Two decades of service to Lutherans worldwide and in Germany

31 May 2024

The GNC/LWF General Secretary, Norbert Denecke, is retiring after more than 20 years of service. On 2 June, a church service and reception in Wittenberg, Germany, will mark the occasion.

Oberkirchenrat Norbert Denecke. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

Oberkirchenrat Norbert Denecke. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

GNC/LWF General Secretary Norbert Denecke retires

(LWI) - After more than 20 years as General Secretary of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF), Oberkirchenrat Norbert Denecke will step down from that position during a church service on 2 June at St. Mary’s Church in Luther City Wittenberg, Germany. His successor is the former LWF Vice-President for the Central and Western Europe Region, Oberkirchenrätin Astrid Kleist.

Since February 2004, Denecke has led the close collaboration of the GNC/LWF with the LWF communion office in Geneva, coordinating international relations of LWF member churches in Germany and in particular maintaining ties with the Lutheran churches in Europe.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt expressed her gratitude for Norbert Denecke's “clear, far-reaching and strategic vision, commitment and service” to the global Lutheran communion and the LWF member churches in Germany and thanked him and the GNC/LWF for their “reliable partnership and constructive cooperation.”“Norbert Denecke not only looked into the wide spaces of the Lutheran world family; he was at home in them,” said the Chair of the GNC/LWF and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt. “The GNC/LWF and the LWF were his passion as he himself once put it. His pursuit of visible signs of our interconnectedness in the Lutheran world community and global Christianity at a central place of the Reformation led to the founding of the LWF Centre and the Luthergarten in Wittenberg. We sincerely thank him for this and his multifaceted work in the LWF.”

A significant initiative led by Denecke was the founding of the LWF Center Wittenberg in 2009. It has become a key venue for international conferences and seminars in the town where the Reformation began. The center brings together groups of women and men who are active as laypeople, volunteers, pastors or leaders in the member churches of the LWF. In recent years, numerous people have strengthened their connection to the LWF communion through these events and carried fresh ideas of Lutheran theology back into their home churches.

In the run-up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Denecke also initiated the ecumenical Luthergarten as a contribution to the 500th commemoration of the Reformation. Five hundred trees symbolize 500 years of Reformation and the churches’ “unity in reconciled diversity.”

Different tree species in the garden, different tree species symbolize the diversity of Christian churches. The garden represents their common bond. As the trees grow, the garden continually changes shape and similarly, the Reformation has become a global citizen, with roots and growth throughout the world. As an international, ecumenical and living monument, the Luthergarten points beyond the Reformation anniversary year 2017.

In the course of his work for the GNC/LWF, Denecke attended the LWF Assemblies in Winnipeg (2003), Stuttgart (2010), Windhoek (2017) and Krakow (2023). During this time, he was a valued advisor to the LWF Council and its Finance Committee

LWF/A. Weyermüller