Eastern European Lutheran bishops meet in Ukraine

Caption: Back: Bishop Alexander Yurchenko (SELCU), Vice President Oleg Schewtschenko (SELCU), Rev. Daniel S. Johnson (LCMS-SELC), Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis (LELB), Rev. Olav Panchu (ELCIR), Valera Partizan (DELKU). Front: President Matthew C. Harrison (LCMS), Bishop Serge Maschewski (DELKU), Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Rev. Andris Kraulin (ELCL), Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (SELC).

UKRAINE – The heads of several Lutheran churches in the former Soviet Union recently met together in Ukraine for the Eastern European Bishops Conference, along with the heads of their North American partner churches.

The conference, held in Odessa in late February, was hosted by the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (DELKU) and its Bishop Sergey Maschewski. DELKU, long associated with the state (territorial) Lutheran churches of Germany, has in recent years begun aligning itself with more conservative bodies like The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). In addition to the presidents of LCC and LCMS, DELKU also hosted the bishops (or their representatives) from several other Lutheran church bodies in eastern Europe, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania (ELCL), the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU), and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC). The conference also welcomed a number of ecumenical guests.

Ecumenical guests at the Eastern European Lutheran Bishops Conference. (Photo: Facebook page of the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral of the Apostle Paul).

During the conference, the bishops reported on their respective churches and the challenges they face. A number of these churches have to do their work over long distances: SELC, for example, is stretched out over a vast territory spanning 7,000 kilometers. DELKU, as another example, struggles with a severe clergy shortage, currently operating 28 congregations with only nine pastors. Many of these congregations are distant from the nearest neighbouring pastor or parish.

The bishops also discussed opportunities for future cooperation between their churches. “United by much of our common history and—what is of more relevance today—by similar theological outlook, we felt that there was a need for closer cooperation in the future,” explained Rev. Alexey Strelstov, rector of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church’s seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia. Rev. Strelstov presented on education in a confessional Lutheran context on the final day of the conference.

Part of that future cooperation may well take place on theological education. One evening of the conference, the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine invited participants to visit their seminary in Usatovo, a suburb of Odessa. Representatives of the Siberian church expressed interest in forging closer ties with SELCU on seminary education. There were discussions on assisting the Ukrainian seminary in procuring more Russian-language theological books for its library, as well as the possibility of SELC seminary professors coming to teach short-term courses in Usatovo. “The interaction between these Russian speakers, all keenly interested in the faithful biblical training of pastors, was a real joy to watch,” noted LCC President Robert Bugbee. LCC has long-supported SELCU’s seminary education program.

Morning and afternoon devotions at the bishops’ conference were held in DELKU’s Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral of the Apostle Paul in downtown Odessa, restored in recent years after having been destroyed by the Soviet regime decades ago. “Although this church was rebuilt on a somewhat smaller scale, it once seated 1,200 worshippers and was the centre for spiritual life of the entire German community before the communist repression,” noted LCC President Bugbee. Lutheran churches were severely persecuted during the soviet era.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church are both members of the International Lutheran Council, as are Lutheran Church–Canada and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine is a partner church of LCC, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania are partner churches of the LCMS. The German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, meanwhile, has been seeking closer relations to the LCMS in recent years.

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LCC meets in convention, reelects President Bugbee

bugbee-elected
President Robert Bugbee addresses the convention. (Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi)

VANCOUVER – From June 6-9, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) held its triennial national convention on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The event saw lay and clergy representatives from across the nation gather together to conduct the business of the church, during which time President Robert Bugbee was acclaimed to another term without opposition.

Reflecting on the election, President Bugbee noted that, when he first entered the ministry years ago, he “never expected to serve as President of Synod, an honor which has been bestowed on me three times by our convention.” “I deeply appreciate your kindness, dear brothers and sisters,” he went on to say. “I cannot say that I understand it exactly, and I’m not even sure I agree with the action you’ve taken in re-electing me, but I do deeply appreciate it. And I am willing once again to embrace it.”

The opening worship service, held at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver.
The opening worship service, held at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. (Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi)

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee was first elected President of Lutheran Church–Canada in 2008. He was acclaimed without opposition to a second term in 2011. Since 2010, President Bugbee has also served as Vice-Chairman of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies of which LCC is a member.

