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Satisfaction with Outcome of First Lutheran Assembly in 21st Century

Panel with Journalists Points to Tenth Assembly Highlights

WINNIPEG, Canada, 31 July 2003 - In the final moments of the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the body's general secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, singled out the visible signs of progress in ecumenical relations during this, the first LWF Assembly in the 21st century.

"For the first time in our 56-year history, we have worshipped in non-Lutheran churches," declared Noko. He was referring to the Assembly opening and closing worship services, both held in Roman Catholic cathedrals, and to the daily Eucharistic and healing services held in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Noko declared this sharing as "a visible sign of the growing unity of the church."

The general secretary’s remarks occurred during a wrap-up press conference held in the Winnipeg Convention Centre plenary hall, before the start of the Assembly’s concluding session.

Noko answered questions from the international group of journalists and other media professionals who have been present throughout the Assembly. He was joined on the panel by Rev. Raymond Schultz, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and chairperson of the Assembly Policy and Reference Committee; and Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, President, Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, who chaired the editorial committee that produced the Assembly "Message" summarizing the main resolutions and achievements of the gathering.

Noko also commended the Canadian church’s courageous leadership on the issue of the 50 participants who were denied visas by the government of Canada. He described the July 29 evening march and vigil to The Forks as a true manifestation of the Assembly theme, "For the Healing of the World."

Schultz said the visa issue had been a huge learning experience for his church in terms of relations with the Canadian government. He also pointed with pride to the gracious and "typically Canadian" service of more than 700 volunteers at the Assembly. The ELCIC hosted the July 21-31 Assembly with 825 participants including 380 delegates from LWF member churches.

General Secretary Noko referred to the previous day’s lively discussion on the issue of human sexuality as an example of the Assembly’s ability to address with dignity and mutual respect an issue that divides member churches along cultural lines.

The panel responded to a question regarding a resolution calling on the United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change while not mentioning other countries that have not signed on to the international environmental treaty.

The responders answered that the US has special burdens of leadership relative to less powerful nations and that this resolution reinforces the "prophetic role" that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest US Lutheran denomination, can play in promoting the healing of creation. Noko added that "if the US signs, others will follow."

Noko returned to the theme of ecumenism. "My hope is that we can begin to do extraordinary things not dreamed about before." He was referring to the issues that still divide Lutherans and Roman Catholics, such as the sacrament of Holy Communion, the understanding of ministry and the role of the bishop of Rome. Noko said that the participation of many denominations in the Assembly opening worship at St Boniface Roman Catholic Cathedral was a "small step" toward dialogue on the other issues. "We can now walk into those conversations with security," Noko concluded.

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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