A deeper sense of what it means to be churches in communion 

20 SEP 2023

Message of the LWF Thirteenth Assembly  

The Thirteenth Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) concluded on 19 September, with the communion’s member churches pledging to strengthen the bonds between them, celebrate the gift of unity in diversity, and serve the neighbor, “knowing that the center is always Christ.” 

Delegates to the weeklong gathering of LWF’s highest decision-making body said they were returning to their home countries “with a deeper sense of what it means to be churches in communion.” As churches in ongoing reformation, they stated, “we are called to work for peace in the world, between people, countries and with the whole creation.” 

Bishop Kaisamari Hintikka

Bishop Kaisamari Hintikka of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland delivering the message of the LWF Thirteenth Assembly. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

In the message underlining the Assembly theme, “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope,” the delegates said they would “heed the call to live and walk together as churches in an ecclesial and confessing communion, witnessing to our faith, in God’s holistic mission.”.  

They pledged to be more effective advocates for economic and climate justice in times when bodies are hurting, rejected, excluded, and the Earth is suffering from the effects of climate emergencies.   

Theological grounding emerged as a key topic at the Assembly with concern for the sustainability of the Lutheran communion’s churches.  In the message, delegates underlined the importance of stronger theological education and leadership formation to enable people to engage with complex issues without resorting to simplistic answers. “Responsible theology builds inclusive communities” and “gives space for the renewing and reforming power of the One Spirit.” 

The Thirteenth Assembly schedule included a visit to the former concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the message, the Assembly delegates reaffirmed the 1984 Assembly declaration of antisemitism as a contradiction and affront to the gospel. They expressed “continued commitment to live out our Lutheran heritage in the Christian faith with love and respect for the Jewish people.” 

The assembly noted that churches in some parts of the world continue to be subjected to limited freedom of speech and persecution for their stand on justice and human rights. The member church representatives deplored such discrimination irrespective of where it occurs and called on the LWF to address this concern. 

“Hope is the lens through which we look at the world, as followers of Christ,” the Assembly declared in its message. Delegates affirmed Lutherans’ participation in God’s holistic mission through proclamation, advocacy and diakonia at both local and global levels.  

The Assembly called on the communion of churches to find new ways of offering “bold hope that is inspired by our faith in God” and service to people in need, including migrants, refugees and those affected by crises. 

The 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession will be marked in 2030. The Assembly expressed joy “in the ecumenical potential of our confession, which is a plea for unity, intended to hold the Body of Christ, the church, together.” 

Deep gratitude was expressed to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, its leaders, congregations, and volunteers, for the generous hospitality in hosting the 13-19 September gathering. “The Polish Lutheran church has truly shown us that every church has gifts to share with the rest of the communion.”