SOUTH AFRICA – On January 14, 2020 representatives of the three confessional Lutheran church bodies in South Africa met for a first round of unity talks in Pretoria.
The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa(LCSA) was represented by Bishop Modise Maragelo, Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala and Rev. John Nkambule; the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa(FELSISA) by Bishop Dr. Dieter Reinstorf and Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul; and the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa(CLCSA) by Bishop Mandla Khumalo and Rev. Geoffrey Skosana.
These initial talks in Pretoria focused on establishing church fellowship between the LCSA and the FELSISA (who are already in declared church fellowship with one another) and the more recently established CLCSA. The foundational articles of the respective churches as well as the central doctrines of the Lutheran Church as contained in the Book of Concord were extensively discussed. The three churches will now provide feedback to their respective church councils in the hope that church fellowship will be formalized in upcoming church conventions.
These unity talks were largely prompted by discussions held at a meeting of the Africa Region of the International Lutheran Council(ILC) held in Pretoria from September 17-20, 2019. At this meeting gratitude was expressed for the number of newly established confessional Lutheran churches in Africa, while also raising concern that many of these Lutheran Churches work independently without establishing formal relationships with other regional churches—something which creates a formal expression of unity in doctrine. As a result, the regional meeting adopted a motion to encourage confessional Lutheran Churches, especially those within the same country, to make every effort to keep the unity of the church. Part of this process is to formally establish church fellowship where there is agreement in doctrine and to consider amalgamation or the establishment of a federation of confessional churches.
The Lutheran Church in South Africa, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, and the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa are all members of the International Lutheran Council.
This past Sunday was the last in Advent, and once again immediately following the Kyrie ,the pastor went directly into the Greeting and Salutation: “The Lord be with you,” “and with your spirit.” The Gloria in Excelsis was nowhere to be found. It has been gone since the first Sunday in Advent.
When Martin Luther undertook his remarkable 1526 restoration and German translation of the Latin Mass, he did not include the ancient Gloria in Excelsis. How was it possible for someone as theologically and musically gifted as Dr. Luther to delete the Gloria? At first glance this seems a bit baffling, but a closer look reveals that the reason for the omission was most likely because the German Mass was first sung in December of 1525 which put it during the penitential season of Advent when the Gloria was not customarily sung. New compositions of the Gloria would eventually be composed by Nicolaus Decius, Luther, and others.
The Gloria is also omitted during the penitential season of Lent, but its omission is most striking during the Advent-Christmas season since it is the song of the angels to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.
Lutherans greatly value and retain the traditional liturgical practices of the church.
In the Introduction to his 1523 revision of the Latin Mass, Luther explained: “It is not now or ever has been our intention to abolish the liturgical service of God completely, but rather to purify the one that is now in use from accretions which corrupt it and to point out an evangelical use.” He commends those parts of the service added by the early church fathers and recommends they be retained in the liturgy: Psalms and Introit Psalm, Kyrie, Readings from Epistle and Gospel, Gloria in Excelsis, and so forth (LW AE 53:20-21).
In 1530, the Lutherans confessed in Article 15 of the Augsburg Confession, “We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify” (Ap XV, Tappert 220:38, emphasis mine).
One year after the Diet of Augsburg, Luther was preaching at St. Mary’s parish church in Wittenberg. He expressed amazement that the evangelical movement was still alive: “A year ago, at the Diet of Augsburg, the [general] opinion was that everything would go topsy-turvy within four weeks, and that all Germany would founder. [No one knew how things would end up,] or from what source help and comfort might come. The situation baffled and defied all reason and wisdom, and one was constrained to say: ‘It all depends on God’s power, and it is all staked on His Word’” (LW AE 23:400).
It is now 489 years after the Diet of Augsburg and the world in which we live—including numerous churches which bear the names “Evangelical” and “Lutheran”—are in many respects topsy-turvy, upside down, and in a state of confusion. And we too are led to express amazement and thanksgiving that after all she has gone through, the Lutheran Church has not foundered. She continues to depend on “God’s power, and it is all staked on His Word.” This is articulated on the International Lutheran Council website: “The International Lutheran Council is a growing worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies 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” (emphasis mine). It is extremely encouraging to know that we are not alone. Over 50 churches worldwide have chosen to be part of an association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which share this commitment to the Gospel and the Word of God.
Martin Luther retained the historic liturgy but insisted that it be in the vernacular, so that the people could understand and participate meaningfully in the Divine Service. For this reason, the Gloria in Excelsis was also composed in hymn form in order to foster congregational singing.
