LWF unilaterally suspends regular meetings with the ILC

GENEVA – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has unilaterally moved to suspend regular meetings with the International Lutheran Council (ILC), following a joint decision by LWF General Secretary Martin Junge and LWF President Panti Filibus Musa.

Dr. Junge announced the decision in a report to the LWF Council in Geneva on June 29, 2018.

The International Lutheran Council received the news with regret. “We are disappointed in the LWF’s decision to break off regular discussions,” said ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver. “It is difficult to see how unilateral action of this kind does anything but damage the relationship between our two organizations.”

“It is true that the ILC and the LWF have significant differences of opinion on a number of theological issues,” Dr. Collver continued. “But despite these very real differences, the ILC remains willing to meet with LWF leaders in a spirit of friendliness and mutual respect.”

The ILC and the LWF have held regular annual discussions since 2011, honouring an earlier 2005 Memorandum of Understanding which called for such meetings. Eleven church bodies currently hold membership in both the International Lutheran Council and the Lutheran World Federation, making regular contact between the two organizations particularly valuable.

The Lutheran World Federation considers itself a communion whose members are in altar and pulpit fellowship with one another. By contrast, the International Lutheran Council is instead an association of church bodies and not does consider itself a communion. While many members of the ILC are, in fact, in communion with one another, this is neither a requirement for nor a direct result of membership in the ILC itself.

LWF Objections

In recent years, a number of LWF churches and confessional groups within LWF churches have contacted the ILC in hopes of developing a closer relationship. In his report, Dr. Junge indicates that he disapproves of the ILC’s fielding of such requests as well as its plans to make room in its organizational structure to recognize these groups. The LWF is therefore suspending meetings with the ILC at the present time.

The ILC is unapologetic in its position. “When faithful Lutherans come seeking closer ties to the ILC, we will of course welcome and support them, even if they should be a minority in their own country or church body,” said Dr. Collver. “Christian hospitality and love demand nothing less.”

In his report, Dr. Junge also accuses the ILC of spreading “aggressive and wrong communications about the LWF”—charges that the ILC categorically denies. “We take very seriously the Christian’s call not to bear false witness against one’s neighbour,” Dr. Collver noted, “just as we take seriously the entire Law and Gospel in God’s Holy Scripture.”

The LWF writes that it envisions the suspension of meetings with the ILC as temporary in nature, with plans to resume meetings “after the second half of 2019.” The ILC for its part stands ready to resume contact with the LWF at any time.

———————

Hong Kong’s Lutherans reelect President Yung

LCHKS President Allan Yung speaks at a 2014 event marking 65 years of Lutheran ministry in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG – The Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS) held its General Conference on April 28, 2018, at which time Rev. Dr. Allan Yung was reelected as President.

This will be Dr. Yung’s eighth term as president. He has served the LCHKS as President since 1997.

A major subject of discussion during the 2018 General Conference were recent decisions by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to relocate its Asia region headquarters from Hong Kong to Taiwan, and to sell three Hong Kong properties. The LCMS announced in February its decision to relocate in order to “reduce costs and increase the church’s effectiveness in reaching the lost,” noting that Hong Kong is among the most expensive places in the world to work and live.

The move to Taiwan was also intended to “encourage and build up the LCMS partner church in that republic, the China Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC),” the announcement notes. CELC President Andrew Miao welcomed the transition to Taiwan, saying he looked forward “to better and increased cooperation and partnership with the LCMS in the work of the Gospel here.”

At the time the relocation was announced, LCMS Director Charles Ferry pledged that LCMS support for the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod would remain unchanged. “We remain committed to supporting our partners in the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod,” he said. “Our church partners in Hong Kong and surrounding communities will notice no interruption in our work together.”

During their recent convention, the LCHKS recognized the LCMS’ legal right to sell properties it owns in Hong Kong, but expressed a desire for greater consultation in the future, especially since the LCMS owns several properties that are utilized by LCHKS congregations. To that end, the convention resolved unanimously to pray for the LCMS; to work for a greater relationship between the two synods founded in “Christian love cooperation, and mutual respect;” and to direct the LCHKS’ Executive Council to seek the legal transfer of LCMS properties used by LCHKS congregations from the LCMS to the LCHKS.

The Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod was born out of LCMS missions, which first began in China more than a century ago. Both churches are members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

———————

Ghana’s Lutherans prepare to welcome new president

GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) is preparing to welcome their new president, Rev. John Shadrack Donkoh, who will be installed during a special service in Accra on July 1, 2018. The theme for the service will be “One Body, One Lord, One Mission,” drawing on Ephesians 4:4-6.

President Donkoh was elected president with 82% of the vote during a convention on March 17, 2018 in Kumasi. He succeeds Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, who had led the church for the past 40 years.

Prior to his election, President Donkoh was pastor of All Saints Lutheran in Anyaa and a part-time lecturer at the ELCG’s seminary in Sasaabi. He was ordained in 1991, and subsequently served and planted churches throughout Ghana. From 1994-2002, he served as a missionary to Uganda, and further served as Manager of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) in that country from 1995-2003. He later served as Country Director for LHM in Ghana from 2003-2011. President Donkoh formerly served the ELCG as secretary of the Ministerial Council (2003-2008), as Vice Chairman of its Restructuring Committee (2006), and as Secretary of the Disaster Committee (2007-2011).

President Donkoh’s election followed two years of work as the ELCG developed a new system of governance for the church. A convention in January 2018 saw the church adopt a new constitution, which precipitated the March elections. Elected to serve with President Donkoh were Rev. Dr Ebenezer Boafo (First Vice President), Alex Lanbon  (Second Vice President) and Kwame Poku-Boah (Third Vice President).

