ILC announces new program to support Lutheran theological education worldwide

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is pleased to announce a new program dedicated to supporting Lutheran theological education worldwide: the International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency (ILCAA).

“Lutherans from around the world—both within and outside the International Lutheran Council—have told us that they are in need of assistance in the development of pastoral training and theological education,” explains the ILC’s General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill. “This new program will help equip Lutheran seminaries and colleges worldwide to offer rigorous academic theological training, grounded in the authority of Scripture and in the Lutheran Confessions.”

The ILCAA is not intended to replace existing regional governmental accreditation, but instead to complement it, providing a basis for internationally recognized confessional Lutheran theological education. A key component of this is the development of a recommended core curriculum. Accreditation standards will also address such areas as faculty, spiritual formation, student evaluation, library resources, long-term planning, administration, financial stability, and accountability.

The rollout of an internationally recognized accreditation program will also ensure that students who wish to go on to pursue higher education at another institution have transcripts from accredited institutions.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher.

Spearheading the new program will be Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, who has accepted a call to serve as the ILCAA’s Chief Accreditation Officer. In addition to serving as a missionary with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and as Academic Dean at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Dr. Schumacher has served as an adjunct professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana since 2011. His doctoral thesis focused specifically on the question of Lutheran theological accreditation in the African context.

“It’s a joy to be joining the ILC to help strengthen the work of Lutheran seminaries and theological institutes across the world,” said Dr. Schumacher. “The ILCAA will play a major role in the renewal of global Lutheran theological education, equipping churches to train leaders and church workers faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency comes in response to a resolution of the ILC’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference in the Philippines, which called for the development of a common theological curriculum for confessional Lutherans across the globe. A committee was subsequently struck to consider the question in greater detail. Members of the committee included Rev. Dr. Daniel Gard (North America); Dr. Steven Schumacher (North America; Africa); Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Europe); and Rev. Dr. Alexey Strelstov (Eurasia). Additional advisory members included President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (Africa); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Director of Theological Education, Rev. Dr. Arthur Just (North America); Brazil’s Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden (Latin America); President Antonio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (Asia); the United States of America’s Dr. James Wagner (North America); and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Chairman of the ILC Seminary Relations Committee). ILC General Secretary Quill also participated as an ex-officio member.

Following the committee’s work and recommendations, the ILC’s Board of Directors approved the creation of the ILCAA in April 2021.

Additional information on the program, including the application process, will be made available at a later date.

You can support confessional Lutheran theological education and the work of the International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency through online giving (select “International Seminary Accreditation Program”). You may also send a cheque by mail to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, IN  46850

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American Lecture Tour by Bishop Juhana Pohjola

USA – In November 2021, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola will visit the United States of America for a lecture tour sponsored by the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

On August 1, 2021, Dr. Pohjola was consecrated Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). He enters the role at a challenging time: Bishop Pohjola faces criminal charges in Finland for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

Should it be illegal to identify homosexual activity as sinful? That’s the question facing Bishop Pohjola now, seventeen years after the booklet was first published. He and the booklet’s author, Dr. Päivi Räsänen (a Finnish Member of Parliament), have been charged by Finland’s Prosecutor General with “incitement against a group of people.”

What can we learn from Bishop Pohjola’s story? How should we respond to a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christian beliefs? And what does Scripture have to say to us about being persecuted on account of our faith in Christ? Come hear Bishop Pohjola in person to find out.

There are three opportunities to hear Bishop Pohjola speak:

  • November 10, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Washington, D.C at the office of the Alliance Defending Freedom
  • November 13, 2021 (9:30 a.m.) in Fort Wayne, Indiana at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • November 16, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Boston, Massachusetts at First Lutheran Church

Those wishing to advertise the event in their local congregation can download a poster and bulletin inserts (black and white/colour) here.

