Norwegian same-sex rite

Photo of the Vote in Norway for the Same-Sex Rite

Photo from article “Historic Decision on Church Weddings for Same-sex Couples

The road was paved with compromises leading to the overwhelming majority decision for same-sex marriage liturgy at the General Synod of Church of Norway January 30.  A year ago the preliminary decision was made, and now the new liturgy was accepted. The new liturgy became legal on February 1 and the first homosexual couple was married minutes after midnight on that same date.

What is the decision, and why would the bishops who were against same-sex marriages vote for it and agree to enforce it in every single congregation in Church of Norway?

The new liturgy is a non-gender specific liturgy to allow the marriage of people independent of gender. It is meant to be used for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. The liturgy contains no reference to the biblical texts of marriage being between one man and one woman. The two are to say yes to their “spouse”, not to a “husband”/”man” or “wife/woman”. There are Scriptural passages that are optional readings, and among them are some relating to the marriage of man and woman.

The majority at the General Synod first insisted on only allowing this new liturgy and take the old one out of use. It became, however, a part of the compromise to allow the old liturgy with clear language of marriage between man and woman to still be allowed to be used — for the time being. This way the more conservative bishops hoped to create space for the group of pastors that have a classical understanding of marriage. There should be continued room for them even after the new same-sex, gender-irrelevant liturgy had been introduced.
But to achieve this compromise, the more conservative bishops agreed that all congregations in Norway must offer same-sex marriages. The local pastor can refuse to perform the same-sex marriage, but then another pastor will come in and perform the wedding. The compromise was agreed upon to avoid a split in the Church of Norway.

What can explain this rapid change in the Church of Norway where both Lutheranism and Pietism have experienced such a long and strong history? The Lutheran School of Theology (MF) was established in 1907 in reaction to the liberal theology of The School of Theology at the University. The pastors from this new Lutheran School of Theology became organized into the Fellowship for Bible and Confession (FBB in Norwegian). The irony is that today the vast majority of clergy in the Church of Norway are educated at MF, and all the bishops are educated at MF, and many of today’s liberals once were members of the FBB, some of them even were board members and chairmen.
The theological change is obviously from within the church, but the speed of change is due to external pressure. The Church of Norway is as of January 1, 2017 separate from the State. But the politicians did not allow the Church of Norway to receive independence without some system to secure liberal development in the church.
One change is the request for high voter attendance when electing delegates to the General Synod. Formerly the elections, in effect, allowed those worshiping to have more influence since they were present at the worship services where the elections were held. Now the elections happened together with the national political elections.
At the same time, a group of ultra-liberals organized themselves, designed a program with the intention to take control of the church and did lobbied to get state funds to finance their operation. Other groups with different agendas did not receive money when they applied.

The public campaign from the ultra-liberals was strong. The aim was to convince the 73% of Norwegians who had voting rights at political elections and also were members of the Church of Norway to vote for one of the liberal candidates for the General Synod. It changed the game. Now you could vote without going to church. Now you no longer have to be among the 2 percent of church members who attend the Sunday worship service in order to vote. Remember, there is no requirement for a delegate to the General Synod to adhere to the Lutheran confessions of the church. You don’t even have to believe in God, and don’t have to ever attend church.

The result of the election was overwhelming. A total majority at the General Synod implied a full control of the Church of Norway. The majority at General Synod implies that one decides the liturgy of the church and elects the National Church board. The ultra-liberal majority of the Synod put the ultra-liberals in complete majority control of the National Church board that elects the bishops.

When the decision on same-sex rite was decided at the General Synod about 1300 people resigned from membership in Church of Norway using the electronic on line service you can use both to resign and to become member. The people resigning were some of the core people in local congregations in Church of Norway, including some pastors.
Torkild Masvie

Provisional bishop
The Lutheran Church in Norway


Church of Norway 2017 — Not A State Church Any More?

Royal Palace in Oslo, Norway

Church of Norway 2017 — not a state church any more, or…?

By Torkild Masvie, Provisional Bishop Lutheran Church of Norway
ILC News

As of January 1, 2017 Church of Norway is no longer a state church. The Church of Norway has been a state church since the Reformation in Denmark/Norway in 1536. She split with the Danish church in 1814 when Norway was handed over from Denmark to Sweden as a compensation of war.  While her Danish sister church continues as a state church, Church of Norway followed the path of Church of Sweden.

Until 2016 all pastors in Church of Norway were public workers, but as the 2017 New Year rockets lit the skies, the workers became employed by a completely new legal entity: “Church of Norway” which is responsible for salaries and pension. Before the funding of Church of Norway was paid through the government budget, with church buildings being the responsibility of each local municipality.

Some changes will now take place, but something continues. The local municipalities will continue to have responsibility to provide worship facilities for Church of Norway, and the government will continue to provide a lump sum of money to Church of Norway, equivalent to what they have previously paid in salaries etc. This agreement enables Church of Norway to continue to serve the entire population nationally. In spite of the split, Church of Norway is still considered “The” Church of Norway, or a civic religion. The king is required to be a Lutheran — implying membership in Church of Norway. Her pastors will continue to be involved in follow-up in communities after disasters. Many local congregations will host school Christmas worship services prior to Christmas break. Although the church will receive the same amount of money as before, it is considered insufficient by the church leadership to cover the transition expenses, as well to meet the growing pension expenses over the coming years. A large percent of pastors are expected to retire over the next 10-15 years.

New work agreements between the church and pastors union have reduced work hours, including Sunday work days. The consequence is more frequent Sundays without worship services, thus the cuts will continue to close more churches on Sundays.

A significant drop in the number of baptisms is observed. Take one example: In Vågan, Lofoten where there are currently only gay and lesbian pastors, from 2010 to 2015 there has been a drop in the number of baptisms from 92% to 68% of children born. At the same time many of the younger believers are leaving Church of Norway due to the liberal theology. There are very few young worshipers left, while many of the “free” churches have a high percent of young participants.

As a part of the modernization, Church of Norway has simplified how to become a member and how to resign as a member in Church of Norway. Before you had to show up at the local parish office to become a new member or to resign as a member. (One could also resign by letter.). As of 2016, the process can be completed on line on the web. As a result Church of Norway in 2016 lost 41,000 members, and gained 3,200 new members who registered membership on the web. So Church of Norway are losing both the more confessional Lutheran members, as well as many, many who are now realizing that they don’t share the Christian faith at all.

This decrease of membership in Church of Norway is becoming an expensive problem for the authorities. They provide the same amount of money to Church of Norway regardless of the number of members. So the monetary support per member in Church of Norway increases per capita as the membership drops. At the same time, for the sake of equality and nondiscrimination, the government as a rule has supported all other religious groups with the same amount per member as to Church of Norway: Catholics, Muslims and even the anti-religious “The Norwegian Humanist Association”. With significant drop in membership in Church of Norway, the government support per members to all the other groups now has to go up.

It is therefore beginning to be an issue among politicians to see if there are ways to change this financial distribution system. As Church of Norway request more funds from the authorities, she is told to handle it herself through the huge church fund build up over the last hundred years of sale of the parsonages, former pastors’ farms etc.  Another problem for Church of Norway are the church buildings they close down in the biggest cities as worship attendance goes down, partly due to people leaving the church and partly because of the big immigrant groups in the cities. Those churches are often old expensive buildings to maintain and to heat. So far the solution has been to rent them out since the number of immigrant churches and new city churches of various denominations requesting to rent churches is higher than the supply of vacant church properties.

Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) Installs New President and Seeks Partnerships

Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina, President of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM)

9 November 2016
Antananarivo and Mahajanga, Madagascar

On 6 November 2016, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (in Malagasy it is known as FLM: Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy), a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), installed newly elected church officers including the president, Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina in Antananarivo. Rakotonirina succeeds the Rev. Dr. Endor Modeste as president of the approximately 4-million-member church body. The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world, adding approximately 100 congregations each year. The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) began through the efforts of the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) with the establishment of a preaching station in Betafo in 1867. The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) will celebrate its 150th year jubilee in May 2017. Approximately 12,000 people attended, the installation of President Rakotonirina and the other officers.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver with President David Rakotonirina and Saholy Rakotonirina Displaying Government Award
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver with President David Rakotonirina and Saholy Rakotonirina Displaying Government Award

Immediately following the installation service, government officials presented President Rakotonirina with the “Odre National” award for his service to the country through his work in the church. Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations and Executive Secretary of the International Lutheran Council, and Rev. Jeffrey Kuddes from the LCMS Office of International Mission, attended the installation service. After the installation service, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) held a reception where approximately 1,000 people attended to welcome and greet the new church officers. Dr. Collver presented greetings to the Malagasy Lutheran Church from President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and from the International Lutheran Council based upon Isaiah 42:10 & 12, particularly to “declare his praise in the islands.” He expressed the desire of the Missouri Synod and the International Lutheran Council to seek a partnership based upon Holy Scriptures and commitment to the Lutheran Confessions.

