Lutheran World Federation

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was founded in 1947. Since 1990 it defines itself as a communion of churches, united in pulpit and altar fellowship. The LWF confesses the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and is resolved to serve Christian unity throughout the world. LWF and its member churches have been, and remain, active partners in the ecumenical movement through dialogues, where they seek to make specific theological contributions. On behalf of its member churches, the LWF signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justifi­cation by Faith with the Catholic Church in 1999, in the city of Augsburg, one of the main historic sites of Lutheranism.

Until the first half of the 20th century, Lutheran churches were most heavily concentrated in Germany, the Nordic and Baltic countries and the USA. Since the foundation of the LWF, the gravitation centre of worldwide Lutheranism has shifted to the global South, with sizeable churches in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The diaconal agenda of the Lutheran churches has increasingly emphasized challenges related to justice and peace, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and dialogue with other faiths, including indigenous spiritualities. The LWF has also contributed by dialogue to improved understanding of the relations between the church and the Jewish people.

The LWF attaches great importance to the relationships between its member churches in the regions. In Africa a Lutheran Conference was formed in 1955, and three sub-regional groupings have been set up: the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA), the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA), and the Lutheran Communion in Western Africa (LUCWA). In 2005, a Lutheran Council in Africa was established. Asia is also divided into three subregions: the North East Asian Lutheran Communion (NEALUC), the West and South Asian Lutheran Communion (WeSALUC), and the South East Asian Lutheran Communion (SEALUC). In Europe a regional office for the expression of communion in the Region of Central Eastern Europe (ROCEE) was opened in Bratislava (Slovakia) in 2003. The other regions in Europe are Central Western Europe, and the Nordic Region, where the Lutheran family meets regularly. The Latin American and Caribbean Region includes 13 LWF member churches in Latin America and two in the Caribbean. A regional office exists also for the North America Region.

The governing bodies of the LWF and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches are in discussion about the need for a new type of assemblies in which the broad, multilateral nature of the ecumenical movement is expressed more substantially. They have recommended that the first such new assembly be considered to take place in 2013. If the development is satisfactory the  LWF and the WARC would no longer hold assemblies of their own after 2010.

The LWF has 140 member churches in 79 countries, representing some 68 million Christians in the world; 73 of its member churches are also members of the WCC (directly or indirectly). The office of the LWF is located in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

Periodical: Lutheran World Information