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New Bishop for Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand

Bishop Elect Paul Smith (Image: LCA)

AUSTRALIA – On October 1, the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) elected Rev. Paul Smith as its new bishop. The election came during the LCA’s 20th Convention of General Synod, which is being split into two parts: one online in October 2021, and a second in-person gathering scheduled for 2022.

Bishop Elect Smith was ordained in 1988, and has served in parishes and school ministry in Queensland and South Australia. At the time of the election, Rev. Smith was serving a temporary placement at St Peter’s Lutheran College Indooroopilly. He previously served as bishop of the LCA’s Queensland District from 2015-2021.

Also on the ballot for president was Rev. Matt Anker, LCA Assistant to the Bishop for International Mission. The nominees were selected at the LCA’s General Pastors Conference in July.

Bishop Elect Smith succeeds Bishop John Henderson who announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking reelection. The transition in leadership will take place towards the end of the year. More information on Bishop Elect Smith is available from the LCA here.

Also elected during this online portion of the Convention of General Synod was Rev. Neville Otto to serve as Assistant Bishop of the LCA. Rev. Otto succeeds Rev. Dr. Andrew Pfeiffer, who did not stand for reelection as Assistant Bishop. Rev. Dr. Stephen Pietsch was also on the ballot.

The LCA’s 20th Convention of General Synod’s theme verse is Isaiah 55:3—“…come to me, listen, that you may live.” The convention will reconvene in-person in 2022.

The Lutheran Church of Australia, which includes the Lutheran Church of New Zealand, is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

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SELK’s Bishop Emeritus, former ILC Vice Chairman, enters into glory

SELK Bishop Emeritus Jobst Schöne. (Image: SELK)

GERMANY – On September 22, 2021, Rev. Dr. Jobst Schöne, Bishop Emeritus of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) finished his earthly race. He was 89 years old.

The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Chairman, Hans-Jörg Voigt, is also Bishop of SELK, and shares the following words on the passing of Dr. Schöne: “Last Tuesday Jobst Schöne called me by phone to say good-bye and farewell. God gave me grace to visit him one last time on Tuesday afternoon with the Body and Blood of Christ. I have never experienced such a clear and peaceful time in the last hours of one’s life. His last words to me were the following: ‘I am not sure, but if there is the possibility during eternal worship, I will pray for you.’ And I answered: ‘Thank you, and I will see you soon!’”

Bishop Voigt continues: “Together with his family we are feeling both sadness and joy together—sadness because we will miss him very much, and joy because we know he has been welcomed into eternity by his Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Dr. Schöne was born on October 20, 1931 in Naumburg (Saale). After finishing school, he pursued theological studies at universities and seminaries in Bethel, Tübingen, Oberursel, and Münster. From 1957-1958, he served as an assistant at the Ecumenical Institute in Münster.

He was ordained in 1959 and completed his vicarage in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. He served in Cologne from 1961-1962, before being called as pastor of St. Mary’s Evangelical Lutheran in Berlin-Zehlendorf and Holy Ghost Lutheran in Berlin-Spandau, a position in which he served from 1962-1975.

While serving in Berlin, he would go on to receive a doctorate in theology from the University of Münster in 1968. He later received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 1978.

From 1973-1985, Dr. Schöne served as superintendent of SELK’s Berlin district. On November 3, 1985, he was elected the national Bishop of SELK, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1996. During his tenure as bishop, Dr. Schöne expanded the ecumenical relations of the SELK, including through his involvement with the International Lutheran Council. He served as a frequent lecturer at ILC events from 1970 on, eventually serving two terms as Vice Chairman (1991-1995) followed by one as secretary. He also oversaw the merger of the Evangelical Lutheran (Old Lutheran) Church—a church body in former East Germany—into SELK in 1991 following German reunification.

Dr. Schöne was the author of several books, and his writing has been collected into two anthologies. In a 1994 pastoral letter, he defended SELK’s adherence to historic Christian teaching in rejecting female ordination.

