LWF General Assembly Underway
Acton Institute Powerblog

LWF General Assembly Underway

Today marks the opening of the 11th General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, held this time in Stuttgart. Today is also the 66th anniversary of the failed Stauffenberg assassination attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler.

There will be much more on the LWF assembly and it social witness in the coming days. The assembly’s theme is, “Give us today our daily bread,” and the meeting promises to focus on hunger issues. I’ll be paying special attention to the engagement of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was involved in the Stauffenberg plot, with the ecumenical movement in the 1930s and what we can learn about it today.

Follow along here on the PowerBlog. But for a basic primer on recent LWF pronouncements, in the context of the broader ecumenical witness, be sure to check out my new book, Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness. Read an ENI piece on the opening of the assembly after the break.

German minister tells global Lutheran assembly to oppose injustice
By Anli Serfontein

Stuttgart, Germany, 20 July (ENI)–Whilst German Lutherans have traditionally been closely aligned to their country’s political system, they have also raised critical voices for justice and peace, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has told a global Lutheran gathering.

“It has been observed that the Lutheran heritage in Germany has tended to encourage individuals to be obedient subjects rather than active citizens,” said Schäuble on 20 July at the opening worship of the Lutheran World Federation’s 11th assembly in Stuttgart, in southern Germany.

The German finance minister spoke on the 66th anniversary of a failed attempt to overthrow Nazi rule in Germany by assassinating dictator Adolf Hitler in 1944. German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was linked to the plotters. The Nazis executed him three weeks before the end of the Second World War in Europe.

“Germans had to learn through a painful history that good government is the responsibility of all citizens. Protestant Germans in their majority took a long time to understand that this was also what their Christian faith demanded of them,” Schäuble told a 1200-strong ecumenical congregation that included not only Lutherans but also Anglicans, Orthodox, Reformed and Romans Catholics.

Hundreds of Lutherans from around the world are in Stuttgart for the LWF assembly, where Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is due to address the gathering on 22 July.

The Geneva-based Lutheran grouping is made up of 140 member churches in 79 countries, representing more than 70 million Protestants. It is expecting an estimated 1000 people, including 418 delegates from member churches, will participate in the Stuttgart assembly.

Taking place normally once every six years, the assembly is the LWF’s highest decision-making body, and will continue until 27 July. The last assembly was in Winnipeg, Canada in 2003.

The opening service in Stuttgart was led by the president of the LWF, Mark Hanson, who is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is to step down from his LWF post after the assembly.

Referring to the theme of the meeting, “Give us today our daily bread”, Hanson said, “Shall we assess our capacity as the LWF to respond to the migration of people for hope and salvation, and say, ‘Send the crowd away?'” The congregation responded with cries of, “No! No!”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.