BRAZIL – On July 29, Rev. Dr. Johannes Hermann Gedrat, former Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), passed on to glory. A funeral service was held July 30 in Dois Irmãos, Brazil.
Dr. Gedrat was born August 8, 1934 in Moreira, Brazil, where his parents were missionaries. He was ordained in 1958. He was elected President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) in 1974. He would hold the position for four terms, ending his service in 1990. He later served as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Secretary for Latin America from 1990-1997.
Dr. Gedrat was first elected Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (then still called the International Lutheran Conference) during the 1984 gathering in Obot Idim, Nigeria. He first attended an ILC conference in 1975 after his election as president of the Brazilian church. He would also serve as host of the conference that year, as the 1975 conference took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
During his tenure as ILC Chairman, Dr. Gedrat oversaw 1986’s world conference in Berlin, Germany (meeting under the theme “Effective Gospel Proclamation”) and 1989’s conference in Seoul, Korea (meeting under the theme “Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Age”). The latter conference saw the adoption of Guiding Principles which helped the ILC better articulate its mission.
Over the years, Dr. Gedrat also presented major papers during ILC World Conferences on “Ecumenical Involvement” (1981) and “Holy Baptism in the Life of the Church” (1984).
Dr. Gedrat’s chairmanship of the ILC came to an end in 1991, following the completion of his service as IELB president in 1990.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has commended the work of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), pledging its continued support as the ILC expands its operations in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide. The LCMS’ resolution came during the church’s 67th regular synodical convention, taking place in Tampa, Florida.
“The ILC has become a beacon to worldwide Lutheranism by upholding the Holy Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions,” notes Resolution 5-08: To Commend and Support the International Lutheran Council. In the resolution, the LCMS gives thanks to God for the ILC and its continuing expansion.
The LCMS resolved “that the ILC be commended for its work to provide a place for worldwide Lutheran churches to be strengthened in the Holy Scriptures and in Lutheran identity as it bears witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.” The LCMS also resolved to encourage greater knowledge of the ILC within the LCMS, and pledged its continued support for the ILC’s work, resolving: “that the LCMS encourage its members to learn more about the work of the ILC, continue its involvement in the ILC, and support the ILC so that Lutheran churches worldwide will have a place to be encouraged, strengthened, and encouraged to remain faithful and bold witnesses.”
The resolution was adopted unanimously.
“It is gratifying to see the work of the International Lutheran Council be recognized in this way,” said ILC Interim General Secretary Darin Storkson following the vote. “The LCMS is an important ally in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide, and we are thankful for their continued strong support.”
ILC Vice Chairman Timothy Teuscher (President of Lutheran Church–Canada) also expressed gratitude. “The International Lutheran Council is at a critical point in its history,” he said. “A growing number of Lutherans around the world are seeking to reembrace their confessional heritage. The ILC, thanks to the support of its members like the LCMS, is in a key position to assist these churches to stand more firmly on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. May God give us strength for this task, and use us as He sees fit.”
UNITED KINGDOM – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) hosted a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) for meetings June 12, 2019 at Luther-Tyndale Memorial Church in Kentish Town, London.
Attending the meetings were four ELCE clergy, including Chairman Jon Ehlers, and twelve ELCL clergy, including Archbishop Jānis Vanags. A major point of discussion was how the two churches might work more closely together to minister to the large Latvian population living in the UK. As of 2011, the United Kingdom counted more than 61,000 Latvian-born residents throughout the UK.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England has one Latvian pastor serving in the church. The Latvian church currently has one pastor serving in the English Midlands and another pastor serving in Ireland.
“It was a pleasure to welcome Archbishop Vanags and the other pastors of the Latvian church,” said ELCE Chairman Ehlers. “Our two churches are both grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, which gives us a solid foundation for cooperation. It’s a joy to consider the ways in which we might partner more closely together for the good of the Gospel.”
As a result of the meetings, the Latvian church plans to connect their members living in the United Kingdom with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England. The ELCE, meanwhile, has pledged to provide assistance to the two Latvian pastors working in the region, and to invite them to participate in ELCE pastors’ study conferences and other opportunities for theological development.
During the meetings, the two churches took time to explain their history and church structure, as well as their respective understandings of altar and pulpit fellowship. “We spent a lot of time explaining the history of our churches and our polities, to help us better understand each other,” noted ELCE Chairman Ehlers. “We also agreed to continue talks on these matters to help us work more closely together in the future.”
Another topic under discussion was the possibility of future cooperation between the two churches’ seminaries: Westfield House in England and Luther Academy in Latvia.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia has grown increasingly close to the ILC in recent years. In 2018, for example, the Latvian church invited the ILC to present at the ELCL’s General Pastors Conference. Archbishop Vanags has also participated in a number of ILC events, most recently the ILC’s 2018 World Conference.
