Founder of Lutheran missions in Mozambique passes on to glory; the church he helped create is growing by leaps and bounds

Rev. Joseph Alfazema

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 Cristã da 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.

 

Rev. Joseph Alfazema (far left) poses with the first class of students Mozambique’s TEE program, along with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back-row, second-from-left) and Rev. André Plamer (front row, far right).

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.

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Installation of Dr. Weber in Wittenberg a ‘global event’

Rev. Dr. Wlhelm Weber is installed by Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver.
Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber

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.”

Dr. Weber (back left) poses with ILC General Secretary Al Collver (front center) and participants in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

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

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Support Confessional Lutheran outreach around the world

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.

To make a donation, click here.

You can also make donations by mail to the following address:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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Darin Storkson named Deputy General Secretary of the ILC

ILC Deputy General Secretary Darin Storkson at the 2018 World Conference in Antwerp, Belgium.

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.

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India Evangelical Lutheran Church leadership dispute resolved

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.”

IELC President Y. Suvisesha Muthu at his installation.

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.

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Australian Lutherans reelect Bishop Henderson, decline women’s ordination

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.”

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Fourth (and Fifth) meeting of the ILC and the PCPCU dialogue group

The dialogue group of the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at their 2018 meetings in Bleckmar, Germany.

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”.

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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.

ILC Greetings to the Lutheran Church of Australia’s 2018 convention

AUSTRALIA – On October 4, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Executive Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), brought greetings to the 19th General Convention of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), meeting in Rosehill, New South Wales.

The text of Dr. Collver’s greetings appears below. Additional news from the LCA’s General Convention of Synod is available through the convention website here.

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ILC Greetings to Lutheran Church of Australia at the 19th General Convention of the Synod

ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver brings greetings to the Lutheran Church of Australia’s 2018 General Convention of Synod.

I bring you greetings in the Name of Jesus on behalf of the International Lutheran Council and her member churches on the occasion of the LCA’s 19th General Convention of the Synod. It is an honor and privilege to be here with you today.

First, I would like to share a little about the ILC with you. The people who formed the ILC first met after the July 1952 Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Assembly which was held in Hanover. The concern for the churches that first formed the ILC was de facto fellowship within the LWF. An Australian, transplanted from Germany, Dr. Hermann Sasse, played a small role in the formation of what would become the International Lutheran Council. In a letter dated June 6, 1952 from Dr. Sasse to the Missouri Synod President, Dr. Behnken, Sasee writes, “As to Uelzen Dr. Hoopmann [of Australia] asked for my opinion, and I have given him some material for a constitution.” Sasse contributed to the ILC’s first constitution. The founding churches of the ILC, including Australia, met in Uelzen, Germany, after the LWF meeting in Hannover. The Lutheran Church of Australia has had connections to the ILC from its very beginning.

As of last week, the International Lutheran Council has 54 member church bodies representing a total of 7.15 million Lutherans worldwide. You can find out more about the ILC on its webpage http://www.ilcouncil.org, including the prayers the ILC posted for the Lutheran Church of Australia, and on the ILC’s Facebook page.

I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but other ILC member church bodies have had difficult and potentially divisive conventions in the past. In 1959, seven years before the Lutheran Church of Australia was formed, the Missouri Synod was at the beginning of a long period of tension that eventually resulted in a division of the LCMS and the formation of the Association of Evangelical Churches (AELC—now in the ELCA). Already in 1959, a professor at the St. Louis seminary said that the Book of God’s Truth contains errors. The Missouri Synod seemed poised for conflict and possible division. At the Missouri Synod’s 1959 convention in San Francisco, Dr. Hermann Sasse was asked by Dr. Behnken to give a lecture on “The Ecumenical Movement and the Lutheran Church.” Ultimately, Dr. Sasse stated that the ecumenical movement needs to be a quest for the truth. I would like to quote a portion of Dr. Sasse’s address:

“For it was the quest for the true Church that caused our fathers to leave their country, their people, their earthly possessions, after they had come to the conviction that the territorial churches of the Old World, which comprised all people irrespective of their actual faith, could no longer be what they claimed to be: churches confessing before God and the world the truth of the Gospel as it was testified to in the Book of Concord. Some people call that separatism. You know from the history of your church how seriously your fathers searched their own conscience, asking themselves in the sight of God whether they were guilty of the sin of schism. Thank God for these consciences! Thank God for holy separatism! The blessing of their faithful confession is still a very great reality in your church. And it is generally admitted that the faithful witness of the true confessors of that time has saved what has remained of the Lutheran Church in the old country.”

