Casual notes

Started by Charles_Austin, July 21, 2010, 06:12:44 AM

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Richard Johnson

Editor McCain,
Some of us here appreciate and wish to continue to hear Pr. Austin's reflections on the LWF assembly. This is your last chance. Here's the deal: I am asking you to STOP commenting on any of the threads related to the LWF. If you fail to do so, I will suspend your membership on the forum until after the LWF assembly is over. Are we clear?
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


As I review a pile of papers and reports, I realize that much of the "Assembly" work took place before anyone arrived in Stuttgart. There were pre-assembly meetings in each of the LWf's seven regions. Another meeting was for women, and there was one for youth. (I got to that one, in Dresden, the week before the Assembly opened. Fine young people indeed.)
     All participants had Bible study materials and theme guides far in advance.
Delegations met and reviewed Assembly materials.
     The Assembly has been quite lacking in anything like the "politics" often present at church conventions and assemblies. Thus far, the discussions in plenary have simply been on how to make Assembly resolutions better, or more precise, or to add a related concern rather than to offer a "substitute motion" or to oppose the proposal.
     Some things did occur behind the scenes. Often the LWF president is elected from the host country. As noted upstream, Bishop Margot Kassman might have been the first woman president. Or Bishop Maria Jepsen might have been nominated. But their resignations from their posts made that impossible.
     A coalition of women decided not to put forward another candidate, and Bishop Younan had been favored for a long time.
     There was considerable applause for out-going General Secretary Ishmael Noko and the speech from the new general secretary, Martin Junge, received a standing ovation.
     As usual, I am humbled by the facility of so many people in multiple languages. I can manage German and understand a good bit of French, though I reach for the interpreter headset when things are complex. (Interpretation in Spanish and English is also provided and documents are given out in four languages.) But at coffee breaks and meals, I encounter people shifting easily from one to another of the European languages and - in the case of the Africans and Asians - conversing in the tongues of their homeland. (Ditto for the Nordics, who have realized for decades that no one speaks Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish or Danish.)
     Read the materials on the Mennonite reconciliation. Those of us who have not had much contact with Mennonites may not realize how significant this action was in some parts of the world.
     It is also clear that the Assembly treats theology as an incarnate "earthy" matter. That is, there are the reports from some ecumenical dialogues and other materials of the sort one finds at academic conferences or in theological seminaries. But as a whole the Assembly uses Lutheran categories - justification by faith, priesthood of all believers, sola scriptura, etc. - in ways intended to connect those theological concepts directly to the lives of believers and to see how the experiences of the believers inform our understanding of Lutheran theology.
     The "communio" language seems to have taken hold, as there are more frequent references to the Lutheran "communion," indicating a theological and eucharistic fellowship rather than a loose linking of church organizations.
     Today, finalization of the "Assembly Message," sort of a pastoral letter to member churches, and a closing Eucharist. I am writing the story about the message, but I still hope to get to the closing Eucharist and post a few comments here.
     Pray that the Spirit continues to bless your fellow Lutherans from around the world and that - as we set off tomorrow - there are (I love this term, which is Methodist, I think) traveling mercies.


A story about the "Assembly Message" will be online soon, though I am not sure how quickly they will be able to post the entire four-age document, since a number of tweakings were made to the language when it reached the floor of the plenary session.
     This is, as noted far above, sort of a "pastoral letter" to LWF member churches, encapsulating the themes and concerns and issues that occupied the Assembly.
     Some caveats for newbies. It is an "international document." It was "written by a committee" and edited - the tweakings mentioned above - by an even larger committee. Expect not elegance of language or rhetorical focus.
     At the beginning, it is declared that we are dependent upon God's grace for all that we have and that this dependence leads us into constant thanksgiving and the mission of sharing that grace - and all of God's blessings - with the world.
     Riffing on the words of the petition, "Give us today our daily bread," the message walks through those words, collecting Assembly concerns under them.     While it may at times seem like a mere listing, remember that the terseness of these sentences is backed up with other documents, reports and resolutions of the Assembly.
     The message reflects the deep feelings of those attending the Assembly who have worshipped, prayed, studied scripture and worked together for nearly a whole week, gathered as Lutherans from around the world. Everybody is not expected to "sign on" to every issue for their future mission. The Lutheran communion is large enough that all aspects of the message are likely to turn up in different places around the world.
    Still to come - some more resolutions. Then a closing eucharist which will feature the installation of the new president and council.


