Before that, she was part of LWF’s youth program, traveling to Geneva in 2001 to learn about the importance of young people’s participation in the church. It was an eye-opening experience for her: “In those days, there was no voice for the youth in our churches,” she recalls, “but now that has changed. With support from LWF, I was able to develop a campaign for youth participation, as well as a project to plant trees around Lake Toba to combat the deforestation by a giant pulp and paper company.”
Benny will present the topic of ‘One Body’, exploring what it means for churches to be “one in Christ” in a polarized, post-pandemic world. She believes that in the wake of COVID-19, “relations between the churches are not as strong as they were before.” She says: “I hope the Assembly will be more than just a gathering of people from different places and that we can think about developing some instruments to connect us more closely and more regularly in the future.”
We know that grace is abounding, so this Spirit-given grace can help us return to that divine unity.
Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele, President of the Mekane Yesus seminary
From Ethiopia, Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele, president of the Mekane Yesus seminary will explore the topic of ‘One Spirit’, reflecting on how the Holy Spirit can guide us towards unity amid all the current crises including “fragmentation, discrimination, stigmatization, ethnocentrism, tribalism, oppression, injustice, conflicts, war, genocide, slavery and misleading theologies.” Despite the challenges of our diversity, he says, “we know that grace is abounding, so this Spirit-given grace is there to help us return to that divine unity.”
Diversity is reflected in the DNA of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) which reaches out to include people from more than 60 of the country’s 86 different ethnic and linguistic groups. “We are extremely diverse in ethnicity,” Bruk says, “but we also come from a background of high church and low church, including a merger of both Lutheran and Reformed churches. All kinds of missionaries came from Germany, Sweden, Norway, America and other Scandinavian countries, but all these diversities did not deter us from being a united church: one in Christ and one in Spirit.”
The EECMY is the largest among Lutheran churches in the global communion and it is a fast-growing church numbering over 12 million members. “We are a very ecumenical church in so many ways,” Bruk reflects, “yet we are still challenged to hear this call to unity and to move forward in all our diversity. We are a church that is strongly rooted in the Bible and this verse from Ephesians 4:4-6 is a call to Mekane Yesus as well.”