AUSTRALIA – Rev. Dr. Lance Graham Steicke, former president of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), has passed on to glory at the age of 88.
Dr. Steicke was born in Murray Bridge on February 19, 1933. He studied at Concordia College in Adelaide and Concordia Seminary, leading to his ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia—a predecessor body of the current LCA—in 1955. He spent four years as a pastor in Loxton before moving to New Zealand where he served for the next twenty years, including fifteen years as president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand. He further served as director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV before accepting the role of director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia.
In 1987, Dr. Steicke was elected president of the Lutheran Church of Australia, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1990.
In addition to being a regular participant in the gatherings of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) during his tenure, Dr. Steicke and the Lutheran Church of Australia also hosted the 16th Conference of the ILC in Adelaide, Australia in September 1995.
Dr. Steicke is particularly remembered for his work on Aboriginal reconciliation in Australia as well as for his contributions to ecumenical dialogue. Following his service as president of the LCA, Dr. Steicke spent three years (2000-2003) as president of Australia’s National Council of Churches, an organization he had helped found in 1994. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his service to ecumenism and the Lutheran Church.
Additional information on Dr. Steicke’s life and service to the church is available on the LCA’s website here.
The Lutheran Church of Australia is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
ETHIOPIA – Eight people, including three children, are dead following flash flooding at Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa on August 17, 2021.
“We request your prayers in this tragic moment,” the seminary writes. “It is with heavy hearts to lose eight and say goodbye.”
In addition to the tragic loss of life, there is extensive damage to seminary property, including residences. The seminary reports damage to 21 buildings, to roads, and to other infrastructure. Multiple families and students have been displaced, and the seminary was forced to suspend classes in the aftermath. Mekane Yesus Seminary is a theological institute of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), the world’s largest Lutheran church body.
In a letter to leaders of the EECMY and the seminary, General Secretary Timothy Quill of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) expressed condolences and assured the Ethiopian church that Lutherans around the globe are naming them in prayer. “Our shared grief over the loss of life and property is deep,” he wrote. “However, for those who died in the flood, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we do not grieve as others who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus who died and rose again, and at His coming He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). And as far as the loss of property, that can and will be replaced. We pray that God would open the hearts of His people to support the rebuilding of the seminary, and are confident that with His help, Mekane Yesus will emerge stronger than ever, trusting in Him after whom the seminary is named.”
“Our prayer is that you will find encouragement and strength to meet the challenging days ahead, knowing that it is our Lord’s Church and that He loves His Bride and her seminary,” Dr. Quill continued. “He promised to be with you always to the end of the age. It is our ascended Lord who gives the gifts of pastors for works of service to His Church (Ephesians 4:7-12). The Lord has given the EECMY the gift of a marvelous seminary in which faithful pastors will continue to be trained to preach the Gospel to the lost and give evangelical pastoral care to His faithful baptized children.”
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), a member church of the ILC, supports theological education at the Addis Ababa seminary through student scholarships and the provision of missionary professors at the school. One of those missionaries, Rev. Eric Stinnett, barely escaped from the flood with his wife and children. As soon as they realized what was happening, he and his wife sent their eight-year old running for higher ground, while their sixteen year-old carried the three-year-old to safety through waist-high water. Their twelve-year-old was not home at the time and was not endangered. Rev. Stinnet and his wife, meanwhile, got out with a few personal belongings just as the water reached chest height. They lost almost everything else.
“We are truly thankful that our Lord spared our lives,” said Rev. Stinnet. “While we did lose much of our possessions, they can all be eventually replaced. The situation is much more difficult for many of the other families affected by the flood.”
“Even though, as Christians, our mourning is not hopeless, we still do mourn,” Rev. Stinnet continued. “The loss of life is still very painful. The families who lost loved ones need our prayers and the continued comfort of the Gospel. The Good News of salvation in Christ is the only thing that can make sense of this kind of loss.”
Under the blessing of God, the EECMY and the International Lutheran Council have drawn increasingly close in recent years, with EECMY guests regularly in attendance at ILC events. The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions.
Prayer:Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts. Your ways are not our ways. In Your wisdom, You have permitted this tragic flooding to befall the people of Ethiopia. We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor their faith in You fail, but sustain and comfort them. Console the bereaved. Bring hope and healing. And guide the restoration work still to come, that Mekane Yesus Seminary would be equipped to continue to raise up faithful pastors to care for the Church in Ethiopia and proclaim the mercy of Christ. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
AFGHANISTAN – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is encouraging prayer for the people of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to rule.
The recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has been followed by the rapid collapse of the nation’s democratic government as the Taliban takes control of the country. There have been multiple reports of revenge killings. Many who wish to flee have been unable to do so.
There is widespread international concern that the freedoms of women, Christians, and other minority groups will be wiped out as the country reverts to the brutal form of government which characterized the Taliban’s previous rule of Afghanistan.
In light of these events, we encourage Christians around the world to remember the people of Afghanistan in prayer.
