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ILC 2022 World Conference: Conference ends with Installation of Board Members

LCMS President Matthew Harrison preaches during the closing service of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kisumu, Kenya. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

KENYA – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference came to a close the evening of September 16 with a service of Vespers, during which time the chairman, secretary, and other board members for the new triennium were installed.

Serving as liturgist for the service was ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill, with President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) preaching. In his sermon, President Harrison—who also serves as an appointed member of the ILC’s board—pondered what it means to be worthy. Drawing on the words of St. Paul, he noted that overseers in the church are to be “above reproach.”

“Yet, I’m not,” President Harrison said simply. Addressing his fellow church presidents and bishops, he outlined the qualifications for overseers according to the scriptural witness, highlighting the many ways he—and, indeed, all leaders in the church—fail to fulfill their office as they ought.

“Are you worthy to stand before the throne of God?” he asked. “Be honest: you are condemned by the Law…. ‘Oh, wretched bishop that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?’”

“It’s Jesus,” he said at last. “It’s Jesus, who is the Bishop. He is the one who fulfilled the office faithfully. He is the one who never fails those seeking His grace, His forgiveness, and His healing.”

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” he proclaimed. “I tell you now, repent and believe the good news: ‘There is now no condemnation for those bishops who are in Jesus Christ!’ The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins! All your shortcomings, all your weaknesses, all your failures are covered by the blood of the Lamb.”

Outgoing ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt installs the newly elected and reelected members of the board of directors. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

The service concluded with the installation of the ILC’s newly elected and reelected board members for the new triennium. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, outgoing Chairman of the ILC, conducted the installation. Installed to serve were:

  • Chairman Juhana Pohjola (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland)
  • Secretary John Donkoh (President/Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana)
  • Africa Representative Joseph Ochola Omolo (Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya)
  • Asia Representative Antonio del Rio Reyes (President of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines)
  • Europe Representative George Samiec (Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England)
  • Latin America Representative Alceu Alton Figur (President of the Lutheran Church of Paraguay)
  • North America Representative Timothy Teuscher (President of Lutheran Church–Canada)

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2022 World Conference: ILC approves further ecumenical discussions with the Roman Catholic Church

Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Germany), joined by Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden (Brazil), reports on the results of the ILC’s theological conversations with the PCPCU.

KENYA – On September 16, 2022 the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference adopted a resolution calling for continued ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, and approving the Final Report of the conversations of the ILC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) which was published in 2020.

Discussion of the topic began the morning of September 14, 2022, when Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany reported on the results of the theological discussions between the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (which has recently been renamed the Dicastery from Promoting Christian Unity). The Final Report on the conversations was jointly published by the ILC and the PCPCU in 2021, and found significant convergences between the two traditions in a number of areas.

In a written response to the report, Cardinal Kurt Koch of the PCPCU expressed pleasure at the warming of relations between the churches of the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church. On the basis of the report’s “valuable theological contribution to Concordia Lutheran-Catholic ecumenism”, he went on to encourage “the founding of a joint Concordia Lutheran-Catholic working group” as a forum for continued conversation between the PCPCU (now the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity) and the International Lutheran Council. In particular, he suggested such a working group take on the task of providing a joint rereading of the Augsburg Confession (AC) between Roman Catholics and the ILC in the leadup to the 500th anniversary of the publication of the AC in 2030.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt likewise welcomed the results of the international discussions after the Final Report was released, writing that the “process of reception [of the Final Report] in the churches of the ILC has already begun.” He concurred with Cardinal Koch’s suggestion of the founding of a working group, calling it a “very appropriate way of deepening common theological work.”

Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue

In his report to the conference, Dr. Klän went on to note the positive response to the Final Report already seen in ILC churches in Germany and Australia, while Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden of Brazil—another member of the dialogue group—likewise commented on its usefulness in the Latin American context. Dr. Klän encouraged the 2022 World Conference to receive the suggestions of Cardinal Koch and ILC Chairman Voigt, and adopt a resolution committing to continued ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church.

That resolution came before the World Conference on September 16, during which time the ILC adopted a resolution “To Approve the Report of the ILC/PCPCU Dialogue Group and to Carry Forward their Work.”

In the resolution, the 27th ILC World Conference notes “its sincere thanks both to the Roman Catholic and the confessional Lutheran representatives in this dialogue for their efforts and preparation of the Final Report.”

“The ILC herewith approves the Final Report and supports the continuation of contacts and conversations in appropriate ways and formats,” it continues.

“The 27th ILC World Conference expresses hope that further theological work be done between representatives of the ILC and the PCPCU in the leadup to the 500th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 2030,” the resolution goes on to say. To that end, it instructs the ILC’s board “to begin planning (including funding appropriation) for our Council to continue this theological engagement between confessional Lutherans and the Catholic Church,” encouraging “particular focus on the issues of apostolicity and catholicity.”

You can download the full resolution here.

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2022 World Conference: ILC issues statement on Liturgy and Culture, plans for statement rejecting virtual communion

ILC Chairman Elect Juhana Pohjola preaches during matins on the final morning of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.

KENYA – The final morning of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference saw the adoption of a Statement on Liturgy and Culture, as well as a unanimous decision to produce a statement rejecting virtual communion.

The first session of the day began with a service of matins. Rev. Roger James, the ILC’s Assistant to the General Secretary, served as liturgist, while incoming Bishop Juhana Pohjola, incoming ILC chairman, preached. Bishop Pohjola’s sermon focused on John 10:11-16, noting the commemoration of St. Cyprian.

After matins, Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov, Rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, presented the final paper of the conference: “Lord, to Whom Shall We Go? The Revision of Liturgical Space and Time in a ‘Virtual Worship’ Era.”

Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov

“My proposition is that there is a discrepancy between our subscription to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and reliance on the virtual format for conducting worship services (especially ones containing the Lord’s Supper),” Dr. Streltsov said during his lecture. And, while he recognized that, during the pandemic, many Lutheran churches around the world relied on online technology to reach members, Dr. Streltsov warned that allowing “virtual worship” to become part of the norm is a decision “pregnant with philosophical and theological dimensions.”

“Our traditional Lutheran liturgy emphasizes the real presence of Jesus in the Word and Sacraments made available to us in a concrete, earthly setting,” he noted. “An alternative understanding of worship would centre rather on perceived personal spiritual and emotional comfort of the worshipper, on the sense of self-fulfillment, self-realization on behalf of the worshipper…. My thesis is that these two different understandings of worship are incommensurable.”

A spirited discussion on the subject of virtual worship followed the presentation.

Report on Liturgy and Culture

Following a break, the conference considered a summary statement on Liturgy and Culture, which distills key points from the presentations and subsequent discussions. This summary was adopted by common consent. Key passages include:

  • “The Church fundamentally is the gathering of people around the Lord of the Church to encounter him, hear him, receive him, and be blessed by him for another week ‘out in the world’. The liturgy involves words and actions by which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present to the glory of the Father.”

    “Conscious that the Word of God constitutes and our Confessions shape our worship, the Church balances the truth of Jesus’ presence with his people and clearly speaking the Word of God to the world. This is particularly pertinent in liturgical reviews and the production of new rites, new hymnals, and changes to permissive rubrics. The Church has the responsibility to communicate clearly Jesus and not sacrifice Jesus in the process! The Church’s catholicity must be maintained against the deceptions of the new.”

    “As language and identity are increasingly fluid today; as the Church is increasingly aware that the world is always opposed to the God who loves her; as God’s Word sadly is always challenged by others who also say ‘Thus says the Lord’ so the Church can ‘sail such storms’ when the liturgy is faithful to the Lord of the Church who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. In the liturgy, Jesus draws all people to himself so that they can live life in all its fulness—because an embodied God comes to embodied humanity with embodied grace creating an embodied community and witness—no matter when or where people are found.”

The full summary will be released online in the days to come.

Virtual Communion

Later in the day, the world conference also approved a procedure for the publication of a statement rejecting virtual communion as contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

A proposed text was unanimously accepted in principal, with additional direction given to the board to prepare a final version for release in mid-December 2022.

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2022 World Conference: Works of Mercy

ILC World Conference participants arrive at the Lake Diocese cathedral in Kisimu.

KENYA – Late on September 15, participants in the ILC’s 2022 World Conference visited the cathedral of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya’s (ELCK) Lake Diocese in Kisimu, where they joined in worship and learned about the Kenyan church’s works of mercy.

