Local church leader elected to highest governing body – Winnipeg Free Press
A Winnipeg church leader has been elected to the highest governing body of the largest international group of churches in the world.
Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, was elected to the executive committee of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at its 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, last week.
“I am happy to serve,” Johnson said of his eight-year term, noting that it is “incredible” to be part of an organization that represents nearly 600 million Christians in 352 churches in 120 countries.
“It’s easy to get caught up in our own faiths and forget that we’re Christians first,” she said of the council and its work. “He represents the breadth of Christianity.”
The only Canadian on the executive committee, Johnson joins 19 other church leaders from around the world to oversee and oversee the council’s ongoing programs and activities between assemblies, which take place every eight years.
“I look forward to bringing a Canadian perspective to the executive committee,” she said.
Four other Canadians sit on the large WCC Central Committee, which has up to 150 members.
For Johnson, highlights of the August 31-September 8 Assembly — which brought together 3,000 Christians from around the world — included worship, which featured dancing, music and messaging. She also enjoyed meeting young Christians from all over the world.
“It was inspiring to hear the passion and commitment of young people,” she said.
Johnson also appreciated statements released by the council on issues including the climate crisis, global conflict, the war in Ukraine, racism, the conflict between Palestinians and Israel and reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
For her, the climate crisis is one of the biggest issues facing the Church and the world today.
“We have to change the way we live,” she said of things like cutting down on fossil fuels and eating less meat.
“I realize this will be unpopular in some parts of Canada, but we have heard from people in the Pacific Islands telling us about sea level rise surpassing their nations,” she said. “We have to improve our game.”
A contentious issue was the council’s decision not to suspend the membership of the Russian Orthodox Church because of its support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Johnson backed the decision, noting “If we can’t talk about conflict in the family, that doesn’t mean much to us going forward. We want to keep people around the table, find a solution. If we suspended the Russian Church, there would be no more dialogue.
The council denounced the “illegal and unjustifiable Russian invasion” of Ukraine and renewed its call for a ceasefire.
For Peter Noteboom, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, of which the ELCIC is a member, Johnson’s election is “exceptional”.
“She is one of our oldest church leaders and brings a lot to this role,” he said, adding “she is highly respected in church leadership circles in Canada.”
Noting her interest and commitment to issues such as climate change, anti-racism and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, he said “those are precisely the topics the WCC is involved in. She is a great match.”
The next Assembly of the World Council of Churches will take place in 2030. The venue has not yet been named.
John Longhurst has been writing for the Winnipeg Faith Pages since 2003. He also writes for the Religion News Service in the US and blogs about media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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