LWF Conference on the role – "Being Church in a Transforming Europe"

“Listening, Serving, Empowering – Being Church in a Transforming Europe” was the theme of this year’s The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) European Regions’ Conference, bringing together the Central Eastern, Central Western, and Nordic regions of LWF Europe, hosted by Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy (ELCI), 27. – 29. October 2014. It was attended by 55 participants from 30 member churches in 21 countries. ECAC in Slovakia was represented by General Bishop Miloš Klátik, who´s also participated on co-organization of conference.

Concern of Churches

A strong concern of churches in all part of Europe is their changing roles in secularizing and pluralistic societies. Reflection on new models for being church in today´s world were undertaken together. To pursue the development of sustainable churches and congregations. participatory approaches of being church need to go together with giving outspoken value to church members´ gifts and knowledge and encouraging them to share this, as part of their Christian commitment. Especially the younger generation encourages us to develop the communication of the gospel along media-centred lines. We recognize the need for linking to network concepts to support the churches´ commitment to sustainability in its various activities. Broader networking and participating in ethical discourses in society will also sustain the church´s profile as „socially relevant and publicly effective“. We discussed that the church is undergoing a process that is moving it from the center of society to the margin, from a position of power to a position of vulnerability. In such a situation, the church no longer can communicate its message from a position of authority but will have to base its communication on the authenticity.

Fear of War Is Real

Hungarian Bishop Dr Támas Fabiny from the Central Eastern Europe region, of which he is LWF Vice-President, highlighted the tragic results of the conflict situation in the Ukraine. The LWF Council adviser Ms Anastasiya Piddubska had talked about the impact of the armed conflict on the population, saying it is resulting in internal emigration and traumatization even among the health and social service providers. “The neighboring countries are afraid of the escalation of war. Indeed in the Baltic countries, the fear of war is real among the populations. People approach the church asking what to do, how to respond in case of war. And, unfortunately, the atmosphere of suspicion is rising between ethnic groups of these countries,” Fabiny noted. Other concerns in the region include the challenge of the negative demographic tendencies and emigration. “Hundreds of thousands from our population go to the Western countries to work and to live there. And those leaving are basically the young educated intellectual layer of our societies like doctors or computer experts,” said Fabiny, who is bishop of the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary. There is also internal migration as younger people move to bigger cities to find work. “Thus villages, smaller towns, and therefore also our congregations in the countryside are emptying out,” he noted.

Support by Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy to refugees

The program of conference contributed by report hosted Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy (ELCI). Informed about the situation of refugees and migrants coming from the Near East or from Africa to Italy. Together with other Protestant churches as for example the Waldensian Church in Italy the ELCI has set up some programs and projects to support the refugees arriving in Italy. It is our deep concern that we help these children of God who have undertaken the dangerous and often deathly trip to Europe. There must be established a culture of welcome to these affected people. We want to help them regardless their religion, their confession, their gender, their origin. „These people need help!“ as mentioned already in the statement, “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders,” adopted by the LWF in June 2013.

Therefore we deeply appreciate the projects of the ELCI, finding places for these people in need. Looking for the possibility of integration, finding work for them. It is encouraging to look at the commitment in advocacy and diaconal action with immigrants and refugees and the strong ecumenical efforts to accompany the vulnerable neighbor. ELCI reminds us of the need to bridge the gap between ecumenical dialogue and practical diaconal work. In addition to the action by the churches, we ask the European Union to give new attention to the law of incoming refugees. In its current form it is an impediment to the equal sharing of the challenges caused by the ongoing refugee crisis. „In these days, when more and more refugees come to our continent we want to be open for them, we want to welcome them and we want to support them in any way.“

Discussion between roman-catholics and lutherans

The representatives of the churches also speaking at a panel discussion on the ecumenical dimension of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Celebrating 50 years of the international dialogue between Roman Catholics and Lutherans in 2017 is a critical way of remembering conflicts that started in Europe after the Reformation, and of expressing hope for deeper unity between both dialogue partners.

Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) emphasized how important it is also for Catholics to reflect on what it means to commemorate the anniversary. He pointed some elements for an ecumenical commemoration of 2017 from the view point of the Catholic Church. In his contribution marked the 50 years of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the LWF. „The Reformation jubilee should be a time of critical remembrance and of reconciliation in view of the memory of conflicts born out of the Reformation“, Koch noted. The 2017 commemoration will also be a sign of hope about deeper unity between Roman Catholics and Lutherans.

The panel discussion, chaired by Württemberg Bishop Dr Frank O. July, LWF Vice-President for Central Western Europe, was also the occasion to present the preparatory journey of commemorating the Reformation and its ecumenical implications in three different countries of the continent—Sweden, where Lutherans are the majority, Poland, where Lutherans are a minority, and in Germany, where there is a substantial numerical balance between Catholics and Lutherans. Wherever the debate, it is characterized by reception of the document From Conflict to Communion, prepared by the Lutheran - Roman Catholic Study Commission on Unity in view of 2017.

Miloš Klátik, EPST No. 49/2014, 3. 12. 2014, p. 12

Source: https://www.lutheranworld.org/news

Miloš Klátik, EPST č. 49/2014, 3. 12. 2014, s. 12  | 29.12.2014

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Grafické spracovanie:Ladislav Menyhart