By Mathew Block

ILC holds European Regional Conference

Back, left to right: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium); President Leif Jensen (Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark); Rev. Leif Camp (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia); President Adalberto Hiller (Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church); and Rev. Roger Zieger (representing Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). Front, left to right: Rev. Adris Kraulins (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia); Bishop Juhana Pohjola (Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland); Bishop Bengt Ådahl (Mission Province in Sweden); Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); and Rev. Philippe Volff (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France).

GERMANY – The European Region of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its 2023 Regional Conference from June 13-14 in Essen, Germany. Representatives from most member churches in the region were able to attend but work, visa issues, and deaths in the family prevented representatives from the Norwegian churches and from Siberia from being present.

The main topics for gathering were: the latest news from the churches; the situation in Ukraine and Russia, which led to a wider discussion of church life when one’s country is at war as well as questions around church relations when other churches are designated ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ because of the conflict; a review of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya; a discussion of ecumenism in representatives’ respective countries, and whether member churches were finding themselves increasingly isolated or drawing together where possible with other church bodies; and reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed congregational and synodical lives, particularly noting what was not ‘changing back’.

The war in Ukraine has affected the region variously—some specifically (as in Russia) while for other churches it has raised past tensions and fears, with all churches, to varying degrees, seeking to support refugees. As always, there are opportunities presented about how to serve in specific situations, and sadly lots of hardship, but throughout the two days there was a strong confidence that Jesus never abandons His people. References were made to the Confession of Magdeburg (1550) and its four levels of tyranny, which the Ingrian Church was using in navigating a response to government. Members agreed that all need to keep reconciliation—the Gospel—in focus as churches deal with the many levels of hostilities and fears arising out of the situation, being aware that the effects of this war will be generational.

Church leaders talk during the ILC’s 2023 European Regional Conference.

The pandemic may have come and gone yet ILC member churches in Europe are still “pandemic sensitive.’ Every church reported that some members have not returned to the Divine Service since the pandemic. Throughout Europe, churches’ response depended on governmental restrictions. As a result, there were differences among ILC churches in relation to the length of ‘lock outs’ from their church buildings, the number who could worship together, and how Holy Communion was celebrated. All churches continued to emphasise the importance of being together as much as possible, particularly at the Divine Service. Nevertheless, representatives recognized that online services are here to stay, as are online Bible Studies and even online church and synodical meetings. This is a new world, and everyone is still learning how to take the best of their pandemic response forward while also not forgetting those who do not use or have access to the internet.

Worship and fellowship at ILC events are always a rich time together. Throughout the 2023 ILC Europe Regional Conference, there was a particular focus on John 14-16 and Colossians. During the conference, Rev. George Samiec (Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and the European representative on the ILC’s Board of Directors) reminded everyone:

Christians do not relate to God via creation, worshipping an aspect of it to get close to God. Christians do not create God in their own image—a bigger, nicer (or not) version of themselves perhaps—out of their own intellect or from their hopes and fears. No, it is Jesus who reveals to us the intimacy of a personal relationship with God whom we can call ‘Father’—and assures us of reconciliation through His cross… always.

This is the reality at the heart of the Church… at the heart of our time together as church leaders. May this be a comfort and strength for us now, and may it be at the heart of each congregation of our synods: that Jesus hidden under words, water, bread and wine is giving life to His people so that they may live. Yes, we need organisational structures and bureaucracy, and they can be very visible and time-consuming. But hidden—always present and close—remains Jesus, and so in whatever we do admin-wise and churchwide-wise, may our goal always be pointing to Jesus and His cross who is among us. We are His people in this time and place. No one else is in our place; this is our time and place to live with Jesus and to share His grace and mercy with the world—that is, those around us.

And may the joy of the Lord be our strength.

The next European meeting of ILC member churches will take place online in September.


From a report by ELCE Chairman George Samiec

LCMS reelects President Matthew Harrison

LCMS President Matthew Harrison preaches at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya. Photo: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod/Erik M. Lunsford.

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has reelected Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison to another term as president.

