The Twelfth Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation recently took place in Windhoek, Namibia, from May 10–16. I had the privilege to attend the Assembly as a delegate along with fellow delegates Bishop Larry Kochendorfer, Rev. Katherine Altenburg and Dan LeBlanc. We were joined by several other Canadian participants who were there as visitors, stewards and co-opted staff.
The assembly is similar to many other kinds of church conventions. Reports are given, business is conducted, worship and Bible study enliven our experience. This assembly was all that and so much more!
In this, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it was significant that the assembly was held in Africa—one of the regions where Lutheran churches are growing rapidly—rather than in Western Europe where many churches are diminishing in size. The theme of the assembly, Liberated by God’s Grace, was apparent in all we did—the texts of Bible studies, hymns and prayers at worship, the keynote presentation and three subtheme presentations. We spent a lot of time reflecting together on what being Liberated by God’s Grace means in this day and age.
These themes can be heard in the content of the Assembly Message and the public statements and resolutions that were adopted: church revival, theological education, gender justice, interreligious relations, religious persecution, climate change—these are but a few of the items that were discussed. Our church will need to intentionally study these documents to see how we can live out these commitments.
The highlight for me was the Global Commemoration of the Reformation, held in Sam Nujoma Stadium with 10,000 people in attendance. I was honoured to preside at the Eucharist. What joy to lift up voices in song and prayer with so many, including a wide array of ecumenical guests. What power to hear 10,000 people praying the Lord’s Prayer in their many languages, reminding us of the experience of Pentecost. What joy to leave the stadium dancing as we sang We Are Marching in the Light of God. It was a spiritual highlight that will sustain me for years.
The assembly message ends with these words—may they be true for us!
Freed by grace through faith, we are liberated to be a church in service with the neighbour. Let us share fully in each other’s joys and sorrows; let us pray for one another and share our resources, spiritual and material, wherever possible.
God’s liberating grace fills us with faith, hope and love to participate in God’s mission in this world. In this 500th Reformation year, we profess a message that the world needs today as much as ever: salvation—not for sale; human beings—not for sale; and creation—not for sale! Liberated by the Triune God, we pray for the clarity and courage to go out enlivened by God‘s transformative, reconciling and empowering presence in our relationships, church and society.
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada