Church's strength, “never an issue of its numbers”

Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec (fourth from right) and other church leaders during the Reformation 500 commemoration in Poland. Photo: ELCAC
Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec (fourth from right) and other church leaders during the Reformation 500 commemoration in Poland. Photo: ELCAC

LWF General Secretary at Commemoration of Reformation Anniversary in Poland

The strength of the church “is never an issue of its numbers. Its strength comes with the word of God, and with the witness it offers in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ that it hears and proclaims,” said The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge, in an address on “The Reformation as a global citizen” in Warsaw, Poland, this weekend. General Secretary Junge was invited to Warsaw by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, an LWF member church, to participate in a program commemorating the 500th Reformation Anniversary in Poland.

The General Secretary commended the Polish Lutheran church for its engagement in the public space, saying he was “amazed by the way in which this small minority church has been tapping into the public space with the Reformation Anniversary - up to having an event in the royal castle.”

Fostering cohesion

General Secretary Junge said that the LWF as a communion of churches engaged in dialogue with Christian world communions and with other religions for the purpose of fostering “cohesion, instead of fragmentation.” Similarly, the LWF “has also discerned the call to advocate for and foster the full participation of women in the life of the church and society, and to reject all cultural and religious arguments that entail their subordination.”

He added that as global citizens, “we continue mobilized by this resolve to foster cohesion, to advance justice, to broker peace and to work towards reconciliation, offering our own specific contributions that stem from our faith identity.”

Singing the tune of reconciliation

The General Secretary also spoke of how the Reformation Anniversary has been commemorated in a spirit of ecumenical accountability and offered his gratitude to the Christian world communions that have commemorated the Reformation Anniversary with the LWF. A highpoint last year was the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden, on 31 October 2016.

That event was the outcome of 50 years of dialogue, which was initiated during the time of Pope John XXIII, and has produced milestones such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and the report “From Conflict  to Communion” in 2013. “On the basis of this solid ecumenical process of five decades, Pope Francis set the powerful next step, yet absolutely coherent with the trajectory of dialogues and agreements encouraged by his predecessors, and co-hosted the Joint Commemoration in Sweden.”

General Secretary Junge said he was grateful to see how the Joint Commemoration “continues to be replicated all over the globe, with churches coming together to do within their own contexts what we did as global communions in Sweden last year.” This speaks to to the power of dialogue, turning away from conflict and to reconciliation.

I hope and pray that henceforth God may always find us as churches bringing people together.
Martin Junge, LWF General Secretary

“I hope and pray that henceforth God may always find us as churches bringing people together, building bridges where there is divide, offering tables where dialogue is cut off, reaching out hands where fences are built, singing the tune of peace and reconciliation, when military marches begin to allure the multitudes again.”

“God – Freedom – World” in Poland

The commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Poland this weekend had the theme “God – Freedom – World” at its center. It brought  together local church leadership and members, ecumenical guests and government representatives. The program included a symposium on 500 years of Reformation, concerts, worship services, exhibitions, workshops and discussions. It concluded with a worship service in the Church of the Holy Trinity where former LWF President, Bishop Munib Younan preached.

 

Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland