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LWF Document Urges Members to be a 'Communion in a Fragmented World'

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The council of The Lutheran World Federation has recommended that all member churches of the federation -- which represents more than 70 million Christians in the world, including members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- consider a document that calls for being a communion in a fragmented world. The federation’s council met June 13 in a special session during its annual meeting to discuss and receive the document called “Claiming the Gift of Communion in a Fragmented World.” Council members also offered “key messages” from their conversation, which includes the commitment of the federation to “celebrating the joy, blessing and gift resulting from our being together as a communion” and concern about “a rupture” in relationship among some federation member churches. "There has been strong affirmation from all geographical regions that we are a communion of churches into which all 143 member churches have been called by God's grace,” said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States. “The vitality and unity of the LWF have been reflected throughout this council meeting and were very evident as we discussed (the document)," said Hanson. According to Hanson, the document “acknowledges the painful separation that has occurred following the actions of the General Assembly of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to sever relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Yet it is clear that as the LWF addresses that reality it is within the context of our shared commitment to being a communion of churches bound in a unity deeper than the divisions that separate us."

The ELCA's “commitment is to work to find ways that we can express the differences without weakening the fundamental unity we have as a communion churches," said Hanson, who "strongly encourages” ELCA members to study the document. “It recognizes the centrality of theology and relationships for us as LWF member churches...The LWF council is clear that our three churches will continue to be supported by prayers and by the leadership of the LWF general secretary in providing space and processes for further conversations,” said Hanson.

The LWF council asked all member churches of the federation to pray for the three churches and for the entire communion “so that relationships are healed.” The council also affirmed the process of “accompaniment” offered by the communion’s office to the three churches, and it asked that LWF General Secretary Martin Junge engage member churches “in further theological reflections on how to respect the autonomy of LWF member churches’ decisions and express and deal with resulting differences, while at the same time uphold their commitment to live and work together as a communion of churches.” The council commends the document “Claiming the Gift of Communion in a Fragmented World” to all LWF member churches for study. The document features the reflections of the LWF general secretary, who stated in the document that he has received “a lot of affirmation” from across the communion and among ecumenical partners regarding the communion’s discussion about family, marriage and sexuality -- referenced as the “Emmaus conversation” by Junge -- and the “important step” the council took in 2012 regarding that discussion. The council developed five insights that were shared with member churches, which include that respectful and dignified dialogues on complex issues are possible, that the unique situation of each member church has to be acknowledged, and that the LWF is a communion with many themes and its journey continues.

The document is available as a PDF at