Declaring that "hunger is not God's fault, it's our fault," the Rev Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation introduced the theme of LWF's Eleventh Assembly, "Give Us Today Our Daily Bread," meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, this week.
"If people lack what they need for daily life, it is because we have failed to ensure that the good things of God's creation are justly and equitably distributed to all," Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, continued.
Bishop Hanson said that even among assembly delegates there were some who know what it means not to have enough food. "So we are not talking about this subject in the abstract … but in the context of our lived experiences," he said.
Hunger, though, does not refer only to the absence of food, the release said. "There are also those who hunger for peace in the midst of warfare," Hanson commented. "There are those who hunger for human rights. They are marginalised because of HIV/AIDS, or because they are first-nation people, or because of their gender or generation."
In Nicaragua the theme of hunger is fundamental, said Dr Victoria Cortez Rodríguez, bishop of the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope. "We have people in our country who live each day and go to bed hungry," she said, according to the release.
Reinforcing the theme introduced by Hanson, Cortez Rodríguez said that "poverty did not come from God … God created enough for everyone." The people of God are responsible to care for each other and to treat every person with dignity "because every person was created by God," she added.
Also speaking at the news conference was the Rev Ishmael Noko, Lutheran World Federation General Secretary, who said that over the past 58 years the LWF has changed in ways that cannot be measured.
In 1952 the Second LWF Assembly was held in Hanover, Germany. Contrasting that assembly with this one, Noko said, "There was hardly a Roman Catholic at that assembly; nobody represented the Reformed Churches and there were no Mennonites."
He also pointed out that women had virtually no voice, indigenous people "were not part of the imagination of our people at that time" and Africans came not as voting members but only as official visitors.
Dr Noko further pointed out how the character and ecumenical nature of the LWF has changed over those 58 years, noting in particular the inclusion of Reformed Churches in the federation's membership.
The difference between the LWF of 1952 and the LWF of 2010 is "like daylight and dark," the General Secretary said. "The meeting here is a landmark in many ways."
The issue of same-sex partnerships - which has dominated the internal discussions of so many churches across the world over the past few years - is unlikely to be a major point of discussion at this assembly, say organisers.
As a result of a decision of the 2007 LWF Council meeting in Lund, Sweden, member churches are discussing issues relating to marriage, family and sexuality, Noko said. "What might appear to be tension between some churches is simply the expression of diverse views on these issues," he suggested.
The General Secretary said that the LWF has given itself ample time - from 2007 to 2012 - to converse and reflect on these matters, Dr Noko declared. He promised that his report would update the assembly on progress.