President Harrison was first elected as president of the LCMS in 2010, and his fifth term runs from 2023-2026. He was reelected with 52.32 percent of the vote (2,616 votes).

“The office is not a right, but a trust, ever bestowed upon sinners,” President Harrison reflected in his candidate statement prior to the election. “I love that in the LCMS, it’s all about Jesus… Every congregation, every pastor, every teacher, every worker, every school, every institution exists for this Gospel of free forgiveness for all.”

The LCMS holds elections for president electronically in advance of its synodical convention. The election began on June 17, and the results of the election were announced by the LCMS on June 21. The LCMS synodical convention is scheduled for July 29 to August 3.

Other candidates who had stood for election were Rev. Dr. Patrick T. Ferry, Rev. Benjamin T. Ball, Rev. Richard L. Snow, and Rev. Peter K. Lange. They received 31.86 percent, 6.82 percent, 6.36 percent, and 2.64 percent of the vote respectively.

In addition to serving as president of the LCMS, President Harrison is also a member of the board of directors for the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The ILC is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, of which The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a founding member.


New FELSISA Bishop for South Africa

Bishop Helmut Paul (centre-front) and other newly elected members of FELSISA’s Synodical Council.

SOUTH AFRICA – The Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) held its synodical convention May 25-27, during which time the church elected a new bishop: Rev. Helmut Paul. The installation service took place on May 27 in Lüneburg, South Africa, with retiring Bishop Dieter Reinstorf officiating. 

Bishop Helmut Paul

“I rejoice in the election of Rev. Helmut Paul as the new FELSISA bishop,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “It has been a joy working with him in his capacity as Deputy Bishop and as a student in the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP). I look forward to continuing the close relationship between the ILC and the FELSISA with him in the future.”

“Bishop Paul is a gifted theologian and pastor and exhibits a joyful and humble spirit,” Dr. Quill continued. “Though his participation in the LLDP he has developed a warm, collegial relationship with many of the leaders in the African Region of the ILC.”

Prior to his election, Bishop Paul served the FELSISA as Deputy Bishop. He was ordained on September 17, 2011 in Wittenberg, South Africa, by Bishop Reinstorf. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran in Durban.

Bishop Paul studied ancient languages at the University of Pretoria. He then studied theology at the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany, during which time he also served as an exchange student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He was also among the first class of graduates from the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program in 2022.

Bishop Paul succeeds Rev. Dr. Dieter Reinstorf, who became bishop of the FELSISA in 2010. He reached the age of retirement on May 31, 2023. During his tenure, Bishop Reinstorf also served on the ILC’s Board of Directors as the World Region representative for Africa.

“It has been a pleasure working with Bishop Reinstorf the past four years since I became General Secretary of the ILC,” Dr. Quill noted. “His ecclesial wisdom and knowledge of the ILC and the African region has been a great help.”

The synodical convention also saw the election of other officers for the FELSISA’s Synodical Council, including Rev. Kurt Schnackenberg of Johannesburg as Deputy Bishop; Rev. Martin R. Paul (Pretoria); Lutz Böhmer (Newcastle); and Rupert Uhlmann (Wartburg).  


With notes from a FELSISA report

ILC welcomes Ethiopians and Sri Lankans into membership

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is pleased to announce the reception of two church bodies in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka as observer members. The Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) and the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC) were officially accepted during a meeting of the ILC’s Board of Directors on May 9, 2023.

“It is a joy to welcome the Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church as members in the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. “I look forward to growing in our new relationship, as we unite together in proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“We are a confessional church which wants to keep our Lutheran heritage,” noted EELC President Mussie Alazar Niamen on his church’s decision to apply for membership. “We are looking to have a strong relationship with other confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC, so that we can be encouraged to continue as a confessional Lutheran church in Ethiopia.”

EELC President Mussie Alazar Niamen

The EELC has more than 27,500 members in 120 congregations and 30 mission stations throughout Ethiopia. The church operates a seminary in Asella and plans to open another seminary in Addis Ababa. The EELC also operates schools, clinics, and child development projects. The church was established in 1921 through the mission work of Swedish Lutherans. It enjoys relationships with several ILC member churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, the Mission Province in Sweden, and the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland.

