(LWI) The Twelfth Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will be held in 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia.
During its meeting from 13 to 18 June 2013 in Geneva, the LWF Council gratefully accepted an invitation from the three LWF member churches in Namibia. “The Lutheran World Federation is happy to come to Namibia to celebrate Namibia’s independence and to boost the mission of your churches!” announced LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, expressing his satisfaction with the decision.
Prior to the vote on the Assembly venue, three bishops from the three churches gave a presentation of Namibia and the LWF member churches.
The Presiding Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), Dr Shekutaamba V. V. Nambala, recalled the multi-faceted history of mission in that country, which led to the emergence of the three Lutheran churches.
Missionaries who came to Nambia, including from Britain, Finland and Germany, contributed to the fact that today about 90 percent of Namibians are Christians. More than half the population belongs to the three Lutheran churches.
“We are therefore inviting you to a Lutheran country,” said Bishop Dr Zephania Kameeta, LWF Council member from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN).
The three churches explained their special motivation in extending the invitation. “The LWF supported Namibia immensely in our struggle for liberation, not only at home,” declared Nambala.
Offering theologians training overseas was another example of its assistance, along with support for people who had had to flee Namibia.
Nambala recalled that the LWF had given humanitarian and spiritual aid in the refugee camps. “The LWF managed to find ways and passages for our church leaders to visit and assist our refugees in the camps,” he told the Council.
In the 21st century, now that Namibia is independent and apartheid is over, the Namibian churches have issued this invitation as a way of thanking the LWF. “Come and see what it means to be in communion and independent,” Nambala urged Council members.
Bishop Erich Hertel from the German-speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN-GELC) also pointed out that hosting the LWF Assembly could have a positive impact on the three churches, helping them to grow closer together.
After the first unsuccessful attempts to merge the churches in times of racial segregation and apartheid, the churches had made further moves to unite in the 1990s.
A United Church Council was founded in 2007. “However, this should by no means be the end of the road but it should be a milestone on our way to further unity,” underlined the bishop of ELCIN-GELC. In his opinion, holding the Assembly in Namibia would certainly advance this process.
The three Lutheran churches in Namibia are of differing sizes. The German-speaking ELCIN-GELC comprises about 5,000 members, ELCRN has around 420,000 and ELCIN, with its roots in Finnish mission, has over 700,000. There is already a congregation in Windhoek where members of all three churches worship together.
Invited by the whole of Africa
Finally, Bishop Kameeta reported on support for the invitation from the African Lutheran Church Leadership Conference. “So the invitation to you does not just come from Namibia, you are invited by Africa!”
After the decision by the Council the three bishops presented the LWF President with a Namibian flag as a symbolical gift accompanying the invitation.
In conclusion, Bishop Hertel could not resist sharing a Namibian proverb with the Council members: “You can leave Namibia but it will never leave you.”