Worldwide Lutherans Gather in Geneva for the 2004 LWF Annual Council

The opening service message reflected the overall theme of the council: ''Growing Together-Growing Apart'' in the era of heterogeneous unity
( [email protected] ) Sep 01, 2004 01:57 PM EDT

Over 170 Lutheran leaders around the world gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for the weeklong Lutheran World Federation Council, August 31, 2004. With one day remaining before the Council officially began on September 1, the leaders partook in an opening Eucharist service, during which speakers urged against social evils and neo-liberalism in today’s era.

“Excessive greed for capital gain on the part of the global world has meant that many people die or live on a bare minimum. We must not let the free market direct the fight against scourge for hunger, and for a well-nourished humankind,” Rev. Ekkehard Lagoda, German-speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva (ELCG).

Lagoda’s sermon closely followed the theme of the 2004 annual Council meeting: “Growing Together-Growing Apart.”

According to Lagoda, Growing together and growing apart do not apply only to individual relationships, but rather to LWF member churches worldwide. Lagoda reminded the audience to work for a community “established in the sharing of the body of Christ” and against “exclusion based on human judgment.”

“We [must] trust the power of the word of God instead of relying on human jurisdiction,” said Lagoda, recalling Jesus’ inclusion of Judas from the Last Supper.

Lagoda also spoke on the role the church must play in the European Union. He said churches have a responsibility to respond as an “independent authority with regard to the EU.” He then challenged churches within Europe to “utilize this constitutional stipulation to promote values such as solidarity, redistribution and abdication, justice and charity also in the future Europe.”

Meanwhile, Lagoda said Switzerland, a non-EU member, could serve as a model even for the vision of Europe, since the nation’s 23 culturally heterogeneous cantons from four different language areas have not been torn apart despite the political tensions surrounding them; the EU has been striving to unify under one umbrella while maintaining its multi-cultural and multi-religious identities within.

“Wherever there is a phenomenon of growing separately or growing together—in the family, between and within geographical regions, in inter-religious dialogue, in issues on globalization or simply between churches of different confessions, Christians, though believing in miracles, do not lethargically wait for God’s intervention, but are called to seek change in people’s hearts so that all may live life in abundance,” he concluded.

The official Council, which began on September 1, will feature the address of the President, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, and Report of the General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko. The LWF Treasurer, Mr Peter Stoll will deliver his report on September 2, after which the LWF governing body will move into Program Committee sessions, and report back to the plenary September 5 through 7.