One melody together, different, coordinated instruments
PARAMARIBO, Suriname/GENEVA, 2 September 2016 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge says the growing engagement among churches in LWF’s regions is a “very positive step” towards communion building.
Reflecting on his participation in three Pre-Assemblies to prepare delegates for the Twelfth Assembly in Namibia next year, Junge said LWF’s sustained emphasis on the region as the place to strengthen communion had reached a very encouraging step. “We are at a point where we can even go further and develop processes and mechanisms to guide communion building among churches from diverse historical, theological and local contexts.”
He highlighted the choice by the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and North American churches to hold their Pre-Assemblies in one venue—Paramaribo, Suriname—as an indication of how far relations have developed. “They chose what part of their agenda could be conducted together jointly, and held separate but parallel sessions to discuss specific subjects,” he said.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname (ELKS) is hosting the 27 August -3 September Pre-Assemblies for LAC and North America. The joint plenary sessions are co-chaired by LWF Vice-Presidents Rev. Dr Gloria Rojas Vargas and National Bishop Susan C. Johnson.
Eagerness among LWF churches
Junge said a traditional music performance by a Javanese band at the Paramaribo Pre-Assemblies became a powerful image in envisioning the Lutheran communion as it moves forward. “Each band member holds an instrument in their own hand but needs to coordinate with the others in order to make it sound and become a whole melody,” he said of the show at a cultural evening organized by the ELKS to introduce Surinamese culture.
“In a similar way each LWF church holds its own specific instrument in its hand. While it can make a musical sound on its own it will never produce the melody that can only be done by all together. I believe this is where we are right now, there is eagerness among LWF member churches to continue bringing their specific instrument to their common place, the LWF communion, and to make it sound together with others to become a powerful melody of Christ’s gifts of justice, peace and reconciliation.”
In this image, coordination is critical, Junge said. “They cannot play at the same time; they have to wait for one another to play before ‘my tune’ comes in. And as we do likewise, I can imagine the music which we are going to produce in the years following the Reformation anniversary in 2017: a music of hope as bold witnesses of Christ’s in this wounded and broken world.”
The Javanese culture in Suriname dates back over a century. After slavery was abolished, Javanese were brought in, some abducted, as forced labor to work on plantations in Suriname. “This also connects powerfully with the LWF Assembly sub-theme, human beings not for sale,” Junge said.
In a similar way each LWF church holds its own specific instrument in its hand. While it can make a musical sound on its own it will never produce the melody that can only be done by all together."
Connection with Namibian churches
He underlined the connection with the 2017 Assembly host churches in Namibia as an important part of each pre-assembly agenda. At the LAC and North America Pre-Assemblies, Bishop Ernst Gamxamub of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) will make a presentation as did Presiding Bishop Dr Shekutaamba V.V. Nambala at the Asia Pre-Assembly.
“The presence of Namibia’s Lutheran church leaders at the pre-assemblies has proven to be extremely meaningful for delegates in understanding that what they are doing will be put in perspective with what we will be doing together in Windhoek,” Junge said. The LWF general secretary also attended the Asia Pre-Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand in mid-August.
He added, “This also relates to communion relationships which we want to grow in the future, especially from South to South. We need to start asking the question: ‘How does a LAC church live out relationships of accompaniment in mission, of mutuality and solidarity with a member church in Asia, Africa, while it continues to nurture the historic relationships with its mission partners?’”