Mathew Block serves as Communications Manager for the International Lutheran Council. He is also editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine, and formerly served as Communications Manager for Lutheran Church–Canada.
GUATEMALA – On January 26, 2019, the Lutheran Church in Guatemala (Iglesia Luterana en Guatemala – ILG) elected Rev. Ignacio Chan as its new president during the church’s 2019 Assembly in Cristo Rey.
President Chan President Chan succeeds Rev. Abdiel Orozco Aguirre, who was first elected as president of the ILG in 2015.
Also elected during the 2019 Assembly were Rev. Byron Paz as Vice President, Luís Mazariegos as Secretary, and Efraín García as Treasurer. The new officers were installed on January 26 by Rev. David Rodriguez, a former President of the Guatemalan church. President Chan officially took office on January 30.
“I put myself at your service as a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord, trusting in your prayers,” said President Chan in an email following his election. “With the help of God, we will work in harmony.”
The International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which the ILG is a member church, sent greetings to President Chan following his election. “Congratulations and God’s blessings on the election in your church,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). “St. Augustine once wrote on the duties of a bishop as follows: He may ‘reprehend the troublemakers, console the faint-hearted, take care of the weak, refute the adversaries, beware of entrapment, arouse the languid, restrain those looking for quarrels, put the vain in their proper place, appease those who argue with one another, teach the uneducated, help the poor, set free those oppressed, encourage the good, bear with the wicked, and—oh—love them all.’ May God give you this love!”
The Lutheran Church in Guatemala has approximately 4,000 members in congregations throughout Guatemala.
WORLD – In November 2018, Concordia Publishing House shipped thousands of copies of Luther’s Small Catechism to church bodies around the world as part of the publisher’s partnered work with the International Lutheran Council.
In total, 17,000 copies of the visual edition of the Small Catechism (with Explanation) were shipped to Lutheran church bodies around the world, including to churches in Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
“For 150 years, God has blessed CPH with the ability to help equip churches around the world with the resources they need to support theological formation and strengthen Lutheran identity,” said Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, President of Concordia Publishing House. “It’s a joy to partner with the International Lutheran Council in this important work. To God be the glory!” CPH is the world’s largest, continually-operating publisher of confessional Lutheran materials.
In addition to working together on the distribution of Lutheran resources internationally, the ILC and CPH also partner together on the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, a global initiative to train leaders for Lutheran churches around the world.
You can support the joint work of the ILC and CPH through online giving. Simply designate your gift for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program or another program of your choice.
You can also make donations by mail to the following address:
International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118
WORLD – As a new year gets underway, the International Lutheran Council and its partners are preparing for the first class of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP).
This two-year certificate program aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. The LLDP is a project of the International Lutheran Council working in cooperation with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), and Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).
“We’re are grateful for our partners in this project, and are excited to work with them in raising up a new generation of global Confessional Lutheran leaders,” said Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC. “We look forward to welcoming the LLDP’s first class of students in just a few weeks, and pray for God’s blessings on their studies.”
The first class of students in the LLDP will gather for instruction at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany from February 18-March 1, 2019. Future classes over the next two years will be held at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, Missouri.
Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki of CTSFW serves as Director of the Lutheran Leadership Program. For more information on the program, including details on student learning outcomes, a description of course requirements, and admission details, click here.
Breath of God, Yet Work of Man: First LLDP resource published
Course materials for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program are being prepared in partnership between CTSFW and CPH, with the first of these new resources just unveiled. Breath of God, Yet Work of Man: Scripture, Philosophy, Dialogue, and Conflict is now available for pre-order from CPH.
Edited by Rev. Charles P. Schaum and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (ILC General Secretary), the book features definitions, benefits, and discussions of Lutheran biblical interpretation. The authors explain tensions that underlie the use of Scripture in Christian witness, acts of mercy, and life together.
While developed especially for use in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, the book will be of interest to a much broader audience. “The authors have assembled a massive amount of material that will challenge readers to think more carefully about how we read the Holy Scriptures and confess the faith today,” notes Rev. Dr. John T. Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at CTSFW. “This is a provocative book that will engage both those within and outside of the Missouri Synod in coming to understand the development of modern hermeneutics.”
Support the training of Confessional Lutheran Leaders around the world
You can support the Lutheran Leadership Development Program and its work in preparing confessional Lutheran leaders for churches around the world through online giving. Simply designate your donation for “The Lutheran Leadership Development Program.” You can make a one-time gift or set-up recurrent giving.