Prayer:Heavenly Father, you know the fear which has gripped the nation of Afghanistan. Grant peace to a troubled region. Lead those in power to respect the rights of the people. Protect those who are unable to protect themselves. And comfort the small community of Christians in the country who, like many others, are fearful for the future. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
USA – The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) recently held their 2021 national conventions, and President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was present at both to bring greetings—the first LCMS President to do so in more than sixty years.
For almost a century, the LCMS enjoyed fellowship with both WELS and the ELS through the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference. The middle of the twentieth century, however, saw the LCMS undergo a period of doctrinal controversy, leading the ELS to end fellowship in 1955 and WELS to do the same in 1961. WELS and ELS remain in fellowship together.
In his greetings to the two church bodies, President Harrison acknowledged the reasons why the ELS and WELS broke fellowship with the LCMS in 1955 and 1961. “It had to be done to avoid the tragic events which would play out in the history of the Missouri Synod in the next decades,” he said to the WELS convention. “Thankfully,” President Harrison noted in his remarks to the ESL convention, “the Lord granted us a new day,” with God leading the synod through the doctrinal challenges of the mid-twentieth century to reaffirm its allegiance to the authority of Scripture.
While the reestablishment of fellowship between the LCMS and the ELS and WELS is not currently on the horizon, President Harrison said he is grateful for renewed contact between the church bodies in recent years. Since 2012, the LCMS, WELS, and ELS have held annual informal discussions which have fostered greater understanding and goodwill between the churches. A 2015 report on these meetings highlighted the discovery of significant doctrinal agreement. Each church body has also adopted synodical resolutions encouraging continued discussions between the churches.
During his greetings, President Harrison also expressed condolences to the ELS on the sudden death of President John Moldstad, who went to be with the Lord on January 29, 2021. He gave thanks to God also for continued friendship and discussion with WELS President Mark Schroeder as well as new ELS President Glenn Obenberger.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. The WELS and ELS are both members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Member churches of the CELC, including WELS and ELS, recently joined the ILC, LCMS, and other Lutheran churches worldwide as signatories to a joint letter expressing concern over religious freedom concerns in Finland.
ONLINE – The Board of Directors of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held regular meetings online on June 29, 2021.
“As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we are preparing to continue and expand our work in support of confessional Lutheran churches across the globe,” said ILC Chairman Hans -Jörg Voigt. “There are a number of projects and initiatives we have been at work on over the past year, and we hope to unveil these in the coming months.”
Among other regular business, the board adopted a new budget for the coming year and considered several applications for membership in the ILC. The meeting also heard regional reports from world area representatives, and discussed possibilities for upcoming regional ILC conferences.
The next ILC World Conference remains tentatively scheduled for 2022.
EUROPE – Corpus Christi will hold its annual conference virtually this year, gathering online from July 30-31, 2021.
The decision to hold an online conference comes following the difficulties posed by current pandemic restrictions. 2020’s conference was postponed as a result of the pandemic.
This will be the 12th Corpus Christi Conference, and it will gather under the theme “Sharing in God’s Holiness.” Rev. Dr. John W. Kleinig of the Lutheran Church of Australia will be guest lecturer for the event.
“What happens when people no longer have a sense for God’s holiness, when they live as if nothing was sacred any longer?” Dr. Kleinig asks in promotional material. “They are unable to enjoy him and his goodness in the church and in the world. In these two sessions I intend to examine the surprising teaching of holiness in the Bible and show how the triune God purifies us from spiritual pollution and shares His holiness with us through His most holy Word by the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments in the divine service, so that as His saints we can have access to His holy presence together with His holy angels and serve Him as His holy priests already now here on earth.”
Dr. Kleinig taught at Australian Lutheran College from 1982-2009, and is widely recognized for his work as a biblical expositor and pastoral theologian. He is the author of Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, as well as commentaries on Hebrews and Leviticus for the Concordia Commentary Series.
In the leadup to Corpus Christi’s online conference, Dr. Kleinig presented a prefatory lecture entitled “Borrowed Holiness” on May 22, 2021.
In addition to Dr. Kleinig’s lectures, the schedule for Corpus Christi’s 2021 conference also lists times of bible study, prayer, and more.
Corpus Christi is an independent Evangelical Lutheran association which pursues churchly and biblical renewal among young adults in Europe. For more information on Corpus Christi, or to register for the online conference, visit their website at corpuschristi.eu.
JAPAN – The Japan Lutheran Church (日本ルーテル教団Nihon Ruteru Kyoudan – NRK) held its 18th General Conference online on April 29, 2021, after a year’s delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the conference, the NRK elected Rev. Tatsuomi Yoshida as the church’s new president.
“We, as part of the body of Christ, will serve the Lord and pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we utilize the leadership and talents of these servants,” President Yoshida said of himself and other newly elected Executive Committee members. “I would appreciate it if you would keep us in your prayers.”
Prior to his election, Rev. Yoshida served as Vice President of the NRK. He succeeds President Shin Shimizu, who was first elected to the position in 2014. President Yoshida will also continue to serve as pastor of Sapporo Chuo Lutheran Church.
