Synod on Family: Emphasis on Urgency and Space for Open Conversations

Bishop Dr Ndanganeni P. Phaswana at Council 2011. Photo: LWF/H.Putsman Penet
Bishop Dr Ndanganeni P. Phaswana at Council 2011. Photo: LWF/H.Putsman Penet

Reflections by LWF General Secretary Junge and ELCSA Bishop Phaswana

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) sees the recent Catholic bishops’ synod on the family as not only underlining the urgency of discussion on this topic but also emphasizing the need for space to have such open conversations.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge expressed appreciation to the Vatican for inviting the LWF as a “fraternal delegate” to the 5-19 October Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focusing on the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. Presiding Bishop Dr Ndanganeni P. Phaswana of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) delivered LWF’s greeting and attended sessions of the assembly.

Greeting the special synod, Phaswana explained the LWF churches’ agreement to use the “Emmaus conversation” approach to engage in mutual prayerful dialogue when considering the diverse theological and ethical interpretations within the Lutheran communion around the issues of family, marriage and sexuality.

Phaswana told Lutheran World Information (LWI) the special synod had offered a platform for sharing and listening to different interpretations on the question of the family, including issues that need further discussions between Lutherans and Catholics.

On eucharistic communion or lack of it in inter-confessional families, Phaswana said, “Without hurrying anyone it is important to come to a common understanding and acceptance of our baptism, which will lead to acceptance into Eucharist.”

He said the challenges of polygamy and homosexuality are issues that churches face in their respective contexts. “Church leaders and parishioners should intensify the art of listening with the intent to understand [and] not to respond.” In addition, pastoral formation should be adequately equipped to deal with matters of family and human sexuality.

For Junge, the synod had confirmed what we as a Lutheran communion know very well: “how important it is to create spaces to talk to each other, to listen and reflect together; yet also how difficult it is to reach a common understanding on the complex matters of family, marriage and sexuality.”

He said the ongoing process in the Catholic Church “resounds with our ongoing ‘Emmaus conversation’ process of dealing with complexity while eagerly counting on Christ’s revealing presence as we journey together.”

“I appreciate Bishop Phaswana’s readiness to represent the LWF at the synod. I am sure we can only be enriched by granting ecumenical openness to our discernment processes,” Junge added.