Provost Martin Orende preaches.

After a welcome from diocesan Bishop Titus Okoda, the church held a service of vespers. Provost Martin Orende of the ELCK preached on John 1:29-34, while Rev. Charles Froh served as liturgist.

Following the service, delegates heard from representatives of four of the ELCK’s mercy projects. First, they heard from Rev. Isaiah Apeyo of Capstone Ministry, an agency which helps to reunite street children with their families and provide reconciliation work. Children can end up on the street for a number of reasons, Rev. Apeyo noted, and so successful reintegration requires regular follow-ups and family counseling. A key part of the work is encouraging children and their families to engage with local congregations, Rev. Apeyo said, as helping people to heal their relationships with God also helps them to heal their relationships with each other.

Deaconess Lorna Meeker of Point of Grace Academy was next to speak. Point of Grace Academy provides education for underprivileged and needy children who otherwise could not afford an education, including orphans, disabled children, and those suffering from HIV/Aids. The school has almost 800 students in total, with nearly 350 of these from the local area, and just over 450 of these coming as boarding students from elsewhere in Kenya. Point of Grace Academy not only cares for needy children, Deaconess Meeker noted, but also provides care for elderly people, the addicted, and widows in the local area. As part of their care for the whole person, Grace Academy provides regular catechesis to children, teaching them about Jesus. More than 300 children have been baptized through their encounters with Point of Grace Academy. (Conference participants were invited to visit the school on the following day, as part of a selection of excursions.)

Presenters speak on mercy projects of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya.

Deaconess Rispah was next to speak, highlighting the work of Project 24, a joint project of the ELCK and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Project 24 has eight boarding sites throughout Kenya that care for orphans with nowhere else to go. Deaconess Rispah, who is the director of one of Project 24’s sites, noted that the proclamation of the Gospel is central to this ministry’s work as well, recognizing that children have not only physical needs but spiritual needs too.

Finally, conference attendees learned about the ELCK’s school for at-risk people with intellectual disabilities. This school, which is on the same campus as the ELCK’s cathedral in Kisumu, accepts children and adults on the recommendation of the government, and helps them to achieve greater independence. Students have often previously not learned how to clothe themselves, bathe, or use the washroom. Beginning with these basic life skills, students advance to higher skills, culminating in vocational training. The school also seeks to offer a sheltered workshop where graduates of the program can continue to find meaningful work together in a safe and loving environment. Teaching the students about Jesus is a key part of this wholistic ministry.

Students sing and dance.

Conference attendees visited the school after the presentations, where they were greeted by students eager to share their musical gifts and say hello. The choir of students sang two songs, with conference participants considering it a highlight of the trip. Following the performance, participants had the chance to tour dormitories, classrooms, and the workshop for handicrafts.

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2022 World Conference: Theological Education and Liturgy in Culture

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo preaches for the ILC’s 2022 World Conference during a visit to Neema Lutheran College.

KENYA – On the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2022, participants in the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference made an excursion to Matongo to visit Neema Lutheran College, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), the conference’s host church.

There they joined members of the seminary community for a service of Matins in Swahili. The service also featured a hymn in Swahili which conference participants have been learning throughout the conference: “Yesu Wangu Simwachi.” A seminary student served as liturgist, while ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo preached on John 4, drawing out what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. A Bible study on 1 Kings 8:22-30 followed, led by Rev. Joseph Abuor, a doctoral student from Kenya.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher (right), Chief Accreditation Officer of the ILCAA and Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College.

Following this, the conference heard a report from Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher of the ILC’s International Accreditation Agency (ILCAA). The ILCAA is a new initiative of the ILC that will “strengthen confessional Lutheran theological education,” he explained. The program will ensure that participating seminaries and colleges all provide robust theological training that is recognizable and transferable to other institutions for higher academic study.

In addition to providing standards for an institutions’ educational program and mission and integrity, the ILCAA will also provide standards for: governance, administration, and finances; planning and review; faculty, education, and staff; student services; and resources.

Liturgy, Theology, and Culture

Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo speaks on theology, liturgy, and culture.

