French Lutherans elect new president

EELSF President Gleisson R. Schmidt

FRANCE – The Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (Église Évangélique Luthérienne–Synode de France – EELSF) has elected Rev. Dr. Gleisson R. Schmidt of Paris to a four-year term as president.

Originally scheduled for April 2020, the EELSF’s Synodical Convention had to be postponed as a result of coronavirus restrictions. A condensed version of the convention was ultimately held electronically on November 15.

President Schmidt succeeds Rev. Martin Jautzy, who did not stand for reelection to a second term. Born in Erechim, Brazil, President Schmidt studied theology at Concordia Institute of São Paulo, and served congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) from 2002-2018. Alongside his pastoring work, he also served as a professor of philosophy at Brazil’s Federal University of Technology – Paraná. In 2014, he earned his doctorate from the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

Rev. Schmidt often spent extended periods in Paris where he participated in the congregational life of St. Sauveur Evangelical Lutheran Church. He accepted a call to the congregation in 2018.

The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Chairman, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, sent congratulations to President Schmidt on his election. “I want to congratulate you and extend to you my wishes for God’s grace and blessing upon your election and installation into the office of President and Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France,” Chairman Voigt wrote. “We pray that our Lord and Saviour keep and guide you during these challenging times.”

The convention also saw the election of three other members to the EEL-SF’s board alongside President Schmidt, including Rev. Philippe Volff (Strasbourg) as Vice-President; Noëlle Boisnault (Châtenay-Malabry) as Secretary; and Béatrice Grimaldi (Châtenay-Malabry) as Treasurer.

Other business of the convention included the election of auxiliary members to assist the board, the election of members of the church’s Committee of Theological Studies, and the presentation of several reports.

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Finnish Lutherans enter into fellowship with the LCMS

ELMDF Bishop Risto Soramies speaks on fellowship discussions with The LCMS during the Finnish church’s Diocesan Assembly.

FINLAND – On November 14, 2020, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (Suomen evankelisluterilainen lähetyshiippakunta – ELMDF) unanimously declared altar and pulpit fellowship with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The decision came during the ELMDF’s annual Diocesan Assembly, held this year online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The LCMS for its part also expressed recognition of fellowship in a letter of greeting presented to the ELMDF gathering.

Bishop Risto Soramies of the ELMDF, who led the church’s dialogue with the LCMS, hailed the decision as a way of deepening connections between the two churches based on a common faith. “Now our parishioners can commune with each other, and our pastors can preach at each other’s services,” he noted. He also looked forward to closer cooperation on theological education and in the fields of mission. “It is encouraging for us to see how the Mission Diocese is recognized as a church and our work is valued,” he continued.

In a letter to the Diocesan Assembly, President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod expressed joy at the prospect of an official declaration of fellowship. “Your hospitality, service to Christ, and commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in the face of opposition remain an example and encouragement to me and to our entire church,” President Harrison said. “It is with special joy and thanksgiving that I write on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod humbly to extend our hand of fellowship to the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland.”

Fellowship discussions between the LCMS and the ELMDF first began in 2017. “Since that time, we have conducted substantial conversations about a variety of matters before coming to agreement that we believe, teach, and confess the same doctrine, as it is revealed by the Word of God and contained in the Lutheran Confessions,” President Harrison noted. As a result of those discussions, the LCMS’ Commission on Theology and Church Relations voted unanimously to recognize fellowship with the ELMDF, leading President Harrison to declare fellowship on behalf of the LCMS in his letter. In the LCMS, the president of synod is able to recognize fellowship immediately in situations like these, with a vote to endorse the decision to follow at the next synodical convention—in this case, in July 2021.

In a letter to President Harrison following the vote, Bishop Soramies expressed joy over the declaration of fellowship between the two churches. “The Missouri Synod has been a strong partner for many other confessional churches around the world,” he noted. “We are deeply thankful for this fellowship which is, and will certainly continue to be, a blessing for God’s people.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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A changing of the guard in South Africa as Dr. Winterle retires

Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle at the ILC’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference in the Philippines.

SOUTH AFRICA – Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle has announced his retirement as rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) in Tshwane, Pretoria in South Africa.

Dr. Winterle, who turned 70 earlier this year, said, “It is time to retire and give way to the younger generation.” Succeeding Dr. Winterle as rector of LTS is Rev. Dr. Heinz Hiestermann.

“I thank our God and Father for the opportunity” to have served as rector, Dr. Winterle continued. “It was a huge challenge!”

