Krakow to welcome delegates at LWF Thirteenth Assembly

8 SEP 2023

‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’ is the theme as participants convene for 13 to 19 September meeting

More than a thousand participants from around the global Lutheran communion will be gathering in Krakow, Poland, over the coming week for the opening of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly. The 13 to 19 September meeting is the LWF’s highest decision-making body which will elect a new president and Council, setting directions for the global communion over the coming years.

The theme of the Assembly is ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’, emphasizing the importance of promoting unity in churches and societies in order to heal divisions and overcome growing polarization. Speakers will reflect on some of the major challenges of our times, asking how churches can be messengers of hope and credible witnesses to the gospel in their diverse regional contexts.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt said: “The Assembly in Krakow brings together churches from 99 countries throughout the world. More than one thousand participants, from diverse local contexts, come together and experience what it means to be ‘one in Christ.’ We will reflect and pray, share common concerns, with the goal of discerning where the Spirit is leading our churches and how we are called to be messengers of hope to the world.” 

Delegates have already begun arriving in Poland for three Pre-Assembly gatherings of men, women and youth to define priorities and equip participants who have not taken part in previous Assemblies. These are being held between 8 and 11 September in Krakow and in the cities of Wroclaw and Wisla.

The Assembly is hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP), led by Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec. It will mark only the second time that such a meeting has been held in the LWF’s Central Eastern European region, following the 1984 Budapest Assembly. A minority church in a predominantly Catholic country, the ECACP is a founding member of the LWF and numbers around 61.000 members. Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Poland’s eastern neighbor, Ukraine, it has been cooperating with many other churches and organizations in responding to the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from the conflict.

Welcoming delegates to Krakow, Bishop Samiec recalled how the church in Poland has been praying, each Sunday over the past year, for the LWF member churches throughout the world. The goal, he said, was “to learn more about our brothers and sisters in different regions, but above all to build true communion in Christ in a way that is filled with love, respect and understanding.” He added: “I am delighted to welcome the Assembly participants to Poland and pray that we may be transformed by the encounter with one another.”

Ecumenical and interfaith relations

The Assembly will open in Krakow’s modern ICE congress center with a worship service, including a sermon preached by 34-year-old Rev. Danielle Dokman from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname. The keynote address will be given by Czech Roman Catholic priest, author and professor of sociology, Monsignor Tomáš Halík, renowned for his work on religious freedom and interfaith relations.

Among the Assembly highlights will be a visit to the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, including a moment of prayer and reflection at the end of the visit. The final day will include the signing of a Common Word statement with the Roman Catholic church and an ecumenical panel featuring leaders of the five global Christian communions that have signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).

Ecumenical delegates from over a dozen different churches and organizations will be present in Krakow to underline the importance of partnerships in theology, humanitarian and diaconal work. Daily worship will be an important part of the Assembly, while on Sunday 16 September, participants will join parishes across southern Poland, as well as neighboring Czech Republic and Slovakia, for worship and an encounter with local Lutheran congregations.