The morning session continued with the third of four major presentations on the conference theme. Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College, gave a lecture entitled “The Relationship Between Liturgy, Theology, and Culture.”

Dr. Omolo argued that, for Christian worship to be appropriately brought into a given culture, it is necessary to “balance the local and the universal natures of Christian liturgy, so that the overarching meaning in liturgy is neither lost nor communicated unintelligibly to the people.” Key to striking this balance is careful fidelity to the doctrine which underlies liturgical expression: “the content of worship,” he explained, must remain “consistent with the church’s doctrine and the overall Christian narrative.”

“Meaningful w­orship is that in which Christ’s gift of life and salvation is offered to the sinful man in a clear and intelligible language so that the people experience this gift in an understandable way,” Dr. Omolo concluded. But when pursuing such adaptation, he cautioned, “care must be taken so that the liturgy remains Christian in its core and purpose, and continues to bear the marks of the catholicity of the church of Christ. To attain such balance, inculturation must take seriously the complementary dynamics between liturgy and doctrine, so that celebration of the liturgy in different cultures is done within the framework of the Christian language anchored in the biblical narrative.”

ILC-Chile Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna (left) speaks on the new Spanish Lutheran hymnal.

Following Principal Omolo’s presentation, Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile), also addressed the subject of liturgy and culture, providing a concrete example in the recently published Spanish hymnal produced in Latin America: Himnario Luterano. The hymnal was first conceived by the Chilean church 14 years ago, eventually growing to become a joint project of the ILC-Chile, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELP), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA).

The new hymnal is “a contribution from the mission field to the mission field,” said Bishop Lanterna, “a contribution from Latin America to Latin America, and from confessional Lutherans to confessional Lutherans.”

Himnario Luterano.

Indeed, Bishop Lanterna continued, the new hymnal can justly be considered the third most important confessional Lutheran publication ever published in Spanish, preceded by Casiodoro de Reina’s classic 1569 translation of the Bible as well as the Spanish translation of the Lutheran Confessions.

The hymnal, which incorporates hundreds of classic and contemporary hymns as well as newly provides services for Matins, Vespers, and Complines, has been received with joy by Spanish-speaking Lutherans. Asked what impact the hymnal will have, the missionaries who began the project were clear: “They unanimously responded,” Bishop Lanterna explained, that it will help Spanish-speaking Lutherans to “revalue and discover confessional Lutheran liturgical theology.”

The morning session concluded with a lunch on the grounds of the seminary.

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2022 World Conference: Bishop Pohjola elected as ILC Chairman

Bishop Juhana Pohjola addresses the conference after being elected the ILC’s new chairman.

KENYA – During the afternoon of September 14, 2022, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held elections for its board of directors, during which time the ILC acclaimed Bishop Juhana Pohjola without opposition as its new chairman.

In remarks after the decision, Chairman Elect Pohjola expressed thanks to the assembly as well as his prayer that the Holy Spirit would work through him despite his weakness. He further gave thanks for the example of Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, his predecessor in office, who announced earlier in the conference that he would not stand for reelection.

“I know that I have big shoes to fill because Bishop Voigt has been such an example,” Chairman Elect Pohjola said. “If I can imitate him in even some respects, I will be happy to do so.”

“Dear brothers, pray for me and for the ILC,” the Chairman Elect continued. “I look forward to working with you all very much.”

Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola has been Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) since 2021. He previously served as the ELMDF’s Diocesan Dean from 2013 until his election, and before that as dean of the Luther Foundation Finland from 2000-2001 and 2012 until his election. He has served as a pastor in Helsinki and as a visiting scholar at Canada’s Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. He holds a Master of Theology from the University of Helsinki (1997), a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (1998), and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Helsinki (2014). He was further awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) in 2022 in part “for his calm and bold witness in the face of government persecution and pressure.”

Bishop Pohjola was catapulted to worldwide media attention in 2021 after Finland’s Prosecutor General charged him and a Finnish M.P., Dr. Päivi Räsänen, with hate crimes for the 2004 publication of a booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. In response, the ILC issued “A Protest and Call” signed by the leaders of Lutheran church bodies around the world, expressing deep concern over Finland’s infringement on the freedoms of religion and speech. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen were subsequently acquitted in early 2022 by a panel of judges who found they had committed no crimes, but Finland’s Prosecutor General has since appealed, meaning the case is not over.

Bishop Pohjola succeeds Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who has headed Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church since 2006. He was elected to serve the ILC as Europe Region representative in 2007 and 2009, following which he was named Vice Chairman. When the Chairman’s seat became vacant in 2010 between World Conferences, he was automatically advanced to become interim Chairman. The 2012 World Conference elected him to continue serving as Chairman, and he was subsequently reelected to the position again in 2015 and 2018. In total, he served 12 years as ILC Chairman and 15 years in total on the board.

After Bishop Voigt announced he would not stand for reelection, attendees gave him a standing round of applause in gratitude for his long and faithful service.

Secretary and World Region Representatives

The ILC Board of Directors for the new triennium: LCP President Antonio del Rio Reyes (Asia); IELP President Alceu Alton Figur (Latin America); LCC President Timothy Teuscher (North America); ELCG Bishop John Shadrack Donkoh (ILC Secretary); ELCE Chairman George Samiec (Europe); ELMDF Bishop Juhana Pohjola (ILC Chairman); LCMS President Matthew Harrison (Founding Member); ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Africa); LCC Past President Robert Bugbee (Member-at-Large); and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (ILC General Secretary).

The September 14 afternoon session of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference also saw the election of Bishop John Shadrack Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) to serve as Secretary of the ILC. Bishop Donkoh has been head of the ELCG since 2018. He succeeds President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB), who had served in the role since 2004.  The assembly recognized President van Hattem for his years of service with a round of applause.

During the afternoon, the ILC also acclaimed world region representatives to the board of directors for the new triennium. Serving as representative for Africa is Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK). Asia will be represented by President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP). The European representative is Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). Latin America will be represented by President Alceu Alton Figur of the Lutheran Church of Paraguay. And North America will be represented by President Timothy Teuscher of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC).

The ILC’s board of directors also includes two other members who are appointed under other criteria. Past President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada and President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) remain on the board in this capacity.

An installation service for the new triennium’s Board of Directors will take place on the conference’s final date.

Other business

Following the elections, President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) reported on the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, which is a joint project of the LCMS, Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), and the ILC.

Regional meetings followed, after which four World Region reports were given. LCP President Reyes gave the report from Asia. ELCE Chairman Samiec reported on Europe. Finally, LCC President Teuscher, accompanied by LCMS President Harrison, reported on the North America region.

The conference then heard a brief report on Concordia Israel from Bishop Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church in Norway and Iceland. Following this, Rev. Roger James, the ILC’s Assistant to the General Secretary, then addressed the conference as well.

The day closed with a service of Vespers. President Geraldo Schüler of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) preached on the theology of the cross, tying in to the commemoration of Holy Cross Day, while conference chaplain Rev. Charles Froh served as liturgist.

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2022 World Conference: Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service

Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gives the second lecture of the 2022 World Conference.

KENYA – The 2022 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued on Wednesday morning, September 14, 2022, during which time the conference heard the second of four major lectures on the conference theme.

ILC General Secretary preaches during Matins on Holy Cross Day.

The morning began with a service of Matins, with ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill preaching. His sermon highlighted the conference’s commemoration of Holy Cross Day. Rev. Charles Froh, Conference Chaplain, served as liturgist.

Following Matins, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gave the second lecture of the conference, with a presentation entitled: “Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service Through His Office: Reflections on the Question of Liturgy and Culture.” Dr. Masaki is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana as well as Director of the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

In his presentation, Dr. Masaki analyzed how previous thinkers and organizations have discussed the relationship between liturgy and culture, noting in many a lack of emphasis—or even a denial—of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The influence of higher criticism on some scholars’ interpretation of the events of the Last Supper has gone on to negatively influence their understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the liturgy.

“When Jesus is gone in this way, what is left in the church but what we do to try to celebrate something?” Dr. Masaki asked. “Liturgy becomes what we dotoward God.” In this way of thinking, the focus on God’s service to us in the liturgy is lost; and, therefore, discussion of liturgy and culture often becomes simply about finding ways that allow us to express ourselves to God—not to enculturate God’s ministry to us through the Divine Service.

“Liturgy is not something we do,” Dr. Masaki stressed. “Basically, liturgy is Jesus’ service to us”—Him giving us His body and blood for our salvation.