Dr. Winterle served as President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) from 1998-2006. He has spent the next 14 years serving throughout Africa: four years in Kenya; seven in Cape Town, South Africa; and the past three as the rector of LTS in Pretoria. He has also been heavily involved with missions and theological education in Mozambique.

While Dr. Winterle plans to retire home to Brazil when international travel permits, he still hopes to continue serving as coordinator for theological education in Mozambique. “I’m also coordinating projects and doing fundraising for Mozambique missions,” he added. “I hope that I may continue with this special ministry which is so close to my heart, as long as I am able to.”

Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Vogt, Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche – SELK), expressed gratitude for the leadership of Dr. Winterle in Tshwane as well as elsewhere in Africa. “Many young African Lutherans have been strongly shaped by his leadership,” Chairman Voigt noted. “May the Holy Spirit also fill the heart of Dr. Heinz Hiestermann as he takes up this new task.”

Rev. Dr. Heinz Hiestermann

Dr. Winterle’s successor, Dr. Hiestermann, holds a PhD in New Testament from the University of Pretoria, and has served as a guest professor at LTS for several years. He has further served full-time as a lecturer and registrar at LTS since the beginning of this year.

“It will be a smooth transition,” Dr. Winterle notes, “as both of us had time to share our experiences and challenges. I wish him God’s blessing for this special ministry.”

The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane, Pretoria is an institution operating under the joint governance of the Lutheran Church in South Africa (LCSA); the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); and the Bleckmar Mission, which is associated with Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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Malagasy Lutherans elect new president

FLM President Elect Denis Rakotozafy. (Photo: FLM social media).

MADAGASCAR – On November 5, 2020, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy – FLM) elected Rev. Dr. Denis Rakotozafy to serve as its new president. The vote came during the church’s 23rd Synodical Conference held November 4-8 in Mahajanga, which gathered under the theme: “And increase the harvest of your righteousness…” (2 Corinthians 9:10b).

“I send my warmest greetings and congratulations to Dr. Rakotozafy on his election.” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “I’ve known Denis for several years, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the years to come, as the relationship between the Malagasy Lutheran Church and the ILC continues to strengthen and deepen. May God bless the Malagasy church as it moves forward.”

Dr. Rakotozafy was elected after four rounds of voting, in a 312-163 vote. He had already secured more than fifty percent of the vote beginning with the first ballot, but the FLM requires the president of the church to be elected by a 2/3 majority vote, leading to subsequent votes as other candidates dropped from the ballot.

Dr. Rakotozafy succeeds the late Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina, who passed away in July 2020 after contracting COVID-19.

Prior to his election, Dr. Rakotozafy was Vice President of the FLM’s Antananarivo Regional Synod, serving one term from 2012-2014 and beginning another in February 2020. He also began serving as District President of the Anosibe District in February 2020, having previously served as Vice President of the District from 2018-2020. He formerly served as President of the Mangalaza District from 1999-2000. He was ordained in 1999.

Dr. Rakotozafy has also served in various positions for the Federation of the Protestant Churches of Madagascar and the Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar.

In 2018, Dr. Rakotozafy earned a PhD in missiology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His dissertation was entitled “Missional Ecclesiology: The Mission of God and the Sending of the Church through the Fifohazana (Revival Movement) in the Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy (Malagasy Lutheran Church).” The Fifohazana revival movement has seen the FLM become one of the largest and fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world.

Since completing his PhD, Dr. Rakotozafy has gone on to teach missiology at the FLM’s Graduate School of Theology (SALT) in Ivory Avaratra, as well as at Ambatoroka’s theological institute.

The ongoing synodical gathering has also seen the election of several other officers to the FLM’s governing board, including the election of Rev. Velomahatombo as Vice President of the FLM. Prior to the election, Rev. Velomahatombo was serving as President of the FLM’s Menabe Regional Synod.

“Grace and peace to all the newly elected leaders,” said Dr. Quill. “The Lord bless you with wisdom and courage to faithfully meet the serious challenges facing the Lord’s Church, as well as the incredible opportunities to proclaim Jesus Christ and His saving Word. It all depends on the Word.”

The FLM became a member of the International Lutheran Council in 2018.

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COVID-19 and ILC Churches in Bolivia and Paraguay

The Evangelical Christian Lutheran Church of Bolivia distributes food to those in need.

WORLD – Member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continue to provide spiritual and physical care to members in the midst of unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, we highlight the response of ILC member churches in Bolivia and Paraguay.

