By ilconline

LCMS hosts church relations conference in Germany

Participants in the LCMS’ International Church Relations Conference (October 2023 in Wittenberg, Germany). Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – From October 9-13, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) hosted an International Church Relations Conference in Wittenberg, Germany, bringing together leaders of dozens of confessional Lutheran church bodies from around the globe. The theme for the event was “Confessional Lutheranism Under the Cross.”

The purpose of the conference was to “enhance unity in Christ and His Word in worldwide confessional Lutheranism through theological presentations, thoughtful discussion, invigorated friendship, and mutual support.”

In addition to many opportunities for worship, the conference featured nine sessions which engaged the conference theme in different ways. Presenters for these sessions included: LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison (“Luther under the Cross”); Rev. Dr. Roberto Bustamente of Seminario Concordia El Reformador in the Dominican Republic (“The Cruciform Pastoral Office”); Rev. Dr. Armin Wenz of Lutherische Theologische Hochschule Oberursel in Germany (“Confessional Subscription Under the Cross”); Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the LCMS’ Commission on Theology and Church Relations (“Godly Women and the Way of the Cross”); Rev. James Krikava, Associate Director of the LCMS’ Office of International Missions (“Liturgy, Music, and the Glory of the Cross”); Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (“Christian Community as the Answer to Diversity/Equity/Inclusion”); Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, LCMS Director of Church Relations (“Lutheran Strategic Planning: Shaping Vision without Shedding Theology”); Rev. Matthew Anker of Australia (“Mobilizing People and Building Teams through Change”); and a closing session led again by President Harrison.

Following the conclusion of the International Church Relations Conference, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) also met in Wittenberg for anniversary celebrations.

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Venezuelan Lutherans reelect president

ILV President Eduardo Flores (centre) and other members of the Venezuelan church’s newly elected Administrative Council. Photo: ILV.
Rev. Flores is installed as ILV president. Photo: ILV.

VENEZUELA – In November, the Lutheran Church of Venezuela (Iglesia Luterana de Venezuela – ILV) held its 60th plenary assembly in Puerto Ordaz, Guayana City, during which time the church reelected Eduardo Flores to another term as president.

“‘Here I am.’ That’s the only thing I can say after God, speaking through His church, has made pastor-president,” said President Flores. “I am completely sure that, just as God has previously defended His Church and this servant from the darkness and traps of the evil one, He will continue to do so over the next four years. Now we have to work, and let us do it according to our national motto: ‘In Christ united to serve.’ May God bless His church.”

President Flores was first elected to serve as president of the ILV during the church’s 59th plenary assembly in 2019. Prior to that, he served as vice president of the church. President Flores further serves as pastor of Iglesia La Santa Trinidad in Caracas. He was first ordained in 2008.

Participants in the ILV’s plenary assembly. Photo: ILV.

The plenary assembly also saw the election of Rev. Abel Garcia as vice president of the ILV, as well as elections for other positions on the church’s Administrative Council.

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Finnish Bishop and Member of Parliament acquitted in “Bible Trial” appeal

Bishop Juhana Pohjola (left) and Dr. Päivi Räsänen (right) at the appeal hearings in Helsinki. Photo: ELMDF.

FINLAND – Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) and Dr. Päivi Räsänen, Finnish Member of Parliament, have been acquitted on all charges in a unanimous decision by the Helsinki Court of Appeals. The two had been charged with hate crimes for their expression of historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

“For me, this has been not only a legal but also a spiritual battle,” Bishop Pohjola said. “It is important for our church to be able to teach publicly what we understand to be the Word of God, the created order, and natural law. I have a calling as a Christian, as a pastor, to guard the faith and to teach it publicly—and then to carry the cross. Carrying the cross is the price we pay in this age to be witnesses for Christ.”

Bishop Pohjola speaks to supporters outside the Helsinki Court of Appeals. Photo: ELMDF.

“We were united all the time with Dr. Räsänen,” Bishop Pohjola continued. “There was no discussion that we step back but instead wholeheartedly stand together for the Word of God, for the Gospel of Christ.”