He continued to teach and lecture in Germany and abroad following his retirement, and continued serving as a preacher and liturgist in local services. He celebrated his 60th ordination anniversary in 2019, where he—at 88 years old—preached and led the liturgy. He continued to preach even thereafter, giving his final sermon only the Sunday before his death.

Dr. Schöne is remembered by his wife, Ingrid, and three children.

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The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

Former President of Lutheran Church of Australia passes on to glory

LCA President Emeritus Lance Steicke (Image: Lutheran Church of Australia).

AUSTRALIA – Rev. Dr. Lance Graham Steicke, former president of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), has passed on to glory at the age of 88.

Dr. Steicke was born in Murray Bridge on February 19, 1933. He studied at Concordia College in Adelaide and Concordia Seminary, leading to his ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia—a predecessor body of the current LCA—in 1955. He spent four years as a pastor in Loxton before moving to New Zealand where he served for the next twenty years, including fifteen years as president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand. He further served as director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV before accepting the role of director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia.

In 1987, Dr. Steicke was elected president of the Lutheran Church of Australia, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1990.

In addition to being a regular participant in the gatherings of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) during his tenure, Dr. Steicke and the Lutheran Church of Australia also hosted the 16th Conference of the ILC in Adelaide, Australia in September 1995.

Dr. Steicke is particularly remembered for his work on Aboriginal reconciliation in Australia as well as for his contributions to ecumenical dialogue. Following his service as president of the LCA, Dr. Steicke spent three years (2000-2003) as president of Australia’s National Council of Churches, an organization he had helped found in 1994. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his service to ecumenism and the Lutheran Church.

Additional information on Dr. Steicke’s life and service to the church is available on the LCA’s website here.

The Lutheran Church of Australia is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Eight dead after flash flood at Ethiopian seminary

Flooding at Mekane Yesus Seminary.

ETHIOPIA – Eight people, including three children, are dead following flash flooding at Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa on August 17, 2021.

“We request your prayers in this tragic moment,” the seminary writes. “It is with heavy hearts to lose eight and say goodbye.”

In addition to the tragic loss of life, there is extensive damage to seminary property, including residences. The seminary reports damage to 21 buildings, to roads, and to other infrastructure. Multiple families and students have been displaced, and the seminary was forced to suspend classes in the aftermath. Mekane Yesus Seminary is a theological institute of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), the world’s largest Lutheran church body.

In a letter to leaders of the EECMY and the seminary, General Secretary Timothy Quill of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) expressed condolences and assured the Ethiopian church that Lutherans around the globe are naming them in prayer. “Our shared grief over the loss of life and property is deep,” he wrote. “However, for those who died in the flood, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we do not grieve as others who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus who died and rose again, and at His coming He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). And as far as the loss of property, that can and will be replaced. We pray that God would open the hearts of His people to support the rebuilding of the seminary, and are confident that with His help, Mekane Yesus will emerge stronger than ever, trusting in Him after whom the seminary is named.”

“Our prayer is that you will find encouragement and strength to meet the challenging days ahead, knowing that it is our Lord’s Church and that He loves His Bride and her seminary,” Dr. Quill continued. “He promised to be with you always to the end of the age. It is our ascended Lord who gives the gifts of pastors for works of service to His Church (Ephesians 4:7-12). The Lord has given the EECMY the gift of a marvelous seminary in which faithful pastors will continue to be trained to preach the Gospel to the lost and give evangelical pastoral care to His faithful baptized children.”

The Stinnets’ home at Mekane Yesus Seminary was completely flooded.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), a member church of the ILC, supports theological education at the Addis Ababa seminary through student scholarships and the provision of missionary professors at the school. One of those missionaries, Rev. Eric Stinnett, barely escaped from the flood with his wife and children. As soon as they realized what was happening, he and his wife sent their eight-year old running for higher ground, while their sixteen year-old carried the three-year-old to safety through waist-high water. Their twelve-year-old was not home at the time and was not endangered. Rev. Stinnet and his wife, meanwhile, got out with a few personal belongings just as the water reached chest height. They lost almost everything else.