Bolivia

The nation of Bolivia has reported 138,695 cases of COVID-19 to date, with more than 8,300 deaths. There are currently 28,846 active cases of the coronavirus in the country. Early in March 2020, the government moved to close borders and enact quarantine measures throughout the country. Church services were restricted in Bolivia early on.

The Evangelical Christian Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Luterana de Bolivia – ICEL) is working to support its members during the crisis, even as the virus affects some of its own members. ICEL President Limberth Fernandez himself fell ill with COVID-19 but has since recovered. Sadly, a staff worker of the church’s radio station in Sucre has passed away from the disease. President Fernandez further reports that “we have had many cases of members and their families affected by the virus, as well as other deaths” in the past few months.

ICEL President Limberth Fernandez provides a daily devotion via the church’s Facebook page.

In response to to the pandemic, the ICEL moved quickly to provide online devotional resources for members. The church’s pastors, vicars, and missionaries, have provided daily devotional videos via the church’s Facebook page, in both the Spanish and Quecha languages. The church has also led a national study of Luther’s Small Catechism which has been well-received.

Congregations themselves have stayed connected through the use of online platforms like Zoom.

Still, President Fernandez notes, online outreach is an imperfect solution, as many members of the ICEL do not have easy access to the internet. “It is impossible for us to reach a large number of our members who are from the countryside,” he says, “places where they do not have access to the internet or that unfortunately are not trained in the use of these technologies.”

The church has provided support for Bolivians in practical ways too, including through the distribution of basic necessities. The church continues to look for additional ways to support people.

A growing challenge for the ICEL is the financial stress that the pandemic has placed on the church. “We have received almost nothing in offerings during this time,” says President Fernandez. The church is working hard to find alternate sources of income to ensure the salaries of pastors can be maintained.

Paraguay

Paraguay has reported 50,344 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with nearly 1,100 deaths. Just under 16,500 cases remain active in the country. In early March, the government suspended school classes and other group events, with quarantine measures being introduced shortly thereafter.

IELP President Eugenio Wentzel leads online devotions.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana del Paraguay – IELP) continues to serve people with practical and spiritual support in the midst of the current situation. “Our country was one of the first in the region to impost quarantine, which prevented massive infections,” notes IELP President Eugenio Wentzel. But the downside has been an increase in unemployment. For this reason, the IELP has focused on distributing basic necessities to people, including food baskets as well as health and hygiene items.

Like other churches, the IELP has relied on the internet to reach members during the pandemic. “From the beginning,” President Wentzel says, churches “have been working virtually with different platforms to carry the message of the Gospel, with biblical studies, services, and devotionals.”

Different regions of the country have different restrictions, meaning some congregations have been allowed to hold face-to-face services in groups of up to fifty; some areas have allowed gatherings of twenty; others have had to rely on virtual gatherings only.

As a result of the restrictions, the church body also held its annual National Convention assembly virtually this year.

A challenge for the church remains calling and installing pastors during the current crisis. “Our church depends on sister churches to provide candidate pastors for vacant parishes,” notes President Wentzel. The closure of borders makes it difficult to call or transfer pastors. In one specific case, he says, one pastor who has accepted a call has waited months for circumstances to allow him to move to his new parish.

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For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

ILC welcomes second Tanzanian diocese into membership

Google Maps. (Map data © 2020 Google.)

WORLD – The Board of Directors of the International Lutheran Council held online meetings September 21, 2020, during which time the board voted to accept the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – Lake Tanganyika Diocese (ELCT-LTD) into membership.

“As we evangelize, we have come to realize that the ILC is the faith-based organization with which to cooperate, for it can help strengthen us to witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ boldly,” said ELCT-LTD Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo, noting the ILC’s strong confessional Lutheran theology. “The ILC can play a role of nurturer so that the ELCT-LTD keeps in the right direction.”

The ELCT-LTD, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), counts more than 10,000 members, 35 pastors, and 22 congregations. It grew out of mission in the ELCT in two Tanzanian administrative regions, namely Rukwa and Katavi, and was formally constituted in 2014. The ELCT-LTD was registered as a legally autonomous diocese in 2015.

ELCT-LTD Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo.

“It’s a joy to welcome the Lake Tanganyika Diocese into membership,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt. “We look forward to encouraging and learning from one another in the years to come, and to building a deep and abiding spiritual relationship. May God continue to bless the ELCT-LTD as it carries out its vital ministry in Tanzania.”

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary for the ILC, also expressed joy over the Tanzanian diocese’s acceptance into membership. “We thank God for this new partnership between the International Lutheran Council and the ELCT-LTD,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know Bishop Mwaipopo and his diocese better as time goes forward.”

