LWF remembers Rev. Sven G. Oppegaard and a life dedicated to church unity 

Rev. Sven Oppegaard. Photo: LWF
Rev. Sven Oppegaard. Photo: LWF

Tribute to former LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) shares with deep regret, the news of the passing of Rev. Sven G. Oppegaard, former Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs at the LWF. Oppegaard, an ordained pastor of the Church of Norway, died on 21 May.  

Oppegaard had a decades’ long collaboration with the LWF, first as worship coordinator for the Ninth Assembly in Hong Kong, China in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the Church of Norway theologian was appointed as LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs.  

In his ecumenical relations’ role, Oppegaard oversaw LWF’s preparations for the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification on 31 October 1999, a milestone in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue process, in which he had been involved for almost 20 years. His theological and liturgical expertise as well as great sensitivity to the many ecumenical questions of the day ensured that the liturgy celebrating the JDDJ signing in Augsburg, Germany, was a momentous event.  

When articulating LWF’s ecumenical vision, Oppegaard never lost sight of the fact that the goal of doctrinal consensus on justification was to make progress on pastoral issues impacting the lives of the faithful and congregations. His insights and dedication also enabled the Lutheran-Roman Catholic International Joint Commission to continue with the theological exploration on apostolicity, resulting in the study document, The Apostolicity of the Church. 

As a research scholar, Oppegaard was involved in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue since the late 1970s, having worked also at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. His contribution spanned many other dialogues in which the LWF is engaged. He was co-secretary for bilateral dialogues and relations with the Anglicans, Methodists, Orthodox, Reformed, and with the World Council of Churches.  

Oppegaard was instrumental in ensuring a strong and hopeful start to the Lutheran-Mennonite dialogue that culminated, after his retirement (2006) with the study commission’s report titled Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ and the liturgy of confession and repentance at the LWF Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany in 2010.

Rev. Sven Oppegaard brought his deep liturgical and pastoral expertise to ecumenical theology, forging a way toward ever greater understanding, appreciation, and reconciliation. We pray together in communion with his wife Susan Oppegaard, their children and grandchildren. We thank God for his life and witness.