You can also make donations by mail to the following address:
International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118
United States of America
SOUTH KOREA – The Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) held its 48th regular convention October 10-12 at Luther University in Yongin, South Korea, during which time the church celebrated 60 years of Lutheran witness in Korea. The gathering took place under the theme “Arise, Shine.”
The first Lutheran outreach in Korea took place in 1832, but sustained Lutheran ministry in the country did not take place until 1958, when The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) established mission work in the region. That work was undertaken by three American missionaries (Paul Bartling, Maynard Dorow, and Kurt Voss) and their families, along with one Korean clergyman, Dr. Won-Yong Ji, who had received his doctorate from the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
The church achieved independence in 1971. Today, the LCK counts more than 5,000 members in more than 50 churches across the country, though it has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands more through various mass-media mission programs, like the Lutheran Hour and the Bethel Bible study program.
LCMS President Matthew Harrison was present for the event, bringing greetings to the church as it celebrates 60 years of Lutheranism in Korea. On October 10, the two churches took the opportunity to reaffirm their ties to one another, with LCK President Young-Seok Jin and LCMS President Harrison signing an updated protocol document between the two churches. The document will guide continued cooperation between the two churches going forward.
The Lutheran Church in Korea is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC, was also present for anniversary celebrations in Korea.
The following article was written by Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt for the 2018 Christmas issue of The Canadian Lutheran magazine, and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. Voigt is Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.
Those shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem were tough guys. Any decent person of the time would have considered them outcasts—on par with thieves and robbers. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with them. So, of course, it is to these people in the fields that the angels first appear. Luther’s words here are most fitting: “This is the first sermon about the newborn little child, our Lord Jesus, that was brought by the angels from heaven to us here on earth.”
What kind of people were those shepherds? I am reminded of four objects that such shepherds may have carried on their person; and they say a lot about those people. And what they tell us is that these shepherds were very much like you and I today.
No doubt the shepherds carried a good knife on their belts. After all, a shepherd has to trim the hoofs of the sheep and he has to cut the sticks that close the gate at night. The Evangelist St. Luke writes: “They kept watch over their flock by night” (2:8). Back then, there were still some lions in the region around Bethlehem. And to protect the herd from the attack of lions that raided during the night, you needed at least a knife.
The shepherds were therefore tough guys. They were people who knew how to use knives and clubs well, often even frightening other people. He who is afraid often seeks to frighten others.
What are you afraid of? What makes your jackknife flip open? And how do you frighten others? Somebody once told me that we Germans are often considered to be quite anxious. Was it perhaps this “German angst” that so often caused Germans throughout history to break out their long “knives”? Is there such a thing as “Canadian angst”?
When the angel came to the shepherds, they were very much afraid. Yet the angel proclaims to them the opposite of fear and anxiety; he brings joy and peace. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day a Saviour…. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace” (Luke 2:10-11, 14).
The child in the manger, Jesus Christ, brings joy and peace despite the fear and anxiety so prevalent in our time.
A few weeks ago, we marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was the most horrendous war that the world had seen until then. Canadians and Germans opposed each other on the battlefields of Europe as bitter enemies. I am filled with gratitude that this last November the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel shook hands right there among the war graves.
In 1914, something unusual happened in France. The war was raging in its fifth month; more than a million casualties were already mourned. But on Christmas Eve, the soldiers on both sides simply stopped shooting. For this day, at least, they wanted peace. And the Germans began to sing: “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.” On the other side the English called out: “Well done, Fritzen!” and then they began to sing: “O holy night… it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.” Then they showed each other their little Christmas trees, and, when nobody was shooting, they dared to come out of their trenches. They exchanged gifts and put up their little Christmas trees for all to see. Later on, in No-Man’s-Land, they played soccer—unbelievable!
The birth of Christ works peace! God Himself makes peace for us by forgiving our sins. In the war this divine peace, for just a brief moment, became visible right there among the knives, the bayonets, and the machine guns. This story—it has become known as the “Christmas Peace of 1914”—is not recorded in many documents. The army commands on both sides tried to hush up the event, and they had some difficulty trying to restart the war in January. The units were re-assigned, because many of the men didn’t want to shoot anymore.
For a brief moment in history, the “knives” were put away and peace became a reality.
