropriate
medications. The real problem, she said, is that these medications
are often too expensive and that second-class substitutes are given
to people who cannot afford better. While progress has been made in
medical research in the treatment of cancer and the containment of
the SARS virus, it has also led to the growing conviction that we
have the ability to cure every ill. We often forget that we are
created in Godís image, and would rather believe that we create
our own image. In this context, Kaessmann called the church to
understand that healing is part of the Great Commission, and not
merely a secondary, diaconal task.
Jesus healed, He did two things," said Kaessmann, "He
spoke and He touched. He made Godís Word audible and tangible.
When Jesus healed, He saw the personís faith and trust in
God." When Christians heal in Jesusí name, we donít
demonstrate our own healing power, rather we reflect the presence of
a loving God to the whole person. Healing is not proof of Godís
presence and is often abused in a human attempt to view it as a sign
of special gifts. We truly witness to trust in God by learning to
live with illness, to perceive it as a grace, a gift from God.
is a holistic, a holy, a blessed process in which the achievements
of medicine, the role of oneís own soul and Godís spiritual
gifts are integrated. Perhaps the churchís role is to help us see
that "the various gifts - charisms - do not compete with one
another, rather they complement and enrich each other," declared Kaessmann. Those who wish for true healing must open
themselves in body and soul to receive insights, both ancient and
new, and in diverse ways to witness to Godís healing work in the
Kaessmann put forth a vision for a "different world Ö where
Godís spirit is at work Ö we will allow peace to grow without
violence Ö there will be a jubilee year that frees people and
nations from bondage Ö refugees will find a home Öreligion can
finally become a factor in defusing conflicts Öand coming
generations will learn to understand the earth as Godís
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
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