Lutherans Are Living Witness, Says LWF President Younan

BUDAPEST, Hungary/GENEVA, 17 November 2011 (LWI) –Lutherans offer the world “a communion of hope” in the midst of multiple challenges, Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), said during the opening worship of the 16-18 November LWF Meeting of Officers in Budapest, Hungary.

Presiding Bishop Péter Gáncs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary presided at the service, which was also attended by some 300 students and teaching staff of the Lutheran Secondary School of Deák, one of the 40 educational institutions run by the church.

In his sermon titled “Christ – the Hope of the World,” Younan reflected on Ephesians 1:15-23. He spoke about the legacy of the 1984 LWF Seventh Assembly, the first to meet in Eastern Europe, which also gathered under that theme.

Younan noted particularly the witness of Hungary’s Lutheran community, which he said had been “tested under fire” by two world wars, communism and communist repression. “These were difficult times and yet your faith persisted. You never gave up. Together your churches continued to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he stated.

When the LWF’s highest governing body met 27 years ago, Hungary was under communist rule, South Africa under apartheid and the marginalization of women in church and society was being recognized.

Younan noted that the Assembly took action on these issues, offering hope to the world. It met for the first time behind the “Iron Curtain,” two South African churches were suspended for failing to end racial division in their churches and the LWF resolved that the ratio of male and female delegates to future Assemblies would be equal.

This was also the Assembly in which the LWF took the decisive step of becoming a communion of churches. “The Assembly here voted that all the member churches should be in ‘altar and pulpit fellowship.’ This commitment has been central to LWF’s ongoing journey as a communion. From then on, no church could become a member of the LWF without entering into communion with all the other member churches,” he pointed out.

Younan said the Hungarian Lutheran church embodies characteristics which provide an example for LWF member churches throughout the world. “You are a living witness to the world today. In a world of individualism, you are community-minded; in a world of extremism, religious wars and fanaticism, you seek moderation; you avoid extremes; you are resolute but ready for compromise, yet never at the expense of the Gospel,” Younan said.

“In our situation today, we look back to 1984, to Budapest and the LWF Assembly, and we are encouraged. ‘Christ – Hope of the World.’ This is the Budapest legacy: a message of hope in the midst of challenges,” he concluded.

The LWF Meeting of Officers (previously the Executive Committee) convenes twice annually. It comprises the President, the Chairperson of the Finance Committee, seven regional Vice-Presidents and the chairpersons of the Council Committees.

Its agenda includes discussion of a proposal for the structure of the LWF Communion Office presented by the LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge. In attendance also are LWF Cabinet members and other secretariat staff. (531 words)