CANADA – Rev. Joseph Khembo Alfazema, the father of confessional Lutheran missions in Mozambique and a pastor of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), passed on to glory on May 11, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. A funeral service for Rev. Alfazema was held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Edmonton.
Rev. Alfazema was native to Mozambique, but fled to Canada with his wife Perpetua in the 1980s to escape civil war. After the war ended, the Alfazemas were asked to assist in the founding of a school, health centre, and clean water supply in their homeland. This led to the founding of the Kapesseni Project, which brought not only physical assistance to those struggling in the aftermath of the civil war but also spiritual care as well.
Rev. Alfazema pursued pastoral ministry through Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario), and was called to serve Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) as a missionary to Mozambique upon his graduation. While his wife Perpetua focused on social ministry needs through the Kuwangisana Project, Rev. Alfazema focused on Gospel proclamation and evangelization.
Rev. Alfazema returned to Canada for health reasons following his retirement, but the work they began continued. In 2018, the church which grew out of his mission work was officially recognized by the Mozambican government as the Concordia Christian Church in Mozambique (Igreja Cristãda Concórdia em Moçambique – ICCM). While the church was officially registered by the government in 2018, it had previously operated unofficially for several years under the name Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique —federal requirements in Mozambique prevented the young church from registering with the word “Lutheran” in its legal name).
The church grew out of Rev. Alfazema’s missions, and drew on the support of a number of international partners. Early on, Rev. Alfazema partnered with Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle to collaborate on mission work in the area. Dr. Winterle is president emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and was at the time serving with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). Together, LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, along with support from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany’s (SELK) Bleckmar Mission project, coordinated mission outreach and theological training in the country, especially through the formation of a Theological Education by Extension Program organized by the IELB.
In August 2015, the Mozambican church celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors from the TEE. At the time, the church had ten congregations. By June of the next year, they had 31 congregations. Today, the ICCM has 80 congregations and a current class of thirty students training for the pastoral ministry.
The ICCM’s parent churches and supporters—LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, the LCMS, and SELK—are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.
The family of Rev. Aflazema has invited those wishing to honour his legacy to contribute to the building of new classrooms for an elementary school in Mozambique.
GERMANY – On February 24, 2019, Rev. Dr. Wilhem Weber was installed as Managing Director of the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. The event was attended by guests from around the world, with Africa especially well-represented.
“I am very grateful that on this, my special day, you are here as well,” said Dr. Weber to those gathered for the installation. “Just like Paul we are always tempted to say ‘No, I’m too young, or I’m too this, or I’m to that.’ We need the encouragement of the brothers. That is why we take hands and say, ‘Praise the Lord. We will do this together because He has joined us, not just as acquaintances but as members of the same family—God’s family, His people.’”
Dr. Weber has formerly served both as Bishop of the Lutheran Church in South Africa (LCSA and as Rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria.
The installation service was conducted by Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver. Dr. Voigt is Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Dr. Collver is General Secretary of the ILC and Senior Managing Director of Wittenberg’s International Lutheran Center.
From Macedonia to Wittenberg
Dr. Weber’s sermon for the installation was entitled “From Macedonia to Wittenberg,” drawing on Acts 16:6-15. In that passage, St. Paul has a vision in which a man from Macedonia comes and begs him to come to them.
Now, Dr. Weber said, “we come here to Wittenberg, and we are astonished to see [church] buildings not much filled with life. It is a great concern, but it also shows the great responsibility we have.”
“The Gospel was blooming in all its brightness” long ago in Germany, he said. “Look what they’ve got now. Perhaps wealth, yes. But what about that which really makes the heart come to rest? Have they got that? We need to pray that God will give grace.”
Dr. Weber’s work with the International Lutheran Center will serve as a vehicle for Christian outreach to return to the heartland of the Reformation. It “gives Confessional Lutherans a chance to bring the pure Gospel anew to Germany, Europe, and to the world,” noted Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). “It is a great opportunity and yet also a great responsibility.”
The FELSISA deputy bishop was one of a number of African guests present for Dr. Weber’s installation, with Lutheran leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, and Tanzania all in Wittenberg for the current round of classes in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program.
Dr. Weber welcomed these guests, explaining that the work of the International Lutheran Center, like the work of the Church more generally, is something done in partnership with others. “[God] does not only work with individuals like Paul,” he said. “He also works with the communion of saints, the congregation of believers.”
“That’s what you are,” he continued. “God wants us to work together in this…. We are not to just stay alone, but rather to seek the communion of the faithful—and, together, to do what God has entrusted to us: namely, be faithful witnesses to Him.”
