Mediation in serious church conflicts featured prominently in the April 18-21 Papua New Guinea visit ofLutheran World Federation (LWF) president, Bishop emeritus Dr. Christian Krause.
Krause told Lutheran World Information (LWI) he was bringing the churches’ request that the LWF act as mediator in disagreements that led to the January 2000 founding of the Melpa Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea (MLC-PNG) in the central highlands of the island nation.
The 30,000-member MLC-PNG stemmed from the Mount Hagen district of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG), an LWF member church since 1976 with 815,000 members. Conflict surrounding Rev. Sanangke Dole, elected Mount Hagen District bishop in 1982, led to open quarrels in local congregations in 1985. Differing interpretation of causes of disagreement and mutual accusation led congregations in Melpa to separate from the ELC-PNG and form the independent church.
But ELC-PNG bishop, Wesley Kigasung and Dole assured Krause that both churches were in full agreement on basic scriptural and confessional teachings, which significantly improves prospects of finding solutions.
Krause noted the MLC-PNG as “a growing church full of vitality,” well established and financially self-supporting, even though not in partnership with other Lutheran churches. It had applied for LWF membership. But, according to the LWF constitution and by-laws, membership is only possible in consultation and by agreement with other local LWF member churches. A prerequisite would be unison of all the Papua New Guinean Lutheran churches.
In Wabag, in the central highlands, Krause visited the Gutnius Lutheran Church -Papua New Guinea. An LWF member since 1979, headed by Bishop David P. Piso, the church has around 95,000 members. It grew from Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (USA) missionary work.
During his visits to all three churches Krause delivered sermons and gave speeches in daily worship services attended by several thousand people.