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Estonian pastor assumes role as Lutheran World Federation’s first female leader

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(Photo: LWF/M. Renaux)Rev. Martin Junge and Rev. Anne Burghardt, the new general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation just before taking up office, at the chapel of the Ecumenical Center, in Geneva, Switzerland, on October, 28, 2021. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux

An Estonian pastor has begun her work as the first woman to lead the Lutheran World Federation at the communion’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

LWF General Secretary, Rev. Anne Burghardt from the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC), is also the first person from the Central Eastern European region to hold this leadership position.

Burghardt grew up in Estonia, that according to the LWF is often seen as one of the world’s most secular countries. She was born there in 1975 and grew up when her country was occupied by the Soviet Union which frowned upon religion.

“Something I will definitely bring is an experience of being able to participate in God’s mission and share the word of God to people in such a secular society,” Burghardt told Lutheran World.

Burghardt studied theology at the University of Tartu, spending time also in Germany at Humboldt University in Berlin and the Erlangen-Nürnberg University in Bavaria, where she worked on her PhD in Orthodox liturgics.

“I have submitted my dissertation on the topic of the Interpretation of the All-Night-Vigil in the Russian Orthodox Church,” she said.

She assumed her new role on Nov.1, All Saints Day following her election by the LWF Council on June to lead the global communion’s 148 member churches.

The LWF represents more than 77 million Christians in the Lutheran tradition in 99 countries across the globe.

“The life of the LWF is a life of communion, of churches witnessing and working together for justice, peace and dignity for all people,” said the LWF general secretary.

“I pray that my work can contribute to the growing together of these churches as they gather around Jesus Christ, the one who unites us all in our mission in the world.”

Among the top priorities for the new leader will be overseeing the implementation of LWF’s strategy entitled ‘With Passion for the Church and for the World.’

She will also set the direction for the next LWF Assembly, it highest governing body, to be held in Krakow, Poland, in September 2023.

Burghardt is a 45-year-old theologian and pastor and previously working as head of development for the EELC’s Institute of Theology in Tallinn, as well as advisor to the church for international and ecumenical relations.

She succeeds Rev. Martin Junge, a Chilean who studies in Germany who served as LWF general secretary from 2010 to 2021.

Under Junge’s leadership, the LWF continued its long tradition of social justice, economic justice and peace-building.

“Along with Pope Francis, you were a co-host at the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund,” wrote World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca Sauca.

Burghardt’s installation service will take place in the chapel of the Ecumenical Center in Geneva on Nov. 17.

(LWF Photo: Erik Peinar)Estonian theologian Rev. Anne Burghardt was elected to be the first woman general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation on June 19, 2021.
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