LWF leaders: ‘Now is the time to be church’
Against challenges of post-COVID context, churches are called to work together, sharing treasures and talents
(LWI) - Despite the many challenges facing churches as a consequence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Christians are called to encourage each other as they find new ways of proclaiming God’s healing word and serving their neighbors in need.
In a letter to leaders of all member churches, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa and General Secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge give thanks for the many stories of congregations witnessing to their faith and standing with the suffering as they face unprecedented difficulties. “We are living through times of challenge and change,” they say, “but God’s call to mission remains unbroken.”
We are living through times of challenge and change,” they say, “but God’s call to mission remains unbroken.
The Lutheran leaders note how churches have found ways of maintaining a vibrant worship and prayer life while they have been unable to gather physically and have been discussing new theological topics that have arisen from these challenges. Echoing the words of the psalmist, they say: “Truly, God has been a mighty fortress, sheltering the church from paralyzing uncertainty, and inspiring it for creative witness.”
They also note how the pandemic has exposed deep-seated inequalities and injustices, “including racism which has surfaced with particular virulence” They give thanks for churches all over the world that are “standing firmly against racism and other forms of discrimination, violence against women, including sexual violence, and injustice.”
Words of faith, hope and love
Difficult as our context may have become, Musa and Junge say in the letter, “now is the time to be church” and to share its “rich treasures and talents” with “people and communities longing for life to be full again.” Now is the time to come together,” they urge the church leaders, and to share “words of faith, hope and love” with those “pained by anxieties and fears.”
Comparing the current global challenges with the turmoil facing the world in the wake of the Second World War, Musa and Junge note that the LWF was founded in 1947 at a moment of “uncertainty and chaos.” It was a time when economies were stalled and political systems questioned, while “fear, anxiety and hopelessness marked the mood of the time,” they say.
As the world sought to recover from the trauma of widespread brutality and reset relationships among peoples and nations, Lutheran churches came together in the realization that “only by coming together and cooperating would they be able to respond to the theological, pastoral, and diaconal challenges of the times. They understood that their local presence of compassion, healing, and reconciliation, required a global expression that would both nurture and strengthen their own witness.”
Musa and Junge encourage the member churches to “continue nurturing and sustaining the communion of churches. Come closer together, reach out to each other, connect, work together, support your regional and global structures as places of mutual learning, sharing of resources and global witness.”
Ministry of compassion, service and justice
In the current context of uncertainty and change, cooperation among Lutheran churches is particularly important, Musa and Junge stress. Despite the challenges of finding “new language, new forms, new expressions” to bring the Gospel alive in today’s world, Christians can trust in the Holy Spirit as they engage in “an ongoing process of reformation.”
Just as the founders of the LWF made a major commitment to serve the refugees and those displaced by the war, Musa and Junge encourage churches of the Lutheran communion and their agencies today to continue offering together “a ministry of compassion, service and justice” among refugees and vulnerable, especially those heavily affected by the consequences of the pandemic.
The two Lutheran leaders conclude by inviting all member churches “to journey with confidence and hope” towards the next LWF Assembly which will take place in Krakow, Poland, in September 2023 under the theme ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’. The theme of the Assembly, referring to St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:4, was announced by the LWF Executive Committee earlier this month.
Read the letter