GENEVA - A region by region focus of the July 2003 Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly starts today, with the North America Pre-Assembly Consultation (PAC) in Denver, Colorado, USA.
"The main purpose of PACs in general is to prepare delegates for active participation in and effective contribution to the life and work of the Assembly. This is very important for the smooth running of the Assembly since about two thirds of the participants will be new," says Rev. Dr Peri Rasolondraibe, director of the LWF Department for Mission and Development (DMD). DMD is responsible for coordinating all the pre-assemblies and for a program that includes visits to congregations and ministries of churches in the Assembly host region.
The January 23-26 gathering will be the first in a series of five LWF regional PACs in which representatives of LWF member churches will reflect on the Assembly theme and content. The 21-31 July Assembly will take place in Winnipeg, Canada, hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). Its theme is "For the Healing of the World."
The Tenth Assembly discussion will take place in ten "Village Groups." Rasolondraibe noted that the PACs, for instance, will focus on the different village group issues from a regional perspective, prepare the regional Bible study presentation and establish a regional nominations slate of Council members - LWF's governing body between Assemblies- to be elected in Winnipeg. Delegates will also be familiarized with the LWF structure and activities.
Rasolondraibe sees the North America PAC as very significant as this is the region hosting the forthcoming Assembly. The participants at this consultation, representing the four member churches in the region, namely the ELCIC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Diaspora will also prepare for the pre and post- assembly visitation programs. It is hoped that through these programs, the rest of the Lutheran communion will appreciate the depth of these churches' understanding and practice of communion and hospitality.
The January meeting is unique in that this is the first time that the regional office, created in 1998, will be preparing a pre-Assembly. According to Rasolondraibe, the office has to date facilitated, among others, discussion and practice of communion between the member churches in North America and has strengthened LWF's presence among Lutheran churches in the region. The regional officer is based at the ELCA Chicago headquarters.
The Assembly Coordinator, Rev. Arthur Leichnitz, expects the first regional pre-assembly meeting to raise many questions about the Assembly content, procedures and logistics that will need to be taken into account before the Assembly itself. The LWF secretariat also has expectations of the meeting in terms of insightful discussion of the issues and churches' readiness to receive the Assembly. It is hoped that a solid understanding of the Assembly theme, "For the Healing of the World" in the North American context, would have an impact on subsequent regional PACs.
The North America Pre-Assembly will bring together over 70 participants, including 22 church delegates. About 1,000 people including 436 delegates from the 136 LWF member churches are expected in Winnipeg for the Tenth Assembly. The Assembly is the LWF's highest governing body, meeting every six years.
The remaining LWF regional meetings will take place in Europe - February 23-26, Vienna, Austria; Asia - March 2-6, Medan, Indonesia; Africa: March 23-26, Nairobi, Kenya and Latin America and the Caribbean, April 6-9 in San Salvador, El Salvador. The first preparatory meeting toward the Tenth Assembly was the 14-19 November Women's Pre-Assembly Consultation in Montreux, Switzerland. A global youth conference will be held near Toronto, Canada, prior to the July Assembly.
By Albert H. Lee