A Powerful Witness

Bishop em. Dr Gunnar Stȧlsett (right), during his term as LWF General Secretary. Photo: LWF Archives
Bishop em. Dr Gunnar Stȧlsett (right), during his term as LWF General Secretary. Photo: LWF Archives

Dr Gunnar Stȧlsett’s Ministry Lauded on 80th Birthday

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) general secretary Rev. Martin Junge has paid tribute to predecessor Dr Gunnar Stȧlsett on his 80th birthday for leading the LWF to live out its call to witness in society.

Stȧlsett, the bishop emeritus of Oslo who turned 80 on 10 February, was lauded by Junge for helping to shape global Lutheranism during his tenure as the LWF’s sixth general secretary from 1985 to 1994.

“A most remarkable aspect of your ministry is how you have looked for opportunities to witness at the intersection of church and society,” Junge said in a 10 February letter to Stȧlsett.

“By bringing these two dimensions so meaningfully together you have given powerful witness to the centrality of ‘incarnation’ in Lutheran theology.”

Stȧlsett helped the LWF engage in Europe at the end of the Cold War, in southern Africa as Namibia and South Africa unshackled themselves from harsh regimes, and in Central America as Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua moved towards peace.

Junge highlighted how Stȧlsett’s work with the LWF illustrated how vital it is that Lutherans relate to people of other faiths, showing that religion should be a force for peace rather than division.

It was during Stȧlsett’s term as general secretary that the LWF began to understand itself as a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition, Junge said.

“You strongly affirmed the principle that to be Lutheran is to be ecumenical, helping to lay the groundwork that led to the 1999 breakthrough ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ with the Roman Catholic Church,” Junge added.

The theologian and politician, who served as bishop of Oslo from 1998 to 2005, is credited by the current LWF general secretary with helping heal a divided world through church and secular efforts.

“You have given strong testimony that it is at the heart of issues of justice, peace and reconciliation in our struggling and wounded world that the newness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks and is received for the sake of transformation,” Junge concluded.