Tanzanian and Swedish church leadership give thanks for gift of communion

Bishops from Tanazania and Sweden deepen relations between the two churches during a four-day meeting in Sweden. Photo: Magnus Aronson/IKON
Bishops from Tanazania and Sweden deepen relations between the two churches during a four-day meeting in Sweden. Photo: Magnus Aronson/IKON

Joint meeting produces statement promoting partnership

RATTVIK, Sweden/Geneva, 28 August (LWI) - Bishops from two of the largest Lutheran churches in the world have met, held discussions and worshipped together in order to deepen relations between the two bodies.

In a four-day meeting in the town of Rättvik, Sweden, 14 bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) and all 14 from the Church of Sweden shared the gift of communion, worshiped and explored ways of strengthening relations as leaders in the one Church of Jesus Christ.

The meeting was hosted by the Church of Sweden with the aim of enabling the two churches to strengthen confidence in one another, and of understanding the contexts and challenges that each church faces.

Discussion covered leadership, common challenges, how to maintain and promote cooperation, as well as partnership between the churches.

From the meeting came a statement signed by ELCT Bishop Dr Alex Malasusa on behalf of the Tanzanian bishops present and by the Church of Sweden’s Archbishop Antje Jackelén on behalf of the Swedish bishops.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge held up the meeting as an example of firm relations of member churches of the Communion. 

“This is what LWF member churches stand for and are known for: mutuality and solidarity when they meet, respect for diversity and mutual accountability as they jointly discern their participation in God’s mission, and inclusion and participation as they express communion relationships that are a gift before they are a task.

“I celebrate the ways in which leaders from Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania have embodied these values of the LWF communion as they discerned Scriptures and God’s will in today’s world,” Junge said.

Being a church in dialogue

Discussion focused on teaching and education, poverty, discipleship, modern communication and being a church in dialogue – both in society and with other religions, the statement that came from the discussion said.

The statement went on to list a series of calls to action by the churches. Among them were to give thanks to God for the gift of communion and for journeys of learning, to persevere with mutual prayer, ministry and diaconia to the world and to care for creation.

It also called upon the two churches to renew their relationship being mindful of generational inclusiveness, to encourage interfaith dialogue and friendly co-existence, to prioritize education and teaching of the Christian faith, and to promote women in leadership.

It set out a number of commitments for leaders of the church. “As leaders of our churches we commit ourselves to promote mutual learning through exchange of groups, personnel and programs at national, diocesan and parish levels, to nurture discipleship and ministry of all the baptised in accordance with the principles of the Lutheran Reformation, to fight poverty, both material and spiritual, and to share and respect theology shaped by our traditions and the contexts in which we live.”

Highlight our different conditions

Before the meeting, Archbishop Antje Jackelén said the Church of Sweden had a long-standing relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. “We would now like to devote time to getting to know each other better as leaders in the worldwide church. We will highlight how our different conditions affect our way of being a church,” she said.

Discussion was guided by text from the Book of Acts of the Apostles which describes the life of the first Christians. In pairs – one from each country - the bishops led discussions, Bible studies, the Eucharist and prayers.

“We are doing this because there we find a story about people who tried to interpret their contemporary context and be a church in it. These Bible stories describe how completely new relationships were formed between different languages and cultures, and we want to be inspired by this,” Archbishop Jackelén said before the conference.

The Church of Sweden and the ELCT are both members of the Lutheran World Federation. With 6,500,000 members, the Church of Sweden is the largest in the Communion, while the ELCT is the third largest with 5,825,312 members, according to LWF 2013 statistics.


Read the statement in full.