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Lutheran Assembly Concludes with Message of Healing for the World

Gathering Focuses on Issues of Globalization, Human Sexuality, Violence and the Environment

WINNIPEG, Canada, 31 July 2003 - The Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) concluded with one "Message" in many parts, all relating to the gathering’s theme "For the Healing of the World."

The ten-day meeting, which included over 800 participants and visitors from more than 70 countries, got off to a rocky start when more than 50 delegates from developing nations were denied visas by the Canadian government. A high point was a silent march from the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Assembly venue, culminating in a worship service at The Forks amphitheater adjacent to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices.

Delegates worked into the evening hours on the final full day of the Assembly to approve a document that summarizes the major areas of concern and provides direction for the LWF’s activities for the next six years -- until the next Assembly.

The "Message" acknowledges a "world in need of healing" and identifies areas of special concern for member churches in the worldwide communion of nearly 62 million Lutherans.

Among other actions called for in the Assembly’s "Message:"

  • Further exploration of what it means to be Lutherans "in communion," including the issues of the participation of Lutheran denominations not currently LWF members; cross-cultural communication among Lutherans of diverse backgrounds; promotion of the full inclusion of women and youth in all aspects of the church’s life, with respect for differing cultural understandings of ministry. The Message of concern for healing within the church extends beyond Lutheran boundaries to encourage ecumenical activity and dialogue with many other churches, with special attention to ecumenical pursuits in Africa, Asia, Central Eastern Europe and Latin America/Caribbean.
  • The Message commits LWF members to remove barriers that exclude people from "participating fully in the life that God envisions for all." These barriers include gender, race, ethnicity, class, nationality, caste, sexual orientation, age and physical/mental condition. The Assembly also committed itself to supporting basic human rights for indigenous peoples. In reference to the visa issue, the Assembly singled out the Dalit people of India, who were among those denied entry to Canada.
  • The Message pledges members to enrich the church’s healing ministries by addressing HIV/AIDS, violence and poverty. "Diakonia," or the servant ministries of the church, are put forth as a fundamental dimension of the church’s life and part of its holistic healing ministry.
  • Justice and healing in families is addressed in the Assembly Message and provoked lively discussion on the floor of the Assembly on the language around issues of human sexuality and the definition of "family." The Message encourages respectful dialogue on marriage, family and human sexuality "in a manner appropriate to the needs of each member church." It also addresses the experience of "spiritual poverty" within families and encourages resources for addressing these needs.
  • The Message pledges to participate fully in the ecumenical "Decade to Overcome Violence" in families, against women and against children, to confront increasing militarism and the proliferation of weapons, advocate against expressions of violence in the media and actively confront expressions of religious fundamentalism in all faiths.
  • The Assembly took a strong position on transforming economic globalization in recognition of the churches’ prophetic role in promoting justice and human rights. In particular, the Message addresses the growing gap between rich and poor, the marginalization of Indigenous Peoples, and the international debt that has become an instrument of domination, especially in poor nations. The Message calls for the "development of an economy that serves all of life."
  • "The wounded creation is in desperate need of healing" states the Message. It challenges Lutheran Christians to be "God’s creating, restoring, sustaining hands on earth" and challenges practices that turn the gifts of God’s creation into commodities for profit, especially when that activity impacts the poor. It encourages members to work against climate change and the consumption of fossil fuels, and to educate member communities on the theology of creation.

The Message concludes in part, "The world in which we live still suffers under the brokenness caused by sin; and people are victims of injustice and the abuse of power. But in the midst of all suffering and injustice, God is continuously at work, healing our 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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