The charges stemmed from a 2004 booklet written by Dr. Räsänen and published by Bishop Pohjola which articulates the historic Christian understanding of sexuality. Dr. Räsänen was also charged for two other statements, one of which was a tweet with an image of a Bible verse. The decision to prosecute the prominent Finnish politician and a Lutheran cleric drew widespread international concern over the state of religious freedom and free speech in Finland.

“While I celebrate this victory wholeheartedly, I’m also saddened at the thought of the enormous state resources expended over the last four years to prosecute us for nothing more than the peaceful expression of our Christian faith,” said Dr. Räsänen. “The basic human right to free speech remains under serious threat in Finland and around the world. No one should be punished for peacefully expressing their beliefs, and we are grateful that the court has upheld this core freedom.”

Dr. Räsänen speaks to reporters during Finland’s “Bible Trial.” Image: Alliance Defending Freedom.

“There have been some difficult moments,” Dr. Räsänen continued, reflecting on the toll more than four years of investigation and prosecution have taken. But, she said, “I decided that whatever comes—whatever the consequences will be—I will not give up. Because I felt that this is not only my opinion, it is the Word of God.”

Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen initially faced trial in 2022, during which time the Prosecutor General repeatedly questioned their religious beliefs about Scripture, hermeneutics, and sin. A panel of three judges ultimately ruled that they be acquitted on all charges, stating that “it is not the role of the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” But the prosecution appealed, leading to hearings at the Helsinki Court of Appeals from August 31 to September 1, 2023.

The decision from the Helsinki Court of Appeals to uphold the district court’s decision may not be the end of the story either. The prosecution has indicated it may seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Finland.

“We give thanks to God for the news that Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen have been acquitted,” said Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “Lutherans across the globe have watched the unfolding situation with grave concern since authorities first began investigating the pair in 2019. We are grateful for Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen’s bold witness to Christ in the face of government pressure. May God continue to bless and strengthen them as they wait to see whether the prosecution will again appeal the decision to a higher court.”

The International Lutheran Council has expressed strong support for Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen throughout the past four years as they endured investigation and trial. That support was notably seen in a 2021 public letter from the ILC signed by the leaders of 45 Lutheran church bodies from around the world. Representatives to the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya made another show of support for Bishop Pohjola when they elected him to serve as the new Chairman of the ILC.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola reads the new statement “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.” Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

WITTENBERG – As anniversary celebrations for the International Lutheran Council (ILC) drew to a close on October 14 in Wittenberg, Germany, the ILC released a new statement affirming its commitment to the authority of Holy Scripture, over and against the changing mores of contemporary society.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, publicly read the statement—entitled “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts”—near the end of proceedings. “We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture,” the document states. “During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”

The statement reaffirms the ILC’s unwavering commitment that “that the Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church.” The statement particularly highlights the ILC’s adherence to historic Christian teaching on issues related to the taking of human life; to marriage and human sexuality; to interchurch fellowship; to ordination; and more.

It further reaffirms its adherence to “an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible”—namely, the proclamation of “Jeus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.”

The document is available for download here. The full text of the statement also appears below.

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Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

A Statement on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council

Wittenberg, Germany
October 14, 2023

The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is a worldwide association of 58 confessional Lutheran churches in 52 countries 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 (ILC Bylaws II, A, B).

The modern origins of the International Lutheran Council can be traced back to delegates of confessional church bodies from Europe, North and South America, and Australia meeting in Uelzen, Germany in 1952, not long after World War II. Over the next forty years the ‘International Lutheran Theological Conference,’ as it was then called, organized many international gatherings of the heads of confessional Lutheran churches. The ILC as such came into existence on September 9, 1993, when 23 Lutheran church leaders from around the world adopted a constitution while gathered in Antigua, Guatemala. The theological origins of the ILC, however, are rooted in the confession of Martin Luther and the Lutheran fathers of the 16th century Reformation, including the courageous authors who concluded the Formula of Concord (XII:40) by stating:

In the sight of God and all Christendom, the entire Church of Christ, we want to testify to those now living and those who will come after us. This declaration…is our faith, doctrine, and confession. By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it.

The 21st century members of the International Lutheran Council continue to be inspired by the intrepid hearts—the fearless hearts—of those 16th century confessors who signed the Formula of Concord. The same spirit is alive today as the ILC celebrates its 30th anniversary under the theme “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.”

