- Lutheran World Federation
- The Lutheran church split into numerous organizational divisions in the 19th century, but some believers continued to harbor visions of reuniting the various segments of the community. World War I spurred the American churches, at least, to unite, as synods that had clung to the different European languages of their founders were motivated to Americanize. Once English became the common language, there remained little reason to remain separated.In 1923, a World Lutheran Conference at Eisenach, Germany, brought together representatives from across Europe and North America for the first time. The conference highlighted the need for future theological discussions, mutual assistance, and joint efforts to address global problems. Subsequent gatherings were held in Copenhagen (1929) and Paris (1935). An initial gathering set for 1941 in the United States was prevented by the outbreak of World War II.World War II influenced the world Lutheran community far more deeply than World War I. The universal recognition of the evils of Nazism altered the Lutheran self-image, in light of Germany's historical role as the birthplace of world Lutheranism. Europe was devastated and in need of massive help to rebuild. Lutheran missions in Asia and Africa were restless and ready to step forward as mature autonomous churches.Immediately after the war, American Lutherans took the lead in planning for the rebuilding of Europe. First, though, work was required to heal the damage done by conflicting loyalties during the war. The process began just months after the war in Europe, as leaders of the established Evangelical Church in Germany met with Lutheran leaders from across North America and Europe. The Stuttgart gathering initiated the process of drafting a constitution for what became the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which first met in the summer of 1947.The work to create the Lutheran World Federation paralleled similar efforts to create the World Council of Churches (WCC), which held its first meeting in 1948 in Amsterdam. The formation of the Lutheran World Federation, soon to be joined by the World Methodist Council, reminded WCC leaders of the important continuing role of denominational families even as cross-denominational discussions took center stage.The integral ties between the new federation and the WCC was illustrated when the federation established headquarters at the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Building in Geneva, Switzerland. The LWF's assembly meets every six years. Between assembly meetings, a council and executive committee oversee the work of its five program areas - theology and studies, mission and development, world service, finance and administration, and communication services. in 2003, it reported 136 member churches in 76 countries, representing approximately 62 million members.Further reading:■ Lutheran World Federation. Available online. URL: http://www.lutheranworld.org■ E. Theodore Bachmann and Mercia Brenne Bachmann, Lutheran Churches in the World: A Handbook (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Press, 1989)■ Directory (Geneva, Switz.: Lutheran World Federation, issued annually)■ E. Clifford Nelson, The Rise of World Lutheranism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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