As Advent gives way to Christmas, ILC Churches from many countries and cultures will worship in different languages yet share in the common faith, the common Lutheran confession, and common Lutheran liturgical tradition. In the Divine Service the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word made flesh, comes to us through the Word and in his very Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament to bestow upon us the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Lutherans from all ages and throughout the world join the angels, who sang to the shepherds when Jesus was born in Bethlehem: “Glory be to God on high; and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).
All glory be to God alone,
Forever more the highest one,
Who did our sinful race befriend
And grace and peace to us extend.
Among us may His gracious will
All hearts with deep thanksgiving fill. – Martin Luther, All Ehr und Lob, stanza 1
Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.
SOUTH AFRICA – The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) held its General Synod in Wittenberg, South Africa from December 2-5, 2019, during which time the church reelected Bishop Modise Maragelo and Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala to another five year term in office.
The General Synod was held under the theme “Acta non verba” (“Actions not words”), based on James 2:26b: “Faith apart from works is dead.” With this verse, the LCSA’s church council encouraged its members to remember that all decisions taken must be implemented for the wellbeing of the Church of Christ. The importance of good governance was stressed by Bishop Maragelo.
In the report of the church council, the Bishop highlighted several major events over the past few years, including: the appointment of a General Secretary and a Treasurer; the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the 50th anniversary of the LCSA in 2017; a joint pastors’ convention held with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) in 2018; and workshops organized for preachers, deaconesses, deans, and deputy deans.
Guests in attendance at the event included Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of FELSISA; Mission Director Roger Zieger from the Lutherische Kirchenmission, the Mission Society of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK); and Rev. Dr. Walter Winterle, rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria).
USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) met for its fifth and sixth classes November 11-22, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).
During the first week of classes, Rev. Dr. Christian Ekong, Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, taught a course entitled “Ecclesial and Organizational Leadership.” Archbishop Ekong challenged the students to resist the “leadership syndrome” in which church officials compete for a higher position in the church. Instead, he said, they must understand that church leadership is about service. “If a leader is elected because he has merited a leader’s position, he is in the position of leadership to be served,” he said. “But if a leader understands he is called by God, then that leader will know he is called to serve the church.”
To that end, Archbishop Ekong guided the class into a Scriptural study of ecclesial leadership. Participants expressed gratitude for the class, noting that Archbishop Ekong could speak directly to the challenges and opportunities of church leadership in an African context—challenges they face on a regular basis. The current class of students in the LLDP all come from Africa, with participants in November’s classes attending from Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
During the second week, Rev. Dr. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at CTSFW, taught a course on “Responding to Contemporary Issues and Neo-Pentecostalism.” The church faces new challenges in every era, and these call for a careful confessional Lutheran response. Dr. Pless provided timely assistance to the church leaders participating in the LLDP, providing resources, presenting the roots and manifestations of key contemporary spiritual and theological movements, and assisting participants in responding to issues facing their own churches.
The class discussed not only Neo-Pentecostalism but also contemporary theological issues related to the church growth movement, contextualization, women’s ordination, homosexuality, and Luther’s Two Kingdom doctrine, with particular emphasis on their relevance to the Global South. In addition, Dr. Pless introduced Herman Sasse’s writings as reliable theological contributions in answering contemporary issues.
New Resources from CPH
Students in November’s classes benefited from two texts recently published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH). The first book, Strengthening Integrity and Accountability in Church Leadership, is by Archbishop Ekong and served as a textbook for his course. “Church leaders are often exposed to temptations to profit because of their privileges,” notes a summary on CPH’s website. “When church leaders give in to these temptations to profit from the privileges of leadership, it gives reason to question their motives.” Instead, Dr. Ekong explains, church leaders are to emulate Jesus and the Apostles “who shepherded God’s people and protected them from the wolves.”
The second work is a reprint of Victor C. Pfitzner’s Led by the Spirit: How Charismatic is New Testament Christianity? When the book was first published by the Lutheran Church of Australia in 1976, “the Charismatic Movement was having a broad impact in denominations in North America, Europe, and Australia,” notes a summary on CPH’s website. Since then the movement has spread to other parts of the globe, making Pfitzner’s careful exegetical study of continued relevance. “This classic book on the subject has been reprinted to assist churches around the world in dealing with this challenge and in formulating a confessional Lutheran response.”
“CPH has been a most helpful partner to the International Lutheran Council and the work of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program,” noted Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “It’s a blessing to work with them to publish these solid Lutheran resources not only for students in the LLDP but also for use by the wider Lutheran community.”