Quote from: Richard Johnson on July 26, 2010, 09:42:41 PM
Editor McCain,
Some of us here appreciate and wish to continue to hear Pr. Austin's reflections on the LWF assembly. This is your last chance. Here's the deal: I am asking you to STOP commenting on any of the threads related to the LWF. If you fail to do so, I will suspend your membership on the forum until after the LWF assembly is over. Are we clear?

Whatever you say, Moderator Johnson.


We all have our liturgical preferences. Mine is generally "high-church" Lutheranism as exemplified by the Rev. John Damm, and LC-MS folk of that stripe. But I know that's not the whole deal.
     The Wuerttemburg Landeskirche is not a "liturgical" church. But the closing eucharist for the LWF assembly was planned by an international committee, so we did get the classic parts of the mass: gathering, confession, service of the Word, service of the Sacrament, sending. Yet some of the parts contained longish didactic paragraphs that seemed verbose and intrusive. It's as if they didn't trust the brief words and the ceremonies, but had to explain things more. 
     But the Service of the Sacrament was not that way and had all the elements of an LBW, ELW, or - I think - TLH rite. (Maybe not, there was definitely a eucharistic prayer).  We sang "contemporary" hymns, but not "praise music." There were musical touches from Africa and South America.
     The service is more than the mechanics of the rite and the spirit of the congregation carried the day. These were people who had drawn close to each other and the Lutheran communion during the week and it showed. At the service, Bishop Younan and members of the LWF Council were installed.
     Many people from Stuttgart attended, as was the case last Tuesday at the opening service. At that service, an elderly man was two pews behind me. (I was sitting in the center-facing pews along the side of the nave.) There, at the peace, he smiled broadly as we shook hands. A few minutes later he poked me and said "Amerika," then pointed to the woman in the second pew, and said "Afrika," and put his hand on the shoulder of the man standing next to him and said "Asien," and touched his chest and said "Europa." I responded "die ganze Welt." He seemed genuinely happy seeing the world in his church.
     I saw him again today and he waved his hand over the gathering congregation and smiled as he said "die ganze Welt." It was a nice moment.


That's it from here, folks. The tech people are still uploading pictures, additional news stories and the story about the Assembly message, that I have already posted here. You can roam around the Assembly website and follow the links to pictures, FaceBook pages, speeches and sermons and other materials.
     I return to Geneva tomorrow morning, two weeks and a day after I left for Dresden and the youth pre-Assembly meeting. Train to Basel, then change for Geneva, total about 6 hours. LWF has us travel second-class, but sometimes I chip in the extra out of my own pocket and buy a first-class ticket. More space. Reserved seat. Food service at your seat. That's what will happen tomorrow.

Steven Tibbetts

Thank you for your reports, Charles.  You've had me wishing I'd tried to attend again.

Pax, Steven+
The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS
Pastor Zip's Blog


Thanks for the reporting, Charles.

Erma S. Wolf

  Thank you, Charles, for the reports.  Safe travels back to Geneva.


Right.  Things like "gender justice".  I suspect that when the focus is on evangelism and Jesus there are fewer of topics like "gender justice".


Quite the contrary. When the focus is on the whole Gospel, living out the commitment to follow Jesus, justice in the world, the plight of the poor, and similar concerns are inevitable. The late Pope John Paul II was applauded for making this connection.


Thank you for your faithful reporting, Charles.  Sorry for being ornery instead of just enjoying your reports in the same spirit you offered them.  Since most of us couldn't be there you really did us all a service.

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