“We are truly thankful that our Lord spared our lives,” said Rev. Stinnet. “While we did lose much of our possessions, they can all be eventually replaced. The situation is much more difficult for many of the other families affected by the flood.”

“Even though, as Christians, our mourning is not hopeless, we still do mourn,” Rev. Stinnet continued. “The loss of life is still very painful. The families who lost loved ones need our prayers and the continued comfort of the Gospel. The Good News of salvation in Christ is the only thing that can make sense of this kind of loss.”

Under the blessing of God, the EECMY and the International Lutheran Council have drawn increasingly close in recent years, with EECMY guests regularly in attendance at ILC events. 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 the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions.

Prayer: Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts. Your ways are not our ways. In Your wisdom, You have permitted this tragic flooding to befall the people of Ethiopia. We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor their faith in You fail, but sustain and comfort them. Console the bereaved. Bring hope and healing. And guide the restoration work still to come, that Mekane Yesus Seminary would be equipped to continue to raise up faithful pastors to care for the Church in Ethiopia and proclaim the mercy of Christ. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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A Call to Prayer for Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging prayer for the people of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to rule.

The recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has been followed by the rapid collapse of the nation’s democratic government as the Taliban takes control of the country. There have been multiple reports of revenge killings. Many who wish to flee have been unable to do so.

There is widespread international concern that the freedoms of women, Christians, and other minority groups will be wiped out as the country reverts to the brutal form of government which characterized the Taliban’s previous rule of Afghanistan.

In light of these events, we encourage Christians around the world to remember the people of Afghanistan in prayer.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you know the fear which has gripped the nation of Afghanistan. Grant peace to a troubled region. Lead those in power to respect the rights of the people. Protect those who are unable to protect themselves. And comfort the small community of Christians in the country who, like many others, are fearful for the future. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Haiti Earthquake: A Call for Prayer and Support

Map Image: WikiCommons, CC-BY-SA 2.0.

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging prayer and support for the people of Haiti following a devastating 7.2 earthquake.

The quake has destroyed or damaged more than 84,000 homes, and hotels, schools, churches, medical facilities, and other infrastructure have also collapsed. So far, more than 1,400 people are confirmed dead with hundreds still missing. Adding to the danger, a tropical storm in the area is bringing expected rainfall of up to 38 centimetres (14 inches) in some areas.

“The people of Haiti need our support,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the ILC. “Responding to this disaster is made all the more difficult by the economic challenges, security issues, and political instability at work in this country. May God be merciful to our Haitian sisters and brothers in this difficult time, and may He move Christians around the world to remember them in prayer and acts of mercy.”

Prayer: Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts. Your ways are not our ways. In Your wisdom, You have permitted this disastrous earthquake to befall the people of Haiti. We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor their faith in You fail, but sustain and comfort them. Direct the efforts to attend to the injured, console the bereaved, and protect the helpless. Bring hope and healing that the people may find relief and restoration. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The impact of the disaster on the members and congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH) will take days to become clear.

The tragedy comes eleven years after another major earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure. A hurricane in 2016 further devastated Haiti. The country, which is considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, already faced widespread poverty even before the latest earthquake. That need has been exacerbated in the latest earthquake zone, with some areas already going days without food or safe drinking water, let alone medical care.

The International Lutheran Council is coordinating with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Disaster Response team, which has previous experience organizing effective relief work in Haiti alongside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti. Individuals and member churches of the ILC wishing to assist with relief efforts may give online. In the message section, please indicate your donation is for “Haiti Disaster Relief.”

You may also send a cheque by mail to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, IN  46850

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are member churches of the ILC. 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 the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions.

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Latvian Lutherans vote to seek membership in the ILC

LELB Archbishop Jānis Vanags (centre) during worship at the Latvian church’s 2021 synod. (Image: Screenshot).

