New platforms for LWF scholars
‘Coming together meetings’ connect students in theology and diakonia fields
(LWI) – Participants in two new platforms that connect scholarship holders from Lutheran churches across the world have welcomed the initiative as a space where students can empower and inspire each other, develop new ideas to strengthen churches, and bring a global voice into local contexts.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) organizes the “Coming together meetings” for students with LWF scholarships for studies in different fields of theology and in diakonia and development. Sixty students participated in the recent online meetings, 7-8 September.
One of the highlights was a presentation of the LWF Scholarship Connect platform, set up by Hans-Christoph Thapelo Lange from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) Western Diocese. The platform invites students of theology to an online community where they can learn more about each other, share experiences, knowledge and resources.
Lange, who started his undergraduate studies in theology and philosophy at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University in 2019, developed LWF Scholarship Connect after participating in the first scholars’ meeting in May 2021. He says he was driven by his desire to connect an “incredibly diverse group” that is engaged in the same kind of work. “We have much to gain by connecting globally and sharing our experience and knowledge,” he said.
In times when online communication platforms are becoming standard alternatives to in-person meetings of large groups due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “it is very important to use all resources at our disposal, and this includes online spaces,” Lange noted. He too, hopes to gain from the community using the platform as he pursues his “passion of seriously engaging theology to make life on this planet better.”
The LWF initiative is a good platform for connecting theological researchers in different fields; it brings us closer and brings the world closer.
Joining the group from Hong Kong, China, district congregation preacher Haihong Lin expressed her appreciation for meeting scholars from other countries and hearing “how each one of us has been affected by COVID-19.” The LWF initiative “is a good platform for connecting theological researchers in different fields; it brings us closer and brings the world closer,” she added.
A member of the Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong, Lin is pursuing doctoral studies at Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong with a focus on biblical interpretation and spirituality. She hopes her studies and interactions through the LWF meetings will help her support parents in building a firm foundation rooted in God's word in today’s ever-changing and diverse communities.
A passion for diakonia
From the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Emmanuel Lanbon shared his passion for diakonia as a means of serving and enhancing the dignity of human beings as created in God’s image and protecting creation. A master’s student in development studies at the Institute of Development and Technology Management, Cape-Coast city, he looks forward to learning “from my Lutheran colleagues across the globe especially how they intend to serve their churches and communities.”
Other scholars expressed their desire to support their churches in evangelism and advocacy against harmful cultural practices, counselling youth to address high rates of depression and suicide, in promoting gender justice, teaching Sunday school, resolving conflicts in the church and providing medical services. Participants also requested that future meetings look at subjects such as Lutheran identity, climate change and mental health.
LWF Program Executive for Capacity Building and Leadership Development Rev. Katariina Kiilunen thanked participants in the two meetings for their commitment to the voluntary initiative that is based on mutual dialogue and experience exchange.
“It is a reflection of the different types of gifts with which God has endowed us for teaching and sharing the gospel, caring for others and working for peace and justice,” she said.
In the future, each meeting will have a specific theme or themes proposed by the students, Kiilunen said. The next meetings will be in October.
The LWF awards around 90 new scholarships annually for studies in the fields of theology and diakonia. The objective is to equip individuals with knowledge, skills and confidence that strengthen churches’ capacities to carry out their holistic mission and prepare the next generation of leaders in the Lutheran communion.
There are currently 200 LWF scholarship holders, mostly from developing countries, who are pursuing studies in theology and diakonia related fields. A majority are enrolled in institutions in their home countries or regions.
The deadline for submitting applications for the 2022 scholarships is 15 October 2021.
The LWF accompanies its member churches in their calling to live out the gospel in service and care for the neighbor. The scholarships for theology and diakonia are a means of empowering churches for sustainable growth and development within the churches themselves and in the wider community.