The International Lutheran Council (ILC) sent greetings to President Yoshida on his election following the NRK’s recent convention. “It is an honour to congratulate you,” write ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Timothy Quill. “We are keeping you in our prayers, beseeching our Lord to grant you wisdom and strength to lead your church during these very difficult days. It is important to courageously face today’s spiritual, cultural, and political challenges with the confidence and certain hope that can only be found in Christ Jesus and the Gospel.”
“United in our commitment to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions,” the letter continues, “we look forward to working together joyfully in making a united witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we encourage and strengthen one another in preaching the pure Gospel clearly and boldly to the entire world.”
During its convention, the Japan Lutheran Church chose a new theme for the coming triennium: “Love our Neighbour Churches as We Love Our Church,” drawing on Romans 15:2—“Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.” To that end, the church also adopted the following action points: to “reflect on why our congregations were assembled by God and how we can serve Him,” to “cooperate with each other,” and “to walk with people who face difficulties, such as those who are impacted by natural disasters and the pandemic.”
The Japan Lutheran Church is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
AUSTRALIA – Bishop John Henderson of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) has announced that he will not be seeking reelection at the church’s Convention of General Synod later this year.
Bishop Henderson was first elected to head the LCA in April 2013. He was also the first leader of the Australian church to hold the title of bishop, as the same convention which elected him also voted to change the title of synodical head from president to bishop. He was reelected to a second term in October 2018.
Bishop Henderson formerly served as Vice President of the LCA from 2006-2011, and as a member of the General Church Council from 2003-2011. He also served as Principal of Australian Lutheran Council from 2009 until his election as bishop. He was first ordained in 1982.
In addition to not seeking reelection, Bishop Henderson has announced his intention to retire from active pastoral ministry.
The next steps in the search for a new bishop will take place in July 2021, when delegates to the General Pastors Conference will nominate candidates for the position of bishop. Nominees with at least 25 percent of the vote at the Pastors Conference will be added to the slate for election at the Convention of General Synod, which is scheduled for September 28 – October 3 in Melbourne. Candidates may also be nominated from the floor under a special provision.
Update: In light of ongoing concerns related to the pandemic, the Lutheran Church of Australia has announced a change in format for its upcoming convention. The Convention of General Synod will now be held in two parts: essential business, including the election of a new bishop, will be held online in October 2021, with an in-person event to follow in 2022. The 2021 General Pastors Conference will likewise be unable to meet in person.
The Lutheran Church of Australia is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
WORLD – April 18, 2021 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s testimony before the Diet of Worms, with Lutherans around the world observing the event in different ways.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (Iglesia Evangelical Luterana Argentina – IELA), for example, held an online conference April 16-18, 2021 to mark the event, featuring three lectures by faculty members of the IELA’s seminary in Buenos Aires. Professor Antonio R. Schimpf spoke on reflection on the Word of God in relation to the anniversary, Professor José A. Pfafenzeller discussed the historical context of the Diet of Worms, and Professor Sergio R. Schelske addressed the event’s continued significance for the church today.
In the United States, meanwhile, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) officially designated April 18 “Here I Stand Sunday.” The LCMS made a number of materials available to mark the date on its website, including a Bible Study and bulletin insert.
The church also released several videos highlighting the anniversary. LCMS President Matthew Harrison, for example, highlighted how the faith which inspired Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms also led in time to the founding of the LCMS, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2022. “It’s quite impossible to imagine the existence of the Missouri Synod or any Lutheran churches in the world without the events of this week 500 years ago,” he explained. “500 years later the church is increasingly called to confess before the world and even political authorities. We stand firm with the confession of Luther. We believe in the Scriptures, and our conscience is bound to those Scriptures, which teach us the free forgiveness of Christ in His cross and resurrection.”
President Harrison also conducted an interview with Rev. Dr. Cameron MacKenzie to discuss the history of Luther’s confession at the Diet of Worms. Dr. MacKenzie is a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
NICARAGUA – An eruption at Nicaragua’s San Cristobal Volcano on March 9, 2021 showered the nearby area, including the city of Chinandega, in ash but otherwise caused no major damage.
Following the eruption, Nicaragua’s National System for the Prevention, Mitigation, and Attention of Disasters encouraged locals to remain calm but stay two kilometres from the crater of the volcano. San Cristobal is Nicaragua’s largest volcano and is considered moderately active.
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) is headquartered in Chinandega, and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) has a mission centre in the city. ILSN President Marvin Donaire confirms that people in the area are doing fine despite a bit of ash in the air, and that they are grateful the eruption proved to be minor. Staff at LCC’s mission centre also write that the volcano has returned to its normal state.
Rev. Mark Smith, Lutheran Church–Canada’s Missions Executive, expressed thanks that the situation in Chinandega seems to have returned to normal. He also encouraged Lutherans around the world to remember their Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in prayer:
Almighty God, whose loving care is everlasting, with relieved hearts we are grateful that the latest volcano eruption of San Cristobal in Nicaragua wasn’t as severe as first feared. We implore You to continue to watch over and protect Your people in Nicaragua, especially those faced with dangerous ash and debris in the air. We also pray that You strengthen the faith of Your Church through Your Life-giving Word that she may bring comfort and aid to those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua and Lutheran Church–Canada are both members of the International Lutheran Council.