“With the publication of these two works, we now have three books published by Concordia Publishing House that bear the LLDP logo,” noted Dr. Masaki. “The church leaders in our current LLDP class and I are deeply thankful that CPH keeps rendering such excellent work for the church around the globe.”
LLDP students also received copies of Hermann Sasse’s Letters to Lutheran Pastors during the November classes.
The Lutheran Leadership Development Program
The LLDP is a two-year certificate program of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The program aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world with the opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management.
“It remains my privilege and joy to spend time with these wonderful men of God and the leaders of various churches,” said Dr. Masaki. “May the Lord continue to use the LLDP for confessional fellowship and to foster mutual support and encouragement among those who serve as leaders in their respective Lutheran church bodies.”
Nine participants attended the November sessions of the LLDP at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana: Rev. John Donkoh, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Rev. Modise Maraglo, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA); Rev. Mandla Thwala, Deputy Bishop of the LCSA; Rev. Helmut Paul, Deputy Bishop of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Makala, Bishop of the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT-SELVD); Rev. Dr. Daniel Mono, District Pastor of the ELCT-SELVD; Rev. Teshome Amenu, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of Youth and Children of the EECMY; and Rev. Dr. Bruk Ayele, President of Mekane Yesus Seminary of the EECMY. Dr. Ayele is a new participant of the LLDP beginning with the November 2019 classes.
Given that all current participants in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program hail from Africa, plans are underway to hold one of 2020’s LLDP two-week sessions in Africa.
GERMANY – The respective chairmen of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, and of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), Archbishop Foley Beach, met in Wittenberg on October 30 during the latest round of dialogue between confessional Lutherans and Anglicans from North America.
Bishop Voigt is the spiritual leader of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) of Germany, and has served as ILC Chairman since 2010. Archbishop Beach is Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and is currently Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council. The ILC is a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies committed to the authority of Holy Scripture as God’s written Word, and to the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ as the heart of the Church’s faith and mission. GAFCON was born out of the realignment of world Anglicanism, as those who uphold the authority of Scripture banded together to respond to theological and spiritual decay within the Anglican communion. The churches associated with GAFCON now represent around 50 million of the 70 million Anglicans around the world.
“The theological and historical background of GAFCON deeply impressed me,” noted Bishop Voigt. “Their understanding of Holy Scripture is very close to that of ILC churches,” he continued, while acknowledging there remain differences of theology between the two organizations which would benefit from further dialogue.
For nearly a decade, representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) and the ACNA have carried out semi-annual dialogue meetings, rejoicing in their discovery of substantial biblical teaching held in common. The decision was made to hold this fall’s round of talks at Wittenberg’s Old Latin School, an agency of the LCMS, SELK and ILC, to afford the regular participants an opportunity to be introduced to each other’s European partners and mark the 502nd anniversary of the Reformation together. In that context Bishop Voigt traveled to Wittenberg and had opportunity to speak with Archbishop Beach, who was present for the regular dialogue meetings. The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England was also present, as were Anglican bishops from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Croatia.
Much of the week’s discussions provided an opportunity for those present to introduce the churches they serve. In addition, there was significant attention given to the possibilities for cooperation in theological education in Europe. Participants also toured historical Luther sites throughout Wittenberg, and in the town of Eisleben, where Luther was born and also died. On the early morning of Reformation Day, the group walked to the famous Thesentür (“theses door”) of Wittenberg’s Castle Church to offer prayers to the Lord and to acknowledge His grace in uncovering the truth of the Gospel at the time of the Reformation 502 years ago.
For more information on the dialogue meetings held in Wittenberg, see this release from the Anglican Church in North America, Lutheran Church–Canada, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
RUSSIA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (ELCI) in Russia elected Rev. Ivan Laptev to be their new bishop during the church’s 30th Synod held October 18-19, 2019 at St. Mary Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Rev. Laptev will be installed as bishop on February 9, 2020.
Rev. Laptev was elected on the second ballot, receiving 48 votes out of the total 80 ballots cast. Other candidates for bishop who had allowed their names to stand were Rev. Olav Panchu, Rev. Mikhail Ivanov, and Rev. Ivan Hutter.
Rev. Laptev, born in 1979, is rector of the Theological Institute of the Church of Ingria. He further serves as head pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Gubanitsy and as pastor of St. George’s Church in Koltushi. All candidates for the position of bishop were required to have served at least ten years in the Church of Ingria; to have higher theological education; to have a good reputation; and to be no less than 35 years of age.