The ILC remains committed in word and action to the confessional basis and purpose articulated in its Constitution (Articles II and III) and Bylaws (Article II). We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture. During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Thus, at this anniversary we re-affirm: “The Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church” (Bylaws II, D).  As a result, we assert the following truths:

  • The Fifth Commandment against murder prohibits any deliberate harm of innocent human life, including abortion and euthanasia (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, a).
  • The Sixth Commandment against adultery affirms that marriage was created by God from the beginning as the life-long union of one man and one woman and for the procreation and nurture of children. Only within marriage are conjugal relations pleasing to God (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, b). In recent years the so-called “Culture Wars” have seen attempts to re-define marriage and what it means to be human as male and female. Holy Scripture teaches that “God created man in His own image… male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Natural law concurs.
  •  “Altar and pulpit fellowship between church bodies is only possible where there is a common confession of faith based on the Word of God. Where there are disagreements between church bodies regarding the Word of God, we shall not pretend that these divisions are unimportant or give a false witness of unity by practicing altar or pulpit fellowship” (cf. Bylaws II, D, 2, a).
  • Concerning the Office of the Ministry, we believe that while “all Christians—men and women—are redeemed and able to serve the Church in many ways, Holy Scripture requires that only men who are spiritually qualified in life and doctrine are to be called and ordained as pastors to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments” (Bylaws II, D, 2, b).

These certainly are not the only teachings of Holy Scripture, but these are particularly misunderstood, challenged, and rejected in our day, and so must be all the more boldly confessed by those who hold fast the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions.

There is, indeed, an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible, which we cling to above all things. This 30th anniversary celebration is taking place at St. Mary’s City Church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther preached. Luther was not only a professor at the University of Wittenberg, he was also called as a preacher to St. Mary’s parish. His reform of the mass drew upon his brilliant linguistic, musical, and liturgical skill. However, it was motivated primarily by the biblical doctrine of justification by grace. Whether in the church or the classroom, Luther proclaimed Jesus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.

This is the chief doctrine of the Bible by which the Church stands or falls. In this teaching each Christian lives as he or she receives forgiveness in word, water, bread, and wine. It is fitting that the celebration of this 30th anniversary begins where this Chief Article of Justification was re-discovered, clearly preached, confessed, and sung with intrepid hearts. The ILC therefore supports its member churches in preaching the Gospel to the entire world and at the same time furthers “united diaconal action through intentional acts and programs of mercy in response to human need and suffering” (Bylaws II.2).

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

– 2 Timothy 4:1-2 –


Issued on Behalf of the International Lutheran Council by its Board of Directors

Chairman: Bishop Juhana Pohjola
Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland

Secretary: Bishop/President John Donkoh
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana

Africa: Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo
Evangelical Lutheran in Kenya

Asia: President Antonio Reyes
Lutheran Church in the Philippines

Europe: Chairman George Samiec
Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

Latin America: President Alceu Alton Figur
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay

North America: President Timothy Teuscher
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: President Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

General Secretary: Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill
International Lutheran Council

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Looking backward, looking forward

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee speaks gives the keynote address during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) anniversary celebrations continued the afternoon of October 14 with a keynote address by Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and a current member of the ILC’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Bugbee’s lecture was entitled: “Treasuring the Treasure: Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council.” He began by considering the motivation that drove Martin Luther and the early reformers—namely, “that the Church must be devoted to the eternal salvation of people and must, above all, hold out the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ as the One who brings God’s righteousness to us.”

“‘The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God,’” Dr. Bugbee reflected, quoting the 95 Theses. “That is really the heartbeat of Lutheran proclamation and church life. It needs to remain the heartbeat of what we preach and how we believe and live. It needs to remain the heartbeat, even though over 500 years have passed since Luther’s Reformation uncovered the treasure anew. It needs to remain the heartbeat among those who come after us for long as the world endures.”

Luther preaches Christ crucified. Lower panel of the Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach the Elder and Cranach the Younger, 1547.

It was this same “foundational conviction which brought representatives of confessional Lutheran churches together in the North German city of Uelzen in 1952,” he continued, “to initiate a series of theological conferences that decades later morphed into the formal creation of the International Lutheran Council.” Dr. Bugbee went on to trace the evolution of the ILC over the decades, leading to the eventual reorganization of the International Lutheran Theological Conference—as it was then known—as the International Lutheran Council in Antigua, Guatemala in 1993. It is this the anniversary of this reorganization that the ILC is celebrating in 1993.

