German delegates meet in Krakow to prepare LWF Assembly

26 Jan 2023

LWF member churches are looking forward to the upcoming Thirteenth LWF Assembly. A meeting of their delegates in January in Kraków offered an opportunity for exchange and encounter.

GNC in Poland

Looking forward to the Thirteenth Assembly: (from left) Prof. Dr. Martin Illert, Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Dr. Michael Groß, Consul General for Germany in Kraków, Dr. Carsten Rentzing, Representative of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), Rev. Dr. Grzegorz Giemza, director of the Polish Ecumenical Council and Anna Wrzesińska, Chairperson of the Local Assembly Planning Committee. Photo: GNC/LWF/F. Hübner

“Coming together is sign of peace and hope” 

(LWI) - Delegates from the eleven German LWF member churches met in Krakow earlier this month to prepare for the Thirteenth Assembly of the LWF. Also present at the three-day meeting were more representatives of the LWF member churches in Germany, members of the Bishops’ Conference of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP), Jewish representatives, and representatives of LWF churches from the Central Western Europe region and other German Protestant churches.  

Anna Wrzesińska, Chairperson of the Local Assembly Planning Committee (LAPC), provided an insight into the preparations for the upcoming LWF Assembly. These are running at full speed. At the same time, the host church ECACP is engaged in advocating for peace and support to refugees from Ukraine. The ECACP is working closely with the LWF Assembly office and the local LWF World Service country program. “We are excited and looking forward to welcoming you to Poland in September,” said Wrzesińska as she expressed her gratitude to everyone involved in the planning and preparations for the Assembly. 

Astrid Kleist, Vice-President of the LWF’s Central Western Europe region, explained the significance of the meeting in January: “We are looking forward to an Assembly in Central Eastern Europe. The Assembly is a symbol of solidarity and unity, especially in times of war and tension. The delegates coming together are sending a sign of peace. The Thirteenth Assembly of the LWF allows us to create a space where people from all over the world can share their faith and find joint hope. Together we affirm and express the rich relationship of being a community in Christ.” 

GNC visits Auschwitz

GNC/LWF Deputy Chair Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt and ECACP Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec lay a wreath at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. Photo: GNC/LWF/F. Hübner

A moving visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau 

A visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, allowed participants to gain insights into the brutal crimes committed there during the Second World War. Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt, Deputy Chair of the GNC/LWF, and Bishop Jerzy Samiec, Presiding Bishop of the ECACP, laid a wreath at the former Death Wall of the Auschwitz main camp. This was a moving moment to commemorate the victims of German crimes and violence, said delegates at the meeting. 

The visit ended with a moment to pause and reflection at the Memorial Square of the Birkenau camp. Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt emphasized: “We have to remember and commemorate the victims. And we have to grapple with understanding how these crimes could come about. After all, they belong together: remembering, commemorating and resolutely taking responsibility – responsibility to ensure respect for the inalienable dignity and right to life and physical integrity of all people.” 

The visit offered an opportunity to discuss Jewish-Christian relations on the basis of a draft document summarizing fundamental developments and results of theological and church reorientation regarding Christian-Jewish relationships. That document, which will be shared with Assembly participants, is intended to prepare them. Looking back over a good seven decades, it summarizes fundamental developments and results of theological and church reorientation regarding Christian-Jewish relationships. Dr. Andreas Wöhle, President of the Lutheran European Commission on the Church and the Jewish People (LEKKJ), was present during the meeting in Krakow, as were other members of the LEKKJ.  

“One of the issues we discussed in Kraków was the question of how to define the church’s bond with Judaism today. Due to the atrocities of the Second World War and the crimes of the Shoah, we Germans are aware of our special responsibility,” said Kleist. “The Assembly gives us as Germans an impetus to face up to this responsibility afresh and find an answer. At the same time, the question arises about the overall Christian perception of Judaism, which is important for the LWF as a whole. The meeting in Kraków was important for our preparations for the conversations we may have with each other at the Assembly in September.”

Setting the scene for the Assembly  

The meeting in Kraków also offered an opportunity for exchange and encounter. The delegates could discover the historic city of Kraków, visit the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. Besides, they visited a concert of the "Violin Consort quartet" at the Evangelical St. Martin’s Church of the Kraków Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, where they prayed together and met more members of the Local Assembly Planning Committee.

The Thirteenth Assembly will take place, 13-19 September 2023, in Krakow, Poland, hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland. The Assembly is LWF’s highest decision-making body, consisting of representatives from the communion’s member churches. It meets every six to seven years to give general direction to LWF’s work, elect the President and the Council members, act on the reports of the President, General Secretary and Chairperson of the Finance Committee, and on matters related to the LWF Constitution.

LWF/S. Kredig