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John Nunes: the new public face of Lutheran World Relief

Experience in urban ministry will help the new LWR head in his work

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has replaced one capable CEO with another. Following leadership by Kathryn Wolford, an engaging and passionate lay, white, ELCA female, LWR will now be led by an engaging and passionate ordained, black, LCMS male. Leadership of this special shared ministry of ELCA and LCMS appears destined to remain in capable hands.
LWR’s new executive director, the Rev. John Nunes, spoke with Metro Lutheran in early August at the Minnesota Church Center. Here’s what he said.
How did you first get connected with Lutheran World Relief?
I attended an LWR “Virtual University” (see below). As a result, I was mightily impressed with this organization, its integrity and what good it can do in the world.
Lutheran World Relief is an ELCA/LCMS partnership. Are you comfortable working in such an arena?
I’ve been educated at institutions within both churches. I attended Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan (LCMS), the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (ELCA), Concordia Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario (LCMS) and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (ELCA). Recently I’ve taught at Concordia University Chicago (LCMS).
I’m ordained in the LCMS, and my church has affirmed my selection as leader of LWR. So has ELCA.
How do you believe your background prepares you for leadership of LWR?
I have experience in urban ministry. I think urban ministry is analogous to what LWR values. I’ve been strongly connected to youth and young adults, most recently in my role as a university teacher. This group of young Christians is poised to be deployed in service. Lutheranism’s greatest demographic challenge is an aging population. LWR may be able to help our youth find ways to serve.
Most Lutherans who know about LWR think of quilts. Is it mainly about that?
It’s about that and a whole lot more. People responded to the southeast Asian tsunami the first year, but LWR made a ten-year commitment. Americans like instant solutions and quick fixes. LWR is into development and accompaniment.
LWR is a sector leader in humanitarian relief. The agency doesn’t do Band-Aid relief. It uses the sustainability model. That’s an LWR trademark. This ministry is known for empowering local communities.
How will you tell the LWR story in the churches?
I want to be in local congregations every weekend, building on our core constituency. We need to connect strongly with local Lutherans.
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All About LWR Virtual University 2007-2008 and how to participate:
* Visit online or through toll-free conference call.
* Classes meet the 3rd Thursday of the month, 8 p.m. Central Time.
* Detailed course descriptions, background reading & presenter biographies available at
* Each course has three parts: monthly one-hour virtual classes; background reading materials; the participants.
* First session in the new series (September 20): “The State of Our Planet,” John Nunes, presenter.
* Later sessions will include: “Chocolate is both human and divine” (October 18); “Jesus, Justice & the King-dom of God” (November 15); “Christmas in Bethlehem” (December 20); “Humanitari-anism in Conflict Zones” (January 17); “Forgotten Disasters” (February 21).