Rev. Ivan Laptev will succeed Bishop Arri Kugappi, who is soon to reach the ELCI’s canonical age of retirement; synodical statutes require the bishop to retire no later than 67 years of age, which Bishop Kugappi will reach in February 2020. Bishop Kugappi was ordained as bishop in 1996. From 1993-1995, he served as Bishop’ Vicar. He was ordained a deacon in 1990 and a pastor in 1992.
The ELCI’s 2018 synodical gathering had voted to make an exception in the case of Bishop Kugappi to allow hm to serve until seventy years of age. However, constitutional difficulties became apparent thereafter and so Bishop Kugappi advised the Synodical Council that he would leave the episcopal ministry in February 2020 as originally called for in church bylaws.
In the run-up to the election, the church met at St. Mary Cathedral in St. Petersburg for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod on September 14, 2019 to consider and approve amendments to church law.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.
PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference came to an end on October 18, 2019. The conference had been meeting in Baguio City, Philippines since October 15.
The morning began with worship, as did every day during the conference, following which representatives from each of the ILC’s five world regions were invited to respond to the conference’s presentations. Speakers included Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); Rev. Dr. Bruk Ayele Asale (Ethiopia Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus); Rev. Dr. Samuel Liu (Taiwan’s China Evangelical Lutheran Church); Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina); and Rev. Dr. James Gimbel (Lutheran Church–Canada).
A recurring theme in their talks was gratitude for the various talks discussing Lutheran identity in different cultural contexts. Dr. Asale expressed joy over the mutual commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions which binds the participants in the conference together, even as they recognize that we must be sensitive to differences in cultural contexts—something Dr. Liu also noted. Dr. Schelske noted that we all have blind spots and that conferences like confessional Lutherans around the world learn from each other, while together focusing on Jesus Christ. Dr. Gimbel reiterated the necessity of recognizing the cruciform nature of Lutheran identity—vertically in relation to God and horizontally in our culturally-conditioned relationships with our neighbour. Dr. Lumley highlighted the value of the work done on identifying a common curriculum for confessional Lutherans around the world.
All of the major papers presented during the conference will be printed in both English and Portuguese in the theological journal of Seminario Concordia, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil.
In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to tour Baguio City, ending at the Lutheran Church of the Philippines’ Lutheran Theological Seminary. There delegates were treated to wonderful cultural celebrations by members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church as well as the seminary community. A fellowship dinner featuring local Filipino cuisine was a highlight of the event. Following the meal, the ILC World Seminaries Conference drew to a close with a closing program with expressions of gratitude to the Lutheran Church of the Philippines for hosting the conference.
A total of 23 theological institutions were represented at the conference, with participants coming from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Norway, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, the United States of America, and Venezuela.
The conference also saw the installation of a new board for the ILC’s Seminaries Relations Committee. The new members include: South Korea’s Rev. Dr. Jun Hyun Kim (Asia World Region); England’s Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Europe World Region); Argentina’s Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Latin America World Region); and the United States’ Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (North America World Region). The new board was installed by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt during Vespers on October 17.
The next ILC World Seminaries Conference will take place in 2022.
Find all news reports from the 2019 World Seminaries Conference here.
PHILIPPINES – Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill has been appointed as the next General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) following a unanimous vote of the ILC Board of Directors (formerly known as the Executive Committee). The decision came during a meeting October 15, 2019 in Baguio City, Philippines.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Quill as the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt. “Dr. Quill has a long history with the international Lutheran community, including through ILC events. We ask God to bless him as he enters this new role, and that through him God would bless the International Lutheran Council as it continues to grow and expand its witness to Christ throughout the world.”
Dr. Quill has been appointed to a three-year term as General Secretary of the ILC. He was installed during evening worship on October 17 during the ILC’s World Seminaries Conference meeting in Baguio City, Philippines. Dr. Quill officially assumes duties on October 19.
Dr. Quill succeeds Darin Storkson, who had served as Interim General Secretary of the ILC since March 2019. Storkson formerly served as Deputy General Secretary.
“We are grateful for Darin’s faithful service as Interim General Secretary over the past seven months,” noted Chairman Voigt. “His leadership during the search for a permanent General Secretary has been a blessing from God, and we are grateful for his continued assistance to Dr. Quill during this time of transition.”
Dr. Quill is a longtime professor of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), having joined the faculty there in 1998. From 2002 onwards, he also served as dean of International Studies. He further served for more than 20 years as director of the seminary’s Russian Project, working with Lutherans throughout Russia and other Eastern European nations, as well as helping to establish the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Dr. Quill also served The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Mission as director of Theological Education.
