A deeper understanding of Lutheranism worldwide

Retreat of newly-elected leaders (RoNEL) meeting in Geneva, 12 September 2017. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay
Retreat of newly-elected leaders (RoNEL) meeting in Geneva, 12 September 2017. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay

Retreat of Newly Elected Leaders in Geneva and Wittenberg

(LWI) – Coming together and contemplating their vocation in their church and in the global communion – that was the opportunity given to 13 recently elected church leaders from member churches of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The leaders met in Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and the LWF Center Wittenberg from 7 to 16 September for the Retreat of Newly Elected Leaders (RoNEL).

Church leaders from five of the seven LWF regions attended the retreat which was organised by the LWFs Department of Mission and Development as part of its Church Sustainability Program.

Being church in different contexts

Rev. Dr Patricia Cuyatti, Area Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, summarises the outcomes of the retreat: “We spent time sharing what it means to be a church in our different contexts and how leadership plays a key role in it. The leaders have considered the role of individual churches in the global LWF communion as a gift to mutually nourish their vocation to serve.”

The retreat was an opportunity for the bishops and pastor presidents participating to connect to each other and establish networks of support. Experiencing what it means to be member of the LWF and to be informed about various programs was valuable and gave them new insights into potential for connecting with each other and into the support given by the LWF.

A source of encouragement

“I have observed that it is an uplifting experience for many of the international guests to visit the place from where the Reformation took its course into the world,” says Rev. Joachim Zirkler, Tutor of Studies at the LWF Center Wittenberg. “Standing in front of the door where Martin Luther is said to have posted his 95 theses is very moving for many of our visitors.” Thinking about the ongoing reformation is one of the important points on the agenda of the retreat. “Exchanging views, experiences and challenges on the Reformation in the twenty-first century helps all of us to gain new perspectives,” he says.

RoNEL participants agreed that the meeting peers from other regions had given them a deeper understanding of Lutheranism worldwide and their part in this global communion. Listening to the personal stories of participants concretely enhanced what it means to live in a global communion of churches and this will remain a source of encouragement when each one has returned home. “It felt like meeting the world – and my world got bigger with it!” says Bishop Barbara Collins from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the participants. “Meeting people face to face is different from reading about them. We had a strong feeling of connectedness in our group and hope to stay in contact with each other long after this retreat.”

“Inviting leaders to the Communion Office of the LWF and to the LWF Center Wittenberg is a unique opportunity to relate to the work done globally and to enhance actions among the churches participating in the activity. From last years’ experience, we know that bishops and presidents continue supporting each other through prayers and communicate each other. The gift to be connected in a communion with 144 member churches is an opportunity to learn and enhance relations,” added Cuyatti.