When I think of the shepherds, I also think of sheepskins. For me it’s hard to imagine that the shepherds did not present a soft, warm sheepskin to the Christ child. St. Luke writes: “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). It seems likely that the shepherds brought a sheepskin with them, but we can’t know for certain.
But what we do know is the following: Christmas is not about us presenting a gift to the Christ child; instead, the Child presents us with a white, pure sheepskin. For this purpose, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, became man: to give us the gift of the sheepskin of His love and forgiveness. His love for us men is warmer than any sheepskin. His love is so warm that it covers up all your guilt and takes away all your anxiety.
If you are sad during these Christmas holidays—perhaps because you’re alone, or because the festival is not turning out as joyful as you had hoped—then just think of the warm sheepskin of Jesus’ love for you. When others have offended you and you are angry, think of the warm sheepskin of Jesus’ love.
In those days, shepherds wore sandals that consisted of a leather sole tied to the feet by strings. These sandals have some significance for us. After they had witnessed the scene, the shepherds used these sandals to go out to various people to tell them of that wonderful child in the manger. St. Luke reports: “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (2:17).
The sandals are a reminder for us that at some time in the past, somebody did for us what the shepherds did in their day. Somebody brought that same message about the Child in the manger to Germany and to Canada. Let’s hope that these shepherds—the Greek word for shepherd is “pastor”—who first brought this Christmas message to Canada were wearing winter boots and not sandals! But we really should be grateful for the shepherds’ sandals; they brought us the Christmas message of the wonderful Child in the manger.
St. Mary shows us what we should do with the words of these shepherds: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Yes, the sandals of the shepherds are truly important. Speaking of these “sandals,” our Confessions say this: “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted” (Augsburg Confession, Article 5).
No doubt about it: a real shepherd has a real flute. St. Luke the Evangelist proclaims: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). Yes, I can easily imagine how the shepherds went through the night and played their flutes.
It brings to mind Luther’s words from one of his Christmas sermons: “Having heard a good sermon, sing a joyful hymn.” Why? Because the child in the manger, Christ Jesus our Lord, takes away our “knives” and grants us eternal peace. Because Jesus Christ grants us His forgiving love, which is white, soft, and warm like a sheepskin. Because He sends shepherds in their sandals to proclaim Christ’s love to this day.
For this reason, we sing and play the flute, we use drums along with violins, trumpets, organs, pianos and our voices to the best of our ability, whether that be in “old Germany” or among “God’s frozen people” in Canada.
ONLINE – The International Lutheran Council is a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world, and operates a number of programs that support confessional Lutheran mission and ministry across the globe. Want to support that work? Now you can through online giving on the ILC’s website.
You can make a one-time gift or set-up recurrent giving. You can also designate your donation for specific ILC programming, including:
Outreach in Wittenberg, Germany (supporting confessional Lutheran outreach in the birthplace of the Reformation)
The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (helping to train confessional Lutheran leaders from around the world)
Concordia Israel (supporting confessional Lutheran ministry in Israel)
Seminary education in Nigeria (supporting theological education in Nigeria)
Missionary support in Nigeria (supporting the missionary work of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria)
You can also designate your funds to assist the work of the ILC where needed most.
NIGERIA – From November 12-23, 2018, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) sponsored a visiting scholar to the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to provide guest lectures at Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Uyo. Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana) led two weeks of intensive teaching at the seminary following a request from LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong.
Every day during his time in Uyo, Dr. Masaki taught a three-hour course on the Lutheran Confessions for a class of sixteen; a two-hour course on the Lord’s Supper for a class of eight; and a one-hour course focusing on theological questions and answers (for the entire student body, about 65 students in all). Dr. Masaki also preached for chapel every day, focusing on the subjects of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Office of the Holy Ministry.
In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Masaki also participated in congregational visits and worship services on weekends, preached and participated in communion services, and even attended the wedding of a student as well as a traditional funeral.
“Perhaps I am overworking here everyday, including weekends,” suggested Dr. Masaki. “But that’s what I came here for. I am grateful for the opportunities of teaching, preaching, spending time with students and faculty, visiting local villages and congregations, and, of course, great time to spend with the archbishop.”
Dr. Masaki concluded his time in Nigeria by bringing greetings to the 39th Regular Council of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. The council, which took place November 23-25 in Obot Idim, met under the theme of “Called by Christ to Bear Fruit,” drawing on Romans 7:4-7. Among other subjects, the LCN discussed revisions to the church’s constitution as well as continuing training for seminary faculty.
