Promoting theological and intercultural exchange

GNC/LWF scholarship holders and staff met in Hanover, Germany. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller
GNC/LWF scholarship holders and staff met in Hanover, Germany. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller

GNC/LWF scholarships create closer communities, strengthen ecumenical and interreligious relations

(LWI) - They study in different places in Germany, come from different churches and yet have become very familiar with each other following an academic year abroad: Mona Hein, Leonie Schmid (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg) and Lucas Horn (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria) met at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon.

"NEST is not only a theological faculty. The students also live in the complex and organize their spiritual and personal daily routine together – that shapes a close community," says Leonie Schmid. For Lucas Horn, the numerous Christian denominations coexisting in the region were one of the reasons for spending a year of study in Beirut. "The combination of theoretical knowledge and personal encounters with people was very impressive,” he says. Mona Hein found the interreligious dialogue with Islam very enriching. "The theological reflection is the one side of the coin, and the coexistence of the religions in everyday life the other, quite different one,” she found.

These study visits were made possible by a scholarship. The German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF) awards about 35 study, research and language scholarships annually in the field of ecclesiastical theology. With this program it promotes theological and intercultural exchange, the formation of church, ecumenical and academic networks, and the education of church and academic staff.

The scholarship holders do not only come from Germany, but from all over the world. This year's meeting of scholarship holders at the GNC/LWF office in Hanover on 18 and 19 February included three students from Latin America and one from Ethiopia.

One of them is Karla Steilmann, a pastor of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate. With a GNC/LWF scholarship, she can work on her doctorate at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Leipzig. "There I can work with sources that are not available to me in my native Paraguay," she explains.

The scholarship program of the GNC/LWF has been in existence since 1952, during which time more than 2,000 people from Germany and the member churches of the LWF have received scholarships.