LATVIA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas evaņģēliski luteriskā Baznīca – LELB) held its 28th synod on August 6, 2021, during which time the church voted to seek membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

“We are delighted to learn that the Latvian church has voted to seek membership in the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. “The LELB has a long, fruitful, and harmonious relationship with many of the churches who are members of the ILC. We know each other well and are of like mind and heart in Lutheran doctrine and practice.”

“At a time when many church bodies worldwide have rejected historic Christian teaching, the ILC has become a welcoming and loving home to those faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions,” he continued. “Many of our dear Latvian friends have already experienced this firsthand. The peace, concord, and love shared among ILC churches is indeed a beautiful thing.”

Participants in the LELB’s 2021 synod. (Image: Screenshot.)

Delegates to the LELB’s synod met under the theme “We Will Serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15), gathering in an open-air facility in Roja. This was the first time a synod of the LELB has been held outside Riga. The synod had previously been scheduled to take place in June 2020 but was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other business during the synod, the LELB also voted to withdraw from membership in the Communion of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE), formerly known as the Leuenberg Church Fellowship. “When LELB joined the CPCE in 1975, we were behind the Iron Curtain,” noted Rev. Andris Kraulins (Riga), head of the LELB’s department for international affairs. “There was no discussion about it in the church; it was a decision of the archbishop at that time. The reason for joining was also not so much that we agreed with the content of the Leuenberg Agreement, but rather an attempt to protect the church from the arbitrariness of the Soviet state.” The first moves towards exiting the agreement began in the 1990s.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia is the largest church body in Latvia, with approximately 700,000 members. 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 the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions. The ILC exists to encourage, strengthen, and promote confessional Lutheran theology and practice centered in Jesus Christ both among its members and throughout the world.

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LCMS President greets WELS and ELS Lutherans

LCMS President Matthew Harrison and WELS President Mark Schroeder. (Image: Screenshot).

USA – The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) recently held their 2021 national conventions, and President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was present at both to bring greetings—the first LCMS President to do so in more than sixty years.

For almost a century, the LCMS enjoyed fellowship with both WELS and the ELS through the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference. The middle of the twentieth century, however, saw the LCMS undergo a period of doctrinal controversy, leading the ELS to end fellowship in 1955 and WELS to do the same in 1961. WELS and ELS remain in fellowship together.

LCMS President Harrison addresses the ELS convention. (Image: Screenshot).

In his greetings to the two church bodies, President Harrison acknowledged the reasons why the ELS and WELS broke fellowship with the LCMS in 1955 and 1961. “It had to be done to avoid the tragic events which would play out in the history of the Missouri Synod in the next decades,” he said to the WELS convention. “Thankfully,” President Harrison noted in his remarks to the ESL convention, “the Lord granted us a new day,” with God leading the synod through the doctrinal challenges of the mid-twentieth century to reaffirm its allegiance to the authority of Scripture.

While the reestablishment of fellowship between the LCMS and the ELS and WELS is not currently on the horizon, President Harrison said he is grateful for renewed contact between the church bodies in recent years. Since 2012, the LCMS, WELS, and ELS have held annual informal discussions which have fostered greater understanding and goodwill between the churches. A 2015 report on these meetings highlighted the discovery of significant doctrinal agreement. Each church body has also adopted synodical resolutions encouraging continued discussions between the churches.

During his greetings, President Harrison also expressed condolences to the ELS on the sudden death of President John Moldstad, who went to be with the Lord on January 29, 2021. He gave thanks to God also for continued friendship and discussion with WELS President Mark Schroeder as well as new ELS President Glenn Obenberger.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. The WELS and ELS are both members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Member churches of the CELC, including WELS and ELS, recently joined the ILC, LCMS, and other Lutheran churches worldwide as signatories to a joint letter expressing concern over religious freedom concerns in Finland.

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