The same meeting which welcomed the EELC also saw the International Lutheran Council welcome the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church back into membership.

“The Sri Lankan church has a long history of membership in the ILC, which lapsed in recent years as the church attempted to restructure itself,” noted General Secretary Quill. “It is a joy to welcome the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church back into the ILC and to renew our friendship.”

The CELC has applied for full membership in the ILC but votes on full membership can only be taken during ILC World Conferences (the next of which is scheduled for 2025). In the meantime, the CELC has been accepted as an observer member.

CELC Bishop Arumanayagam Arulchelvan

“We praise God He gave a wonderful opportunity to renew our relationship for the glory of God,” said CELC Bishop Arumanayagam Arulchelvan. “We had a good relationship previously under the name of the Lanka Lutheran Church, and our participants from Sri Lanka have been enriched by the international theological conferences organized by the ILC.”

Bishop Arulchelvan further noted the value of associating with the ILC, saying that “becoming associated with an institution like yours which follows confessional teachings” is “helpful for churches like us as we grow in correct teachings.”

Rev. Roger James, the ILC’s Assistant to the General Secretary, also welcomed the news of the CELC’s acceptance into the ILC. “The CELC is a small church that has had many struggles, enduring decades of ethnic insurgency, the massive tsunami of 2004, and most recently economic collapse and political turmoil,” he noted. “The Lord has been with them through them all. What joy that they are a part of the ILC and know they have Lutheran brothers and sisters all over the world.” Rev. James has a close relationship with the Sri Lankan church, having served as a missionary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Sri Lanka from 2013-2018.

The CELC has approximately 800 members in 14 congregations. It is the successor to the former Lanka Lutheran Church, which traces its history back to 1958 when a missionary from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod arrived in the country. The church continues its close relationship with the LCMS.

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 the Lutheran Confessions as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists to encourage, strengthen, and promote confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.


French speaking Lutherans gather in Canada for liturgy workshop

Participants at the French liturgy workshop in Montreal. Pictured are participants from Haiti, Congo, France, the United States, and Canada.

CANADA – French-speaking Lutherans from across the world gathered for a workshop on the basics of Lutheran liturgy in Montreal, Quebec from May 17-21, 2023. The event, which was hosted by Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), also marked the official launch of a new African edition of LCC’s French hymnal: Liturgies et cantiques luthériens – Édition africaine (LCL-ÉA).

The workshop opened with remarks by LCC President Timothy Teuscher, bringing greetings on behalf of the Canadian church as well as the International Lutheran Council (ILC), which helped to sponsor the event. President Teuscher, who also serves as Vice Chairman of the ILC, encouraged the gathering to reflect on the necessity of right worship.

Rev. Walta Clercius, Assistant Missionary-at-Large for LCC French Ministries.

The gathering brought together participants from nine countries, including members of: Lutheran Church–Canada; Lutheran churches in Haiti, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH); five new African francophone congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (the Église évangélique luthérienne – Synode de France – EEL-SF); Lutheran churches in Burundi and Congo; Lutherans in Africa; and an African Pentecostal church body that is considering the adoption of Lutheran teaching. LCC, ELCH, the LCMS, and the ELL-SF are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

In addition to those present in person, the Saturday session saw students from the Concordia Theological Seminary of Haiti – Laochikit Centre (Séminaire Théologique Concordia d’Haiti – Centre de Laotchikit) participate online.

The development of French Lutheran hymnals by LCC French Ministries represents a major contribution to the worship life of the francophone Lutheran world. The new African edition of the hymnal (LCL-ÉA) is a fruit of the collaboration of LCC’s Francophone Lutheran Liturgical Institute (Institut liturgique luthérien francophone – ILLF). IILF members include Rev. Dr. David Saar (St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mount Forest, Ontario); Rev. Dr. David Somers (LCC Missionary-at-Large, French Ministries); and LCMS Cantor Phillip Magness, who served as main presenter at the workshop. Rev. David Milette (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Moncton, New Brunswick) served as liturgist throughout the workshop.

