General Secretary Junge: The Cross of Christ Calls for Advocacy
Finnish Church Hosts Global Partner Consultation on Mission and Partnership
(LWI) – “Your Kingdom Come” was the theme of the partner consultation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) held in Järvenpäa from 31 March to 4 April, 2014. The consultation brought together more than 35 ELCF partner churches, ecumenical organizations and mission societies to consult on partnership and mission in a globalized context.
Prophetic Dimension of the Church
The meeting was meant to strengthen the cooperation between the partner churches and to give them an occasion to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face in mission today, said the organizers.
“Understanding the public dimension of the church will lead to an understanding of its local, national and global ‘citizenship,’ thereby providing ways to reach out to the people in the pews,” said Rev. Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) addressing the conference. “The cross of Christ is a reminder of that prophetic dimension,” Junge said.
“There is still a widespread self-understanding of Christian faith as something pertaining strictly to the private, inner sphere. How relevant can such a church be?” he asked.
“Particularly in the European context, one can still observe hesitation and difficulties to use the concept of mission, and sometimes even to engage in mission,” said Junge.
Partnership in Mission
Several LWF member churches were represented at the consultation. Church leaders shared their reflections on partnership and mission from their respective contexts and their appreciation for coming together for a global consultation.
Rev. Berhanu Edossa Ofgaa, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) stressed the need for partnership among churches while reaching out to those “who have not yet heard of the gospel.”
“Partnership means helping one another, sharing each other’s burden and joining hands in mission,” he said. Referring to Martin Luther, he emphasized the need to “go out and tell the good news to all.”
“Christianity is about faith and hope, and expectation of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the heavenly kingdom. I hope that God who is bringing His kingdom to pass is on the way, on the move. The kingdom of God is the coming and the present.”
Coming from a different context, Rev. Tadahiro Tadeyama, President of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, described a similar approach in witnessing in a minority situation. “The church has the word of encouragement, the word of God. Mission is for those who hunger for hope. The word of God can give this hope. We need to tell people that this is what we offer them. ”
“In Japan, less than one percent of the population is Christian,” Tadeyama remarked. “The kingdom of God will be realized by inviting more people into the Christian church.”
“In our world we have many interpretations of the Bible,” Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said. “We have challenges of poverty. We have issues of justice. I think it is very important to understand that we have one mission, which is meant for empowerment, for transformation and for reconciliation. If we can comprehend that, then we can make a change,” said Younan, who is the President of the LWF.
“For us in the LWF, partnership can only be defined as accompaniment,” the LWF General Secretary Rev. Junge said. “In times of fragmentation and communication breakdowns our ability to work and stand together as partners in mission becomes a telling witness to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our hearts.”