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Ecumenical Greetings to LWF Tenth Assembly Underline Continued Cooperation

"Open to Each Other and Toward a Richer Experience of Life in Christ"

WINNIPEG, Canada, 28 July 2003 Ė Confessional Christian families, regional and international church organizations brought goodwill messages to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly, and affirmed their commitment to ecumenical cooperation.

The Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), said three assemblies in 2003 Ė of the LWF, Conference of European Churches and All Africa Conference of Churches - had chosen themes focusing on healing, reconciliation and re-building. At a time of brokenness in the world, he said, churches were beginning to understand that it is their missionary vocation to be healing and reconciling communities in Christ. "Caring for life, healing and reconciliation are central to what it means to be church," Raiser said in a message read by Rev. Hector Mendez, a member of the WCC Central Committee and a pastor of the First Presbyterian Reformed Church of Havana, Cuba. He invited ecumenical partner organizations "to seek ways to strengthen the coherence of the ecumenical movement for the sake of common mission."

The Rev. Dr Setri Nyomi, General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), paid tribute to the work of the Lutheran-Reformed Working Group. In anticipation for a proposed joint meeting between the WARC Executive Committee and LWF Council, and a joint Assembly, he expressed the hope that the LWF Tenth Assembly would identify some of the steps Lutheran and Reformed churches could take together "as Godís agents for healing." He was accompanied by Dr Paul Fries, leader of the Reformed Church in America.

A message from the Anglican Communion was delivered by its Secretary General, Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, who called Lutherans and Anglicans to work together for the healing of the world. "It is scandal that we are not working more closely together in Africa and in other parts of our global communion on HIV/AIDS," he said. He hoped for "a day when there may be only One United Communion between our two venerable families." Peterson referred to the report of the Anglican-Lutheran International Working Group "Growth in Communion," to show that the two families were working closely and that "Anglicans and Lutherans had made covenantal commitments to share a common life and mission, and in some places had been able to declare themselves in full communion."

In a message read by former United Church of Canada (UCC) Moderator Rev. Dr Stan McKay, UCC Moderator Rt Rev. Dr Marion Pardy and Acting General Secretary Rev. Dr Jim Sinclair commended the LWF for "proclaiming unity as Godís gift and for recognizing that Godís healing is needed for the divisions in our Church and in the brokenness in our world." They stated the UCCís solidarity with the LWF "as we seek to profess our contemporary faith in ways that honor Godís peace, love and justice for all people and for the whole creation."

The President of the World Methodist Council (WMC), His Eminence Sunday C. Mbang, praised the LWF for signing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Roman Catholic Church in October 1999. He expressed the hope that the WMC will "append its signature to it" following its assembly in Seoul, Korea, in 2006 with the theme "God in Christ Reconciling." He pledged the WMCís willingness "to join with others in bringing Godís message of healing to a broken world."

The Director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Rev. David Wiebe, brought greetings from Larry Miller, Executive Director of the Mennonite World Conference. He thanked the LWF for its desire to study with Mennonites the question of the condemnations of the Anabaptists in the Augsburg Confession, "a study in which the Mennonites are happy to engage in the name of better understanding within the body of Christ worldwide."

Fr Andrew Jarmus of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada brought greetings from His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who praised the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission for affirming that humankind was made in the image of God "to grow and to realize in ever increasing ways the divine image." He said the task of "equipping the saints" for the work of ministry and transformation was possible "only when people were liberated from the tyranny of death and sin in all its forms."

Underscoring the importance of ecumenical cooperation, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, said his church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada are in "full communion" and both churches have their doors "open to each other and toward a richer experience of life in Christ." Anglicans "stand in Eucharistic fellowship with the ELCIC," he said.

Peers regretted that the government of Canada had denied visas to some delegates who were expected to participate in the LWF Tenth Assembly. He said, "The churches are with you, the government has failed you. And Canadians here know that it has failed us, and I give you a commitment that our challenge to the government will be strong and consistent."

The Rev. Ane Hjerrild, representing the Leuenberg Church Fellowship (LCF) underscored the need for Christian partners to work together to overcome differences in the church. She however appreciated the way the Assembly had brought together churches from various regions to dialogue on different topical issues. "We in Europe have again during this assembly learnt how the churches in Asia, Latin America and Africa, are overcoming confessional barriers and differences by working together in mission and dialogue Ė in serving the people and struggling for justice," she noted. The LCF is an alliance of 103 European Lutheran, Reformed, United, Methodist and Hussite churches as well as the related pre-Reformation churches, the Waldensians and Czech Brethrens, including also five South American churches emanating from German immigrant churches.

On behalf Dr Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Dr. John Graz, Director of the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty who is also secretary general of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, declared Martin Luther as "a great figure" to Adventists. He said conversations between the two communions "continue to produce positive effects" and "encouragement for thoseÖ who want to have not only good relations with other Christians, but who believe that we are all Jesusí disciples and should work together every time." He called on Lutherans and Adventists to cooperate in the "battle against HIV/AIDS" and in humanitarian action, education and religious freedom. "These are areas where Adventists and Lutherans may develop strong partnerships," he added.

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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