The ILLF’s constituting members and LCC President with the new African edition of the French hymnal. Left to right: Cantor Phillip Magness, Rev. Dr. David Somers, LCC President Timothy Teuscher, and Rev. Dr. David Saar

In addition to the presentation of the LCL-ÉA, the workshop also provided an opportunity to showcase French Lutheran materials, many of which are available through Lutheran Church–Canada’s French Ministries, including the new Viens et vois Jésus (“Come and See Jesus”) Sunday school curriculum and accompanying lectionary-based children’s activity pages based on those prepared in English by Lutheran Laymen’s League of Canada.

Finally, the workshop provided a unique opportunity for confessional francophone Lutherans from three continents to get to know each other and become more familiar with the work and challenges of the world’s burgeoning French-language Lutheranism.

Support for the workshop was provided by the International Lutheran Council; the C.T. Wetzstein Donor Advised Fund in Support of Christian Education; the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – Canada (LWMLC); the Laurentian District of the LWMLC; the Lutheran Heritage Foundation; Lutheran Laymen’s League – Canada; The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; and Lutheran Church–Canada.

Additional French-language workshops on Lutheran liturgy in Africa are also being planned.


Adapted from a report by Rev. Dr. David Somers.

A Country in Crisis: Haiti and the Church

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

HAITI – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging its members to pray for Haiti, which is facing severe famine, rampant gang violence, and general instability. The United Nations recently warned that, without intervention, more than 100,000 children are at risk of death from starvation.

“The people of Haiti need our prayers,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. “May God grant peace and healing to this troubled nation. And may He equip the church in Haiti to share the comfort of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed with their neighbours throughout this crisis.”

The ILC has one member church in Haiti: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH). In the following report, Rev. Walter Clercius—a pastor of the ELCH—reports on the situation, and explains how the church is holding out hope and practical care amidst so much tragedy.


Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Peace to you from Him who overcame death and the grave and gives that victory to us! I thank God for the privilege He gives me today to write to you.

Today, our country faces many difficulties. Haiti ranks 170th of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index. Out of a population of roughly 11.5 million, more than 1.5 million are highly food insecure, and approximately 4.5 million people did not have enough to eat last year. Today, more than half of the population does not have enough to eat, and more than 25 percent of children are chronically malnourished. Food security continues to deteriorate in rural areas, with the situation for many declining from a crisis situation to a full emergency. Hunger has reached catastrophic levels.

The situation is exacerbated by Haiti’s political crisis, which has continued to worsen following the assassination of our president in 2021. There are now more than 200 gangs operating in Haiti (with half of them in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, according to reports). These gangs have grown dramatically in the past five years. Many of those involved are youths—some as young as 13 years old. The gangs have raped many girls. They kidnap people. They burn and they kill.

Gangs have taken control of the private houses of hundreds of thousands of people in Port-au-Prince. People cannot travel safely in private vehicles from the west to the south or from the west to the north in Haiti. With public transportation, drivers are forced to pay the gangs as if passing through toll booths.

Most of those involved in the gangs are not from Port-au-Prince. They come from other departments in Haiti. Sadly, they are often children recruited from other departments where schools are not operating.

Given this situation, it is not surprising that the economic situation in Haiti is bleak. People from rural areas cannot send their products to sell in Port-au-Prince. Nor are there many jobs. Inflation has risen to 49.3 per cent. Universities and schools have been forced to terminate their contracts with employees. Businesses are likewise closed and have sent their employees home; they cannot pay them. Many children in Port-au-Prince cannot go to school. There are riots. The price of gas has more than doubled; and when the price of gas goes up, the price of everything goes up—all while the salaries of those still employed stagnate. Even teachers become poor; they cannot afford to eat.

Facing such hardship, many people—especially youth and professionals—continue to leave the country. They go to the United States, Canada, France, Brazil, Chili, or the Dominican Republic. Some cross borders illegally. But faced with hunger, riots, misery, insecurity, and disease, many Haitians do not know what else to do.