He went on to share video clips of Lutherans worshipping around the world—in different languages, different cultures—and yet retaining the historic liturgy. “Why should we forsake our own rich tradition and go elsewhere to find something less good?” he asked.

Left: ELCG President/Bishop John Donkoh leads a Bible study on Romans 12. Right: ILC Business Manager and Treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gives financial reports.

Following a break, the conference turned to a Bible study by President/Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG). President Donkoh led a study of Romans 12 and the Christian life. Then the ILC’s business manager and treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gave financial reports.

The morning ended with a report by Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany on the ILC’s ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, with comments also by Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden of Brazil. The topic is scheduled to be returned to later in the conference, after which a fuller news report on the subject will be published.

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2022 World Conference: ILC Welcomes New Members

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Timothy Quill welcome the newest members of the ILC. Left to right: Chairman Voigt, LELB Archbishop Jānis Vanags of Latvia, ICEL President Limberth Fernandez Coronado of Bolivia, IELPA Pastor Patricio Mora Reyes of Panama, and General Secretary Quill.

KENYA – On the afternoon of September 13, 2022, the International Lutheran Council unanimously voted to accept two church bodies as full members and one as an associate member. The ILC also formally welcomed ten church bodies which have been accepted as observer members since the last world conference.

The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Luterana de Bolivia – ICEL) was welcomed as a full member. The ICEL’s history dates back to 1978 when Norwegian missions to the country began. The church was officially founded in 1997. The ICEL was previously accepted into the ILC as an associate member at the 2001 World Conference in South Africa. It announced at its 2022 national assembly its decision to seek full membership in the ILC. The ICEL is led by President Limberth Fernandez Coronado.

Also accepted as a full member was the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas Evaņģēliski luteriskā Baznīca – LELB). Lutheranism in Latvia traces its history back five hundred years to when the capital of Riga adopted Lutheranism in 1522. The Latvian church faced severe persecution during the 20th century under the Communist regime but has enjoyed religious freedom again since 1988. The LELB voted in 2021 to seek full membership in the ILC. The ILC’s Board of Directors accepted the LELB as an Observer Member in early 2022, with plans to bring its request for full membership to the 2022 World Conference in Kenya (votes on full membership and associate membership in the ILC must take place during a World Conference). The LELB is led by Archbishop Jānis Vanags.

During its afternoon session, the ILC also voted to accept the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana de Panamá – IELPA) as a new associate member. The IELPA arose out of mission work of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to Panama which began in 1941. It has previously attended other ILC events in the past as a guest. The church in Panama is led by Pastor Patricio Mora Reyes.

Observer Members Welcomed

Some of the leaders of new observer member churches accepted into the ILC since the last world conference.

During the afternoon, delegates also offered a formal welcome to churches that have become observers in the International Lutheran Council since the last world conference. Observer membership in the ILC can be granted by the Board of Directors without needing to wait until a world conference. In total, the board has accepted ten new observer members—all from Africa—since the last World Conference in 2018.

These new observer members include:

  • BURUNDI: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi (HELCB)
  • BURUNDI: Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod (ELA-SBU)
  • EAST CONGO: Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Congo (CELCE)
  • EASTERN KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya (ELCMK)
  • CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Lutheran Church in Africa – Côte d’Ivoire (ELA-SCI)
  • MALAWI: Confessional Lutheran Church – Malawi Synod (CLCMS)
  • RWANDA: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda (IELCR)
  • SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ELCSS/S)

The remaining two observer members welcomed since 2018—in the category of “recognized organizations”—are the Lake Tanganyika Diocese (ELCT-LTD) and the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT):

Reports and Regional Meetings

Regional meetings at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.

The afternoon session also saw reports given by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. Following other business, the conference broke into regional meetings to consider nominations for world region representatives on the ILC’s Board of Directors, as well as to discuss other regional issues.

The conference further heard a regional report from the ILC’s outgoing Africa World Region representative, Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (FELSISA). Among other comments, Bishop Reinstorf noted that, over the past few years, the African World Region has grown to be the largest region in the ILC.

The day ended with a service of vespers. ILC Chairman Quill served as liturgist while Bishop Reinstorf preached a sermon on the presentation of Jesus in the Temple from Luke 2.

