Lutherans to hold global conference on social services via Internet

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)At the opening service of an LWF African Lutheran Church leadership meeting in Johannesburg April 4, 2011. From left: Bishop Joe Ramashapa, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa; the Rev. Martin Junge, LWF general secretary and Rev. Musa P.Filibus, LWF mission and develop director.

The Lutheran World Federation says it is breaking new ground by its it global communications by holding a global conference to strengthen social services by Lutheran congregations around the world through a virtual conference on diakonia on June 5.

Organized by the LWF Department for Mission and Development the one-day Internet-based conference is framed around the theme "Stand Up and Walk," based on the story about Jesus healing a paralytic from the Gospel of St. Mark (2: 9-12).

"Churches around the world do tremendous work in fighting poverty and standing with the marginalized. But how much better can we become in our joint diaconal ministry if we learn from each other?" said the LWF director of mission and development, Rev. Musa Panti Filibus.

Some 500 pastors, diaconal workers and lay leaders from the Geneva-based LWF, which is a global communion of some 70 million Lutherans, are expected to engage with one another via the Internet on how the Church responds to human need.

"This is an economical way for us to bring such a large group of people together, using the Internet, rather than having everyone fly to one destination," Heidi Martinussen head of communication for the LWF told Ecumenical News.

Social services practitioners from different parts of the world will take part in panel discussions focusing on local challenges and several workshops will offer hands-on opportunities to build the skills needed for diaconal work.

Those taking part will look at new trends in how churches and their related organizations respond to human need.

Filibus said the conference aims to share experiences that will support lay leaders, pastors and diaconal workers in strengthening the social service care. It was look to give backing where churches provide at community and other levels.

The Internet conference also seeks to connect diaconal workers with colleagues undertaking similar work globally and they can meet face to face at their local venues.

"We believe this innovative conference will be a major opportunity for the member churches to strengthen our joint service," Filibus said.

The cyber conference seeks to enrich and strengthen theological understanding and practice of diakonia globally.

The conference topics include Faith in Action, Doing Diakonia in Context, Learning and Sharing in Diakonia, and Diakonia and Spirituality.

Keynote speakers include LWF general secretary, Rev. Martin Junge; and Rev. Kjell Nordstokke, professor of diakonia at Diakonhjemmet University College in Oslo and chairperson of the international development agency Norwegian Church Aid.

They will offer perspectives on current diaconal practices and thinking.

The conference languages will be English, Spanish, French and Indonesian.

It will be accessible on computers with Internet connection, smart phones and other hand-held devices and the methodology used will allow people with slow Internet connections to participate.

Participants can sign up for the conference as individuals, or join in groups of pastors, church councils or diaconal and other committees to discuss together issues that are relevant to their respective contexts said the LWF.

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