By Mathew Block

The ILC is Hiring: Fund Development Professional

USA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is seeking to hire a full-time Mission Advocate.

The ILC Mission Advocate will be an experienced fund development professional, and will lead a fund development plan in order to grow and sustain ILC infrastructure. This position offers a salary based on the candidates experience and includes a full benefits package including health care, retirement, and paid time off (PTO).

A full description of the position, including essential job functions; education and experience required; and knowledge, skills, and abilities required is available online here.

Resumes should be sent to admin@ilcouncil.org.

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Lutherans in Turkey and Bulgaria join the ILC

The ILK congregation in Istanbul, Turkey.

TURKEY – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has welcomed the Istanbul Lutheran Church (İstanbul Luteryen Kilisesi – ILK)/Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria (Евангелиска Лутеранска Църква в България – ELCB) as an observer member in the ILC. The decision came at a meeting of the ILC’s board of directors earlier this year.

“It is a joy to welcome the Istanbul Lutheran Church/Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria into the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “We thank God for this new partnership, and we pray that God will bless our work together on behalf of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The ILK/ELCB has applied also for full membership in the International Lutheran Council, but decisions on full membership can take place only at a World Conference. The ILC’s next World Conference will take place in 2025.

“We are very glad that the ILC has granted us observer status, and we are grateful that God provides His people with opportunities for fellowship, cooperation, and solidarity,” said Rev. Bahadir Argönül of the Istanbul Lutheran Church. In fact, this connection with other faithful Lutherans was the impetus behind the church’s decision to apply in the first place. “We want to join the ILC in order to get to know other churches with whom we share a common confessional Lutheran faith,” explained Leading Pastor Feymi Madjirov of Peshtera, “and to work together with them for the proclamation of the Gospel and the Lutheran doctrine.”

The ELCB congregation in Peshtera, Bulgaria.

The ILK/ELCB is one church body serving Turkish-speaking Lutherans in two nations: Turkey and Bulgaria. Lutheranism was first established in Turkey in 1709, when Sweden sent a Lutheran pastor to serve in Constantinople. A chapel built on the grounds of the Swedish Embassy followed in 1748. That Lutheran ministry came to a hiatus near the end of the 19th century, but late in the 20th century, Finnish Lutherans living in Turkey came together to form a new congregation out of the original chapel. The congregation called Rev. Risto Soramies—who would later become Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)—to serve as their first pastor, as he had previously served a Turkish-speaking Lutheran congregation in Germany.

The Istanbul Lutheran Church was formally established in 2003, with its Bulgarian branch—the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria—following in 2005. Today the church has about 200 members, with two congregations in Turkey (Istanbul and Ismir) and two congregations in Bulgaria (Peshtera and Krushevo).

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

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Brazil’s Lutherans reach out amidst catastrophic flooding

Devastating flooding in Brazil. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert. CC BY-SA 2.0.

BRAZIL – Lutherans in Brazil are reaching out with the love of Christ as they struggle in the aftermath of devastating floods—the worst the country has experienced in 80 years.

Beginning at the end of April and continuing through May, the state of Rio Grande do Sul has experienced massive flooding. More than 160 people are confirmed dead, others are still missing, and hundreds more are injured. Nearly 600,000 people have been displaced, with close to 70,000 people currently living in emergency shelters.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) is experiencing the devastation firsthand; more than half of the church’s members live in the affected state. “In Rio Grande do Sul, heavy rains are causing destruction like never before,” explains IELB President Geraldo Schüler. “There are hundreds of municipalities partially or completely destroyed. Many people have died because of the floods and landslides, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and many people are missing.”

Congregação Concórdia, a 120 year old IELB church in São Leopoldo, under water. Photo: IELB.

The IELB reports that 14 of their churches are known to have suffered damage in the flooding; some, like the Congregação São João in Novo Hamburgo, still remain submerged. A number of Lutheran schools have also been affected. Seven pastors have completely lost their homes and everything inside them. Other pastors managed to save a few belongings and escape by car, while others lost even their cars. The full impact on church members remains impossible to assess at this point, but many of them have lost their homes and been displaced.

Flooding at Editora Concórdia. Photo: IELB.

The church’s publishing house, Editora Concórdia, also remains underwater. “We still don’t have a real understanding of how things are there,” the IELB reports, “and we confess, we are afraid of what we will find.”

“This catastrophe is unprecedented,” says IELB Vice President Airton Schroeder, who oversees social ministry in the church body. But while the creation may have been devastated, he says, “the Creator remains the same yesterday, today and forever. The Creator has shown His mercy through Christians and non-Christians alike, caring for one another. But He has especially demonstrated His mercy through those who, in the midst of tragedy, look to the cross and realize that human life on Earth is temporary and testify to the love of Jesus Christ in words and actions, working to minimize the suffering of their neighbour.”

Lutherans reach out

Relief efforts at the Lutheran University of Brazil. Photo: IELB.

Even as Rio Grande do Sul is facing an increasingly dire humanitarian situation, Brazil’s Lutherans are reaching out with critical care and support. The Lutheran University of Brazil in Canoas, for example, is hosting more than 8,000 people who have been displaced—the largest such shelter in the country. In São Leopoldo, meanwhile, the church’s seminary, Seminário Concórdia, is likewise hosting displaced people who have been referred to them by the city, primarily elderly people and those with special needs. Faculty, students, and family are all involved in caring and feeding those on campus, as well as distributing food to people in other locations.

Faculty, students, and families at Seminário Concórdia prepare food for those affected by the floods. Photo: IELB.

“We are facing many difficulties because of this huge flooding,” said President Schüler. “But this is also an important opportunity for the church to share God’s great love, and this is being done in a wonderful way through the congregations and institutions linked to the IELB.” IELB congregations have provided assistance in numerous ways, ranging from rescuing people caught in the flooding; providing shelter in unaffected buildings; collecting and distributing necessities like food, water, blankets, clothing, and hygiene goods; raising emergency funds; and of course providing pastoral care to people in the midst of great suffering.

As of May 22, the IELB has raised more than R$1,850,000 for relief work, and already distributed R$500,000 for emergency food, life-protecting supplies, and other needs. You can find out more about the IELB’s ongoing response to the crisis and its Disaster Response Fund on the IELB’s website here (in Portuguese).

Chances are the work will continue for some time. Authorities have suggested it will be months—perhaps even years—before life in in the affected areas returns to normal.

“I encourage all Christians around the world to remember Brazil in prayer,” said General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “The people are facing great sorrow and loss in this time. May God strengthen the work of authorities as they seek to preserve life and property in Brazil. And may He bless the work of our friends in the IELB, as they offer practical care and comfort in the name of Jesus Christ to all those who have been affected by this tragedy.”

The ILC, of which the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil is a member, is a global association of confessional Lutheran churches grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

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Consecration and installation of Bishops for Sudan/South Sudan

LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong presents the newly installed ELCSS/S Presiding Bishop Peter Anibati Abia (centre).

SOUTH SUDAN – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ELCSS/S) held the consecration and installation of its first Presiding Bishop and four diocesan bishops on May 5, 2024, at St. Paul Cathedral in Yambio, South Sudan.

Installed as Presiding Bishop is Rev. Peter Anibati Abia, who was first elected to lead the ELCSS/S as Bishop in December 2016. He was subsequently elected to serve as Presiding Bishop at the ELCSS/S’ General Convention in December 2023.

The change in title from “Bishop” to “Presiding Bishop” reflects developments in the structure of the ELCSS/S, with the church establishing the office of diocesan bishops at its 2023 General Convention. Presiding Bishop Abia serves the Western Equatoria diocese; elected to serve the four other dioceses as bishop are Rev. Ogiki Benjamin (Central and Eastern Equatoria), Rev. Peter Chuol (Jonglei), Rev. Simon Gatluak (Upper Nile), and Rev. Musa Alabina (Sudan). All four diocesan bishops were consecrated and installed into office alongside Presiding Bishop Abia at the May 2024 service. Other officers installed during the service included the church’s General Secretary and the Assistant to the Bishop for the Western Equatoria diocese.

The ELCSS/S’ diocesan bishops are consecrated and installed.

International guests present for the consecration and installation service were Archbishop Christian Ekong of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN); Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK); Bishop David Tswaedi of the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa; Bishop Charles Bameka of the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU); and Bishop Yohana Nzelu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD).

The procession to the consecration and installation service.