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2022 ILC World Conference opens in Kenya

Participants gather for the opening worship service of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preaches.

KENYA – The International Lutheran Council’s 27th (12th) World Conference opened September 13, 2022, in Kisumu, Kenya. The conference is gathering under the theme: “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes Our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do.” The leaders of 55 confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world have gathered for the conference, the first to be held since the pandemic.

The conference began with an opening service of Matins. Rev. Charles Froh, who is serving as conference chaplain, led the liturgy while ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preached on John 7:53-8:11. “Jesus writes on this suffering, scarred earth, withered by human guilt and burdens, with the ink of His blood—the Word of His infinite forgiveness and love,” Chairman Voigt said. And just as Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, so too He is merciful to us: “I speak to you on behalf of Jesus,” Chairman Voigt concluded: “your sins are forgiven.”

Following the opening service, Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) brought greetings. The ELCK, which has more than 350,000 members, is hosting this year’s world conference. “It is with exceeding joy and gratitude that we as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya welcome you to Kenya for the 27th International Lutheran Conference,” said Archbishop Omolo. “We appreciate our fellowship with the ILC a lot. It has given us a forum to stand and walk with our fellow confessional sister churches…. May the Lord grant both increase and strength to the ILC.”

Left: ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo welcomes participants to Kenya. Right: Bishop Fidèle Mbunde (left) brings greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches, with translation provided by Bishop Ilunga Kendi Evariste (right).

The conference also received greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches. Bishop Fidèle Mbunde of the Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod expressed thanks on behalf of the union for the invitation to participate in this world conference. The union, which was founded in 2001, currently has ten member church bodies, with several others seeking membership. Two of these churches currently hold full membership in the ILC, Bishop Mbunde noted, and several others hold observer membership. One other is present at this conference as a guest. Bishop Mbunde expressed his hope that, in time, the union and all its churches would eventually enjoy membership in the ILC.

Keynote Address

Bishop Juhana Pohjola gives the keynote address.

The morning session continued with a keynote address from Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). His address was entitled “Church and Culture: The Devastating Effects of Progressive Socio-Political Ideology and Cultural Trends on the Church, with Special Attention to Recent Events in Finland.” In his talk, Bishop Pohjola used his own experiences as a jumping off point to discuss the ideological challenges which Christians increasingly face today. In 2021, the Prosecutor General of Finland charged Bishop Pohjola with hate crimes for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. A panel of judges acquitted him earlier this year, but the Prosecutor General has appealed that decision.

The issue is not merely about sexuality either, Bishop Pohjola explained. “The real problem goes much deeper than the sexual revolution,” he said. “Ideological tectonic plates have shifted during the past 200 years, and have brought to the surface the question: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ This is what we are facing in western societies, churches, and in the court room.”

ILC Chairman Voigt thanks Bishop Pohjola for his presentation while ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill looks on.

In a world which has lost its understanding of what it means to be human and denies the goodness of physical creation, the Church must continue to reject this neo-Gnostic cultural shift. “Our faith is an embodied faith, located in Christ Jesus, in His Words and gifts,” Bishop Pohjola said. “The order of creation is material and good.” And God uses that good creation as part of His work to accomplish salvation. “The order of redemption is incarnational,” Bishop Pohjola explained. “We proclaim that salvation has been brought to us by the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and His divine blood cleanses us of all our iniquities.”

“We have not chosen the time and place in which we live,” Bishop Pohjola continued, “but we have been given all the answers we need for our cultural challenges: the Embodied God; Embodied humanity. Embodied grace. Embodied community. Embodied witness…. I want to summarize our common joy and challenge, gift and mission into one sentence: Embodied Church in a disembodied culture!”

The morning concluded with a Bible study led by Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). Chairman Samiec, who also serves on the ILC’s Board of Directors as its European Region representative, discussed 1 Timothy 2:7-15.

