Representatives of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and North America are meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname, 27 August – 2 September, to start preparations for the Twelfth Assembly of the LWF.
More than 70 participants including 23 delegates from LAC and 13 from North America are expected at the two regional meetings, hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname (ELKS). It is the first time LWF churches in the two neighboring geographical regions hold their assembly preparatory meetings in the same venue. Common issues will be discussed in plenary, while separate regional sessions will take up specific concerns.
The delegates will learn about the processes and methodologies of the 2017 Assembly, to be held in May 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia. The LWF 2017 Assembly theme, Liberated by God’s Grace, and its sub-themes will guide reflections on the witness of the churches in the two regions.
“Meeting in Paramaribo is an opportunity for churches to know more about the work of ELKS and the context in which its mission is developed,” said Rev. Dr Patricia Cuyatti, LWF area secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We want to affirm that the global LWF communion is a big family, which this time, will experience the hospitality of a small but strong church. We also want to use the pre-assemblies to encourage each member of the Surinamese Lutheran church and civil society to get to know more about the 500 years of the Reformation and how we will be expressing this at the May 2017 Assembly and commemorations in Windhoek, Namibia,” she said.
Cuyatti noted that guests from other Christian denominations have been invited to take part in some of the sessions. “We want to embrace other churches and affirm the gift of being together even in the midst of differences. Acceptance and respect are important principles of living out our Lutheran faith in an ecumenical context.”
As with other regional pre-assemblies, meetings of women and youth delegates from the churches will take place a day prior to the regional gatherings. There will also be a public forum to discuss church involvement in realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which the LWF has endorsed as part of its long-term commitment.
ELKS leaders will preside at the opening worship on 29 August. The business sessions of the Pre-Assemblies will be led by LWF Vice-President for LAC Rev. Dr Gloria Rojas (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile) and the North American Vice-President, National Bishop Susan C. Johnson (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada).
In his keynote presentation, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge will offer highlights about the history of the LWF and how assembly theme relates to issues confronting the Lutheran communion around the world. Other LWF Communion Office staff will present the sub themes highlighting why salvation, human and creation are “not for sale,” and discuss a statement on the self-understanding of the LWF as a communion of churches.
The LWF’s LAC region has 17 member churches and North America includes two churches. The Asia Pre-Assembly was held in Bangkok, Thailand, 15-19 August, and delegates in Europe and Africa will meet in January and February 2017 respectively. Women’s and Youth Pre-Assemblies will be held in Namibia, a few days prior to the Assembly.