His words were well-received. “The installation of Rev. Dr. Weber provides inspiration and shows how the Lord preserves a remnant in a dying world,” said Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese. “It was a joy to see churches from the International Lutheran Council participating, making the installation an event for global Lutheranism and not for Germany alone.”
Rev. Teshome Amanu, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, also expressed appreciation for the clear Lutheran identity visible in the rite of installation itself. “This installation tells us how Lutherans are serious about their liturgy and placing ministers in their office according to Christ’s Word,” he said. “It is important for me that ministers receive the mandate from Christ Himself, and they are expected to be faithful to the One who called and mandated them.”
The International Lutheran Center is a joint project of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Concordia Publishing House.
You can support mission outreach in Wittenberg through the International Lutheran Council through online giving. Just select “Wittenberg Outreach.” You can also donate by mail:
International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118
ONLINE – The International Lutheran Council is a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world, and operates a number of programs that support confessional Lutheran mission and ministry across the globe. Want to support that work? Now you can through online giving on the ILC’s website.
You can make a one-time gift or set-up recurrent giving. You can also designate your donation for specific ILC programming, including:
Outreach in Wittenberg, Germany (supporting confessional Lutheran outreach in the birthplace of the Reformation)
The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (helping to train confessional Lutheran leaders from around the world)
Concordia Israel (supporting confessional Lutheran ministry in Israel)
Seminary education in Nigeria (supporting theological education in Nigeria)
Missionary support in Nigeria (supporting the missionary work of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria)
You can also designate your funds to assist the work of the ILC where needed most.
ANTWERP – The newly inducted and installed Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has named Darin Storkson as the ILC’s Deputy General Secretary, filling a post created following the ratification of the ILC’s new bylaws during the 2018 World Conference in Belgium. Storkson had already been unofficially functioning in the role for more than a year.
As a former diplomat with the International Committee of the Red Cross, a former foreign direct investment consultant, and a director in various international roles for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) for thirteen years, Storkson brings significant international experience and capacity to the ILC to engage and build partnerships with international church bodies.
“It’s a pleasure to officially welcome Darin as Deputy General,” said Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC. “I’ve worked directly with Darin for several years and look forward to serving with him in this new capacity. His expertise will be an invaluable asset to the International Lutheran Council as it faces ever-expanding opportunities to assist confessional Lutherans around the world in their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
For the last thirteen years, Storkson has served the LCMS in various capacities. From 2005-2011, Storkson served as a regional director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care. He then served as the Office of International Mission (OIM) Regional Director for Southern Asia and Oceania from 2011-2014, as Senior Regional Director for Asia from 2014-2016, and finally as Assistant Director of Church Relations in the Office of the President from 2016 to the present.
“Darin joined LCMS World Relief after the great Asian tsunami,” noted LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison. “His decades of experience living and working overseas with NGOs and churches have been an invaluable blessing. He has especially insisted on integrity and accountability in the use of funding, and he has been tireless in assisting partners with the building of administrative capacity.”
“This is a watershed moment for global Lutheranism,” says Storkson. “The solidly biblical and confessional theology of the ILC is attracting new Lutheran partners right and left, and we are embracing these exciting opportunities for new partnerships in the Gospel. The expansion of our international relationships has been a hallmark of the ILC in the last several years, and it is a tremendously exciting opportunity and blessed privilege to be part of such a great organization and contribute to the historic growth of confessional Lutheranism around the world.”
In his new position, Storkson will assist the ILC General Secretary Dr. Collver with the day-to-day management of the expanding work of the International Lutheran Council.
INDIA – On September 26, 2018, the Madras High Court ruled in favour of President Y. Suvisesha Muthu as the duly elected head of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC). President Muthu was elected in May 2017 but his administration had faced legal challenges by an opposing group.
The International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which the IELC is a member church, greeted news of the legal resolution with satisfaction. “We are overjoyed to be able to finally extend our formal recognition of your administration,” wrote ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Albert Collver in an October letter to President Muthu. “It is our fervent prayer that, under your continuing leadership, the IELC may advance towards an ever-strengthened unity of faith and confession, and that the hitherto endless strife and legal disputes that are so displeasing among Christian brothers may come to an end. May our Lord give you the grace necessary to bring this about and to guard and guide His Church in India.”
“The ILC wishes all the best for you and your presidency, and stands ready to support you in any way that we can,” they continued. “We pray that the Lord would bring those opposing your administration to repentance for the sake of His Church in India, and so that their own souls might avoid judgement in the afterlife.”
President Muthu was elected on May 26, 2017, receiving 35 of 65 ballots cast. Because of leadership challenges in the IELC in recent years, representatives from the IELC’s partner church, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), were on hand as observers to verify the vote, in addition to the IELC’s own election commissioner and presidential candidates. An installation service for President Muthu took place later that evening, with IELC Vice President Y. Sukumaran presiding.
