Towards a Sustainable LWF Asia Region

Asian church leaders at the 2015 ACLC in Taiwan. Photo: LWF/JC Valeriano
Asian church leaders at the 2015 ACLC in Taiwan. Photo: LWF/JC Valeriano

Engaging Neighbors and Communities ‘Not within Our Walls’

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in Asia concluded their bi-annual meeting this year with a call on church leaders to nurture sustainable churches that promote justice and peace in communities throughout the region.

“Holistic Sustainability: Towards A Sustainable LWF Asia Region” was the theme of the 12 – 15 April Asia Church Leadership Consultation (ACLC), attended by 75 participants including church leaders from the region’s 53 LWF member churches, mission partners and staff. The Taiwan Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church of Taiwan co-hosted the conference held at the China Lutheran Seminary.

The LWF Asia communion is a diverse communion culturally—ethnically, politically, economically and socially—facing its own challenges and creating its own opportunities, participants observed. The churches in the respective sub-regions experience different situations that demand varying responses. However, one common key challenge is the need to create a church that is holistic—preaching the gospel, serving people in need and advocating for justice and peace—and sustainable.

In his keynote address, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, who hails from the region, reminded and encouraged the Asian church leaders that their role is about strengthening the vision of a sustainable church with the ability to “engage neighbors and communities not within our walls.”

Younan emphasized the need to affirm Lutheran identity in the region’s LWF member churches despite the different historical contexts. “It is important for us to articulate the things that bind us together, those things that are distinctively Lutheran, the things that bind us in unity with churches not in our tradition, and those things which bind us in love and care to all our neighbor,” said the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Intergenerational Solidarity

In her welcoming address, Ms Eun-hae Kwon, LWF Vice-President for Asia said, “When we speak about sustainability, it is an issue of intergenerational solidarity. This task is one that we can only achieve when youth and adults work together to continue witnessing the gospel.” She noted that shared accountability and valued contribution from the different generations are vital factors “that must not just be heard, but must be visible.”

In line with the ACLC conference theme, Dr Samuel Liu, President of the China Lutheran Seminary exhorted the participants to “walk on a journey from fear to faith, from doubt to affirmation and from experience to active living.” Reflecting on John 20:19-31, Liu said, “Jesus Christ is not only Lord and God, but he is also 'my Lord and my God,' thus an active relationship with Jesus Christ will ensure a sustainable relationship with my neighbor, liberating him or her from fear and doubt to experience the eternally sustainable life in Jesus Christ.”

Thailand to Host 2016 LWF Pre-Assembly

The conference also discussed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 and the Twelfth LWF Assembly to be held in Namibia the same year. The church leaders affirmed reformation as an ongoing process that challenges Asian church leaders to build a sustainable church whose theology and spirituality contributes to building relationships and a society that are ultimately grounded in Christian ethics.

The ACLC agreed to hold the LWF regional pre-assembly in August 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The LWF Asia desk at the Department for Mission and Development coordinates the regional church leadership gatherings.

(A contribution by Christy Chok, Basel Christian Church of Malaysia)

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