But there is hope in Haiti. Haiti has a rich history. It was the first free black republic in the world—the mother of freedom. Our present situation is so sad. But there are many Haitians who love Haiti and are working hard to see change the country and make a difference in the lives of other Haitians. There are many Haitians who are educated. Many Haitians who are Christians. There are many children who are being raised with faith in Christ, and learning ethics, morality, and civility.

I believe that the Gospel and education can contribute to change in our country for a better future. We must continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to educate our children. With such a foundation, they will become good citizens for Haiti. They will contribute to change in our country. They will contribute to bring peace in the world.

In my region of the Central-Plateau, people also face economic problems but we are not experiencing the same insecurity. Praise God, our children in the Central-Plateau can still go safely to school. With access to education, they will not be so easily drawn into the gang violence and modern slavery which has overtaken Port-au-Prince. They will become professionals, pastors, teachers, engineers, nurses. Our children receive formation in morality, ethics, and civility. We continue to preach the Gospel of Him who overcame death and the grave.

Today, I am working in twelve Lutheran churches/schools and eight preaching stations and affiliated churches in the Central-Plateau. In this region, we count around 7,000 Lutherans: 2,000 adults and 5,000 students. In the future, we are praying that number might grow to 12,000 Lutherans in our churches and schools in the Central-Plateau. This will require at least 20 Lutheran ordained pastors for 12 churches and preaching stations. That’s why we are currently training more than 70 seminarians through online classes. Our professors are Haitian, American, Canadian, and French.

I have already noted that we are educating more than five thousand children in the Central-Plateau. An important aspect of this work is our feeding program through Trinity Hope. Through this program, we provide regular meals for students, many of whom do not receive any food at home because their parents are out of work. We are grateful for the assistance of fellow Christians in the United States who are supporting this program and making a difference in the lives of thousands of families.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, education plays the most important role in the healthy development of our children. Boys involved in school have a significantly reduced chance of being drawn into a gang. Girls involved in school have a reduced chance of becoming pregnant while still young teenagers.

Like you, we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti value truth, grace, unity, vocation, sanctity of life, trust, and relationships. Thank you for your continued prayers. May God continue to bless you.

In Christ,

Rev. Walta Clercius
First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Laotchikit (Central-Plateau, Haiti)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti


Ten years for the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway

DELSIN Bishop Thor Henrik With preaches during a tenth anniversary commemorative service in Storsteinnes.

NORWAY – On the weekend of April 21-23, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway (Det Evangelisk-Lutherske Stift i Norge – DELSIN) marked ten years since its formal organization as an independent diocese

Bishop Emeritus Roland Gustafsson of the Mission Province of Sweden speaks during an anniversary celebration.

A series of commemorative events were marked in Balsfjord, Nordkjosbotn, and Storsteinnes, and featured a Bible study, anniversary celebration, and commemorative service. Bishop Emeritus Roland Gustafsson (Mission Province in Sweden) gave an address at the anniversary celebration, while DELSIN Bishop Thor Henrik With led the Bible study and preached for the commemorative service. The anniversary celebration also featured music as well as a tribute on the late Bishop Børre Knudsen’s service in Norway.

The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway initially began as a confessional movement within the national Church of Norway, eventually becoming a “Church of Norway in Exile” under Bishop Knudsen. Bishop With succeeded Bishop Knudsen in 2012, and DELSIN formally organized as an independent diocese in 2013.

Today the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway enjoys communion with the Mission Province of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese in Finland through the Communion of Nordic Lutheran Dioceses. It has also entered into fellowship with the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE).

In 2018, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway was accepted into membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of Lutheran church bodies dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of a shared-commitment to the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


ILC urges prayer for Sudan

SUDAN – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is urging prayer for Sudan after armed conflict broke out in the country earlier this month. As of this publication, the World Health Organization reports more than 450 dead with more than 4,000 injured (with the actual number likely to be higher).

“Our hearts grieve for those caught in the midst of this terrible crisis,” said ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. “We encourage our member churches around the world to name the Sudanese people in prayer, beseeching God for the reestablishment of peace and safety.”

