By Meritxell Mir
At a meeting taking place from 9 June through 14 June in Geneva, members of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will vote on adopting a renewal process for the years 2012 through 2017 that places greater focus on responding to emergencies, especially those having to do with the environment. The new focus also includes proposals for increasing the role of youth and creating financial sustainability.
“There is a need to explore how to get involved in advocacy work that is linked to climate change,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, who is leading the renewal process. Under the proposal, Lutheran churches hope to be able to better respond to human suffering through coordinated actions with partners.
The creation of regional hubs for emergency response in countries such as El Salvador, Nairobi, and Kathmandu will make it easier to distribute food, water, medicines, and blankets in the event of a natural disaster. Lutherans were on the forefront of issues such as AIDS and the environment, said Junge, and from now on this will make up a bigger part of the LWF agenda.
With membership of many big churches declining, the LWF needs to find new ways to ensure it can continue its mission. “We can have a reasonably realistic plan only for the next three years,” said Junge, “so we cannot say what the situation in 2017 will be. The organization has plans to develop relationships and raise funds, but if that doesn’t work, it will have to reduce expenses.”
LWF leaders think it’s crucial to give young church members a bigger role. “We believe young people should be able to participate in decision-making for the church as a whole, not just for youth programs,” said Junge. “Youth should not be treated as the future, but as the present of the church.”
The LWF’s proposed agenda comes in response to several factors, such as increased global connectivity, widening gaps between the rich and the poor, widespread natural disasters, more forced and voluntary migration, and increased secularization in the Western world. The new strategy consists of a more structured and efficient system for linking churches with training opportunities, scholarships, and education. The biggest challenge, according to leaders, is bringing different views and perspectives together in a way that affirms a shared vision for all Lutheran churches in a coherent, long-term strategy.