Sent to “bring the gospel of reconciliation to all people”

20 SEP 2023

Thirteenth Assembly concludes with worship and installation of newly elected Council 

“Go forth as one Body, in one Spirit, with one Hope to love and serve God.” This was the message participants in the LWF Thirteenth Assembly were sent with at the conclusion of the gathering of the Lutheran communion’s highest decision-making body.

May our hearts be filled with hope that bears its fruits already today in and for our world. May God bless us and let us be a blessing for this world.

Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt, LWF General Secretary

“Never underestimate the power of prayer that unites us in the communion of saints, that unites us with our sisters and brothers across times and continents,” said Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) when she delivered the closing worship sermon on the last day of the Thirteen Assembly, 19 September.

A highlight of the service with Holy Communion was the installation of the new LWF Council, including the President, Danish Bishop Henrik Stubkjær. Outgoing President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa read the Gospel text on Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

Burghardt invited the youth delegates and stewards to assist in the inauguration, and in the process affirmed the young adults “as companions of Jesus on the way, listening to the Spirit, forging links of friendship, compassion and hope, running ahead to give a strong sense of direction for the Lutheran communion.”

Youth lead a climate march through the venue

Youth lead a climate march through the venue during the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly, held in Krakow, Poland on 13-19 September 2023 under the theme of 'One Body, One Spirit, One Hope'. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

After calling out the names of the governing body members per region, each young adult offered a prayer for the Council member next to them. The general secretary reminded the new LWF member church representatives that they had “been chosen to be the ongoing voice of Lutheran churches around the world” and "bring the gospel of reconciliation to all people, engaging all neighbors in building a trustworthy world.”

The congregation affirmed that they would continue to pray and support the new Council members to carry out their duties with “generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, ready to bear fruit in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Burghardt reminded the member church representatives that while the discernment and decision-making process of the LWF governing body were over, “our work and witness now continue as we listen and engage in God’s mission.” Reiterating the Thirteenth Assembly theme, she invited each LWF region to join in a unison affirmation that they would “go forth as one Body, in one Spirit, with one Hope,”

Deepening communion

In her sermon on Revelation 7: 9-12, Burghardt compared the experiences of unity and understanding between different people witnessed at the Assembly to being a bit like heaven. “We gathered […] from east and west, north and south. We all speak different languages, and still we understood each other here,” she said. “We all need these moments. They make us happy, enrich our souls, let us experience the blowing of the One Holy Spirit of God.”

In the midst of injustices and moments of seemingly decisive defeat, denial, and shame, against the threat of evil around the world, shrinking into hopelessness is not the answer, she said. Nurtured by prayer and worship, the communion is called to participate in “God’s work of renewing the world,” where – using imagery offered by Luther – “ordinary, everyday life becomes service of God.”

Reflecting on the spirit of unity and oneness experienced “time and again” throughout the Assembly, Burghardt noted, “sometimes, dear Lutheran family, we need a moment of Heaven. May God continue to grant us these moments of communion with God and with one another.”

In her sending, she shared her hope for a continued deepening of the global communion. “May God lead us and empower us with the One Spirit, that draws Jesus Christ before our eyes,” she said. “May our hearts be filled with hope that bears its fruits already today in and for our world. May God bless us and let us be a blessing for this world.”

At the end of the service, outgoing LWF President Musa declared the Thirteenth Assembly officially over.

The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland hosted the Thirteen Assembly in Kraków, from 13 to 19 September. Almost 1,000 participants, including 326 delegates from LWF member churches around the world attended.