Preparations for The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Twelfth Assembly and Reformation anniversary offer churches opportunity to raise greater awareness about the free gift of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, South African Bishop Horst Müller says.
“In many of our Lutheran churches, this awareness is lacking and many people believe that they have to do things to be saved, rather than celebrating that we are set free by Christ,” Müller said in an interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI). He spoke ahead of the, LWF Pre-Assembly for Africa, taking place 6-10 February in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (N-T) said the Twelfth Assembly theme, “Liberated by God’s Grace” and the sub-themes articulating that salvation, human beings and creation are “not for sale” are poignant for churches in a continent where land, mineral resources and human dignity have a price tag.
“Many of our countries are selling off their land for commercial agriculture or mining to the highest bidders from other parts of the world, but the sale only benefits a few wealthy people but not the ordinary person. As the global Lutheran communion prepares to gather people representing the buying and selling countries in May in Namibia, our churches must be mutually strengthened to be advocates against such injustices,” said Müller, who is also president of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA).
He said he hoped the Pre-Assembly, hosted this week by LUCSA, would provide space for delegates from the 31 LWF member churches in Africa and other participants to reflect on the “not for sale” theme with regard to youth unemployment, recurring drought and the legacy of racial segregation and discrimination in the region.
Citing South Africa’s Labour Force Survey projections for 2015, the Lutheran bishop noted that more than 40 percent of youth in the country will never have a job in their lifetime, which makes many of them harbor sentiments of worthlessness in a society that appears to not need or want them. “As churches we must be able to affirm human dignity by showing that you are not valuable because you have a job, but we try to get you a job because you are valuable.”
Müller preached at the Africa Pre-Assembly opening eucharistic worship, and welcomed the 100 participants to the country. LWF Vice-President Bishop Dr Alex G. Malasusa from Tanzania is chairing the regional gathering.
The agenda includes plenary and group presentations on the assembly themes. LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge addressed participants and mapped out the preparatory processes towards the Twelfth Assembly. In other sessions, participants will discuss the structure, content, process, working methodology and environment of an LWF assembly.
In many of our Lutheran churches, this awareness is lacking, and many people believe that they have to do things to be saved, rather than celebrating that we are set free by Christ.
Zimbabwean theologian and former general secretary of the LWF, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko delivered the keynote address on the assembly theme.
Meetings of women and youth representatives taking place prior to the Pre-Assembly discussed issues of common concern that delegates wish to bring into the content of the Twelfth Assembly. Participants will also discuss the role of churches in implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and hear highlights about LWF’s programmatic work in Africa over the past six years.
“As the region prepares to host the Twelfth Assembly in May, the Pre-Assembly is an important juncture of connecting with all the other regions and journeying together joyfully and spirit-filled towards an outward-looking, forward-looking and transformative LWF Assembly in Namibia,” said Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure, LWF area secretary for Africa.