LWF President opens first in-person Council since start of COVID

9 Jun 2022

Archbishop Musa praises flexibility, resilience and commitment of member churches and Communion Office

LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa delivers his address to the Council

LWB-Präsident Erzbischof Dr. Panti Filibus Musa. Foto: LWB/S. Gallay

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa has welcomed delegates from member churches to the first in-person Council meeting since 2019.

Bringing greetings from his own Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, President Musa looked back over the past two years, praying for “God’s guidance and healing” for all those suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or from the consequences of war and conflict. He thanked Council members and Communion Office staff for their “great flexibility” and “deep commitment” in serving the global communion of churches throughout the period of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The LWF leader also noted that the Council is the first to be held under the leadership of General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt, as well as the last full meeting before the Thirteenth Assembly to be held next year in Poland. He shared reflections on the words from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians, “In Christ, all things hold together”, which form part of the New Testament passage known as the hymn of the Cosmic Christ.

Communion of reconciled diversity

Looking ahead to the Assembly theme, ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’, he said that “when read in its context of the first chapter of Colossians, [this theme] reminds us how reconciliation, re-integration, diversity and mutual inter-dependency are intrinsically linked to salvation.” In Christ, he continued, “all thing were created to live in a communion of reconciled diversity.” But when human beings fail to respect “God’s wisdom woven into the fabric of creation,” the results are the damaging divisions caused by climate change, ethno-nationalism and the commodification of people.

Despite “living in a world in turmoil that seems out of control,” the LWF leader continued, Christians are called to preach “a common confession” of One Body and One Spirit as “a sign of the One Hope that we proclaim to all creation through our words and deeds.” As pilgrims “travelling through endless chaos,” he added, “we also know we are a communion held together not for the sake of ourselves only, but for the sake of the world.”

Speaking of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he highlighted the swift LWF response to support the millions of refugees, mainly women and children, who have fled to neighboring countries. In particular, he praised the churches in those countries for their mobilization, working in partnership with the LWF, the United Nations and other agencies to meet the needs of the refugees. “This is what it means in practice to work for justice, peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Practicing justice, peace and reconciliation

While Ukraine remains the most visible of today’s conflicts, Archbishop Musa said, “it is estimated that conflict in 39 countries across the globe is a main driver behind record levels of food insecurity." He highlighted the work of LWF’s humanitarian arm, World Service “which is an expression of the joint calling of LWF member churches to serve people in need and work for hope and a future.”

Noting that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported a new record of 100 million refugees and internally displaced people on the move, he stressed that this “is a milestone that the world must collectively roll back.”

Reflecting on the transitions and unprecedented challenges of the past year, he praised the resilience of both the LWF leadership and its member churches in standing together “in times when many people find it easy to walk away from one another.” Such commitment to serve the communion in difficult times, he said, depends on “mutual confidence and trust” and is “deeply rooted in our Lutheran tradition that confesses Christ crucified as the promise of the Triune God who is present even in the shadows.”

Ours is a living tradition that forms, reforms and equips each generation of the baptized in increasingly diverse contexts

LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa

The LWF president spoke of the Lutheran Identities Study Process which has been exploring the foundations of faith and the way this living tradition “forms, reforms and equips each generation of the baptized in increasingly diverse contexts.”

A moment to learn and give direction

Looking ahead to the Thirteenth Assembly, to be held in Poland next year, he said it will be a key moment “to learn from each other, reflect jointly on the participation of the churches in God’s mission and to give direction to our shared witness and service for the church and for the world.”

He thanked the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland which will be hosting the Assembly.

As a communion of churches, the LWF leader noted, we look forward with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to experience the gifts and hospitality of the church in Poland during the Assembly. Meanwhile, he said, “we give thanks to God” for the recent ordination of the first nine women in that church. “The full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry has been our goal for six consecutive Assemblies and we rejoice over every step taken forward,” he said.

Finally, Archbishop Musa praised the work of “the vibrant global young reformers who have made peace their theme this year.” By bringing together innovative young leaders from across the world, he said, “they make a difference, and they inspire churches all over the world.”

LWF/P. Hitchen

The LWF Council is the highest authority of the LWF between Assemblies. It consists of the President, the Chairperson of the Finance Committee, and 48 members from LWF member churches in seven regions. The current governing body was elected at the May 2017 Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia. The 2022 meeting takes place, 9-14 June, at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva.

LWF/P. Hitchen