The ELCSS/S was founded in 1993 and has approximately 150,000 members. In 2022, the church was accepted as an observer member in the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

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Finnish Bible Trial: Supreme Court will hear appeal against MP and Bishop

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

FINLAND – The Supreme Court of Finland has announced it will allow prosecutors to appeal the exoneration of Finnish Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. A date for the trial has not yet been set.

Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola were first charged with hate speech in 2021 for their articulation of historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. They stood trial at the Helsinki District Court in 2022 but were unanimously acquitted by a panel of three judges, declaring: “It is not the role of the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” That decision was appealed to the Helsinki Court of Appeals, where the two were again unanimously acquitted on all charges in 2023.

“I’m not surprised but I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to grant leave to appeal,” Bishop Pohjola said in response to the latest developments. “I am confident that the Supreme Court will also deliver an acquittal which, as a precedent, may in the future help to ensure that no one else in a state under the rule of law has to endure such an incomprehensible and tiresome process—a situation which we have been facing now for nearly five years.”

The charges against Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola focus on a 2004 booklet by Dr. Räsänen, as well as comments made by her during a radio interview and in a tweet (which included a picture of a Bible verse). Bishop Pohjola was charged for his role as the publisher of the 2004 booklet. Following the ruling of the Helsinki Court of Appeals, the prosecution has appealed only two of the three acquittals to the Supreme Court: those related to the booklet and the tweet.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow another appeal, Dr. Räsänen said that she is “ready to continue to defend free speech and freedom of religion before the Supreme Court and, if need be, also before the European Court of Human Rights.” She continued: “I have considered it a privilege and an honour to defend freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democratic state.”

In the face of state-sanctioned persecution, Bishop Pohjola continues to encourage Christians to speak openly about their faith. “Although I’m accused of hate speech incitement against a group of people, we continue boldly to teach the intrinsic value of every human being and also God’s will and design for human sexuality and family,” he said. “This is not the time to step back and be silent but in love and truth to confess the good created order and God’s institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and to share from the empty tomb Christ’s wonderful gift of forgiveness of sins for all people.”

The ongoing prosecution of Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola has drawn global expressions of dismay and concern over the state of freedom of religion and freedom of speech in Finland. “The news of the Finnish Supreme Court to hear the case against Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen is disturbing to all who have followed the situation closely for some time now,” said Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “The trial process seems endless and tiring. Our thoughts and prayers are with both Dr Rasanen and Bishop Pohjola in hope of a ruling that finally exonerates them of all prosecution.”

The ILC has drawn repeated attention to the situation in Finland, encouraging prayer, organizing a speaking tour, and issuing a public letter signed by the heads of 45 Lutheran church bodies worldwide. In another show of support, church leaders gathered in Kenya for the ILC’s 2022 World Conference elected Bishop Pohjola to serve as Chairman of the ILC. As he and Dr. Räsänen face the prospect of another trial, Bishop Pohjola is expressing gratitude for all those who have supported and prayed for them: “I am thankful for all the support, encouragement, and intercession among ILC churches and beyond.”

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

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A “Fabulous” LLDP session in Wittenberg

Participants stand in front of the Church of St. Anne with Eisleben in the background. From the left: Rev. Johanesa Andriamanarinjato, Bishop of Fisakana Synod, Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM); Rev. Dr. Yohana Nzelu, Bishop of South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (SELVD-ELCT); Rev. Ambele Mwaipopo, Bishop of Lake Tanganyika Diocese (LTD-ELCT); Rev. Fredirick Flores, Secretary of North Luzon Highland District, Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP); Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); Rev. Peter Abia, Presiding Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ELCSS/S); Rev. Dr. Yacob Godebo, Director of PhD Program at Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS), Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Rev. Martin Paul, Third Pastor in the Synodical Council, Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Rev. Jackson Mushendwa, Bishop of Western Diocese (WD-ELCT); Rev. Dr. David Imuk, Rector of Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary (JEMLS), Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN); Rev. Boss Sebeelo, Deputy Bishop of Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA); and Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Director of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) and Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW).

GERMANY – Church leaders from eight countries in Africa and Asia gathered in Wittenberg in late February for a session of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP). This two-year program holds one of its six sessions in Wittenberg so participants can experience the birthplace of the Reformation.

Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki teaches “Theology of the Lutheran Confessions.”

