Wittenberg: Belonging to the Lutheran family

The City Church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther and other reformers preached regularly. All photos: LWF/A. Danielsson

LWF Wittenberg Center hosts 20th theological seminar 

(LWI) - Twice a year the city of Wittenberg hosts international theological seminars organized by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Over the course of two weeks, the German city is home to pastors and theologians from around the world studying Reformation theology and its relation to contemporary issues.   

The 20th seminar, 2-16 November, focused on “The Christian and the Political Realm in Martin Luther’s Understanding,” and it was led by Professors Sarah Hinlicky Wilson and Theo Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical in Strasbourg, France. It offered participants a chance to study key sources of Lutheran theology and discuss how they relate to their own contexts. 

When Lutheran World Information visited, seminar participants were discussing infant baptism. Wilson moderated engaging discussions, giving insight into the diverse theological perspectives of participants, varying local contexts and practices in pastoral care among LWF’s member churches.

Prof. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson leads discussions on the theology of baptism.

Learning about the communion of churches 

The theological seminars also offer a chance to learn about the LWF as a communion of churches. Rev. Arni Svanur Danielsson, head of communication, shared the organization’s history from its founding in 1947. He presented LWF’s programmatic work, which includes seminaries such as this one and theological studies on key topics. Participants also learned about humanitarian and development work serving more than 2.3 million refugees and internally displaced people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, supporting churches in mission and working for Christian unity worldwide.  

Rev. Samuel Wang (Lutheran Church in Singapore) teaches Lutheran theology at the Trinity Theological College.

In 2018 Rev. Jongkolnee Sampachanyanon became the first woman to be ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand.

Asked about their first experience of the Lutheran communion, participants had many stories to tell. Some recalled participating in LWF-led activities, encounters with staff at synod and church meetings, being recipients of study scholarships, or making use of some of the many publications produced. Some had fundraised for humanitarian and development activities, and expressed how impressed they were about the quality of work. 

Worship is an integral part of the theological seminar.

A word mentioned by many was “family,” with participants remarking how they had a deep sense of belonging to one Lutheran family. They added that engaging with the LWF had opened their eyes to the many ways Lutherans in other parts of the world are witnessing to the gospel. “We may be a very small synod, but we are a part of a big family,” one participant said. “It is good to belong to a large family,” another added.  

The seminars are held at the LWF Wittenberg Center. While they offer an opportunity to study theology in the Reformation city, learn about the LWF and its member churches, they also contribute to strengthening communion relations. 

The LWF Wittenberg Center was founded in 2008. It conducts international seminars on Lutheran theology with a global perspective and supports conferences and international visitor groups in Wittenberg. It maintains the Luther garden – a living monument to the Lutheran Reformation.