Participants from around the world

The 2022 World Conference continues through September 16, 2022. Among the members and guests in attendance are the leaders of 55 churches, including:

  • ARGENTINA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA)
  • AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND: Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ)
  • BELGIUM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB)
  • BENIN: Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBE)
  • BOLIVIA: Christian Evangelical Church of Bolivia (ICEL)
  • BRAZIL: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB)
  • BURUNDI: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi (HELCB)
  • BURUNDI: Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod (ELA-SBU)
  • CANADA: Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC)
  • CHILE: Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile)
  • CONGO: Church of the Faithful Confessing Lutherans in Congo (CFCLCO)
  • COTE D’IVOIRE: Lutheran Church in Africa – Synod of Cote d’Ivoire (ELA-SCI)
  • DENMARK: Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD)
  • FINLAND: Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)
  • FRANCE: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (EELSF)
  • GERMANY: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK)
  • GHANA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG)
  • GUATEMALA: Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILG)
  • INDIA: India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC)
  • ISRAEL: Concordia Israel
  • JAPAN: Japan Lutheran Church (JLC)
  • KAZAKHSTAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Almaty (ELC-RK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya (ELCMK)
  • KOREA: Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK)
  • LATVIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB)
  • LIBERIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL)
  • LITHUANIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania (ELCL)
  • MADAGASCAR: Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM)
  • MEXICO: Lutheran Synod of Mexico (SLM)
  • NIGERIA: Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church Community (ELCC)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSIN)
  • NORWAY and ICELAND: Lutheran Church in Norway and Iceland (LKNI)
  • PANAMA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama (IELPA)
  • PARAGUAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELPA)
  • PERU: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru (IEL-P)
  • PHILIPPINES: Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
  • PORTUGAL: Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELP)
  • RUSSIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR)
  • RUSSIA: Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC)
  • RWANDA: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda (IELCR)
  • RWANDA: The Lutheran Mission in Africa – Synod of Thousand Hills (LMASTH)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Confessional Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (CLCSA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA)
  • SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC)
  • SUDAN and SOUTH SUDAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan/South Sudan (ELCSS/S)
  • SWEDEN: The Mission Province in Sweden (MPS)
  • TOGO: Lutheran Church of Togo (ELT)
  • UGANDA: Lutheran Church of Uganda(LCU)
  • UNITED KINGDOM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE)
  • URUGUAY: Lutheran Church of Uruguay (ILU)
  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)
  • VENEZUELA: Lutheran Church of Venezuela (ILV)

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On the death of Queen Elizabeth II

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is calling for prayer following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III.

Queen Elizabeth II reigned more than seven decades on the throne, faithfully serving God and His people in the vocation of monarch to which she found herself called. Along the way, she earned the love and respect of people across the globe. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, expressed his “deepest condolences to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth” during this time of sorrow.

The ILC has members churches in four nations over which the Queen served as monarch: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Several other nations in which ILC churches are present also have ties to the monarchy through the Commonwealth of Nations.

In a statement, Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE) praised the Queen’s long service “in the role in which she found herself as a follower of Jesus Christ,” and encouraged prayer especially “for His Majesty The King and all members of the Royal Family in their time of grief.”

“In this time of mourning, let us remember the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II marked by service in the name of the King of Kings who sacrificed Himself for all,” he said. “May our lives always be marked by service to one another. And may the crucified and risen Lord of Lords whom Her Majesty served be gracious and merciful to us all.”

Chairman Samiec, who also serves as the ILC’s Europe Region representative, offered the following prayer:

Almighty and gracious God, we give You thanks for Your loving kindness shown to Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth the Second, who having finished her course in faith, now rests from her labours in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Amen.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the leaders of ILC churches in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In a statement, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Timothy Teuscher thanked God for “all the blessings You granted Elizabeth, our Queen, during her long earthly life, for her many years of dutiful, sacrificial service to our nation and all the nations of the British Commonwealth, and especially for calling her to faith in Christ and preserving her in the confession of His holy name.”

President Teuscher is also Vice Chairman of the International Lutheran Council and the ILC’s North America Region representative.

Bishop Paul Smith of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCA/NZ) likewise issued a statement, giving thanks for Queen Elizabeth II’s “faithful Christian leadership both in the Commonwealth and throughout the world” and her “long faith-filled reign over us.”

Queen Elizabeth II regularly made reference to her faith in Christ throughout her reign, especially during her annual Christmas messages. “History teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves,” she noted in her 2011 message. For this reason, she said, “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith.”

“It is my prayer,” she concluded, “that… we would all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

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