Since then, Dr. Bugbee noted, the ILC has grown to be an important voice for confessional Lutherans around the world—providing news, information, and resources; developing public statements; supporting theological education; and engaging in biblically faithful ecumenical dialogue, among other important work. But in everything it does, the ILC is and must remain motivated by the same thing that motivated Luther and the early Reformers: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

“It will not do for us simply to make passing reference to ‘Gospel” in our church life, or to redefine it as some general form of acceptance which has the effect of saying ‘Yes’ to anything and everything people wish to believe and do,” Dr. Bugbee said. “Nor can it be our way to set aside the apostolic proclamation of repentance and forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in favour of focusing instead on climate change, on obscuring the biblical distinctions between man- and womanhood, or on conforming the church’s primary message to ever-changing political and social agendas.”

“Something has gone wrong in a Lutheran church,” he noted, “where there is seemingly endless talk of concepts like love and acceptance and inclusivity, but where God’s people are not called to repent of their sin and to find their joy in the Christ who gave His life to win their pardon and bring them to God.” Instead, he argued, Lutherans must commit themselves ever more deeply to Scripture and draw their life from it; and to the Lutheran Confessions as well, as a true and faithful witness to that Word of God.

In conclusion, Dr. Bugbee prayed: “May God in His mercy bless our Council, all its member churches and leaders, all its affiliated seminaries and their teachers, with an enduring commitment to His Christ, His Gospel, His written Word in Scripture, and the Lutheran Confessions which reflect the heartbeat of the Scriptures! This commitment will always be the most precious contribution we could ever make to the life of the neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and countries into which the God of salvation has placed us.”

The full text of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation will be released online at a later date.

Honouring ILC leaders

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (left) and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt are recognized for their service to the International Lutheran Council.

At the conclusion of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation, the ILC turned its attention to honouring two leaders who have played an important role in the ILC’s recent history: outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill and the ILC’s former Chairman, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola addressed each of these leaders individually, highlighting their contributions to the growth of the ILC and its maturation into the strong voice for confessional Lutheranism worldwide that it has become. Chairman Pohjola and Dr. Bugbee then presented Bishop Voigt and Dr. Quill each with a plaque honouring their service.

Regional Perspectives on the Work of the ILC

ELCE Chairman George Samiec.

The afternoon continued with a panel of speakers who provided regional perspectives on the work of the ILC today and what that work might look like in the future. Panelists included Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England – ELCE); Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya – ELCK); President Alceu Alton Figur (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay – IELP); and President Matthew Harrison (The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod – LCMS). All four also serve on the ILC’s board of directors.

Chairman Samiec introduced the topic for discussion, asking: “What might the church be doing in your region, and globally, by 2030?”—that is to say, by the 500th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 2030. Chairman Samiec noted that the European region has been particularly concerned lately with the reemergence of armed conflict and increased political tension between European nations. The question of how churches respond not only to the conflict but also to one another takes on new importance, he noted, as member churches can find themselves embedded in countries on opposing sides of these conflicts.

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo.

Archbishop Omolo discussed some of the challenges facing Lutherans in Africa and in other developing regions more generally: namely, the pressure of external organizations that offer funding and grants to churches but undermine those churches’ adherence to the authority of Scripture. For that reason, Archbishop Omolo praised the ILC’s focus on bolstering seminary education and church worker formation. As a result of this work, he said, “I see the future of confessional Lutheranism in Africa becoming more and more strong.” And this strength can be seen in the growing number of ILC member churches in Africa today.

IELP President Alceu Alton Figur.

