Meet the new Executive team elected at Convention 20th May 2023 Left to Right. Back:…
What does it mean to be a part of the Lutheran World Federation? As a member of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand, we are associate members of a worldwide communion of Lutherans! We are sisters and brothers of our Asian regional partners. For most of us, this means nothing more than a fun fact, or something to put on our church resume. For me, it means much more.
For the last four years, I have been the Australian youth representative in the Lutheran World Federation’s Global Young Reformer Network. This program is designed by the global youth, for global Lutheran youth. It provides a space for networking, worshipping, building leadership and taking action as one body of youth. Over the last four years, I have lead and been a part of yearly online global worship sessions, Asian regional projects and participated in the Asian Church Leader Conferences (ACLC). These conferences are the centre of decision making and governance for the region, as part of the Lutheran World Federation.
I have grown so much as a leader and in my identity as a Lutheran from these gatherings. More importantly, I have made friendships and connections with my Lutheran family from around the world and this allows me to better support my community to spread the gospel.
This year was the 13th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation. These assemblies are held once every six to seven years, to determine the strategic plan of the Federation and to elect the incoming council. At each main assembly they call for volunteers from the local church, as well as for a group of stewards – young people from around the world who feel called to serve for the smooth running of the meeting, as well as to participate in the voice of the youth to the main assembly.
I was selected to be one of 25 youth serving as a steward. My journey began in January. Every month, I met online with the 25 youth (aged 18-30) and special guests to discuss the biblical basis for stewardship, our role in the assembly, and to reflect on the main theological theme: One body, one spirit, one hope.
In June I attended the Asian Region Pre-assembly. This took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia and the Lutheran Church in Malaysia. Here I made connections with the youth delegates and stewards from the Asian region. We discussed our joys and struggles as leaders in our own contexts, and developed three priorities that we hope will be considered and acted upon by our local and regional churches.
These priorities were:
- Intergenerational Understanding
- Youth Engagement
- Church in Public
It is our hope and prayer that we can continue to have discussions about these topics within our local congregational bodies as well as with the national church. As Lutherans, our church is built on reformation, on the changing of earthly policies and procedures to better follow the word of God and to share the gospel with our neighbours. We as youth believe that the church should continue to reform, year after year, and I hope to be a part of this reforming church.
September 7th my role as a steward started in earnest. I travelled from my home in Horsham to Wisła Malinka, Poland. It was a 40-hour journey. This was the location of the Youth Pre-assembly.
Over 90 youth gathered for four days to worship, pray, network and work together as young church leaders. I was asked to lead two workshops on Youth Leadership which were very well received. I also lead a small group and participated in large group discussions to develop three world-wide youth priorities.
We prepared a message to take to the Lutheran World Federation 13th Assembly asking for a greater focus on Inclusive Churches, Youth Leadership and Intergenerational Justice, and Sustainable Churches and Entrepreneurship. Inclusive churches refers to the way that we welcome all people into the family of God and create greater access to the gospel for people with disabilities and different cultural backgrounds.
Youth Leadership and Intergenerational Justice discusses the importance of the voice of the youth in all levels of leadership and governance. It further refers to the importance of building connection and respect between church members of all ages and all generations so that the gifts and talents of all are utilised for the glory of God.
Sustainable Communities and Entrepreneurship calls for action and attention to be placed upon our practices as churches, such that we are good stewards of the environment and within socioeconomic crises.
This message was unanimously accepted by the youth of the global communion to be brought forward to the whole Lutheran World Federation. With this in hand, we travelled to Krakow, Poland to begin our work at the main assembly.
As a steward, I was part of the Plenary team. In this role, I facilitated the set up and voting within the governance sessions of the assembly. This involved answering questions, running the slideshows and assisting to communicate the names of the speakers. With over 99 countries represented you can imagine some of the names I had to pronounce.
Furthermore, I was asked to lead two workshops for the Assembly on Youth Leadership, and my role in the Asian Regional Project as part of the Global Young Reformers Network. It was so amazing to be a part of the running of the Assembly, using my gifts in public speaking.
Our last session of the plenary saw the adopting of statements and proposals for the coming seven years. I feel so privileged to be a part of the group of people who are working towards a better future for the Lutheran Church of the world.
I have learned so many things from my time as a steward. I know what it means to share my time and talents. I understand how a global business meeting is convened. I have heard amazing speakers on the topic of One body, one spirit and one hope. I have met so many inspiring people and youth who are doing programs and activities to support faith in their communities. I have been engaged in the process of determining what is most important to focus on for strategic planning.
I am excited to see how we, as the one church of Australia and New Zealand can:
- work together across our districts,
- support the training and leadership of young people,
- create meaningful intergenerational collaboration in the governance structures of our church and;
- build inclusivity and welcoming as a core nature of our churches, so that our communities will feel the love of God from each and every one of us.
My work as a steward may be done, but my work as a member of my local, regional and global church continues. As I work with the LWF Global Young Reformer Network, and share these stories of hope and joy from around the globe, I hope that you too can feel a part of the Lutheran World Federation. The church is made of people, and we are the church. Now that is a fun fact.
By Elsa Matthias