ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – On August 19, 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to St. Louis, Missouri to visit with The Lutheran Church–Church Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC).
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China). The NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. Their slogan is “The World for Christ.” It has approximately 2,500 chapters across Norway and runs nearly 30 schools from the elementary to college-levels. It further operates more than 40 kindergartens and community centers across the country.
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the LCMS also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of Tabor Evangelical College’s faculty are pursuing doctoral studies through the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from the NLM have also had frequent contact with LCMS missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world since 1891 (three years before the LCMS itself began international mission work). Historically, the NLM has been a movement within, but independent of, the Church of Norway. It has, for example, opposed certain actions of the Church of Norway (such as the ordination of women). But the Norwegian Lutheran Mission recently voted to establish its own “religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.
This vote marks a shift for the NLM, as it moves from being a mission agency inside the Church of Norway to a church in its own rite. As such, the NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, including how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant) noted that the first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well, and that members are looking forward to more visits in the future.