What does it mean to be liberated by God's Grace?

Bishop Ben Chun Wa Chang, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong and Rev. Anne Burghardt, LWF study secretary for Ecumenical Relations, show the Chinese translation of the Reformation Anniversary booklets. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson
Bishop Ben Chun Wa Chang, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong and Rev. Anne Burghardt, LWF study secretary for Ecumenical Relations, show the Chinese translation of the Reformation Anniversary booklets. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Asia Pre-Assembly participants discuss LWF Twelfth Assembly themes

(LWI) – What does it mean to be liberated by God's grace? From what and to what are we liberated? What does it mean to say that salvation, human beings and creation are not for sale?

These questions form the theme and three sub-themes of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Twelfth Assembly, which member churches in Asia are discussing this week at the regional Pre-Assembly.

Exploring the Assembly themes is a central topic of each Pre-Assembly. This includes presentations offering examples of how each subject relates to the work and context of churches in the region.

Four study booklets offer diverse perspectives

Rev. Dr Simone Sinn, LWF study secretary for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations and Rev. Anne Burghardt gave presentations on the study materials prepared for the Assembly. This includes four booklets, each on the theme and sub-themes, with articles written by scholars and theologians from all LWF regions. The diverse perspectives covered offer a comprehensive whole when read together.

Burghardt, LWF study secretary for Ecumenical Relations, said the Assembly theme “Liberated by God’s Grace,” was highly relevant for the Reformation anniversary as it is closely linked to the doctrine of justification by faith through grace. The central insight that God’s grace is given as a free and unconditional gift evokes a response of gratitude which human beings express in the loving and caring engagement with the whole of creation, she noted.

She added that “faith liberates us from all kinds of bondage, but at the same time Christian freedom is not only a freedom from something, but always also freedom to something, such as serving the neighbor and working for justice. The three sub-themes offer an opportunity to engage more deeply with practices and ideologies that stand in the way of the liberating message of the gospel.”

“The church should realize that human beings, creation and salvation are not commodities that are for sale, because God’s grace makes them free and offers them dignity of life.”
Rev. Dr Busi Suneel Bhanu, India

Need and greed

In his presentation, Rev. Dr Busi Suneel Bhanu, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute in Chennai, India, said the whole world was a marketplace where a variety of commodities are for sale. In some places this even includes salvation, human beings and creation. Vulnerable groups, like Dalits in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, burakumin in Japan, women in many countries and nature are for sale, he noted.

There are numerous examples of the exploitation of many for the benefit of a few, he added, quoting Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi who said:

"We have enough for the need of the people, but not for the greed of the people."

Bhanu said “the church should realize that human beings, creation and salvation are not commodities that are for sale, because God’s grace makes them free and offers them dignity of life.”

Contributing to one of the discussions, LWF Vice-President for Asia Eun-hae Kwon said one of the challenges for the churches in the region was awareness about the need to "speak out when it comes to injustice and violence against those who are vulnerable."

The Pre-Assembly participants discussed the theme and sub-themes further in village groups and plenary and will articulate them in the concluding Pre-Assembly message.



Assembly website

Asia Pre-Assembly photos

Asia Pre-Assembly information

LWF News

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15 August 2016
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