DENVER, Colorado - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) North America Pre-Assembly Consultation is about preparing to be healers in the world, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He welcomed some 70 voting delegates, staff and advisers at the consultation in Denver, Colorado, January 23-26.
The consultation is intended as a planning and learning opportunity for those who will be involved in the LWF Tenth Assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, July 21-31, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." It is the first of five such regional consultations to be held throughout the world leading up to the Assembly.
Delegates from North America include representatives of the ELCA and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as well as the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Diaspora, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad, and Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (based in Germany), each of which has congregations in North America.
Hanson said that for him experiencing an Assembly had been a life-changing experience. He encouraged the youngest present to go to the Assembly to lead. He also expressed heartfelt thanks, on behalf of the North American Lutheran churches, to the ELCIC and its national bishop, Rev. Raymond L. Schultz, for the church's hospitality and willingness to host the LWF Assembly.
At least two-thirds of the delegates will be attending an LWF Assembly for the first time, said Rev. Peri Rasolondraibe, director of the LWF Department for Mission and Development. He reminded delegates that the Assembly is the LWF's highest decision-making body, and that its activities would include celebration of the Lutheran communion, as well as business matters, such as elections and deliberation on resolutions and policy matters.
Women and North American youth representatives to the Assembly already have held consultations to discuss key issues, he said. The Women's Consultation was held last November in Montreux, Switzerland. The North American youth representatives held a preparatory meeting in Denver this week.
While in Denver, reports from those meetings will be presented. Delegates, staff and advisers also will meet in Village Groups, which will be a central feature of the main Assembly. Bible study and discussions related to the Assembly theme will take place in these groups. Topics include justification, communion, healing divisions, mission in multi-faith contexts, removing barriers that exclude, the ministry of healing, justice and healing in families, overcoming violence, transforming economic globalization and healing creation. Ideas for Assembly consideration will emerge from these discussions, Rasolondraibe said. The outcome will be shared with the other Pre-Assembly Consultations.
In an opening worship service, Rev. Susan Johnson, an ELCIC delegate from Kitchener, Ontario Canada, said the delegates do not have to look far to see why healing is so urgent. In her sermon, she cited the possibility of war with Iraq, and violence at home, such as school shootings, recent sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C. area, and child and spousal abuse.
Healing suggests curing sickness, she said, noting that catastrophic diseases are not confined to specific geographic areas. Much of the world's sickness has its roots in poverty, she said. She urged the North America representatives to take small steps in the communities in which they live to promote healing and peace, such as feeding homeless people, supporting church appeals that promote healing, and unceasing prayer that God can bring peace to the world.
By Albert H. Lee