Dr. Quill graduated from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1980 and served parishes in Connecticut and Missouri before pursuing graduate work, ultimately earning his Ph.D. from Drew University in New Jersey. Since completing his work with Concordia Theological Seminary, he has served as a visitation pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dr. Quill is married to Annette, née Ziebell, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their daughter Kathryn Ann is married to Rev. Paul Gaschler who serves Concordia Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
PHILIPPINES – The 7th World Seminaries Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened Tuesday morning in Baguio City. The conference runs from October 15-18, 2019.
The morning began with Divine Service at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which will be the venue for regular worship during the conference. President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, the host church, took the opportunity to welcome participants.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also brought greetings to the conference.
In the morning, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän introduced the theme which will guide discussion in the first part of the conference: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Dr. Klän is Professor Emeritus of Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany.
“All the confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC are committed to determining our decisions solely on the basis of the Word of God, and not on social, cultural or practical considerations,” Dr. Klän explained. But the challenge remains: “What is demanded of us is a theological answer to the challenges we as confessional Lutheran churches, pastors, and scholars are facing in our time and day, and to our specific situations and living conditions in our various countries, continents, and climes.”
In a follow-up, Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler expanded on the theme of “Doctrinal Identity in Cultural Context.” Dr. Ziegler is Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod.
“In the ILC we find churches that recognize in other churches… doctrinal identity in different cultural contexts,” he explained. “For Lutherans, the Book of Concord is of continuing importance as a true exposition of Scripture, that serves the unity of the Church by confessing the truth and rejecting error in whatever context the church finds itself.”
Asian and European Contexts
Over the course of the course of the conference, five presenters will address their common Lutheran faith and identity from within their own regional context. The afternoon saw the first two of these presenters speak.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson spoke first, presenting on “Christology in an Asian Context.” Dr. Thompson is Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Dr. Thompson outlined the varying approaches Asian cultures have taken in their approaches to Christology, with special reference to the situation in India especially among liberation theologians and theologians focuses on inter-religious dialogue. In these schools’ justifiable desire to be relevant to Asian concerns, he lamented, “sometimes fidelity to the biblical message is compromised to the extent that one ends up creating a novel ‘Christ’ fashioned after one’s own imagination.”
“The task ahead for a Lutheran theologian operating in an Asian context is two-fold,” he concluded; it requires first of all “an unconditional commitment to God’s witness as revealed in the Scriptures,” as well as “serious attempt to engage and relate the biblical message to contextual realities.” The Lutheran Confessions and the Ecumenical creeds have an important role to play in this work, as they ensure Asian cultural wrestling with the doctrine of Christology remains within “the boundaries within which authentic Christian theology and life take place.”
The second half of the afternoon saw Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock provide a European perspective on the theme, presenting on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.” Dr. Barnbrock is Professor of Practical Theology at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany.
Dr. Barnbrock noted the irony that a speaker from Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, must now speak of his cultural context as that of a post-Christian nation. He outlined some of the symptoms of contemporary German culture, explaining that the ultimate “welfare and woe of Lutheran churches depend less on our ability to lead this church than on whether we trust in Christ as Lord of the church—even against all trends that are emerging.”
The work on articulating confessional Lutheran identity is never finished, he concluded, because the cultural contexts in which we live are continually changing. “At the same time,” he said, “we may know that our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ no longer has to be worked out, but is given with baptism and remains the decisive point of reference for our identity throughout our lives. All work on ecclesial and denominational identity is then secondary, without becoming obsolete.”
After each presentation, time was scheduled for plenary discussion by the wider conference.
USA – The working group established in 2014 to conduct an informal dialogue between the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) completed its task during a final session held September 23-26. 2019 on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Taking part from the Roman Catholic Church were Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany), Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn), and Fr. Augustinus Sander O.S.B. (who has recently moved from Germany to Rome). Taking part on behalf of the churches of the ILC were Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany), Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), and Dr. Roland Ziegler (Fort Wayne, Indiana). In addition, the chairman of the ILC, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Hanover, Germany) of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran, attended the sessions in a guest capacity.
The Fort Wayne meeting followed previous gatherings at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel in 2015, the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt in 2016, the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute in Paderborn in 2016, and the Guesthouse of the Mission of Lutheran Churches (Bleckmar Mission) in 2018.
An open and friendly atmosphere marked the final session, which discussed the topics of the umbrella norms of Scripture, tradition, and confession; the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist; the doctrine of justification; and the understanding of ministerial office and ordination. The last-named topic proved so complex as to defy coming to a conclusion, with the result that further work is contemplated in this area.
The results of the conversations will shortly be summarised in a common report to be presented to both the PCPCU and the ILC, which will then consult among themselves and with each other on the best way to pursue further contacts on the basis of what has already been achieved.
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