“We are encouraged that faithful men like you and your fellow officers continue to tirelessly seek to reform the IELC administration,” wrote LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison in a letter to President Muthu after the September court decision. “We join you in looking forward to the day when the dissension and strife within the IELC has ceased.”
President Muthu succeeded President Gambeeram, who had previously been elected to office in 2014. As a result of internal disputes, the courts likewise had to declare his administration legitimate after legal challenges from opposing groups.
AUSTRALIA – The Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) has reelected Bishop John Henderson during its 2018 General Convention of Synod October 2-7 in Rosehill, New South Wales. The convention also saw the church decline a resolution calling for the ordination of women.
Bishop Henderson was reelected to a second term on October 4. He was first elected in 2013 (the first term for LCA bishops is six years, with three-year terms thereafter). ‘I thank you for your support’, Bishop Henderson said upon his election. ‘I pray that I am worthy of serving you—well, I’m not worthy of serving you—but I pray that I will be given by God the strength to serve you for another term.’
Rev. Dr. Andrew Pfeiffer was also reelected as the LCA’s Assistant Bishop.
A major subject of discussion during the 2018 General Synod was the ordination of women, with the LCA again declining a resolution calling for the ordination of women. This was the fourth time the LCA has voted on this subject since 2000.
LCA Bishop John Henderson declared the results of the secret ballot on October 5: 161 against and 240 in favour. That meant the resolution failed to receive the 2/3 majority required by the LCA’s constitution to make changes in matters of a theological or confessional nature.
The International Lutheran Council, of which the LCA is an Associate Member, had pledged prayer for the Australian church in advance of the vote. Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC, also brought greetings to the General Synod on October 4, encouraging the LCA in his remarks to remain faithful to the historic teaching of the church on ordination.
The morning following the vote, Bishop David Altus of the LCA’s South Australia/Northern Territory reflected on its results and strained relations in the church. “If I could put it into my own words, I would say that the LCA is hurting, and hurting very badly,” he said. “She’s a broken woman, hurting in all parts of the body.”
The synod later adopted a motion “that Synod acknowledges the deep hurt and harm to individuals and groups that has been occasioned over the past years in the course of the debate regarding ordination; repents of the hurt, and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with one another.”
GERMANY – The fourth (and fifth) meeting of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) – Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) dialogue group took place September 17-21, 2018 at the facilities of Lutherische Kirchenmission in Bleckmar, Germany. The goal of this “informal dialogue is to find out whether an official dialogue between ILC and PCPCU on the world level is possible and might be fruitful.”
Four working groups submitted papers for plenary discussion; they were are established as follows: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany) and Prof. Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada) worked on the topic of Justification; PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn) and Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Fort Wayne, USA) on Synérgeia and Sacrifice; Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil) on Ministry and Ordination; Father Augustinus Sander (Erfurt, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany) on Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass (ApolCA XXIV).
The Lutheran team invited Dr. Pavel Butakov from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia to deliver a paper on “The Eucharistic Conquest of Time” (printed in: Faith and Philosophy Vol. 34 No 3 July 2017), pointing out to the difficulties of certain theories to explain the presence of the sacrifice of Christ in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Those papers already submitted were discussed in detail. Criticisms were debated and additional suggestions were noted. It occurred that some commonalities between the Roman-Catholic and Concordia-Lutheran traditions are to be found whereas some points still need further explanation and consideration on both sides and in plenary. Several issues however still remain controversial and obviously cannot be resolved in this informal dialogue but will have to be dealt with in future conversations.
The workings now have been appointed to rewrite their respective drafts and send them around for further discussion. Additionally text modules shall be sketched that will form part and parcel of the final report. On the grounds of these text modules a first draft of this final report is meant to be conceptualized. This task has been assigned to Dr. Klän. Over and above this, a preamble was seen as helpful to explain about the hermeneutical approaches to the dialogue and its various topics including an accurate description of the Lutheran “set of norms”, or standards that define the Church’s doctrine.
The final meeting of the dialogue group has been scheduled for September 2019 in either Canada (St. Catharines, Ontario) or the United States (St. Louis, Missouri). In that meeting, the final report is meant to be adopted. Then it will be submitted to the ILC Executive Committee and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity respectively. Those will have to decide whether or not the results presented by the dialogue group are seen as sufficiently satisfactory as to start an “official dialogue”.
Participants in the ILC-PCPCU dialogue group include, on the ILC side, Rev. Dr. Albert Colver III, Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler, Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden, and Prof. Dr. John Stephenson. On the Roman Catholic side are Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag, PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann, Father Dr. Augustinus Sander, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen.
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