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LWF Tenth Assembly Days Open with Bible Study

Themes Come to Life in a Variety of Dramatic Presentations

WINNIPEG, Canada, 27 July 2003 - Before the day’s business begins, the theme is sounded in Bible studies at the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Each of the seven LWF regions plus the youth delegates has responsibility for the eight daily Bible study segments spelled out in the Assembly "Study Book" that parses the meeting’s theme, "For the Healing of the World."

The first bible study took the day’s theme, "Oh God, the Healer, Liberator, Savior of the World," based on Isaiah 42:1 – 12, and was presented by the delegates from the Asia region. Led first in prayer by Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan, the Asian delegates sang and included Assembly participants in a dance, Wednesday, July 23.

On Thursday, July 24, participants from the Central Western Europe region enacted in silence the story of Jesus and the woman "who was a sinner" (Luke 7:36-50), under the day’s theme "Forgive and Heal." The dramatic pantomime depicted the meeting between Jesus and the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with ointment and her own tears.

Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness and acceptance of the woman, in all of its intimacy and openness, works its miracle. The woman, forgiven and healed, moves from her position of subjection and lowliness at Jesus’ feet to her full height, and begins to dance. Her dancing infects Jesus and eventually the other guests at the table who had been so eager to exclude her. Soon they all join in the dance.

The actors eventually fanned out onto the Assembly floor where they included everyone in the dance in celebration of life, forgiven and healed in Christ.

Youth delegates used the story of Ruth (Ruth 4:13 – 17) as a metaphor for the theme for Friday, July 25, "Reorder Power." In a breathtakingly relevant dramatization, they portrayed the exclusion that Ruth might have felt by holding up a sign that read "VISA," in reference to the 51 individuals who have been denied visas by the Canadian government. They also portrayed other groups whom society and the church often reject, those with HIV/AIDS, the poor, the disabled, gay and lesbian persons, and others who experience the pain of exclusion. They concluded with the message of "God’s radical inclusion" that embraces the whole world.

"Heal our Divisions" was the Bible study theme for  Saturday, July 26, taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 2:13 - 22 and presented by the churches of Central Eastern Europe. In a moving portrayal of humanity’s deep divisions, they used the metaphor of their own past divisions before the collapse of communist rule. A video showed eastern European churches, pockmarked by weapons’ fire and abandoned. Stacking up cardboard boxes to represent a walls of division so familiar to citizens of the region, the members read out a list of opposites, of divisions: east-west, rich-poor, victim-perpetrator, Lutheran-non. The message of reconciliation from Ephesians was read and interpreted as the "new law of love" that removes barriers. Then, in contrast to the opening video footage showing churches in a state of decay, ran a video of Christians in eastern Europe receiving communion in churches that are full. In a dramatic conclusion, the delegates from the Central Eastern European churches reassembled their cardboard boxes, this time building the now familiar Assembly graphic portrayal of the theme, "For the Healing of the World."

The Tenth 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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