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Lutherans Install First Latin American as General Secretary

( [email protected] ) Nov 28, 2010 09:41 AM EST

A Chilean theologian was installed as the Lutheran World Federation's new general secretary on Thursday.

The Rev. Martin Junge is the first Latin American to serve in the position. He will help lead the global church body that represents over 70 million Christians in 79 countries.

Addressing Lutheran and ecumenical leaders, Junge encouraged conversations, inclusive communities and bridge building.

"Throughout LWF’s journey over the years, it has seen as its mission to build and continue building bridges in a world ravaged by conflicts, iron curtains, glass ceilings, and all the visible and invisible walls that separate, exclude, confine and curtail the human race called to be one," he said, according to LWF.

Highlighting the communion table, he stressed that the gathering of different people around the table is "very much in line with the fundamental Lutheran theological understanding of justification by grace."

Junge is the former president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile. He was elected to a seven-year term as LWF's eighth general secretary last October. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, who announced in June 2008 his intention to conclude his service on Oct. 31, 2010.

Noko was the first African to hold the position of general secretary in the LWF.

Junge said his vision is for the more than 60-year-old global body to recognize and celebrate diversity and to engage in dialogue across contexts.

He stressed that the LWF must long to be an inclusive communion and acknowledge "how much we ourselves can be an obstacle to inclusion."

In July, LWF delegates adopted a resolution that ensures a more balanced representation in leadership offices. The resolution calls for decision-making bodies in the LWF to be comprised of at least 40 percent women, at least 20 percent young people under the age of 30, and at least 40 percent lay persons.

Member churches were also encouraged to take the same steps to ensure full participation of women, young people and lay persons in the life of the church.

Addressing member churches that do not approve of the ordination of women, LWF delegates urged them to prayerfully consider the effect that inaction and refusal on this matter has on those who are precluded from exercising their God-given calling because they are women.

"The pain of this exclusion and the loss of their gifts mean suffering and loss for the whole church," they stated.

Junge's installation took place during the LWF Executive Committee meeting, Nov. 24-26, in Geneva, Switzerland.