“Hope is a gift” says President Stubkjær

President Henrik Stubkjær inaugurates the first full Council since the Kraków Assembly and reflects on the theme of hope, which is at the heart of the new LWF strategy 

Bishop Henrik Stubkjær, President of the LWF. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

Bishop Henrik Stubkjær, President of the LWF. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

At first full meeting of new LWF Council, President Stubkjær looks back at Assembly and forward to ‘shared journey’

(LWI) - Reflecting back on impressions of the Thirteenth Assembly and looking forward to the work of the next six-year period outlined in the new strategy of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). These two topics were at the heart of the opening address from LWF President Bishop Henrik Stubkjær to Council members gathered for the first full meeting since their election in Kraków last September.

In his welcoming remarks, the new LWF leader thanked Council participants for their willingness to represent their member churches located in all regions of the globe. “We are embarking upon a shared journey,” he said, “which will take us from the Thirteenth Assembly in Kraków, Poland, towards the Fourteenth Assembly which will be held in 2030.”

Reflecting on the theme of the Council meeting, ‘Abound in Hope’, he noted that “hope is one of the gifts we receive when we are baptized” and it is also at the heart of the new LWF strategy for the coming years. Christian hope, he said, “is rooted in Christ and given to us by the Holy Spirit. And this hope empowers us to build welcoming and open communities that enable us to act together for a better world.”

Abound in Hope

Comparing some of the crises of contemporary society with the “tumultuous time” of the Reformation, the LWF President stressed that Lutheran “theology of the cross” is “both crucial awareness of the abundant crises and a revelation of divine grace.” The cross, he added, is the symbol of hope, in that it promises “God’s act of transformation in a destructive and violent world.”  

Looking back at the work of the Kraków Assembly, Bishop Stubkjær noted that the meeting "strongly confirmed the principle of unity in reconciled diversity.” This is in contrast to “a kind of unity that places homogeneity above freedom and diversity,” he continued, a trend that is on the rise among populist and authoritarian leaders around the world.

Looking forward to the publication of the new LWF strategy, entitled ‘Sharing Hope’ which will guide the work of the Communion Office over the coming years, the president said it is also designed to be a source of inspiration for member churches in their own work and in strengthening relationships across different geographical regions.

Visits to member churches

President Stubkjær also shared impressions from his recent visits to member churches in Tanzania and Ethiopia in April and to Poland and Ukraine in May. In Africa, he said that he was “overwhelmed by the amazing hospitality” but also “inspired by the churches’ strengths and strong position in society,” which is built around “their emphasis on holistic mission.”

In Ukraine, he noted that he was able to visit both the member church and the World Service country program which have been cooperating closely to support the most vulnerable victims of Russian attacks. “We have also seen how our prayers and practical work can turn hopelessness into hope, even in very dangerous situations,” he said, adding that “this is never about the size of a church” but rather about “the strength and impact of its witness.”

I will go with open ears and open eyes to see and to learn.

LWF President Bishop Henrik Stubkjær 

Noting that he will be meeting with other member churches in the coming months, the LWF leader affirmed that he will be visiting “with open ears and open eyes to see and to learn.” Yet already, in his first visits as president, he said he had witnessed “the importance of standing together and being close to one another as a communion of churches.”

In particular, the LWF leader highlighted the work of the Communion Solidarity Fund which was launched in 2022 to provide immediate support to churches when disasters or other emergencies strike. He also emphasized the important role that churches continue to play by raising their voices in the public space at a time when human rights, democratic structures and the rule of law are under pressure or diminishing in many parts of the world. 

Council 2024

The 2024 LWF Council meeting takes place in Chavannes, just outside Geneva (Switzerland) from 13 to 18 June on the theme “Abound in Hope” (Rom 15:3).

LWF/P. Hitchen