Location of the 136th KMSL Meeting in Mahajanga
Location of the 136th KMSL Meeting in Mahajanga

After the installation festivities were completed, the church leaders of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) gathered in Mahajanga, at the northeast corner of Madagascar, for the Executive Committee for the General Synod (KMSL). This “committee” is composed of over 100 people, including four people (2 clergy and 2 lay people) from each of the 25 synods (district in LCMS parlance) of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM). The KMSL is the highest decision making body after the general assembly and it meets twice a year. It met from 8-15 November 2016. President Rakotonirina preached the opening sermon based on Isaiah 49:12 – 17, which was the theme of the 136th KMSL meeting.

On 8-9 November 2016, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) and Dr. Albert Collver met to discuss partnership possibilities with the Missouri Synod and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). As a result of these discussions, the Executive Committee for the General Synod (KMSL) issued a proclamation stating that it would seek partnership with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the International Lutheran Council. President Rakotonirina and the various synod presidents issued the proclamation for partnership on November 9th. Further discussions are planned for January and May 2017 with the hope that a partnership / working agreement can be forged.

Malagasy Lutheran Church elects new Presiding Bishop

Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina, Presiding Bishop Elect.

MADAGASCAR – On 13 September 13, 2016, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy – FLM) elected Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina as the Presiding Bishop / President of the church body. Dr. Rakotonirina was elected on the fourth ballot receiving 242 votes, while Rev. Lotera  Fabien, Dean of the Higher Institute of Lutheran Theology (SALT) in Fianarantsoa received 223 votes. The Malagasy Lutheran Church’s General Assembly began on 5 September 5, 2016 and concluded on September 14, 2016.

Prior to the election on, Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina served since 2012 as the bishop/president of the Antananarivo Synod in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Before that, from 2006-2010, Dr. Rakotonirina served as the director of Seminary Teolojikam-Paritany Luterana Atsimoniavoko. In February 2016, Dr. Rakotonirina received a Doctorate of Divinity (D.D.) from Niagara Lutheran Theological Institute (NLTI). Dr. Rakotonirina is also studying at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) where he expects to receive a doctorate upon the completion of his dissertation.

The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) has between 3-4 million members. It was founded by Norwegian Missionaries in 1866. The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).


Seminaries of Siberian and Ingrian Evangelical Lutheran Churches to Cooperate in Laity Instruction


Theological seminary of Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Theological Institute of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (both members of the International Lutheran Council) have reached preliminary agreement to conduct a joint educational program serving the needs of the people in the parishes in the eastern part of Russia.


This breakthrough came as a result of the meeting involving the rectors of respective institutions and staffs involved in the training of the laity. The program will be based on the standard used in the Ingrian Church. In many ways it is similar to the Biblical school program, which was implemented in the Siberian Church since 1999, so there would be relatively little adjustment for SELC representatives. Novosibirsk seminary of SELC will share resources such as its facility and teachers. Instructors may also come from other places as needed. Most participants will come from Siberian deanery of ELCI, though parishioners of the SELC parishes who had not had a chance to go through the Biblical school program in the previous years, will also join the ranks of the program’s students. Select sessions may take place in ELCI and SELC parishes across Siberia and the Ural region. According to the experience of the Ingrian Church representatives, having such movable element assists in building stronger ties between various congregations and their members, which is vital given the vast distances in Siberia.


Both at the general meeting of the seminar participants and the focus group meeting there was emphasized a strong need to have the Lutheran church members instructed in the matters of the faith as much as possible given the current situation, in which the faithful traditional Churches find themselves in the Lutheran world.

Joint Seminar in Novosibirsk, Russia


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.  


COMMUNIQUÉ Regarding LWF and ILC Meeting


Pictured: (back row) — Rev. Dr. Martin Junge (LWF), Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (ILC), Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki (LWF), Rev. Jon Ehlers (ILC)

(front row) — Rev. Gijsbertus van Hattem (ILC), Rev. Dr. Romeu Martini (LWF), Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt (LWF), Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver (ILC), Rev. Norbert Denecke

WITTENBERG, GERMANY, 24-25 February 2016



Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, General Secretary;

Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki, Director of the Department for Mission and Development;

Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt, LWF Department for Theology and Public Witness;

Rev. Norbert Denecke, Director of the LWF German National Committee;

Rev. Dr. Romeu Martini, Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil.


Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt D.D., ILC Chairman;

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC Executive Secretary;

Rev. Jon Ehlers, Regional Representative of Europe;

Rev. Gijsbertus van Hattem, Secretary.

Both the LWF and ILC are honoring the commitment they made for the executive committees of each organization to meet with one another as agreed in the memorandum of understanding from 3 March 2005.


  1. Completion of the Agenda | minutes – Communiqué
  2. LWF highlights an info sharing — Including identifying issues for further discussions
  3. ILC info sharing
  4. Discussion of identified issues
    1. LWF Items
    2. ILC Items
  5. From Conflict to Communion – ILC answer
  6. Date and venue for the next meeting, theme and topics.
  7. Drafting and Approval of Communiqué and unfinished Business.
  1. LWF Report

Discussion of past year’s events. Upcoming Reformation Celebration — Liberated by God’s Grace. (

June 2016 LWF will hold a council meeting in Wittenberg. It will have a very ecumenical theme for the pilgrimage – Roman Catholics, WCC and others invited.

May 2017 LWF Assembly is where the LWF will have its global Reformation celebration. October 2017 will be for the churches, no LWF global celebration. Theme of the LWF Reformation celebration and of the Assembly –  Liberated by God’s Grace: Salvation not for Sale, Human Beings not for Sale, Creation not for Sale.

The LWF shared the study documents for the 2017 Assembly, “Liberated by God’s Grace 2017 — 500 Years of the Reformation.”

The LWF presented the study report “Self-Understanding of Communion”. This is a significant document for the LWF. It also presented the process around hermeneutics and announced its conclusion with a document to be presented to the LWF Council in June 2016.

Reference was made to the humanitarian engagement of the LWF, which is currently serving 1.7 million refugees in the world, and 600.000 Internally Displaced People.

The LWF also shared “Mission in Context: Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment,” and “Diakonia in Context: Transformation, Reconciliation, Empowerment.” These topics have the potential for future conversation between the ILC and LWF.

  1. ILC Report

Rev. David Mahsman and Ms. Kristin Lange welcomed the ILC and the LWF to the Old Latin School. Rev. Mahsman, the outgoing managing director of the Old Latin School, introduced Ms. Kristin Lange as the new managing director of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. Rev. Mahsman discussed the dedication of the building in May 2015, as well as the goals and purposes of the Old Latin School.

The ILC shared the website “The Wittenberg Capstone Experience.” (

Discussed ILC’s past year’s events. Provided update regarding the International Conference on Confessional Leadership 2 (ICCL2), which was hosted primarily as a LCMS and SELK event, but also included the ILC. Discussed how invitations were issued, including invitations to LWF members. The ILC papers from this conference were published in the Journal of Lutheran Mission, September 2015 (

Provided Report about the ILC World Conference in Argentina held in September 2015. ILC admitted three new members: Lutheran Church of Norway, Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua. The ILC papers from the world conference were published in the Journal of Lutheran Mission, December 2015 (

Announced the ILC World Seminaries’ Conference scheduled for October 2016 in Wittenberg.

ILC in discussion with the three Nordic Dioceses—the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway, and the Mission Province in Sweden, for possible membership in the ILC.

  1. Identified Items for Discussion

Discussed letter dated 26 November 2015 from Dr. Martin Junge to Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt following up on the question how the ILC and LWF will interact with each other locally and internationally, and seeking clarification about specific experiences and situations that have raised questions in the LWF. Also, discussed the “ILC (Draft) Policy Statement Regarding International Relations” ( which was prepared in part to address items raised. The LWF representatives asked questions about parts of the document. The ILC agreed that those sections could be expressed more clearly.

  1. The ILC’s Response to From Conflict to Communion

The ILC presented “Statement of the International Lutheran Council on the Document ‘From Conflict to Communion’ Lutheran—Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation 2017.” This document was prepared for the ILC’s informal dialog with the PCPCU and was presented at the ILC World Conference in September 2015 and published in the Journal of Lutheran Mission, December 2015. (

The question was asked what is the next step? Does the ILC desire to make an agreement with the LWF-PCPCU similar to how the Methodists joined the JDDJ by presenting their own statement, which offered their distinctive perspectives? The ILC was pleased by the offer of the LWF to consider this possibility. Next steps were agreed upon on how to approach this possibility.

