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PRESS RELEASE NO. 39
Outcome of First Lutheran Assembly in 21st Century
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
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
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
largest US Lutheran denomination, can play in promoting the healing
of creation. Noko added that "if the US signs, others will
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.
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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