“In some small way, I hope that the task God is entrusting to me for the coming three years will help our pastors and our people see the glory in the Gospel, and in the work you share in Alfalfa Junction, or whatever your town happens to be called,” he continued. “Thanks again for the honour you have done me with this election. God in Christ pour out on you all His joy and grace and blessing!”

Rev. Nolan Astley was reelected to serve as Vice President for the East District and Rev. Thomas Kruesel was reelected to serve as Vice President for the ABC District. Rev. Mark L. Smith was newly elected as Vice President for the Central District, succeeding Rev. Rudy Pastucha. Rev. Astley will serve as First Vice President, Rev. Kruesel as Second Vice President, and Rev. Smith as Third Vice President.

2014-logo-bannerThe convention gathered around the theme “Come to Him who answers prayer” (Psalm 65:2). Rev. Kurt Reinhardt of Kurtzville, Ontario served as one of the convention’s essayists, giving a presentation over two days entitled “As Dear Children Ask Their Dear Father.”

Also serving as an essayist for the convention was Deacon Jennifer Shack, who presented on the history and biblical foundation of the diaconate in Lutheran Church–Canada. The topic was particularly relevant, as a number of resolutions adopted by the convention focused on the diaconate. The convention voted June 7 to make provision for deacons to serve on Synod’s boards, commissions and committees. On June 8, the convention adopted a resolution “to study and provide for diaconal voting at Synod and District convention.” Currently LCC’s voting structure allows for equal pastoral/lay representation at convention, but does not make allowance for deacons to vote.

LCC was pleased to receive a number of international guests during the convention, including President Chul-Hwan Kim of the Lutheran Church in Korea, President Vannarith Chhim of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia, Bishop David Altus of the Lutheran Church of Australia, President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and Rev. Dr. David Wendel of the North American Lutheran Church. The convention also welcomed letters of greeting from the Anglican Network in Canada, as well as Lutheran church bodies from India, Japan, Chile, England, Germany, and Ukraine.

Lutheran Church–Canada has 65,000 members in more than 300 congregations across the nation, served by approximately 250 active pastors and 95 deacons.

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Discussions continue between NALC, LCMS, and LCC

NALC Executive Director Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Dr. David Wendel (NALC), Dr. James Nestingen (NALC), President Matthew Harrison (LCMS), First Vice-President Herbert Mueller (LCMS), Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Professor John Pless (LCMS), President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Dr. Robert Benne (NALC).
NALC Executive Director Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Dr. David Wendel (NALC), Dr. James Nestingen (NALC), President Matthew Harrison (LCMS), First Vice-President Herbert Mueller (LCMS), Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Professor John Pless (LCMS), President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Dr. Robert Benne (NALC).

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – From December 16-17, representatives of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) met for their latest round of semi-annual discussions. The meetings were held at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and had as its theme “The Church in the Public Square.” Rev. Dr. Robert Benne of Roanoke College, a NALC theologian, served as guest lecturer for the event.

The participating churches reported on events since the last meeting in May 2013. “The relationships within this group are brotherly and cordial,” noted LCC President Robert Bugbee, “though we all recognize that we still have serious homework to do on matters where we are not in agreement.”

Since a number of the NALC participants had not visited Concordia Seminary before, its president, Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, hosted a morning tour on the first day of meetings. President Bugbee served as chapel preacher for the seminary community that day, with a sermon entitled “The Coming Lord Kindles Patience” (based on James 5:7-11). Participants in the inter-Lutheran discussions also received an update during the meeting on a theological volume being prepared by LCMS and NALC theologians on Law and Gospel, a project coordinated by Rev Dr. James Nestingen (NALC) and Rev. Prof. John Pless (LCMS).

The NALC, comprised mostly of pastors and congregations who left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) over issues of human sexuality, biblical authority, and the nature of the Gospel, has now grown to some 140,000 members in 340 local congregations.

The first official discussion between LCMS and LCC—both members of the International Lutheran Council—and NALC began in December 2011. The next round of discussions is set for June 24-25, 2014 and will take place at LCC’s synodical headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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