Unity of the church

We are committed to the quest for visible unity of the church: to be Lutheran is to be ecumenical

Building relationships and overcoming historical divisions with other Christian communions is a priority for the Lutheran World Federation and its member churches

This commitment is enshrined in our strategy as we seek to support the work and witness of all churches in their local context

Together with our ecumenical partners we promote theological dialogue, shared worship and joint service to those in need

Lambeth Conference 2022

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby with LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt and LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations Prof. Dirk Lange. Photo: Lambeth Conference/Richard Washbrooke 

Anglican-Lutheran dialogue began in 1970 and was one of the success stories of ecumenism over the following decades. There are areas of the world where Anglicans are in full communion with Lutherans. Building on the theological progress, the new Anglican Lutheran International Commission on Unity and Mission (ALICUM) is now focusing on reception and putting shared principles into practice in different regions of the world.

Eleventh LWF Assembly - Mennonite action

LWF Eleventh Assembly: Mennonite World Conference President Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe [right] with LWF President Bishop Mark. S. Hanson. Photo: LWF/Erick Coll

Official reconciliation between Lutherans and Mennonites began during the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1980. It led to a process of working through the painful legacy of persecution of Anabaptists, whom Mennonites regard as their predecessors, in the 16th century. Lutherans and Mennonites continue to build on the process of reconciliation that resulted in the 2010 action of Lutherans asking forgiveness for the persecution of Anabaptists by their ancestors in the 16th century.

Lutheran-Orthodox commission

Members of the international Lutheran-Orthodox Commission meeting with Archbishop Anastasios in Albania in 2019. All photos: N. Hoppe

High-level visits and discussions between the LWF and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual leadership of the Orthodox world, began in 1967. Plans for a global ecumenical dialogue between the two sides began shortly afterwards and were developed over the following decade. Significant common statements include Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy (1998) and Baptism and Chrismation as Sacraments of Initiation into the Church (2004). The topic of the current phase of dialogue, which began in 2019, is focused on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.

LWF General Secretary at WCRC Executive Committee, 2019

LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Martin Junge, addressing the WCRC Executive Committee in May 2019. Photo: WCRC/P. Tanis

Lutherans and Reformed Christians enjoy a “special theological relationship” which has allowed churches in some parts of the world to enter into full communion of ministry and sacraments. In 1968, an ad hoc Lutheran-Reformed Evaluating Committee stated that dialogue should be encouraged and coordinated by the LWF and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). In 2017, the LWF signed the Wittenberg Witness with the WCRC, affirming the call to continued renewal and cooperation and committing “to explore new forms of life together that will more fully express the communion we already have in Christ.”

Lund 2016 - Cathedral

Kurt Cardinal Koch, President Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation; Pope Francis   Reverend Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheral World Federation. Photo: Magnus Aronson/Ikon

Lutheran-Catholic dialogue began in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and made a vital step forward with the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999. The Joint Commemoration of the Reformation in 2016, led by Pope Francis and the LWF general secretary and president, also marked a major milestone on the journey towards Christian unity.

Notre Dame JDDJ service

Ecumenical prayer service at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, United States, marked the opening of a consultation on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Photo: Peter Ringenberg/University of Notre Dame

Originally conceived as a breakthrough in Lutheran-Catholic relations, this 1999 document has since been affirmed by Anglicans, Methodists and Reformed churches, making it into a key multi-lateral platform for ecumenical engagement.