By Rev. Alexey Streltsov
How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Ps 133:1)
A joint theological seminar took place in Novosibirsk on the premises of the Theological Seminary of Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. During the week of February 29 – March 4, more than 30 clergy and church workers from the Siberian deanery of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church heard lectures on Lutheran theology. Rev. Alan Ludwig presented series of lectures on theology of the Book of Concord (covered were the topics of Christology, Church, and Free Will). Rev. Daniel S. Johnson spoke on the rationale for use of Father Confessor by the clergy. Finally, Rev. Pavel Khramov addressed the question of the relevance of the Smalcald Articles for the church today.
Initiative for the joint meeting came from local Lutherans who increasingly realize that the common confessional voice of the Lutherans in Siberia and Russia in general would have greater impact both for the inner life of the local Lutheran congregations and on the public square. Dean Ville Melanen, of the ELCI’s Siberian deanery, was instrumental in making the event happen.
Lectures presented during the Conference were geared specifically toward the clergy who are actively involved in the parish work. They were thus of a very practical character emphasizing relevance of discussed theological points for the matter of preaching and pastoral care.
Also special time was allotted for the bishops to address the pastors and deacons of the two sister churches and answer their questions. There was a very fruitful discussion on the practical aspects of the ministry in contemporary Russia. In particular, church workers wanted to know how to deal with people coming over from heterodox communities including those who externally professed to be Lutheran. The bishops answered that upon close examination in case of doubt, thorough catechesis must be provided for such people as it happens with any converts from non-Lutheran groups.
Being united in the doctrine of the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessional writings, Conference participants also rejoiced in the common celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It was a historic occasion, as for the first time Bishops Arri Kugappi and Vsevolod Lytkin of the two sister churches served together at the SELC altar. Celebration took place at the regular Wednesday service at St. Andrews parish in Novosibirsk.
The joint theological seminar is likely to become a regular event, which will further strengthen participating Lutheran clergy from both jurisdictions.