Pre-Assembly of the Americas begins in Bogotá, Colombia
(LWI) - "We feel honored to welcome the many representatives from Lutheran churches in our regions. That is an important sign for us," said Atahualpa Hernández Miranda, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO). The church hosts The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Pre-Assembly of the Americas, which takes place in Bogotá, Colombia, from 17-21 April.
During the Pre-Assembly, delegates will reflect on the theme of the Thirteenth Assembly "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope" offering regional and contextual perspective. They will also share insights into the work of the IELCO and the LWF country program, focusing particularly on their engagement for peace in Colombia.
Delegates will also a message for the Thirteenth Assembly, which takes place in Krakow, Poland, in September and brings together all 149 LWF member churches from 99 countries worldwide.
In his sermon during the opening service of the Pre-Assembly, Hernández said that “the time we have during the Pre-Assembly will surely bring to light the many ways in which God continues to act. Among the young people of our churches. Through their innovation, creativity and leadership. Through the enormous commitment of our women’s network in our region. Their exceptional qualities and their deep roots in the reality of women in our continent for the defense of their rights and the search for justice.”
Looking ahead at the coming days of consultation and discernment, Hernández said: “May the hopeful presence of the risen Jesus continue to infuse life into our hearts. May we be churches where there is room for those of us who fear. May we welcome those of us who doubt with love. Let us not judge each other but accompany each other. To be a community that offers and receives forgiveness.”
Before the Pre-Assembly, women and youth met in Chía, near Bogotá, over the weekend. Assembly delegates, Council members, regional coordinators, advisors and stewards deliberated over priorities for Latin America and the Caribbean and North American regions in the coming years. These are reflected in youth and a women’s messages to the Pre-Assembly.
Communities, identity and leadership
The young Lutherans identified three priority areas: just communities, faith identity, and youth leadership.
Just Communities aim to realize climate, gender, and social justice holistically. "Taking into account the asymmetries between the global North and South and understanding that changes take time and young people are the engines of these changes, we invite our church to take action," the youth state in their message.
They also note that community realities change depending on the socio-political context and the fluctuating number of people in our communities. "We believe that understanding our identity is a recurring topic for the younger generations that is connected to both faith and our sense of belonging to the Body of Christ."
Furthermore, they call for youth leadership to be perceived “the active engagement of young leaders today” rather than “as the development of leaders for the future.”
Call to study confessions, experiences in ordained ministry
The women of the Americas celebrated 25 years of women's ordination in the IELCO, reflecting on the advances and challenges around gender justice and identifying regional priorities to bring to the Women’s Pre-Assembly in Poland. They were confessional identity, gender justice, just communities, and theological education.
The women’s message calls for studies of Lutheran confessional documents towards the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 2030. These should be shaped as a “response to the increasing fundamentalist narratives in the region and some situations of violence experienced in our churches.”
Following the LWF study process on the experiences of ordained ministry, the women’s message calls to follow up on the outcomes of the study. The new process should reflect on the priesthood of believers, baptism, justification by faith, leadership, re-reading of the Lutheran doctrine, and vocation and ministry.
Concerning just communities and reflecting on “One Body”, the message raises questions about what body is talked about and to consider what parts of the body are missing.
Having identified the importance of theological reflection the women’s message calls on theological institutions to include gender justice perspectives in the study of confessional documents.
The Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation takes place 13-19 September 2023 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of the Assembly will be "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope." It will be hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.