In addition to the threat of violence, the turmoil has also led to critical shortages of necessities like food, water, fuel, and medicine. Even before the current conflict began, the people of Sudan faced serious hardship, with more than a third of the population considered to be in need of aid. The country was also home to more than one million refugees.

The International Lutheran Council has two observer member churches with ties to the nation of Sudan: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ELCSS/S) which has congregations in Sudan, and the South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC).

“Although our headquarters is in Yambio, South Sudan, we also have churches within Khartoum, Sudan where there is serious fighting at the moment,” explained ELCSS/S Bishop Peter Anibati Abia. “Many people have been displaced or wounded, and others killed. Many are also stuck in their houses with no food, water, or electricity, and are in need of humanitarian support.”

“Please commend these suffering brothers and sisters into the Lord’s care as they endure the pains of this senseless war,” the bishop continued. “Pray for peace to prevail in Sudan. Pray for the bereaved, the homeless, the wounded, and the hungry. And pray also for the ELCSS/S as she ministers to these people.”

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies dedicated to the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


ILC sponsors capacity building conference in Tanzania

Participants listen to a speaker during the ELCT-LTD’s capacity building conference in Sumbawanga, Tanzania.

TANZANIA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) sponsored a capacity building conference for pastors, evangelists, and teachers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika Diocese (ELCT-LTD) in Sumbawanga from March 7-10, 2023.

The conference arose out of an official request from the diocese and Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo.

“It was a joy to visit Bishop Mwaipopo and his diocese in Tanzania,” said ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. “Events like these play a significant role in ensuring strong Lutheran formation for pastors and church workers, and we were pleased to be able to respond to the ELCT-LTD’s request for assistance in this area.”

The conference brought together nearly 90 people, including more than 40 pastors and nine evangelists, as well as theologians, members of the diocese’s executive council, and staff from the diocesan headquarters. Guest lecturers for the event included ILC General Secretary Quill; Rev. Dr. Detlev Schulz (Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne, Indiana); and Rev. Peter Brock (First Vice President of the Indiana District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod).

Participants at a capacity building conference in Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika Diocese. ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill sits in front (second from left) with ELCT-LTD Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo (centre).

The Lake Tanganyika Diocese has a great focus on mission. Last year, it opened 18 new preaching points, eleven of which have since grown into parishes or congregations. Additional preaching points continue to be opened every year.

To assist with this growth, the diocese is in the process of opening a new school, which will initially train evangelists and eventually grow to offer pastoral training. Indeed, the diocese sees pastoral training as its greatest need. The school will also educate lay people in vocations and trades, including as teachers and deaconesses.

The Lake Tanganyika Diocese holds membership in the International Lutheran Council as a recognized organization. The ILC has previously supported theological conferences in the ELCT-LTD’s sister diocese, the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of Lutheran church bodies, dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of a shared-commitment to the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


He is Here for He has Risen

The Two Marys by Nikolai Koshelev (c. late 19th century).

by Timothy Quill

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” – Matthew 28:1-2

The angel of the Lord sat on the stone. What a thought-provoking sight: an angel whose appearance was as lightning and with clothes as white as snow, sitting there on a large stone. With this simple action the angel draws our eyes to the stone. The large stone which had been used to seal the lifeless body of Jesus in his grave.

It is a custom in some countries today for the family of the deceased to leave the room when the lid on the casket is closed for the last time and to leave the cemetery before the casket is lowered and buried in the ground. Emotionally it is just too much to take—so we are told. Once the lid is closed, the loved one will not be seen again in this lifetime. The closed lid removes the loved one from sight but not from memory. So, the bereaved continue to visit the graves of those they love—the heart aches, tears fall, prayers ascend, and flowers are placed next to grave stones.

So it was also with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They went to see the tomb. They brought spices to anoint the dead body of our Lord. They had been with Jesus and experienced His kindness, love, and mercy. Love drew them to His tomb. They arrived at the tomb at dawn on Sunday but to their surprise they saw that the rock was rolled back and upon it sat an angel. In Jesus’ day, preachers sat down when they preached. Jesus sat to preach in the synagogue in Nazareth and in the boat in the sea of Galilee. Now the angel sits upon the stone to preach the first Easter sermon and the women listened. “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay’” (Matthew 28:5-6).

