Diaconal and theological work belong together

General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge at the LWF Council Meeting in Medan, Indonesia, June 2014. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux
General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge at the LWF Council Meeting in Medan, Indonesia, June 2014. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux

Speaking in Württemberg, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation recalls the founding of the LWF

(LWI) - The significance of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has always been characterized by the way in which its church-related and diaconal aspects have worked together. This founding principle of the LWF was emphasized by the LWF General Secretary, Martin Junge, on 27 November 2014 in Stuttgart. In his formal greeting to the Regional Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg he recalled the founding of the LWF almost 70 years ago.

One of the motivations behind it had been the deep need of the churches for world-wide unity. The consequences of the Second World War had led to the realization that “a church on its own is a church at risk”, in the words of Rev. Junge in Stuttgart. “Our cultural and ideological boundaries are too narrow to encompass completely the width and depth of the Gospel”.

A further central motive for the founding of the Lutheran World Federation in 1947 had been the “unspeakable hardships after the Second World War, … including in particular the many people who were refugees, suffering hunger and desperate to find a place to stay and a means of survival”, said Junge. Assistance for reconstruction work was organized at that time through the LWF. In this way an early foundation stone was laid for the diaconal profile of the LWF, which today is clearly demonstrated in the development work and emergency response offered by the LWF in over thirty countries worldwide. Rev. Junge explained that he himself came from a family that had been repeatedly forced to flee, partly for economic and partly for religious reasons.

The close association of church-related and diaconal activity was a specific feature of the LWF. The two areas of work could not be separated from one another. He challenged the Synod not to lose sight of the needs of refugees both in Europe and worldwide. “These are people who, according to our faith, are made in the image of God, and in whom, according to the words of Jesus, we encounter Christ himself”, he said.

In his speech he also acknowledged the “energetic support” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg for the humanitarian work of the LWF, which amongst other things offered support and supplies to refugees in the Central African war zones, as well as in Syria and Iraq. Junge challenged the 150 delegates at the Synod to maintain their commitment. “Advocate for the refugees, so that more may be done. Europe must do more. Germany must do more. And you can do more” he said.

Reformation 2017: international, ecumenical, continual

Rev. Junge also made a presentation to the Synod about the LWF planning for the reformation commemoration in 2017. The LWF wanted to concentrate its activities on the next three years and in particular to emphasize the international aspects of its content: “Reformation today is a world citizen. It has gone out and established itself in foreign places”.

In addition the Reformation commemoration must be dealt with in the context of “ecumenical responsibility”. The results of dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church must not be forgotten, for example the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. “We specifically want to include these ecumenical achievements, in order to avoid coming either to inappropriate triumphalism or to backward-looking antagonism”, said Junge.

Furthermore, the Reformation was not over and done with, but the churches were involved in ongoing reformation. This would have to be borne in mind also in 2017. In this context, the General Secretary drew particular attention to the work of the Global Network of Young Reformers. Over a thousand young people from the members churches of the LWF have committed themselves to come together in a network linking their projects and to send a strong message to the next LWF Assembly in Namibia in 2017.