In this passage, Sasse called for the Missouri Synod to remember its past and why it was formed. The Missouri Synod, along with the free churches in Germany, and yes, the Lutheran Church of Australia, established themselves to be “churches confessing before God and the world the truth of the Gospel as it was testified to in the Book of Concord.” Such a confession is the lonely way; it is the narrow path that Christ has called us to walk. It is the way that does not bind people’s consciences but allows the Word of God free course. At the 19th convention of the Lutheran Church of Australia, know that the churches of the International Lutheran Council are praying, as 2 Thessalonians 3:1 says, “that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”

Just as the Missouri Synod faced challenges and possible division in 1959, I hope we can provide you with some encouragement as Hermann Sasse did to us almost 60 years ago. You face the decision regarding women’s ordination at your convention. No one can dictate to you what you should do, but we can encourage you to hear the Word of Scripture. The position of the ILC is no secret regarding the ordination of women. The ILC holds what we believe to be the Scriptural and Confessional position of the Lutheran church. The ILC holds to the historic tradition which the church from the time of the apostles has held with other historic churches such as Rome and the Orthodox. As St. Paul handed down what he had received (paradosis), we pass to you what we have received from the apostles, the historic catholic church, and the Lutheran Confessors. May Christ grant you wisdom and guidance as you deliberate.

In closing, please hear the report of Dr. Hoopman from Australia at what would be the first meeting of the ILC in 1952:

“We are in the minority. We stand alone; but as the men who after mature deliberation signed the Formula of Concord did so as men who desired to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with intrepid hearts, thus we are also mindful of our responsibility to God and all Christendom and of the fact that we have vowed ‘that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to our Confessions, but by the help of God’s grace we intend to abide thereby.'”

I believe that these words are as true and valid today, perhaps even more so today, as when they were spoken 66 years ago. Thank you and may the Lord guide and bless you this week.

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A Call to Prayer for the Lutheran Church of Australia

AUSTRALIA – The Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) has invited the International Lutheran Council (ILC) to keep the Australian church in prayer as it holds its General Convention of Synod October 2-7 in Rosehill, New South Wales. The LCA is an Associate Member of the ILC.

The LCA’s invitation to prayer was renewed recently during the ILC’s 2018 World Conference in Antwerp, Belgium, when Bishop Mark Lieschke brought greetings to the conference on behalf of the LCA and Bishop John Henderson. In his response, ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt offered his prayers that God would bless the LCA and send His Holy Spirit to guide the church during its convention.

The ILC is inviting its member churches to join in praying for the Australian church.

Prayer for the General Convention of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Merciful God, we humbly implore You to cast the bright beams of Your light upon the Lutheran Church of Australia as she gathers for her General Convention. During these troubling days of cultural, political, and religious unrest across the globe, when divisiveness and animosity infest church and society, give the delegates the wisdom and understanding that comes from a faithful and courageous commitment to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. May their clear and faithful confession unite the church in the bond of peace, love, and unity, and encourage sister Lutheran churches throughout the world to retain this God-given bond of peace and unity. Being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may we all walk together in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Churches may also wish to use the following prayer as well, reflecting especially on the LCA and its current convention. The prayer was composed to thank God on the 25th anniversary of the ILC in its current form, and asks for God to bless the relationship between the member churches of the ILC.

Prayer for the 25th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council 

Almighty God, You have promised to be with Your Church forever. We praise You for Your presence in the churches of the International Lutheran Council and ask Your ongoing blessing upon those who gather around the altars and pulpits of our congregations throughout the world. Dwell continually among us with Your holy Word and Sacraments, strengthen our fellowship in the bonds of love and peace, increase our faithful witness to Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord.

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ILC World Conference draws to a close, issues statement on ecumenism

LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo preaches during matins.

BELGIUM – The final day of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2018 World Conference opened with a service of matins in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Antwerp. Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa preached for the service, looking forward to the commemoration of St. Michael and all Angels on September 30. Rev. Timothy Quill served as liturgist.

Following matins, Rev. Milton Huatuco, outgoing President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru, presented a study on Latin American Lutheranism and ecumenism. His report highlighted how local context affect the ecumenical efforts. In Latin America, for example, he noted that Lutherans make up only 0.15 percent of the Latin American population, making Lutherans a small player on the ecumenical scene. Likewise, historic persecution of Protestants make some groups skeptical of rapprochement with Roman Catholics, the major Christian church in Latin America. Intra-Lutheran discussions, however, have been a fruitful ecumenical project, especially in Brazil and Argentina.