President Figur spoke on the growth and strong community present in Latin American Lutheranism. He noted, for example, that when the ILC was reorganized as a council in 1993, the region counted seven church bodies as members. Today, it counts eleven. And the cooperation between churches in the region—on seminary education, for example—is giving birth to increasingly fruitful mission work abroad. This missionary impulse, he noted, is itself an outworking of the missionary work of confessional Lutheran missionaries in Latin America a century ago. “We are together with you,” President Figur encouraged participants. “Together in the same faith, in the same confession of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

Finally, President Harrison brought a North American perspective to the reflections. “It is a desperate time in Western Society,” he said, acknowledging the challenges of the contemporary age. But even this can lead to greater unity in the church, as confessional Lutherans learn to stand together against these challenges. And while there are challenges in the West—declining numbers of pastoral students, for example—he noted that cooperation between ILC churches is helping churches to stand strong together. Brazil, he noted, has begun to send some of its seminary graduates to serve in the United States—a testament both to the missionary zeal of the Brazilian church and also the need in the United States to serve growing immigrant communities.

As the ILC looks to the future, President Harrison reflected, we need to work together in this cooperative way, proactively recognizing our unique strengths and applying them wherever there is need. “We need to recognize the unique capacities of the ILC,” he said—resources such as theological training capacity, language abilities, and more—“and bring them to bear on specific circumstances.”

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: New General Secretary installed

Participants gather for ILC anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – On the morning of October 14, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz was installed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), during a festive service of Matins at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg marking the ILC’s 30th anniversary as a council.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is installed as General Secretary by ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

“I want to thank you for your confidence,” Dr. Schulz said in an address to attendees later in the day. “Being Book of Concord Lutherans, we all need to know the Book of Concord. That is something it is my ambition to promote as much as possible in our churches: Book of Concord Lutheranism, that unites us all around this foundation that has been laid, Jesus Christ. I want to promote—to proclaim—our Lutheranism and preserve it, but also to protect it.”

“To accomplish this task, I ask for your support, and I ask especially for your prayers,” Dr. Schulz continued. “Thank you very much, and God bless you.”

Outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill preaches.

Serving as liturgist and officiating over the installation of Dr. Schulz was ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The ILC’s outgoing General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill, preached for the anniversary service, reflecting on John 10:1-18. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada served as an assisting minister, and Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England served as lectors. President Alceu Alton Figur of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay bore the processional cross, with other members of the ILC’s board of directors also participating in the procession.

Special music—including choral music and a brass ensemble—were provided by cantor and organist Georg Mogwitz and the choir of St. Lukas church in Leipzig.

Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber is installed by LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

The service also saw the formal installation of Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber of South Africa as pastor of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), which operates the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. The ILC is a full partner in the society, alongside The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). LCMS President Matthew Harrison officiated over the installation of Dr. Weber.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher leads a prayer of dedication for the ILC’s Accreditation Agency.

A special prayer of dedication for the ILC Accreditation Agency (ILCAA) was also held during the service. The ILCAA will assist seminaries and other educational institutions in providing a quality theological education grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The ILC’s Chief Accreditation Officer, Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, led the prayer.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions. While the ILC is celebrating 30 years since its reorganization as a “council,” the full history of the organization goes back to 1952.

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Dr. Schulz appointed new ILC General Secretary

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is welcomed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council by outgoing General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill.

WORLD – Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz has been appointed the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). His installation will take place October 14 during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz

“I am honoured to have been asked to serve as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” Dr. Schulz said. “Today, the task of promoting and nurturing confessional Lutheran identity worldwide is as important as it has ever been, and I am proud to do my part in that endeavor alongside the member churches of the ILC.”

Dr. Schulz is Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA). He further serves the seminary as Dean of Graduate Studies; Director of the Ph.D. in Missiology program; and Director of International Studies. Dr. Schulz will continue to serve in these positions even as he takes on his new role as ILC General Secretary.

“We thank God for Dr. Schulz and his willingness to serve as General Secretary,” said ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. “Dr. Schulz is an excellent theologian, outstanding seminary professor, and experienced missionary, who is well-acquainted with confessional Lutheran churches around the world. I’m sure that I speak on behalf of all ILC churches when I say we look forward to working closely with Dr. Schulz in the future and benefitting from his leadership in these challenging times, as together we give a good confession to Christ and His Word.”

Dr. Schulz succeeds Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, who recently announced his decision to step down as General Secretary. “I am wholly grateful that the Lord has gifted Dr. Detlev Schulz to the ILC as General Secretary,” Dr. Quill noted. “His theological depth and commitment to confessional Lutheran theology is complemented by his extensive international experience. His relaxed and unassuming manner with people of all stations has made him a true pastor, missionary, and professor—and now also, ILC General Secretary. He is ideally suited to meet the complex ecumenical demands and challenges on the international scale that this role brings with it.”