The ELCT-LTD has been accepted as a Recognized Organization member, a category which allows organizations other than independent church bodies (for example, councils, districts, dioceses, organized movements, and individual congregations) the opportunity to partner with the ILC. It joins the ELCT’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, which was also accepted as a Recognized Organization member of the ILC in early 2019.

Additional information on membership in the ILC, and how to apply, is available here.

Other Business

Members of the International Lutheran Council’s Board of Directors and staff hold meetings online.

The September meeting also saw the ILC’s board discuss additional membership applications, and make plans for the 2021 ILC World Conference, tentatively scheduled for September 21-24, 2021 in Kenya. Because of current uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, final decisions on the feasibility of an in-person conference will be made in early 2021.

The board also heard regional reports, as well as reports on ILC programming, like the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, which is currently paused during the coronavirus crisis. Reports on supported projects in Nigeria and in Wittenberg, Germany were also received.

During the meeting, the Board approved the appointment of Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo to fill a vacancy on the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee. Dr. Omolo is Principal of the School of Theology at Neema Lutheran College, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya. He joins Dr. Jun-Hyun Kim (Lutheran Church of Korea); Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina); and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod).

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The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies and groups which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.

You can support the work of the ILC through online giving. You can also donate by mail:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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Papers from ILC’s 7th World Seminaries Conference Published

ONLINE – The papers from the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 7th World Seminaries Conference have now been published and are available online.

Seminário Concórdia, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB), has published the papers in its academic journal, Igreia Luterana (“Lutheran Church”), Vol. 81, No. 1 (2020). 400 copies of the journal have been published simultaneously in both English and Portuguese, and a copy will be sent to each ILC seminary.

The papers are also available to download free online in both English and Portuguese at revistaigrejaluterana.com.br.

Papers include:

  • Confession is Crucial and Context Counts – Werner Klän (English / Portuguese)
  • Christology in Asia – Sam Thompson (English / Portuguese)
  • Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context – Christoph Barnbrock (English / Portuguese)
  • Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective – Nicholas Salifu (English / Portuguese)
  • No Longer Married, But Still Engaged: The Role of the Christian Church in the Face of Declining Influence – Joel Biermann (English / Portuguese)
  • Ecclesial Lutheran Identity and the Church’s Mission in the Face of the Reality of Favelas – Samuel Fuhrmann (English / Portuguese)
  • Migration and Mission – Douglas Rutt (English / Portuguese)
  • The Theological Curriculum and its Construction – Anselmo Graff (English / Portuguese)

The volume also features an introductory essay by Anselmo Ernesto Graff entitled “Both good and bad things globalize” (English / Portuguese).

The 7th World Seminaries Conference took place October 15-18, 2019 in Baguio City, Philippines. Further information on the 2019 World Seminaries Conference is available here.

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The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies and groups which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.

You can support the work of the ILC through online giving. You can also donate by mail:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

Burkina Faso: “We Are Very Discouraged…”

Lutherans struggle in Burkina Faso, a nation riven by rising terrorism, internal displacement, and food insecurity

Google Maps. (Map data © 2020 Google.)

BURKINA FASO – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is urging prayer for Lutherans in Burkina Faso, as the church there struggles in the midst of widespread violence and terrorist attacks.

The nation of Burkina Faso has faced multiple terrorist attacks over the past five years, with targets ranging from military and police, villages, markets, schools, and churches. The United Nations reports that violence in the nation has led to the displacement of more than one million people as of August 2020—an increase of more than 453,000 since the beginning of 2020, and a dramatic change from early 2019 when there were 87,000 internally displaced people in the country.

Today, five percent of the entire population is now displaced. More than 2,500 schools have been closed, and health care access has been significantly decreased in the areas most regularly affected, especially northern and eastern parts of the country.

Members of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burkina Faso (Église Évangélique Luthérienne du Burkina Faso – EELBF) have not escaped the growing violence. Over the past three years, the EELBF has seen twelve of its members killed in terrorist attacks. Several others have disappeared and remain missing.

“We are very discouraged,” confessed President Tanpo Tchiriteme of the EELBF. “We ask for your prayers that peace would return. Pray also for those who have lost family members—orphans and widows—and for all of us.”

Of the missing, he adds, “we hope that by the grace of God we will find them.”

The displacement of people in Burkina Faso has led to the closure of multiple EELBF congregations and preaching points, complicating Gospel-proclamation and practical care for members in the beleaguered nation.

