The Estonian theologian, Anne Burghardt, has been elected the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; the election marks the first woman and the first Central and Eastern European pastor to head the global communion of Lutheran churches.
“Burghardt will take over as LWF’s new general secretary at the beginning of November, succeeding Rev Dr Martin Junge who has led the communion of 148 member churches for the past eleven years. She will be the first woman and the first Central Eastern European to hold this leadership position,” the Lutheran World Federation said in a statement.
Burghardt said in a statement that she was “humbled by this great honour” and “deeply grateful for the confidence” that the council members have shown in her. “I rejoice in having the possibility to work with the council, with member churches, and with different partners, as the Lutheran World Federation 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,” she said.
Burghardt is currently serving as the head of development for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Institute of Theology and advisor to the church for international and ecumenical relations.
At the Institute of Theology, she has worked on strengthening Lutheran theological education as an integral part of the sustainability of the church. Previously, she served as study secretary for ecumenical relations at the Lutheran World Federation’s Geneva Communion Office. Burghardt also serves as a governing board member of the Conference of European Churches.
Burghardt, born in 1975, had her intellectual kick-start at the Pärnu Sütevaka High School of Humanities – one of the best schools in Estonia. She studied theology at the University of Tartu, at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany and at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She has a master’s degree in theology and is currently finishing PhD studies in the field of Orthodox liturgics. Burghardt is married and has two children.
Competing with a Zimbabwean pastor
Burghardt and Zimbabwean pastor Kenneth Mtata were shortlisted for the position earlier in June by a search committee appointed by the Lutheran World Federation Council. On 19 June, at the final vote, Burghardt received 28 votes and Mtata received 20 votes of the total 48 votes cast.
The Lutheran World Federation, established in 1947, is a global communion of 148 churches in the Lutheran tradition, representing over 77 million Christians in 99 countries. The organisation’s headquarter is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with an annual budget of over €150 million and employing directly 71 people.
The Estonian Lutheran Church has approximately 180,000 members – in a nation of 1.3 million people.
Cover: Anne Burghardt. Photo by the Lutheran World Federation.