(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will host its annual Retreat of Newly-Elected Leaders (RoNEL) at the Communion Office (CO) in Geneva and the LWF Center in Wittenberg, 4-12 September. The meeting in a series convened for new leaders of LWF’s member churches around the world will be the first in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Leadership and the Episcopal Ministry in the LWF Communion” is the theme of this year’s RoNEL, to be attended by 17 heads of churches, dioceses and synods from LWF member churches in 14 countries. More than 60 church leaders from all the seven LWF regions have participated in the program since it was begun in 2015.
With new participants at each event, RoNEL offers a space where church leaders can reflect on a shared understanding of Lutheran identity not only in their home churches but also in the diverse LWF global contexts. It aims to build and strengthen relationships among the participants, contribute to upholding unity in the Lutheran communion, and familiarize participants with LWF’s work and the CO staff. In the last two years, when it was difficult to bring together new church leaders in-person, the LWF organized some online sessions to offer orientation about the program.
“We look forward to welcoming another group of church leaders after a period of great challenges for many of LWF’s member churches due to the pandemic,” said Rev. Katariina Kiilunen, LWF Program Executive for Capacity Building and Leadership Development at the Department for Theology, Mission and Justice. “It is in our human nature to want to see and speak directly with the people with whom we interact. This enables people to establish mutual trust and understanding and build stronger and more meaningful relationships,” she added.
It is our hope that at the end of the retreat, the church leaders would be going back home empowered in their leadership and inspired by being part of the LWF community.
– Rev. Katariina Kiilunen, LWF Program Executive for Capacity Building and Leadership Development
RoNEL is structured around topics that generate conversations on what constitutes leadership and how it can be transformative for both the church and society at large. As participants get to know each other, it is expected that their shared experiences would create and strengthen relationships for mutual support.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt will deliver a keynote address on the identity and vision of the communion of churches, and program staff will lead discussions on LWF’s strategic work including ecumenical relations, Lutheran theology, being an inclusive church, and the church’s prophetic voice and serving the neighbor.
Episcopal ministry will be a major topic during the participants’ stay in Wittenberg, with discussions around Lutheran systematic perspectives on leadership and practice of the ministry of oversight when it comes to conflict management, communication skills and church sustainability. They will also take guided tours to historical sites in Martin Luther’s city.
“It is our hope that at the end of the retreat, the church leaders would be going back home empowered in their leadership and inspired by being part of the LWF community,” Kiilunen added.