During the first week, LLDP Director, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, taught “Theology of the Lutheran Confessions.” President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) joined for the second week to lead “History of the Lutheran Church.” As an important component of their studies, participants visited many sites significant in the unfolding of the Reformation.

In Wittenberg, the participants explored Luther House, Melanchthon House, Cranach House, Luther’s Oak, Leucorea (University of Wittenberg), City Church (St. Mary’s), Castle Church, Luther and Melanchthon’s Monuments, City Hall, and of course the Old Latin School where the managing director, Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber, welcomed LLDP to use its chapel for daily Matins. Outside Wittenberg, the group travelled to Eisleben to visit Luther’s birth and death houses, the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul where Luther was baptized, the Church of St. Andrew where he preached his last sermon, the Church of St. Anne—perhaps the first Lutheran Church ever built—and Luther’s parents’ house in nearby Mansfeld.

Participants pose outside Luther’s Room at the Wartburg, where Luther began his translation of the Bible during his ten month stay at the castle.

The participants also visited Torgau Castle and its church, the house in which the Torgau Articles (later incorporated into the Augsburg Confession) were drafted, the Church of St. Mary’s where Katharina Luther is buried, and Georg Spalatin’s house. On their way to Torgau, they visited a field in Falkenberg near Mühlberg where Elector John Frederick was captured during the Smalcald League war. The group journeyed to Wartburg Castle as well, and the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt and the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Weimar. In each of the places they visited outside Wittenberg during their second week, President Harrison gave helpful commentary, capturing the significance of each location at the time of the Reformation.

In terms of classroom learning, Dr. Masaki was very pleased with the result of his week-long class on the “Theology of the Lutheran Confessions,” particularly because each participant, without exception, expressed his quia subscription to the Book of Concord. This included those who had come from Lutheran Church bodies associated with an ecumenical communion where Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions are doubted or even denied as norma normans and norma normata. One of the participants observed: “I came to understand not only that each article of doctrine relates to each other, with Christ at the centre as the Saviour and justifier of all sinners, but also that pure doctrine and confessional fellowship is what our brothers, even those who came from the liberal ecumenical communion, are also hungry and thirsty for.” Another participant commented: “Through this wonderful class, the importance of the Book of Concord was not only highlighted but also brought to life by working with its content. It was tremendous to have Dr. Masaki as lecturer, as he is passionate about the Lutheran Confessions, and has given a very positive impact upon all of us. Whenever we had questions, he was always ready to answer them.”

Participants stand on the bridge between the two bell towers of St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, with the Castle Church visible in the back right—a rare opportunity not often given to visitors.

As a concluding exercise of for the first week’s class, all participants made concrete plans as to how they will continue studies of the Book of Concord themselves, as well as how they will encourage their ecclesial leadership to teach and promote the Lutheran Confessions among the pastors and people in their church bodies back home. They are all convinced how important the Scriptures and the Book of Concord are because the confessional fidelity separates true Lutheranism from the Lutheran Church in name only. After all, they said, the Lutheran Confessions—as the sound exposition of Scripture—comfort them as Christians and give them enormous encouragement for pastoral ministry. 

LCMS President Harrison was one of the four signatories who initiated the LLDP back in 2017. Director Masaki was grateful to have him as an instructor this time. Participants commented on President Harrison’s class: “Through his course, it became absolutely clear that the Reformation was not a myth but a historical fact, having Luther and other Reformers sacrificing their very lives.” “It was absolutely different to hear about it or read about it in books and to visit the historic places.” The impact of hearing the stories of the Reformation gave each participant a lasting impact. Another participant mentioned: “What an excellent opportunity! I will ever remain grateful for this occasion. It was a special privilege to have President Harrison as our instructor for this course. Since he has a special interest in Lutheran history, he conveyed it to us students by simply speaking about it with much joy and deep confidence.”

President Harrison teaches “History of the Lutheran Church.”

During his class, President Harrison related to the participants not only as an instructor of a course but also as a fellow and senior churchman—a colleague as a leader of a Lutheran church body. He particularly focused his attention to the duties of visitation as bishop, superintendent, and president of the church body, exploring the historic documents which discuss this, and elaborating significant points both theologically and practically. His evangelical instruction on church leadership with passion and joy left a great impression on participants.

