There are about 4,000 Lutherans living in the Republic of Chile, mostly of German descent found in two church bodies. One of those Lutherans, Pastor Martin Junge, will become the eighth general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation November 25. The LWF is a communion of 145 churches in 79 nations with a combined membership of some 80 million. Junge succeeds Dr. Ishamel Noko of Zimbabwe, who has held the post since 1994.
He assumes leadership of a communion rife with uncertainty over issues of human sexuality, and it doesn’t help that the last president of the Lutheran World Federation, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, did as much as he possibly could to further acceptance of homosexuality. African Lutherans are having none of it and there is serious speculation on whether and how long they will put up with it before bolting.
None of this makes much U.S. press, not the way the Anglican Communion does. Anglicans cluster around the Archbishop of Canterbury, in communion with the presiding bishops of provinces dotted around the world. Lutherans gather around a piece of paper from 1530, the Augsburg Confession. Structure doesn’t mean much to them and it varies all the way from the high church formalism of the Archbishop of Uppsala, who has a fair claim to historic episcopal orders (as do African Lutheran churches founded by Swedish missionaries), to the president of the Lutheran Church of Australia.
Sounds sort of Rotarian, frankly. Anyway, organizationally Lutherans just aren’t as sexy as Anglicans, but they can claim to have had the first female bishop to resign over a drunk-driving offense. That didn’t get much press either. Lutherans never get a news break.