Lutheran World Federation Elects First Woman to Lead Global Communion

By Emily Miller
The Rev. Anne Burghardt
The Rev. Anne Burghardt. (Source: Erik Peinar/RNS)

The Lutheran World Federation, which represents 77 million Lutherans worldwide, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has elected the first woman to head its global communion of churches.

The Rev. Anne Burghardt, an Estonian theologian, was chosen Saturday by the LWF Council as the next general secretary of the federation, which includes 148 denominations in the Lutheran tradition from around the globe.

She received 58% of the vote over the Rev. Kenneth Mtata, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.

“I am humbled by this great honor and deeply grateful for the confidence that the Council members have shown in me,” Burghardt said in a written statement on the LWF website.

“In accepting this very special responsibility in the communion, I pray for the guidance of God’s Spirit. I rejoice in having the possibility to work with the Council, with member churches, and with different partners, as the LWF continues to participate in God’s holistic mission. May God bless our communion so that it may be a blessing to the wider church and to the world.”

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Burghardt, 45, currently serves as head of development for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Institute of Theology. She also is an adviser to the church for international and ecumenical relations and a governing board member of the Conference of European Churches, according to the LWF.

In addition to being the first woman, her election makes her the first pastor from Central and Eastern Europe to lead the LWF.

Burghardt previously served as study secretary for ecumenical relations at the LWF Geneva Communion Office and coordinated content for the LWF Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, both in 2017.

She studied theology at the University of Tartu in Estonia, as well as at Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen in Nürnberg, Germany, and at Humboldt University in Berlin. She has a master’s degree in theology and is currently finishing a PhD. in the field of Orthodox liturgics.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton explains procedures for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2019
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton explains procedures for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2019. (Source: Video screenshot via RNS)

The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in America, expressed her support for the general secretary-elect.

“Both candidates for General Secretary were extraordinarily gifted with substantial experience,” Eaton said.

“What drew me to the Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt was that she grew up in a secular culture, was only baptized as a teenager, and sees the church’s role as being a translator and interpreter of the faith to 21st century society.”

Earlier this year, the ELCA made history by electing the Rev. Megan Rohrer as its first transgender bishop.

Burghardt will take office as general secretary in November and her term lasts seven years.

She succeeds the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, who has led the LWF for the past 11 years.

Emily McFarland MillerEmily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for Religion News Service. 



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10 thoughts on “Lutheran World Federation Elects First Woman to Lead Global Communion”

  1. I’m guessing this a “church” by women and for women because it certainly is not a biblical church by any stretch

    1. Wow Keith. You mean like a olsteen or Copeland or the wonderful godly evangelical Christians who bowed and worshipped before trump and still do. Please share with us all the scripture that says this is bad vs the Tons of scripture reminding us that the grifters and adulters and other ilk in The SBC and other jessusss issss laorddd churches spreads the gospel of greed and hate and hypocrisy each week. do you mean those churches Keith?????

  2. I grew up in the LCA (Lutheran Church of America) which morphed into the ELCA. While I do appreciate the liturgy and parts what the Lutherans believe, I had to step away after turning my life over to Christ back in college. The ELCA has strayed further and further from the Bible in recent years. This is just one example. The Bible is not “politically correct” and neither was Jesus. So why does the Lutheran church try to make its doctrine such? I taught at a Missouri Synod Lutheran School for 10 years (as a band director). They were closer to biblical truth, but still did not understand the concept of salvation. How sad that so many can be led astray in these difficult times. I believe our Lord will come soon. So many signs in today’s world. I pray He comes soon!

    1. Have you ever read the Bible? It is replete with sound warnings about false teaching and false prophets (teachers).
      I suggest you read the gospels then Revelation.

      1. I bet the Rev Anne Burghandt will bring souls to Christ and bring glory to our lord. WHY. Because she steps forward with a humble heart opposed to the female evangelicals who swarmed upon trump. And some almost appeared to be hoping to be mrs trump number four. Are they not woman, do they not teach. Oh I forgot only good republican Christian woman can offer there services to god. And must have the blessing of the SBC and evangelicals industrial complex. I bet she doesn’t own a plane or live in a mansion under the guise of calling it a parsonage. But hey it’s all about scripture being followed. You know like the scripture that says. Take what you can get. Keep most for yourselves then say GOD WILLS IT and God told me, blessed is he or she with a large bank and don’t spend on the deplorables. Thus sayith the laorddddd.

        1. Andrew Thomas

          Gary W,

          Why are you making this about Trump? What does he have to do with this appointment?

          Your sarcasm, mockery, judgement, and hyperbole add nothing to the conversation.
          You bet?
          What is that cased on?
          Do you know RBA personally?
          Do you vouch for her character?
          Do you know her heart?
          Or is your opinion based solely on her political affiliation?
          How about some facts or evidence to back up your claim.

          You are coming from an emotional position, not a truth based position.

          Jesus said not to fear over and over again because when we are in a fear based position, we act irrationally, are easily manipulated, lash out, unwilling to listen, and unable to have a discussion.

  3. And……bang on cue, the abusive, misogynist, hateful comments begin to form, as soon as a woman preaches GOD’s word.

    And who are the abusers?

    1) Self righteous “Christian men”

    May she bring many men, women and children into the body of Christ.


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