Outgoing President Milton Huatuco of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru leads a study on Lutheran ecumenism in Latin America.

The morning session saw greetings to the ILC from Bishop Mark Lieschke, on behalf of Bishop John Henderson and the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). The LCA is preparing for its triennial convention, which is scheduled for the coming week. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt thanked Bishop Lieschke for his remarks, and offered his prayers that God would bless the LCA and send His Holy Spirit to guide them during their forthcoming convention.

Bishop Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church of Norway (LKN) reported on Concordia Israel, a recent project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Ingria in Russia (ELCIR) undertaken in partnership with the LKN. Concordia Israel provides Lutheran education for the evangelical Lutheran church in Israel, including support for pilgrim trips and study tours to Israel; Lutheran education to congregations and congregation members in Israel; and online theological university training.

Later in the day, the convention voted to receive the invitation from the ELCIR and LKN to host the 2021 World Conference of the ILC in Israel, directing the Executive Committee to explore the feasibility of the proposal. In the event the location proves too difficult to arrange, the Executive Committee was authorized to select another location for the 2021 World Conference.

Ecumenism in the Confessions, Ecumenism in Practice

A highlight of the final day’s session was a report on the International Lutheran Council’s informal international dialogue with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). Rev. Dr. Werner Klän, who serves as the Lutheran co-chairman of the dialogue, addressed the convention on the work accomplished over the past several years. He noted that the initial idea for dialogue came from the Roman Catholic side, leading eventually to discussions in Rome in 2013, a preperatory meeting in 2014, and finally the official beginning of the dialogue group in 2015.

The most recent round in the ILC-PCPCU’s informal international dialogue took place September 17-21 in Bleckmar, Germany. A report on those discussions will be published online by the ILC soon. The concluding meeting of the current round of discussions is scheduled for 2019, at which time the dialogue group will present a final report summarizing their findings and making recommendations to the ILC and the PCPCU about future possibilities for continued dialogue.

Professors Roa and Klän answer questions on their respective presentations to the ILC World Conference.

Following Dr. Klän’s report, Rev. Wilando Roa presented the convention’s final lecture on its theme of ecumenism and ecclesiology. In his talk, Rev. Roa explored the Lutheran Confessions as the basis for faithful dialogue with other Christians. The conclusion of his lecture provided a roadmap for future ecumenical opportunities, noting that “those closest to us in the household of faith… deserve our first attention.” To that end, he encouraged member churches of the ILC to initially focus their ecumenical efforts inwards—working with those estranged in our own denominations—before moving outward: first by seeking greater dialogue with partner churches; then dialoguing with church bodies no longer in fellowship with us; then looking to other Lutheran churches; and finally looking out to groups outside the Lutheran tradition.

Later in the day, the convention distilled some of the week’s discussions of ecumenism and adopted a brief statement on “Confessional Identity and Ecumenical Responsibility.” Read the full statement here.

Putting that ecumenical concern into practice, the convention also adopted a resolution on ILC relations with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), noting that “the ILC Executive Committee remains open to conversation with the LWF Council to help clarify points of confusion and to facilitate an ongoing exchange of information.” The full resolution is available to download here. The 2018 resolution reaffirms the position on dual membership in the ILC and LWF first taken at the 2007 World Conference in Accra, Ghana (see the 2007 resolution here).

Closing Service and the Installation of the Executive Committee

LCC President Timothy Teuscher preaches the final sermon of the 2018 World Conference.

The convention concluded with a final service of evening prayer, with President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium serving as lector and Rev. Timothy Quill as liturgist. Serving as cantor and organist this day, as every day of the conference, was Matthew Machemer.

As with matins earlier, the service of evening prayer f focused on biblical texts surrounding the ministry of angels, with President Timothy Teuscher of Lutheran Church–Canada preaching. The passage under discussion focused on the angels’ conflict with the devil. Because that ancient serpent is the father of lies, President Teuscher noted, one of the most important weapons of the angels is the Sword of Truth, the Word of God—and this is a weapon that we too are called to wield against the devil’s lies. It is natural that angels should adopt such a weapon, President Teuscher explained, since the very meaning of their name—“angel”—is “messenger.” And the message they proclaim is Christ, God incarnate and Saviour of the world.

The service concluded with the rite of installation for the newly elected and appointed members of the International Lutheran Council’s Executive Committee.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC Executive Secretary, installs the officers of the new triennium’s Executive Committee. (Photo: S. van Hattem).

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