ARGENTINA – The 25th (10th) World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) officially opened the morning of September 24, 2015 as Lutheran leaders from across the globe converged in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The ILC is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. Every three years ILC member churches and friends gather to conduct business, hold elections, and discuss challenges and opportunities facing the Church at large.
The conference began Thursday morning with a Matins service, with ILC Executive Secretary serving as liturgist. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany, gave the homily, drawing the parallels between the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the plight of Syrian refugees today. Like the Good Samaritan, he said, we too are called to care for the downtrodden—and Jesus, who is our own Good Neighbour, can give us the strength to do so despite our own weaknesses.
Bringing the Reformation to the World
A primary focus of the Thursday morning session was a keynote lecture from Rev. Alexey Streltsov, rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Rev. Streltsov was invited to speak on the topic of bringing the Reformation to the world in the 21st century.
That task assumes three different but related goals, he said. First, it requires us to “evangelize or re-evangelize the world outside the Church.” Second, we must “testify to the truth of the original Reformation to other Christian traditions.” And third, we must “correct errors in our own midst.”
Rev. Streltsov explored these goals through a close reading of the Augsburg Confession. “We face a markedly different situation than that of the 16th century,” he explained, noting that the Reformers and their opponents all agreed on basic principles like faith in the Triune God. Today that is often not the case, at least in much of Western society. In other places, it is the challenge of Pentecostalism, he suggested, that will shape how Lutherans share their message with the world around them.
But though the challenges we face are not the same as our Lutheran forebears, we have the same mission: to correct error where we must, to maintain true faith where we have it, and to pass on that faith to others. We may face challenges, Rev. Streltsov said, but “Decay will always be followed by regeneration.”
“This is not the end,” he continued. “The end has come at the cross. And this end makes for us a new beginning.”
Churches apply for ILC membership
Also during Thursday morning, the ILC Executive Council introduced three Lutheran church bodies that have applied for membership in the International Lutheran Council. These applicants include two church bodies from Europe (Norway and Siberia) and one from South America (Nicaragua). Leaders of the three churches all addressed the conference, sharing their churches’ backgrounds and desire to join the International Lutheran Council.
Voting to receive the proposed new member churches will take place later in the conference.
The morning session ended with a Bible study on Romans 3:21-31 led by Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.
The 2015 World Conference of the ILC runs September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.