Climate justice and inclusion: priorities for young people

22 Mar 2023

Young delegates, meeting at the first regional Pre-Assembly in Oxford, appeal to church leaders to include their voices in conversations about theology and liturgy, climate advocacy and the fostering of more inclusive communities

Tim Götz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (center) with Elies Tataruch and Sara Śimková. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Tim Götz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (center) with Elies Tataruch and Sara Śimková. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Youth at European regional Pre-Assembly outline key concerns to take to Thirteenth Assembly in Krakow

(LWI) - Better care for the climate and more meaningful cooperation with young people in the churches. Those are the two key concerns that young people from across Europe are highlighting as they look forward to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly in Poland in September.

Meeting in Mansfield College, Oxford, in the context of the European Pre-Assembly, young delegates from the Western, Eastern and Nordic regions expressed their hopes that the next Assembly will put inclusion, accessibility and shared decision-making as a key priority for churches deliberating in Krakow on the future of the global communion.

Almost 40 years on from the Seventh Assembly in Budapest, which set quotas for forty percent of women and twenty percent of young people to be included in all of the churches’ representation and decision-making, the youth note that in many countries their voices are still excluded from the conversations about theology, liturgy, policy making or the fostering of more inclusive communities. Yet in an increasingly secularized context, they say, their voices may be vital for finding new and creative ways of engaging people in the church.

Tim Götz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (center) with Rev. Emmanuelle Brulin and Sara Śimková. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Tim Götz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (center) with Rev. Emmanuelle Brulin and Sara Śimková. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

While the sudden switch to online worship, Bible study and other forms of digital communication during the pandemic caused many church leaders to turn to younger members of their congregations for practical assistance, these youth delegates would like their theological reflections and spiritual insights to be taken as seriously as their technological skills.

Tim Götz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, a member of the Global Young Reformers Network (GYRN) steering committee, helped to facilitate the Oxford encounter, alongside LWF Youth Program Executive Savanna Sullivan and Theological Research Assistant Rev. Rivka Schunk. Götz said members of the GYRN are currently developing a multimedia platform to showcase youth reflections on the relevance of theology and spirituality to their lived experiences.

“These can take the form of poetry, painting, podcasts or any other creative ways of expressing our relationships with God and with our neighbors,” he explained. “We believe it is important to update the language and liturgy of the church to make it accessible to people of all ages, genders and backgrounds,” he continued. “But we would also like our voices to be more meaningfully included in the conversations about the work, mission and future direction of our churches.”

Ecotheology and climate advocacy

A second priority for these young women and men is the growing urgency of the climate crisis and the need for churches in the global north to become “role models” in preserving the planet and its resources for future generations. The young delegates called for “more responsible decision-making around travel or accommodation for meetings and the need to live a more simple, less consumeristic lifestyle.”

Emphasizing that advocacy for climate justice stems directly from “the Biblical call to be good stewards of God’s creation,” they noted the many resources that the LWF has developed around ecotheology and creation care. While they underline the importance of the youth delegations to the annual COP summits at the United Nations, they would like to see church leaders including their ideas in local climate justice work as well.

Closely connected to a growing anxiety about the future of the planet is the whole spectrum of mental health issues which have emerged more starkly, especially for younger people, in the wake of the pandemic. In a world where violence, conflict, polarization and political instability often dominate the news headlines, the young delegates concluded that their faith witness can provide a lifeline for their contemporaries searching for hope and meaning in their lives.

The Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation takes place 13-19 September 2023 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of the Assembly will be "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope." It will be hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.

LWF/P. Hitchen