“Our sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso are suffering,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. “I encourage Lutherans around the world to lift up the nation of Burkina Faso in prayer. O God, be merciful to a suffering people. Bring an end to the growing violence and grant your people peace. We especially pray for the pastors and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Burkina Faso. Grant them the peace which passes understanding, and give them strength and hope to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—good news sorely needed in these difficult times.”

Those wishing to support the work of the EELBF during the current crisis can donate via The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), which has supported work in Burkina Faso since 2000. Gifts should be designated for “Mercy Work.” 

Even before the rise of terrorism in the country five years ago, Burkina Faso faced significant challenges. Burkina Faso remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with about 40 percent of the country living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. As of 2018, the United Nations estimated that nearly one million people in the country needed food security support, and that more than 187,000 children under the age of five could be expected to face severe malnutrition.

These challenges have been aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of displaced people, the extreme poverty, and the lack of access to health resources makes it difficult for people to practice safe hygiene and social distancing. As of August 24, 2020, the country has recorded 1,328 cases of the coronavirus, with 55 deaths. 223 cases remain active.

The pandemic has not slowed instances of terrorism either. Since July 27, 2020 sixteen schools in the east part of the country have been burned down, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. On August 7, 2020, gunmen also attacked a cattle market in an eastern village, leading to the death of about twenty people with many others injured.

Prayer for Burkina Faso:

Gracious God, heavenly Father, You know the shock and sorrow that the events of these days have spread across the land. We are helpless before the evil that afflicts us and therefore cry out to You for comfort, shelter, and protection. Mercifully embrace the frightened in Your love, empower the weak with Your strength, restrain the wicked by Your might, and preserve the righteous in Your grace, giving us Your peace and turning tragedy to triumph; though Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

– From the LCMS Pastoral Care Companion

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

Brazil’s Lutherans united against COVID-19

IELB President Geraldo Walmir Schüler leads worship online for the Second Sunday of Easter.

BRAZIL – Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing in March 2020, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) has been concerned with helping its members and pastors acclimatize to the current reality the world is facing. With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, IELB President Geraldo Walmir Schüler encouraged congregations to suspend all onsite activities, including worship services. At the same time, the church made available to congregations a variety of resources to assist their ministry work during the pandemic.

Worship services were organized with the assistance of IELB’s communication agency IELBcom and pastors from the church’s national board, and transmitted live via the web radio station Cristo Para Todos (CPT) on Sunday mornings. Services were rebroadcast Sunday evenings. Since June, Cristo Para Todos has been highlighting the efforts of IELB congregations across the country who are broadcasting their own services. Every week, CPT’s Facebook page highlights the worship schedule of one of the IELB’s 59 districts, and on Sunday broadcasts the worship service from one of that district’s congregations.

While many IELB congregations have been livestreaming services and Bible studies for some time, others have only begun using this tool in response to the coronavirus. To assist pastors and congregations with this new work, IELBcom produced and made available technical tutorials to assist with recording and livestreaming as well as sharing CPT materials via social media. The latter tutorials were an adaptation from the “Media Training” workshop, which has been taught by the IELB’s communications department to students of Concórdia Seminary in São Leopoldo since 2017.

Moreover, many CPT radio programs have addressed the current crisis, providing guidance on how the church can help everyone to deal with the pandemics with caution, common sense, faith, and hope in God the Creator. (CPT podcasts are available in Portuguese here).

The Department of Christian Education had also increased the number of home worship service materials available from monthly to weekly, and the blog Criança Cristã (“Christian Child”) provides devotion and activities for children. In addition, the IELB’s website, with help from Editora Concórdia (the IELB’s publishing house) and Hora Luterana (Brazil’s Lutheran Hour), offers several materials to promote spiritual growth for the whole family.

In partnership with Editora Concórdia, the IELB celebrated its 116th anniversary on June 24, 2020—a celebration held online for the first time. The celebration had a special guest, the Brazilian musician and Lutheran, Carlos Magrão, and drew approximately 20,800 viewers via the IELB’s YouTube channel.

One of the IELB’s web conferences for church leaders.

The board of the IELB has also organized twenty-four web conferences in order to consult with congregational leaders and pastors from the entire country, gathering about 1,500 participants from all 59 districts through the end of July. “In these online meetings the Board has listened to reports on the situation in each place, answered questions, and provided information on what is being planned nationwide,” notes Aline Gehm Koller Albrecht, Vice President of Communications. “These moments bring stimulus, comfort in the Word of God, and encouragement to the Church to keep facing these challenging times, united and standing firm in Christ Jesus.”

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For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.