A few days after his session, President Harrison reflected on his days in Wittenberg, saying: “Fabulous memories. It was terrific! I had just a deepest joy to be among such faithful Lutheran leaders as our LLDP participants. I can’t thank the Lord enough for the tremendous work that the LLDP has been rendering. I am so glad to be a part of it. What a joy and privilege! Glory be to God!”

The next session of the LLDP will be held at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in June and July.

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

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 10149
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46850 USA

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Inaugural meeting of the Concordia Lutheran-Catholic Augustana Working Group

The Augustana Working Group holds its inaugural meeting in Rome on March 1, 2024.

On March 1, 2024, the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (DPCU) hosted the inaugural meeting of the Concordia Lutheran–Catholic Augustana Working Group, which met in Rome until March 2, 2024.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the DPCU, welcomed the members of the working group and encouraged them to explore the pre-confessional/ecumenical potential of the Augsburg Confession in more detail in view of the 500th anniversary of the Confessio Augustana in 2030.

The Augustana Working Group includes representatives of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Catholic Church. Following the conclusion of the theological conversations between the ILC, an association of Concordia Lutheran churches, and the Catholic Church (2014–2019), both sides suggested the establishment of a working group as a distinct ecumenical-theological format.

The working group is not an official dialogue commission. The aim is not to produce a document of churchly consensus. However, the publication of the results of the joint research is intended to enrich the ecumenical discussion in an indirect way.

The working group is headed by two episcopal chairmen: on the Lutheran side by Bishop Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland / Chairman of the ILC; and on the Catholic side by Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Peter Birkhofer, Freiburg im Breisgau.

The working topic is: “Catholicity and Apostolicity in the Augsburg Confession, Examined in the Areas of Soteriology (Justification) and Ecclesiology (Ministry, Episcopate, and Ordination): a joint Lutheran–Catholic review of Augsburg Confession in a pre-confessional and ecumenical perspective.”

A total period of four years is planned for working on the topic. The next meeting will take place in Wittenberg on December 9 and 10, 2024.

Participants from the International Lutheran Council (ILC)

  • Bishop Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Helsinki, Finland (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, ILC Chairman)
  • Prof. Dr. Joel Elowsky, St. Louis, Mo., USA
  • Prof. em. Dr. Werner Klän, D.Litt., Lübeck, Germany
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. Jonathan Mumme, Hillsdale, Mich., USA
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Winger, St. Catharines, Ont., Canada
    ***
    Prof. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, Fort Wayne, Ind., USA (ILC General Secretary) – part-time participant, but not a member

Catholic Participants

  • Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Peter Birkhofer, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Lersch, Siegen, Germany
  • Dr. Tim Lindfeld, Aachen, Germany
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. James Prothro, Greenwood Village, Color., USA
  • Father Dr. Augustinus Sander OSB, Vatican (Permanent Representative of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity)

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He is Risen!

The Resurrection, tapestry from the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, c. 1530. (Design by the school of Raphael).

by Klaus Detlev Schulz

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem still resonates in our ears from Palm Sunday’s Gospel in John. While sitting on a young donkey, the crowd received Jesus with branches from palm trees crying out loudly: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Five days later, this welcoming cry changes into “crucify Him.” Disappointment, frustration, and anger replaced hope in the person whom they thought would be their new Messiah, the promised King, who would liberate them from the political oppression of the Roman rulers. The person entering Jerusalem is nothing of what they thought He would be. Christ’s path to the cross has begun; His crucifixion and death is near. He will die a death.

And yet, death does not have the last say. He is risen. There is no doubt that the empty tomb to which the disciples Peter and John ran is evidence that the Lord has risen. This person who died on the cross and lay buried in a tomb is indeed the Messiah, the promised King of the whole world who, through His resurrection, conquers the power of sin and death over all people.

Easter awaits us all. By His wounds we are healed, and through His blood we are made whole. May we all this Easter treasure the divine gift of joy that came through the suffering of our Saviour. It is the day we commemorate His resurrection, His victory over death, and we celebrate His life and our future life with Him. The readings for this week of passion speak so much of Christ’s glorification (John 12:16.23.28), of Him being King (Zechariah 9:9), that “every knee, in heaven and on earth, should bow” before him and “every tongue confess Him as Lord” (Philippians 2:10). Indeed, Easter makes glorification come true—but only after Christ had chosen a path of total humiliation to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:5). His humiliation required His total obedience, even if the prospect of such a bitter suffering and death made Him want to have it pass Him by.

