Men’s Pre-Assembly highlights values of humility and hope

12 Sep 2023
Delegates from the Men’s Pre-Assembly in Krakow, Poland

Delegates from across the LWF’s seven regions take part in the first Men’s Pre-Assembly in Krakow, Poland. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

A first ever Pre-Assembly of men stresses need for servant leadership and listening to the voice of the Spirit

(LWI) - Men from around the seven regions of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) met together in Krakow on 11 September for their first ever Pre-Assembly, focusing on ways of working more effectively together with women and young people to foster more just and inclusive societies.

Greeting delegates, gathered ahead of the 13 to 19 September Thirteenth Assembly, LWF President Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa described the unprecedented gathering as “a significant step in our shared journey as a communion of churches.” He said: “It is not always easy for us, as men, to talk about our feelings, our fears, our struggles, but by meeting together, we agree to make ourselves vulnerable to one another.”

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt also greeted the group, urging the men to reflect deeply on “what it means to be defined, not by social or cultural standards, not by gendered hierarchies and values, but by Christ’s love.” She added: “Let us, like the first Christians, strive [….] to be as one body united in Christ’s spirit and drawn by the hope that we can be blessing to those around us.”

Be open to surprises of the Spirit

During an opening worship service, preacher Rev. Roberto Trejo from the Mexican Lutheran Church spoke about the exercise of power in churches, families and communities. Since Roman times, he noted, men have used the strategy of “divide and conquer to weaken, defeat and dominate the enemy.” Most of us today, he said, “come from countries where political, social and economic games are rigged” to provoke the media and create confrontations with the goal of dividing and weakening societies.

Rev. Roberto Trejo from the Mexican Lutheran Church at the Men’s Pre-Assembly

Rev. Roberto Trejo from the Mexican Lutheran Church preaches at the Men’s Pre-Assembly in Krakow. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Reflecting on the Assembly theme ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’ [Ephesians, 4:4], Trejo noted that Roman society, at the time of Saint Paul, was rife with conflicts, and unrest. It was a society “as fragmented as the ones in which we live,” he said, “but what the apostle Paul wanted to avoid was that the community of believers simply transported to the church the discriminatory and hierarchical lifestyle that was in force in the empire.” Instead, he urged them to act towards others “not with the criteria of the Roman Empire, but through what they have learned in the gospel that they profess.”

Humility and servant leadership

Sharing ways in which the Assembly theme resonates with their own lives and work, the men discussed the need to be more inclusive and more open to the “surprises of the Spirit.” They underlined the values of “humility and servant leadership,” stressing the importance of “listening to the voice of the Spirit, not trying to control everything, but encouraging and equipping others for participation and leadership.”  

Men in many places, they noted, suffer from a sense of identity loss, accompanied by “a feeling of nostalgia for times gone by.” In increasingly militarized societies, they are often attracted to strong political ideologies and at risk of radicalization or even violence. “How do we use our skills to be a positive influence in society,” participants asked, “to find our own place and to bring hope to others?

Men gather in small groups at their Pre-Assembly

Men gather in small groups at their Pre-Assembly to share hopes and challenges. Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Focusing on the theme of One Hope, the leaders noted the many ways in which people look to the church for hope today. They affirmed how Lutherans across the globe are working to foster peace, support refugees and migrants, create spaces for dialogue and reconciliation, or speak out against injustice and oppression.  

One bishop shared his joy at the progress made towards gender justice in his church since the 1984 Budapest Assembly, which first set quotas for women and young people in leadership. It has been “a long journey” of change and transformation since those days, participants said, but this first men’s Pre-Assembly constitutes “a milestone and a source of hope for the whole communion.”

The Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation takes place 13-19 September 2023 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of the Assembly will be "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope." It will be hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.

LWF/P. Hitchen