New VELKD Presiding Bishop Pays Visit to Lutheran World Federation

17 Jan 2012
LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge (l) receives a copy of the VELKD publication

LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge (l) receives a copy of the VELKD publication

Ulrich and Junge strengthen cooperation between World Federation and regions

The Presiding Bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) Gerhard Ulrich of Kiel made a first visit to the World Federation (LWF) in Geneva. His discussions with LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge focused on activities with the LWF and the joint, coordinated preparations for the 2017 anniversary of the Reformation. By making this visit only two months following his election as presiding bishop, Ulrich underscored the close relationship between VELKD and the LWF. He is also the chairperson of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF).

The presiding bishop and the general secretary stressed the significance of the joint preparations for the 2017 Reformation anniversary celebration, to be hosted by the internationally-oriented Luther Center in Wittenberg. Its seminars, taught by academics from around the world, together with the Luther Garden project gave expression to global nature of the Lutheran communion, he said. Wittenberg was "a place of paramount importance for Lutheran Christians worldwide," Junge said. In his meeting with the Minister President of Saxony-Anhalt Dr Reiner Haseloff, he was also made aware of the federal state's interest in the work of the LWF in Wittenberg. It was evident that, in Wittenberg, the LWF was involved in the work of the regions, and conversely, that the regions constituted a vital component of the LWF. The German National Committee is the LWF's official representative in Germany. Ulrich presented Junge with an English-language version of the VELKD visitation study as an example of VELKD–LWF collaboration.

One measure in view of the 2017 Reformation anniversary was the preparation of a publication by the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Under the theme "Healing Memories," it will be the first document to examine the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective. According to Junge, this was an expression of the fact that "Lutheran theology from the outset has been ecumenically focused." For Bishop Ulrich, it was important not to consider 2017 as an endpoint. "Everything that is being developed theologically at present must have an impact beyond the anniversary year." The crucial contribution of Lutheran churches would be to give theologically responsible impulses in society beyond the anniversary year.

Junge indicated that preparations were under way for an LWF consultation in Wittenberg with the participation of over 40 representatives of Lutheran educational institutions from all over the world to be held in October of this year. The encounter would focus on better mutual understanding, tighter networking among theological training institutions and the current challenges in the sphere of theological education.

An important topic taken up in the discussions between Ulrich and Junge concerned the LWF's diaconal involvement in the Kenyan refugee camp of Dadaab. "I am grateful for and greatly respect the work of the LWF Department of World Service (DWS) in this region," Ulrich said. "In Dadaab, not only a high degree of professional organization has been demonstrated, but also the LWF's clear choice in favor of the poor." In this way, the LWF was making a visible contribution to hope for the future in crisis-stricken areas. "Wherever relief aid is being provided such as in Dadaab, the Lutheran church is deeply involved," Ulrich declared. The refugee camp in northeastern Kenya is being managed by the LWF for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The camp currently provides shelter for over 450,000 persons.

The conversation between General Secretary Junge and Bishop Ulrich was complemented by discussions with LWF program directors in the departments of Mission and Development, Theology and Studies, and World Service.

(615 words) Report for VELKD and LWI by Oberkirchenrat Dr Eberhard Blanke, VELKD- and GNC/LWF Press officer.

LWF Communication