Originally from South Africa, Dr. Schulz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; a Master of Divinity from the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany; a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and a Doctor of Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Schulz began serving as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in 1998. Previously, he served in parish ministry in Germany and as a missionary in Botswana. He has published widely in the areas of missions and systematic theology.

Dr. Schulz brings to his new role a deep familiarity with confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world, having travelled and taught extensively throughout Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia. In his role as Dean of Graduate Studies at the Fort Wayne seminary, Dr. Schulz has also cultivated relations with many leaders of confessional Lutheran church bodies across the world.

In addition, as the son of the late Rev. Dr. Georg Schulz—founding bishop of the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa—he has a personal connection to the early history of the International Lutheran Council. Bishop Schulz attended many gatherings of what would eventually become the ILC, beginning with the third such conference in 1963.

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Dr. Quill stepping down as ILC General Secretary

Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya. (Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

WORLD – Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill has announced his decision to step down as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

“We all feel deep gratitude and appreciation for Dr. Quill’s leadership over the past four years,” said ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. “He has an unwavering commitment of service to the Gospel of Christ Jesus and His Church. Dr. Quill’s long experience teaching Lutheran doctrine and our liturgical heritage in Lutheran church bodies across five continents, his passion to grow the ILC, and his warm and joyful personality have all been a great blessing to us. We thank our Lord for our dear brother and his faithful service.”

Dr. Quill was appointed General Secretary by the ILC’s Board of Directors during meetings in Baguio City, Philippines in 2019. His tenure over the past four years has seen the ILC continue to grow as an important voice for confessional Lutheranism on the world stage. Activities which took place during Dr. Quill’s tenure as General Secretary include the development of the ILC’s Accreditation Agency; the graduation of the first students from the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program; major activities in defense of religious liberty; the authorization of continued dialogue with Roman Catholics on the international level; and the 2022 World Conference in Kenya.

“I want to express my sincere thanks to the International Lutheran Council for allowing me to serve our Lord as General Secretary of this marvelous confessional Lutheran association,” Dr. Quill writes in a farewell letter to the ILC’s Board of Directors. “You will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”­

Dr. Quill notified members of the Board of Directors earlier this year of his intention to retire from service as General Secretary. He explains in his letter that he accepted the position with the intention of helping the ILC through a significant transitional period, a period he anticipated would take about three years.

“Where has the time gone?” he writes. “As I write this letter, my tenure with the ILC is one month short of four years. I still consider it a joy and privilege to serve as General Secretary. However, it is time for me to step aside and for a new General Secretary to be appointed.”

Dr. Quill goes on to thank ILC staff and members of the Board of Directors, both for their assistance to him personally and for the work they undertake on behalf of confessional Lutherans worldwide.

The International Lutheran Council will formally announce Dr. Quill’s successor in the next few days, and the new General Secretary will be installed during ILC anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14.

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LLDP celebrate more graduates, welcomes new students

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Daniel Mono (front, second from left) and LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo (front, second from right) celebrate their graduation from the LLDP program. Among those pictured are LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (back left), ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill (front left), and Concordia Theological Seminary President Lawrence Rast (front right).

USA – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) celebrated its second commencement during its most recent session earlier this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana—and at the same time welcomed new students into the program.

Graduating were Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) and Assistant Bishop Daniel Mono of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD). Each received a Certificate of Theology in Lutheran Leadership.

The commencement service was conducted by the LLDP’s Director Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, with ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill also addressing the graduates. President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, who sits on the LLDP’s council, brought greetings. Additional greetings by letter were shared from ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola and former ILC General Secretary Albert Collver. The first four graduates of the LLDP, who completed the program in November 2022, also sent brief words of congratulations.

Dr. Masaki described the graduates’ theses as “noteworthy and quite relevant.” Bishop Maragelo wrote on “The Rise, Decline, and Hopeful Future of a Confessional Lutheran Church: The LCSA in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Assistant Bishop Mono’s thesis was: “The Growing Lay Ministry Movement in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese: Its Theological Evaluation, and Suggestions for the Future.”