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.”

With these words faith is born and despair gives way to joy. The resurrection changes everything. Today, whenever and wherever Christians join Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in their trek to the cemetery—when we stare into the dreadful dark pit which slowly swallows up the body of our friends and loved ones—we believe and confess with Mary Magdalene and St. Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory” “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 15:54, 57). We believe and take comfort in Jesus’ own words: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”(John 11:25).Our Lord’s words comfort us in our grief, and they also prepare us for a blessed death.

Christian funerals are celebrations of the resurrection and of Holy Baptism. St. Paul tells us: “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death… If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection”(Romans 6:3, 5). At the time of Christ, the Romans buried people at night because they believed that a funeral was an evil omen. Christians on the other hand chose the daytime. They processed to the grave wearing white garments. They carried palm leaves, together with lights, and incense was burned—all to express the idea of triumph over death. They sang psalms of hope and alleluias of victory.

And what do Christians do at funerals today? We sing.

Christ is arisen from the grave’s dark prison.
So let our joy rise full and free;
Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia! (LSB 459)

He who was freed from the grave’s dark prison, He who no stone could keep captive, sets us free! So, we sing.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve listened. She listened to the words preached by the evil angel. She believed what he said, ate and shared the deadly fruit with Adam. And death entered paradise. The first sermon preached after Jesus’ resurrection was also preached by an angel. Mary Magdalene listened and believed what he said, and shared the life-giving news of Jesus’ resurrection with the disciples. The two Marys left the tomb, their hearts filled with fear and great joy. While on their way, they were met by the risen Lord Jesus who greeted them. First, they believe, then they see, fall before Jesus, take hold of His feet and worship Him.

This sequence of events is repeated every Sunday when the Church gathers to worship Jesus. First the Word is preached, then we hear the greeting from the risen Lord, and then His body and blood are touched and worshipped. First is the Word—the sermon—for it is the Gospel of Christ that creates and sustains faith. The ears hear, the heart believes and the lips confess. We live by faith not sight. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

First the Word is preached, then we hear the greeting from the risen Lord, and then His body and blood are touched and worshipped.

As it was with Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morning, so it remains today in the Divine Service. After the consecration the pastor elevates the body and blood for all to see and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” In one sense the pastor is saying, “He is here for He has risen.” After the greeting the Bride of Christ not only takes hold of the feet of our Lord, but also His hands and His side—in fact, Jesus embraces us. He fills us with His sacred body and blood. In the breaking of bread our eyes are opened to see the risen Lord Jesus Christ before us. The Proper Preface for Easter Day says it beautifully:

“It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks… And most especially are we bound to praise You on this day for the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, the very Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us and bore the sins of the world. By His dying He has destroyed death, and by His rising again He has restored to us everlasting life. Therefore, with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and with all the witnesses of the resurrection, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.”

We join with Mary Magdalene when we gather at the grave side with fellow baptized Christians to bury our dead, to confess the resurrection, and to sing hymns. On Easter we gather with angels and archangels—including the angel who sat on the tombstone and preached the good news of our Lord’s resurrection. And we join with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and all the witness of the resurrection who saw Jesus yet like us were saved by grace through faith, not sight. We join with them when we give thanks and when we sing the heavenly Sanctus in the presence of our risen Lord at Holy Communion. And we join with seven million Lutheran brothers and sisters in the International Lutheran Council from sixty countries around the world who joyfully sing Easter hymns on Easter morning and shout, “He is risen indeed!”

Joseph and Mary went up from Galilee to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). On Easter morning, Jesus told the two Marys: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brother to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). To Galilee—the Galilee of the Gentiles. Galilee where Matthew’s Gospel ends with Jesus sending His disciples to all nations by preaching and baptizing. On Easter morning all over the world, on the dawn of the first day of the week, Christians open their sleepy eyes and smile as they realize: “Today is Easter Sunday—the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.”

And the words of the angel to the two Marys echo through our ears: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen.”


Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

Signup for ILC Updates