Lutheran World Federation head Anne Burghardt on historic firsts and helping Ukraine

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Religion

CHICAGO (RNS) — When the Rev. Anne Burghardt was elected general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation in 2021, the Estonian theologian became the first pastor from Central and Eastern Europe to lead the global communion of 148 Lutheran denominations, and the first woman to do so.The first achievement is important because she believes her region has much to teach the wider church about living in the context of persecution and extreme atheism. As for the second, Burghardt said she hopes her work “will bear good fruits for the lives of our member churches, particularly for the women in our member churches.”

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The secretary general spoke to Religion News Service last week in Chicago, where she was visiting the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the country. She also planned to preach at St. Peter’s Church in New York and meet with members of the ELCA’s advocacy team and “key U.N. stakeholders,” including the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N.
Burghardt’s U.S. visit follows her first trip as general secretary to the Holy Land and the Middle East, where she attended the ordination last month of the Rev. Sally Azar, the first Palestinian woman ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
The general secretary said she wanted to convey that the “worldwide Lutheran communion is really grateful for ELCA’s continuous support and for the fact that ELCA hasn’t forgotten its sisters and brothers worldwide.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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What were your takeaways from your visit to the Holy Land? What does Azar’s historic ordination mean for the wider church?
This was indeed a very eye-opening trip for me personally because I (not only) a …

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