Over 400 delegates from Lutheran churches around the world have convened in Stuttgart, Germany, for the 11th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation.
The weeklong meeting of the LWF's highest decision-making body, which normally convenes every six years, was scheduled to commence Tuesday and will include an address from the head of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Rowan Williams.
Though the issue of sexuality has been a hot-button topic for members from both global church bodies, LWF General Secretary Dr. Ishmael Noko said it would not likely be a major point of discussion at the assembly.
Instead, the alleviation of hunger will be the focus of the July 20-27 gathering, as suggested by the assembly's theme – "Give Us Today Our Daily Bread."
"This petition reverberates not only our prayer, hope and sadness, but also our collective lament," Noko explained ahead of the assembly.
"While our theological deliberations include deep ethical dimensions, we are also faced with spiritual and moral challenges," he added
In introducing the assembly's theme to members of the media, LWF President Bishop Mark S. Hanson said, "Hunger is not God's fault; it's our fault."
"If people lack what they need for daily life, it is because we have failed to ensure that the good things of God's creation are justly and equitably distributed to all," he stated at the assembly's opening press conference.
Hanson was backed by Dr. Victoria Cortez Rodríguez, bishop of The Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope, who similarly declared how "poverty did not come from God."
"God created enough for everyone," she stated, placing the responsibility to care for people upon the people of God.
Aside from discussing issues related to the theme of their 11th assembly, delegates this week will deliberate and decide on policy and direction for the organization's future works and activities. The assembly, which is responsible for the church body's constitution, will also elect a president and council to lead the federation through its governing bodies' meetings.
Assembly participants this week reportedly include 418 delegates from the 138 full LWF member churches around the world. Others attending are representatives from associate member churches, observers from recognized congregations and councils, advisers from LWF national committees and related agencies, interpreters and translators, and ecumenical guests and visitors, among others.
With over 70 million members, LWF is the world's largest communion of Lutheran churches, spanning across some 79 countries.
Its president, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, also happens to be the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran church body in the United States.