The Lutheran World Federation has elected 45-yeard-old Estonian theologian Rev. Anne Burghardt as its next General Secretary and she is the first woman and Central East European to head the 77-million strong communion of Lutherans.
Burghardt was chosen in a virtual election on June 19 conducted by the 48-strong LWF Council, the main governing body of the communion that meets between its assemblies normally once a year.
She will be the first woman and the first Central Eastern European to hold this leadership position.
Rev. Burghardt and Zimbabwean pastor Rev. Kenneth Mtata were shortlisted for the position earlier in June by a search committee appointed by the LWF Council, which elected her at its June 18-23 online meeting.
Mtata is currently General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. Mtata is known to have played a key role in bringing church leaders together in a Zimbabwe facing dire economic and poltiical difficluties .
Burghardt received 28 votes (58 percent), Mtata received 20 votes (42 percent) after 48 votes were cast. There were no abstentions.
The LWF is a global communion of 148 churches in the Lutheran tradition, representing more than 77 million Christians in 99 countries.
Burghardt is currently serving as Head of Development for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church's (EELC) Institute of Theology and advisor to the church for international and ecumenical relations.
STARTS IN NOVEMBER
She will take over as LWF's new head at the beginning of November, succeeding Rev. Martin Junge, a Chilean, who has led the communion of 148 member churches for the past 11 years.
At its meeting in Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva in October 2009, the LWF Council elected Junge as LWF general secretary to succeed the Zimbabwean theologian Ishmael Noko. The handover took place on November 1, 2010.
"In accepting this very special responsibility in the communion, I pray for the guidance of God's Spirit," Burghardt said after the announcement of her election.
"I rejoice in having the possibility to work with the Council, with member churches, and with different partners, as the LWF continues to participate in God's holistic mission.
"May God bless our communion so that it may be a blessing to the wider church and to the world."
LWF President, Nigerian Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa said, "She will be taking up a vital role in the leadership of our global communion of churches, helping to shape its ongoing journey and witness to the gospel, working for peace, justice, and reconciliation."
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca wrote, "It is a joy and encouragement to learn of your election, and to anticipate the contributions you will make as general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation.,
"We look forward to continuing the close collaboration with the LWF under your leadership."
Burghardt studied theology at the University of Tartu in Estonia, at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, and at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
She has a Master of Theology and is currently finishing PhD studies in the field of Orthodox liturgics.
She is married to Rev. Arnd Matthias Burghardt, also an ordained pastor of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and they have two children.