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.
WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has announced Rev. Roger B. James will serve as its new Assistant to the General Secretary.
“It’s a pleasure to be joining the International Lutheran Council,” said Rev. James. “The ILC plays a vital role supporting the mission and ministry of confessional Lutherans worldwide, and I look forward to assisting in that work.”
Rev. James will be installed on January 31, 2021 in a service at New Hope Lutheran Church in Ossian, Indiana (USA), with Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the ILC, preaching. Rev. James will officially begin service with the ILC on February 1.
“It’s with great joy that I welcome Roger to the International Lutheran Council,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary. “He brings a wealth of international experience with him, especially in Asia, which will be of great service to the ILC. May God bless our work together on behalf of Lutherans around the world.”
Rev. James and his wife Amy served as missionaries in Asia for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) from 2012-2020. While living and working in Sri Lanka, Rev. James served as the LCMS’ South Asia Area Director, regularly traveling also to India and Bangladesh.
The past few years he has spent serving as a theological educator at the Lutheran Church in Philippines’s (LCP) Lutheran Theological Seminary and Training Center in Baguio City. Prior to his work as a missionary, Rev. James spent twenty years in pastoral ministry in Michigan and Minnesota in the United States.
Rev. James holds a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) and a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana).
The ILC’s Board of Directors issued a call to Rev. James in November 2020.
KENYA – The Rt. Rev. Francis Nyamwaro Onderi, former Chairman and Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), entered into glory on November 17, 2020.
In 1996, Rev. Nyamwaro was installed as the first bishop of the ELCK, following a decision of the church a year prior to transition to an episcopal structure. Prior to that transition, he also served as the church’s last chairman. Rev. Nyamwaro would continue to serve as bishop until his retirement.
In a post announcing his death, the ELCK highlighted some of his accomplishments as head of the church body. “It was during his watch that the Lutheran Church grew, and reached all the then-nine provinces of the Republic of Kenya,” the church notes, including work among Somali refugees in the north-east of the country. The church also praised his work among the Borana in Marsabit and the Digo in Kwale, as well as new outreach to the Kalenjin, the Masai, Sumburu, Kamba, Kikuyu, Meru, and Embu. Work in traditionally strong Lutheran areas, like Kisii, Luoland, and amongst the Pokot, also expanded during this period.
“He was first of all a pastor and servant of God, and should be honoured as such,” the church writes.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
FINLAND – The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (Suomen evankelisluterilainen lähetyshiippakunta – ELMDF) will hold an election for bishop in January 2021, following Bishop Risto Soramies’ request to be released from the duties of bishop.
“I turn 75 next year,” Bishop Soramies notes in an announcement to the church. “I have had the joy and privilege of serving Lutheran congregations as the bishop of our church. As a young man, I missed the chance to serve in congregations where priests know their flocks and flocks know their priests. I couldn’t even imagine being allowed to serve such congregations and pastors in my old age.”
“In my opinion, now is the right time for a generational change,” he said, citing Ecclesiastes 3:1—“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” He further expressed his thanks to the pastors and congregations of the ELMDF for the opportunity to serve with them.
Bishop Risto Soramies was ordained bishop of the ELMDF on May 4, 2013, shortly after the official founding of the ELMDF as an autonomous church body. Prior to his elevation to the episcopacy, Bishop Soramies served as a missionary for more than 40 years to Turkish immigrants in Germany as well as in Turkey itself. He was the founding pastor of the Istanbul Lutheran Church in Turkey.
At a November meeting of the College of the Priests, the ELMDF’s clergy put forward two candidates for bishop: Rev. Esko Murto and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola. The ELMDF’s Consistory has since examined both candidates and declared them eligible for election as bishop.
Rev. Murto was ordained in 2007, and currently serves as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Tampere. He previously served as Dean of the Luther Foundation Finland, and has served as assistant professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario). Rev. Murto holds a Master of Theology from the University of Helsinki and a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana).
Dr. Pohjola was ordained in 1999, and currently serves as Dean of the ELMDF. He previously served as Dean of the Lutheran Foundation Finland, and as a visiting researcher at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario). Dr. Pohjola holds a Master of Theology from the University of Helsinki, a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Helsinki.
The election of the bishop will take place January 16-18, 2021, in advance of an extraordinary diocesan meeting to be held remotely on January 23. The assembly must then confirm the results of the election. All clergy and representatives of each congregation are eligible to vote for the ELMDF’s new bishop.
The installation of the new bishop is planned for August 1, 2021.