Support for theological education is a key part of the International Lutheran Council’s programming. In addition to short-term projects like Dr. Masaki’s trip to Nigeria, the ILC has also recently launched a new program called the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP). The program, which is operated in partnership with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House, and Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), provides Lutheran church bodies around the world with an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology, as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Dr. Masaki is director of the LLDP.
In addition to theological training, the ILC has also begun to support Nigerian Missionary Pastors following a request from the Lutheran Church in Nigeria for aid in this area.
ANTWERP – The newly inducted and installed Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has named Darin Storkson as the ILC’s Deputy General Secretary, filling a post created following the ratification of the ILC’s new bylaws during the 2018 World Conference in Belgium. Storkson had already been unofficially functioning in the role for more than a year.
As a former diplomat with the International Committee of the Red Cross, a former foreign direct investment consultant, and a director in various international roles for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) for thirteen years, Storkson brings significant international experience and capacity to the ILC to engage and build partnerships with international church bodies.
“It’s a pleasure to officially welcome Darin as Deputy General,” said Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC. “I’ve worked directly with Darin for several years and look forward to serving with him in this new capacity. His expertise will be an invaluable asset to the International Lutheran Council as it faces ever-expanding opportunities to assist confessional Lutherans around the world in their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
For the last thirteen years, Storkson has served the LCMS in various capacities. From 2005-2011, Storkson served as a regional director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care. He then served as the Office of International Mission (OIM) Regional Director for Southern Asia and Oceania from 2011-2014, as Senior Regional Director for Asia from 2014-2016, and finally as Assistant Director of Church Relations in the Office of the President from 2016 to the present.
“Darin joined LCMS World Relief after the great Asian tsunami,” noted LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison. “His decades of experience living and working overseas with NGOs and churches have been an invaluable blessing. He has especially insisted on integrity and accountability in the use of funding, and he has been tireless in assisting partners with the building of administrative capacity.”
“This is a watershed moment for global Lutheranism,” says Storkson. “The solidly biblical and confessional theology of the ILC is attracting new Lutheran partners right and left, and we are embracing these exciting opportunities for new partnerships in the Gospel. The expansion of our international relationships has been a hallmark of the ILC in the last several years, and it is a tremendously exciting opportunity and blessed privilege to be part of such a great organization and contribute to the historic growth of confessional Lutheranism around the world.”
In his new position, Storkson will assist the ILC General Secretary Dr. Collver with the day-to-day management of the expanding work of the International Lutheran Council.
INDIA – On September 26, 2018, the Madras High Court ruled in favour of President Y. Suvisesha Muthu as the duly elected head of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC). President Muthu was elected in May 2017 but his administration had faced legal challenges by an opposing group.
The International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which the IELC is a member church, greeted news of the legal resolution with satisfaction. “We are overjoyed to be able to finally extend our formal recognition of your administration,” wrote ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Albert Collver in an October letter to President Muthu. “It is our fervent prayer that, under your continuing leadership, the IELC may advance towards an ever-strengthened unity of faith and confession, and that the hitherto endless strife and legal disputes that are so displeasing among Christian brothers may come to an end. May our Lord give you the grace necessary to bring this about and to guard and guide His Church in India.”
“The ILC wishes all the best for you and your presidency, and stands ready to support you in any way that we can,” they continued. “We pray that the Lord would bring those opposing your administration to repentance for the sake of His Church in India, and so that their own souls might avoid judgement in the afterlife.”
President Muthu was elected on May 26, 2017, receiving 35 of 65 ballots cast. Because of leadership challenges in the IELC in recent years, representatives from the IELC’s partner church, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), were on hand as observers to verify the vote, in addition to the IELC’s own election commissioner and presidential candidates. An installation service for President Muthu took place later that evening, with IELC Vice President Y. Sukumaran presiding.
“We are encouraged that faithful men like you and your fellow officers continue to tirelessly seek to reform the IELC administration,” wrote LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison in a letter to President Muthu after the September court decision. “We join you in looking forward to the day when the dissension and strife within the IELC has ceased.”
President Muthu succeeded President Gambeeram, who had previously been elected to office in 2014. As a result of internal disputes, the courts likewise had to declare his administration legitimate after legal challenges from opposing groups.
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