I am because you are: churches working together for capacity building

Representatives from nine Lutheran World Federation (LWF)  member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: LWF/ Peru
Representatives from nine Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: LWF/ Peru

Help churches share experiences of their diaconal work

(LWI) Representatives from nine Lutheran World Federation (LWF)  member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean have gathered to review an LWF framework designed to improve their capacity as churches.

Human and Institutional Capacity Development: an Approach in Perspective of Sustainability” aims to help churches share experiences of their diaconal work that respond to challenges within their environments.

The HICD review was developed through the lens of three components for capacity development: leadership, diakonia and theological formation. Participants were enriched by theological reflection and spirituality, in order to motivate analysis that draws on the Lutheran identity.  

“The spiritual dimension, together with the theological reflection has its healing effect in the communities, especially because it is a sign of the kingdom of God already revealed to us,” said Bishop Victoria Cortez from the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua Faith and Hope.

The HICD framework was developed at a 2012 regional gathering on the sustainability of the churches. The churches then put it in place and adapted it to their local situations. Responding to specific requests, local workshops were held, with the participation of the nine churches, between 2013 to 2016.

The spiritual dimension, together with the theological reflection has its healing effect in the communities, especially because it is a sign of the kingdom of God already revealed to us
Bishop Victoria Cortez, the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua Faith and Hope

The framework put to the test

The HICD framework has proved its worth.

The Christian Lutheran Church of Honduras, for instance, requested accompaniment to assist it through socio-political challenges in 2013, in order to improve church management, enhance accountability and programs and project reporting, and to align capacity development processes in the church.

To strengthen its theological understanding of diakonia and deepen its sustainability process, the Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church decided on specific strategic areas of work for HICD in a 2014 workshop.

In the aftermath of an internal crisis that resulted in a split, leaders at different levels in the Lutheran Church of Peru deepened their vocation and addressed specific themes related to community diakonia to respond to the contextual needs in workshops carried out at congregation, parish and national levels in 2015.

In the same year, a HICD workshop in Guyana gathered leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname to mutually enrich their diaconal work and share good practices on human resource management. Participants acknowledged deeper understanding of what it meant to be a sustainable church and made a commitment to use the framework from 2012 collaboratively.

Last year, four churches from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala, which were at different stages of capacity development came together to share examples of good practice, particularly in the field of diakonia. Mapping areas of diaconal work in different levels of the churches allowed leaders to identify resources and consider ways of working to mobilize other resources for new areas.

The review affirms participation

Focusing on their broader call to mission, leaders at the review acknowledged diakonia as an important aspect of proclamation to promote justice and bring healing.

Participants shared their positive experiences from different learning curves: the sustainability approach, HICD processes, healing and governance aspects, and being accompanied by sister churches and partners. From experience sharing sessions, it was evident that empowerment and mutual interdependence is needed.

By working with other churches, Danielle Dokman from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname, addressed the value of theological formation that incorporates not only the intellectual aspect but also the relational one. “I am because you are” is her way of affirming the connections between churches and  their dependence on each other for capacity development.

The review agreed to put effort into increasing youth participation, which is complemented by facilitating “more opportunities for engagement also in decision making spaces”, as contributed by Christopher Wordsworth from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana.

The review demonstrated that gifts and resources, participatory planning and being church today are strong aspects  of the work of the church today.

María Elena Parras from the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Argentina, said: “I see how much the different aspects of the sustainability process are incorporated in the HICD activities in the churches participating here. It is visible to me because I had the opportunity to be in the early process in the sustainability program in the region.”.

A team of three people was appointed to incorporate the main findings from the HICD review. Once agreed upon, they will be shared with all member churches in the LAC region.