Easter awaits us all. By His wounds we are healed, and through His blood we are made whole. May we all this Easter treasure the divine gift of joy that came through the suffering of our Saviour.

Easter has come. Death and burial have given way to life and hope. We should look around us, and as we see the faces of other people, we may rejoice that Easter is meant not only for us but for them, too. Easter is universal in implication and as a festival commemorated by millions of Christians around the world. For us, it means that we look to our baptism, where we died and rose with Christ (Romans 6) to receive the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Sadly, many people have not yet heard the message of Easter. We pray that all churches of the International Lutheran Council will proclaim this message unrestrained, so that Easter’s blessings may shower over all who hear it. Let us, as preachers of Easter, never become weary of proclaiming the full meaning of Easter: someone offers Himself as Saviour on our behalf so that we may not die but live.

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Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

ILC urges continued prayer for Haiti

HAITI – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (Église Évangélique Luthérienne d’Haiti – ELCH) is requesting prayer as the situation in their country continues to deteriorate.

The nation of Haiti is in crisis as a result of political instability, widespread gang violence, and a collapsed economy. Well-organized gang attacks in February further destabilized the country, with thousands of prisoners set free from prisons and Haiti’s prime minister blocked from returning to the country. The prime minister eventually resigned, and attempts to form a transitional government continue to face armed opposition from organized gangs.

In the midst of this situation, the church in Haiti is calling on Christians around the world to remember Haitians in prayer. “For months, our country has faced gang violence,” ELCH President Bernard Eliona explained. “This situation affects all, including churches and schools. No one is spared.”

“In such a situation,” he continued, “we greatly appreciate your prayers.”

In 2023, the International Lutheran Council (ILC)—of which the ELCH is a member—reported on the devastating situation facing their country. The situation has gotten progressively worse since then.

“We grieve for the people of Haiti as they struggle in this terrible crisis,” said ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “We grieve for those whose families have been torn apart by violence; for the thousands who have been forced from their homes; and for all who are struggling to access the necessities of life.”

“In the face of such terrible suffering, I encourage Lutherans around the world to remember the people of Haiti in prayer,” Dr. Schulz continued. “Pray that God will bless the efforts of those trying to bring stability back to the streets of Haiti; pray that God would restrain evil doers from violence; and pray that the Gospel would continue to be proclaimed in the midst of this dreadful darkness—that it would bring comfort to a people suffering terrible tragedy.”

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Lutherans in Ghana elect new president

GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) held its Delegates Conference in Bunkpurugu during the second weekend of March 2024, during which time the church elected Rev. Daniel Kofi Akoh to serve as its new President.

The election of officers took place on March 9, with President Elect Akoh receiving 79 votes, compared to 36 for the nearest runner-up. Prior to his election, Rev. Akoh served the ELCG as Regional Pastor for the Volta region. An installation service is scheduled for early July in Accra.

“On behalf of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), I want to congratulate you on your election as president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana,” said ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “May God bless you with wisdom, knowledge, faithfulness, and every good thing as you prepare to take on this new role. And may He bless the work of your church, so that many more may hear and believe the good news of forgiveness which is theirs in Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Akoh was ordained in 2003. In addition to his work as a pastor, he has served the ELCG on several committees; as a coordinator for online education and a facilitator for theological education by extension; and as a coordinator for Lutheran Media Ministry, among other roles. Rev. Akoh studied for the pastoral ministry at the Lutheran Seminary in Ghana, and further holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Master of Education degree from the University of Education, Winneba. He also holds a certificate from Westfield House in the United Kingdom.

Rev. Akoh is currently pursuing a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also a student in the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP).

President Elect Akoh succeeds President John Shadrack Donkoh, who has served two terms as head of the church in Ghana. President Donkoh was first elected in 2018 and then reelected in 2021. In addition to serving the ELCG, President Donkoh has further served the global Lutheran community as the Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC)—a position to which he was elected in 2022.

Also elected during the ELCG’s 2024 Delegates Conference were Alex Lanbon as Second Vice President and Alfred Neneh Ayiku Akotia as Third Vice President. No candidate was elected for the position of First Vice President during the conference; an election for that position is scheduled to take place in the near future.

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

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