The LWF, recognizing the fellowship understanding of the ILC member churches, asked if it would be possible for the ILC to participate or attend the “Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation to be held in Lund.” ( The event will be held on 31 October 2016. The ILC accepted the invitation.

  1. Date and venue for the next meeting, theme and topics

Date: February 7-8, 2017. Meeting will begin in the afternoon of February 7th and will continue all day February 8th. Travel planned for February 9th in the morning. Each organization is responsible for the cost of its own travel to the location and their own lodging. The hosting organization will cover the expenses of the meeting room and the dinners.

Location: Geneva, Switzerland.

Theme: Hermeneutics as it relates to the unity of the Church.

Two theologians: one from the LWF and one from the ILC will help us identify hermeneutical approaches to the Scriptures. What does it mean for the life of the churches and how does it affect unity?

The ILC and LWF will spend half a day in theological study to better understand each other’s perspective on the interpretation of the Scripture. Papers will be sent one month before the meeting so that the group can study them ahead of time. Two thirty minute presentations will lead the group through the topic.

Potential topics for 2018 also were discussed. The stage is being set for a discussion of pastoral accompaniment and pastoral realities as a practical result of the hermeneutics of the Scriptures in the future.

  1. Drafting and Approval of Communiqué

This communiqué shall serve as the official record for the meeting.

Wittenberg, Germany

25 February 2016

201602 COMMUNIQUE ILC-LWF Meeting 2016 FINAL.docx


ILC (Draft) Policy Statement Regarding International Relations

Note: The ILC Executive Committee drafted a policy statement regarding how the ILC will approach international relations with church bodies, and other groups such as mission societies. The ILC Executive Committee approved the release of the draft policy statement for review and comment.

International Lutheran Council Policy Statement Regarding International Relationships

Approved for release and review by ILC Executive Committee on 21 January 2016


 The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is a worldwide association of established 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.  The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among member churches and throughout the world.

Policy Points

  1. The ILC respects the autonomy both of member and non-member church bodies.
  2. The ILC permits dual membership with other organizations (such as with the ILC and LWF), provided that such membership does not violate the ILC’s confessional commitment.
  3. The ILC seeks to facilitate fellowship but does not regard itself as a communion, even if certain of its member church bodies are in communion with each other.
  4. The ILC invites response and comment to its official publications and statements.
  5. The ILC does not regard dissent from its own viewpoints or critique of the viewpoints of others as disrespectful per se, but as a healthy part of honest ecumenical dialogue and interaction.
  6. The ILC encourages the true unity of the Church based upon the doctrine and practice found in the Holy Scriptures and interpreted by the Lutheran Confessions.
  7. The ILC seeks to engage in conversation with other Christian church bodies (both Lutheran and non-Lutheran) who seek to confess common truths of Scripture, and to acknowledge honest differences with mutual respect.
  8. As a result, the ILC welcomes the opportunity to share its perspective with those outside the ILC by attending their events and by inviting them to ILC events.
  9. The ILC engages church bodies outside itself with a genuine ecumenical spirit.
  10. The ILC seeks to foster theological study and discussion, produce publications that promote such study, and which provide comment and critique upon other view points.


The Nordic Lutheran Dioceses and the International Lutheran Council Discuss Membership


Participants: Dr. Lawrence Rast, Chairman of LCMS CTCR; Rev. Jakob Okkels, Swedish Mission Province and Assistant to Bishop; Dr. Robert Bugbee, President of Lutheran Church Canada / Vice-Chairman of International Lutheran Council; Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of SELK / Chairman of ILC; Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Executive Secretary of ILC; Rev. Bengt Birgersson, General Secretary for Swedish Mission Province; Roland Gustafsson, Presiding Bishop of the Swedish Mission Province; Göran Beijer, Assisting Bishop of the Swedish Mission Province; Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the Finnish Mission Province; Risto Soramies, Bishop of the Finnish Mission Province; Lars Artman, Assisting Bishop for the Swedish Mission Province; Thor Henrik With, Bishop of the Norwegian Mission Province; Rev. Jon Ehlers, Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England / ILC Representative for Europe; Norberto Gerke, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay / ILC Representative for Latin America; Gijsbertus van Hattem, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium / Secretary of the ILC.

