(LWI) - The theme of the Twelfth LWF Assembly – “Liberated by God’s Grace” – will be further explored in three so-called sub-themes that all focus on that which is “not for sale”. In an interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI) rev. Anne Burghardt, Study Secretary for Ecumenical Relations, explains how the themes will be presented at the Assembly.
LWI: What are the sub-themes and how do they relate to the main theme?
Rev. Burghardt: The three sub-themes “Salvation not for sale”, “Human beings not for sale” and “Creation not for sale” carry a very strong message. The main theme of the Assembly, “Liberated by God’s grace”, delivers a positive message. The three “not for sale” sub-themes address the contextual challenges we face in today’s world. They help us to identify concepts, attitudes and policies that people who are liberated by God’s grace reject since they are incompatible with the gospel.
LWI: Can you explain the concept of “not-for-sale”?
The statement “not for sale” addresses the intuition that economics and the economy are the main drivers of the world today.
“Salvation –not for sale” conveys the central message of the doctrine of justification – a message that salvation is God’s free gift. It expresses a clear critique of contemporary practices and concepts that treat salvation as a commodity in a “religious marketplace”. Here we may think of the prosperity gospel which is in clear opposition to Luther´s theology of the cross, but also of countless self-help books that promise happiness and salvation once we learn to be our own ”redeemers”. We will address ideological distortions of faith; a climate of fear and the dwindling plausibility of faith.
“Human beings—not for sale” underscores that every individual is unique and created in God’s own image, and must therefore be fully respected in her/his dignity and integrity. On this basis, issues of particular social relevance such as economic policies that create or increase poverty, corruption and non-inclusion as well as human trafficking can be unfolded. We will talk about work and (un) employment in a setting of global neoliberal economy, forced labor and of course refugees and migration.
“Creation – not for sale” underlines theologically that nature has to be fully respected and protected as God’s good creation, entrusted to human care. Therefore it cannot be subject to human domination nor can its resources be exploited as commodities. We also want to raise the issue of climate change and climate justice as a matter of international, intergenerational and social justice.
LWI: Why should churches discuss these themes?
Addressing these issues must go hand in hand with theological reflection. With regard to “Salvation – not for sale”, it is relevant to reflect on God’s free grace which shouldn’t however be confused with cheap grace. The subtheme “Human beings – not for sale” invites to reflect on human condition and human brokenness that allow destructive structures to gain ground. “Creation – not for sale” calls to move from focusing on God’s relationship with humans alone to reflecting on God’s relationship with all of creation.
[blockquote cite="Rev. Anne Burghardt, LWF Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs"]I hope that our member churches will take up the themes and have a local and regional discussion, which might lead them to commitments – with regard to how and where churches teach about grace; how they support justice and stand up against violations of human dignity, and how they teach about and handle creation.[/blockquote]
LWI: Who are the people presenting input for each of the sub-themes: keynote speakers and other presenters?
In the session on “Salvation – not for sale”, Rev Dr Monica Melanchthon (India/Australia) will present a keynote, followed by two responses by Bishop Ilse Junkermann (Germany) and Rev Danielle Dokman (Suriname).
Rev Dr Kjell Nordstokke (Norway) will present “Human beings – not for sale”. The two responses will be offered by Agnieszka Godfrejów-Tarnogórska (Poland) and Adamou Koumanda (LWF World Service Country Program in Chad).
For “Creation – not for sale”, Martin Kopp (France) will present the keynote, followed by responses by Rev Monica Villarreal (USA) and Bishop Jack Urame (Papua New Guinea).
LWI: What would the LWF like to come out of this?
The main theme, “Liberated by God’s grace”, is a reminder of some central aspects of Lutheran theology. We hope the discussion at the Assembly will contribute to its (re)discovery in many contexts and churches.
I hope that our member churches will take up the themes and have a local and regional discussion, which leads them to commitments – with regard to how and where churches teach about grace; how they support justice and stand up against violations of human dignity, and how they teach about and handle creation.
It is our hope that discussions and processes that have been triggered by the themes will continue after 2017 and have a longer impact, strengthening the witness of the churches in our global communion.
Join us for a special livestream:
Rev Burghardt will be live on Facebook for a question and answer session about the sub-themes on Wednesday 26 April at 1:00 PM /13:00 (CEST).