The Value of the LLDP

“When this program was introduced to me, I was skeptical,” LCSA Bishop Maragelo admitted. “I did not know what it was, yet I was asked to nominate men to participate in this training. I decided my deputy and I should attend so that we would know what this was all about before sending others.”

“It was heartwarming to be welcomed so warmly by such friendly, humble, and open servant-minded lecturers,” he continued. “Finding oneself among other diverse African Lutheran men of God as fellow students was a blessing from God of its own kind. The program was the manifestation of God Himself at work through dedicated servant leaders. The courses were at a high academic proficiency, yet also comprehensive and practical. The richness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was shared.”

“As a graduate, I now proudly advocate for the LLDP without a shadow of doubt,” Bishop Maragelo concluded. “What we were given will never go to waste for the future of our church—for the LCSA, in particular, as well as for the other churches who have sent participants. The richness of the Gospel will be proclaimed in our pulpits, taught in our seminaries, and shared wherever we get a chance.”

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Mono, LCSA Bishop Maragelo, and LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki.

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Mono also had positive words to say about the program. “The LLDP gave me the opportunity to visit Wittenberg and to learn many things about the history of Lutheranism and Martin Luther’s life,” he explained. “I was not deeply rooted in confessional Lutheran theology in my own theological background, because I was raised in liberal Lutheranism and my bachelor and master’s degrees in theology came from a liberal seminary in Tanzania. Only the Doctor of Ministry program at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, USA) had given me basic confessional Lutheran theology.”

“The LLDP helped me to go deeper into the Book of Concord and confessional theology,” he explained. “Now I have deep confidence in identifying myself as a confessional Lutheran leader. I am able now to distinguish between real Lutheranism and those who call themselves Lutheran but do not hold to the Lutheran confessions.”

Dr. Mono noted that the courses in the LLDP were very helpful for his own service to the church. “The issues of church fellowship; stewardship and accountability; planning and task management; Lutheran liturgy and hymnody; the Office of the Holy Ministry and the means of grace… these were all very important subjects taught by competent instructors,” he said. “Moreover, our time together in the LLDP was very interactive; I was given opportunities to learn from others. Hearing the experiences of other Lutheran church bodies was very educational and has helped me to evaluate my own church body. I will use what I have gained in this program to serve my church. My hope is that more leaders will be given the opportunity to participate in the LLDP. This will help our church bodies to be strong and identify as confessional Lutherans.”

Bishop Maragelo and Assistant Bishop Mono both expressed their heartfelt thanks to the International Lutheran Council, to Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne), and to the LLDP’s Director, Dr. Masaki.

A new class of students

Rev. Dr. Paul Grime teaches a course on Lutheran liturgy and hymnody.

The commencement ceremony took place near the end of the LLDP’s most recent two-week session, which was held May 22 to June 2, 2023 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne (CTSFW). Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Dean of Chapel for CTSFW and the project director of the Lutheran Service Book, taught the first week’s course on “Issues in Lutheran Liturgy and Lutheran Hymnody.” LLDP Director Masaki taught on “The Lord’s Supper” during the second week.

“Our May/June sessions brought much joy for me for a variety of reasons,” commented Dr. Masaki. “That two more worthy leaders of the first cohort have completed the program is a tremendous joy. Bishop Maragelo was the leader of our first cohort. Dr. Mono also played an important part in the group, and is now serving as Assistant Bishop in his own church.”

“But on top of it all, I was also delighted in welcoming students for the second cohort,” Dr. Masaki continued. “The fact that the LLDP is continuing in this way is such a blessing and gift from the Lord. I am thankful to the Lord for the leadership of the ILC in supporting this program.”

LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (right) poses with students during the most recent round of classes.

As a result of visa issues, not all new students were able to attend the most recent session in Fort Wayne. But the students newly enrolled in the LLDP, and those still finishing studies from the first class, hail from twelve church bodies in nine countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, South Sudan/Sudan, and Tanzania.

With the most recent commencement service, six students have now graduated from the program, with another three expected to graduate in 2024.

The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a graduate-level program of the International Lutheran Council dedicated to equipping confessional Lutheran leaders around the world with the theological and practical knowledge necessary to serve their church bodies effectively.

You can support the work of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program by making a donation online. You can also mail a donation by cheque to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46850 USA

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