SWEDEN – The executive committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Nordic Lutheran Dioceses met January 20, 2016 to discuss future opportunities for collaboration. The three Nordic Dioceses—the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway, and the Mission Province in Sweden—all formed in response to the secularization of the National/State churches in their respective countries involving matters of both Christian doctrine and ethics. These new, independent Dioceses were formed in Sweden (6 September 2003), in Finland (16 March 2013), and in Norway (20 April 2013). On 7 November 2015 the three Dioceses declared altar and pulpit fellowship with one another and formed the Communion of Nordic Dioceses, which then quickly approached the ILC about possible membership.

Roland Gustafsson, Bishop of the Mission Province in Sweden, said membership in the ILC is important because “being in a rather small environment in the Nordic countries, we need the global fellowship of the Church of Christ. The ILC represents a Lutheran community, where we do think our Nordic Dioceses belong.”

The Nordic Dioceses hosted the representatives of the ILC, which includes 37 member churches (, in Gothenburg, Sweden. On the eve of the meeting, Gothenburg, which typically enjoys a temperate climate, experienced a freak snow storm that slightly delayed the meetings.

Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, D.D., Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council, was glad to hear the confession of the Nordic Dioceses. He said, “While we experienced the outside of Gothenburg as very cold with lots of snow, we experienced from our hosts a very warm and close confessional brotherhood during this conference. It enables us to look forward to deeper connections between the Nordic church bodies and the International Lutheran Council.”

The International Lutheran Council seeks to encourage and support confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world through education, conferences, and discussion of contemporary theological issues.

After heartfelt, serious, and collegial discussions related to the belief, confession, and practice of the Nordic Dioceses, the executive committee of the International Lutheran Council invited each church body of the Nordic Dioceses to submit an application for membership, which will then be considered at the next scheduled World Conference of the International Lutheran Council.

Dr. Albert Collver, Executive Secretary of the ILC, noted that “despite the challenges the Lutheran church faces around the world in this day and age, the Lord has opened tremendous opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ. The discussions with the Nordic Dioceses were incredibly heartening and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”

After the discussions concluded in the late afternoon, the ILC executive committee toured The Lutheran School of Theology, Gothenburg (LSTG) where the Mission Province in Sweden provides training for future pastors ( In the Fall of 2014, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, opened an extension site at LSTG and now offers a Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degree accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada ( This program offers a unique opportunity for students in Scandinavia and other nearby countries to receive an advanced research degree in theology.

The meetings concluded with dinner at the LM Engströms Gymnasium, which was the former bishop’s palace for the Gothenburg diocese of the Church of Sweden. Bishop Bo Giertz lived here during his tenure, 1949-70. Today, the LM Engströms Gymnasium serves as a Lutheran high school with approximately 500 students. It is the largest Christian high school in Sweden.

Dr. Lawrence Rast, special consultant to the International Lutheran Council and chairman of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, participated in the discussions with the Nordic Dioceses in preparation for future fellowship discussions with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. “We are witnessing the emergence of new era of collaboration between confessional Lutherans throughout the world. As the Nordic Lutheran Dioceses and the ILC move into the future, we’re all excited to see what God has in store for his church.”


IELB celebrates 110th anniversary

BRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB) celebrated their 110th anniversary as a church in Brazil at its national convention May 1-4. President Egon Kopereck was re-elected May 2 to serve the IELB for another term. See the convention in photos below:

President Matthew Harrison (left) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod gives the keynote presentation at the IELB’s 61st convention. His presentation was titled “The Challenge to Preserve Confessional Identity,” and was based upon Martin Luther’s On Counsels and the Church. Rev. Gerson Lindon (right) translates for President Harrison.
International Lutheran Council (ILC) Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada) greets the convention. ILC members and other international guests stand in the background.
President Egon Kopereck (left) of the IELB signs a protocol document for altar and pulpit fellowship with St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (Congregacion Evangélica Luterana San Pablo) of Montevideo, Uruguay. At the convention, the IELB also committed to church planting in Mozambique.
In between sessions of the IELB convention, the ILC conducted strategic planning. A significant part of the time was spent planning for next year’s World Conference in South America. ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver is featured in this photo.
Over 7,000 people arrived by the bus load for the worship service commemorating the 110th anniversary of the IELB. The choir alone numbered in the thousands.
Some of the international guests at the IELB convention. LCMS President Matthew Harrison, ILC Secretary Gijsbertus van Hattem (President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium), ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver, and ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church.