The elections are for a three-year term.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

———————

 

Call to prayer for Nicaragua

NICARAGUA – As Nicaragua continues to face unrest, the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) and its mother church Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) are calling for prayer.

Civil unrest in Nicaragua broke out in April 2018, and the situation has increasingly deteriorated over the past few months. More than 180 people have died over the crisis, and recent talks for peace—mediated by Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic church—collapsed earlier this week. Several governments, including Canada and the United States of America, have advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the Central American country. The ILSN has likewise advised LCC that it no longer considers it safe to receive short team mission teams or international church representatives in the present situation.

LCC and the ILSN are working in close cooperation as they respond to the current crisis. LCC has sent the ILSN emergency funds to help with food costs during the ongoing crisis, and stands ready to provide further assistance as necessary.

Lutheran Church–Canada’s Committee for Missions and Social Ministry Services has issued the following prayers for the use of LCC congregations as they keep the situation in Nicaragua in prayer:

Heavenly Father, God of all concord, it is Your will that harmony prevail in every land, in order that the daily bread You provide may be received in peace. Give Your wisdom to guide the leaders in the government, businesses, churches, and movements in the nation of Nicaragua, that violence and strife may be ended, life spared, and order be restored, only for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, the Wisdom from on High, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever. Amen.

God of grace and Lord of all power and might, You rule the nations through the authorities established by your gracious will. We earnestly pray for the government, the police forces, and the people of Nicaragua, that by the working of Your generous and strong hand, peace will be restored among them. Protect all who are in danger, direct those in power to serve the cause of justice and equity, grant honesty to prevail. Guide Your church, that in the midst of every uncertainty, she will boldly proclaim Your faithfulness and the forgiveness that heals all wounds in Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

Lutheran Church–Canada and the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua are both members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

——————-

Young European Lutherans to gather in the Czech Republic for 2018 Corpus Christi

Participants in the 2017 Corpus Christi conference gather for worship.

PRAGUE – Young Lutheran adults across Europe are looking forward to celebrating the 10th annual Corpus Christi conference, set to take place July 23-27, 2018 in Prague. Corpus Christi is an independent Evangelical Lutheran association promoting churchly and biblical renewal among young adults in Europe.

More than 150 people have already registered for the upcoming conference, and the board of Corpus Christi expects a total of more than 200 attendees to come to this year’s event in the Czech Republic. Plenary speaker for the event will be Canadian pastor Rev. Kurt Reinhardt, who will be presenting on the subject of Christian hope. For additional speakers and more information on the schedule of events, visit Corpus Christi’s website here.

Last year’s Corpus Christi conference in Halle, Germany was a huge success with more than 200 attendees. In Lutheran style, the 2017 event celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation with the theme “In Christ Alone.” The conference was well received, especially since it was the first year that attendees were able to use a physical copy of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). Every day during the week long conference, young adults sung the liturgy, psalms, and Lutheran hymns. The hymnals came as a gift from the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Participants are eager to use the ILC’s wonderful gift of LSB’s again this coming summer. This year the ILC has agreed to finance ribbons for the hymnals, to assist those not yet familiar with the Lutheran Service Book.

For more information on Corpus Christi, visit their website at www.corpuschristi.se.

———————

LCMS Greetings to the Malagasy Lutheran Church

NOTE: The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) recently voted to pursue fellowship with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) during an assembly of the FLM’s Committee of the Highest Leaders. Rev. Dr. Al Collver (Executive Secretary of the International Lutheran Council and Director of Church Relations for the LCMS) was present for the event, and brought the following greetings.

——————–

Rev. Dr. Al Collver brings greetings to the Malagasy Lutheran Church on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Salama tompoko!

It is a great honor to be here with you today to celebrate your church’s jubilee. I bring you greetings in the name of Jesus, from President Matthew Harrison and from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Congratulations on 150 years as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Madagascar and to the entire world. The Lord has blessed you greatly. The Missouri Synod will celebrate its 175th birthday in 2022. In advance, I would like to invite you to celebrate our jubilee. Our churches are sisters separated by the ocean, but now is the time to reach out our hands to help one another.

Greetings to the Malagasy Lutheran Church in Jesus’ name and to President David Rakotonirina, who I had the honor of seeing a week ago at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he received a Doctorate of Divinity. We also celebrate Rev. Denis Rakotozafy on receiving his PhD in Missiology. Theological education is important to both of our churches. In the future, we will be offering more scholarships to study and the opportunity to participate in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program. Such cooperation is an opportunity to learn from each other and to share experiences.

Our churches are sisters, in the same family, but separated while we were both young. Now, however, we have found each other as we celebrate important jubilees. We are confessional Lutherans who are faithful to the Bible with a strong Lutheran identity. The Missouri Synod and our partner churches around the world are eager to walk with the Malagasy Lutheran Church. We hope to come closer to you and partner together to bear witness to Jesus Christ throughout the world. We give thanks to the Lord for the Malagasy Lutheran Church and to President Rakotonirina for your friendship and desire to partner with us. As you will hear in a few moments, we in the Missouri Synod and in Europe and North America need you to be witnesses to us.

Let me share this Scripture verse and some brief words of greetings with you: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” — Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Preacher says there is a season for everything. One hundred and fifty years ago, there was a season in Madagascar. It was a season when faithful missionaries from Norway travelled by ship to Madagascar to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The forgiveness of sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was preached, people were baptized in the name of the Triune Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the body and blood of Jesus were given to eat and to drink. Men were trained to be pastors. The Lutheran church in Madagascar grew and was blessed. Today, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM is not only one of the largest Lutheran churches in Africa but in the entire world.

It is true that in the West there are a few Lutheran churches that boast more members than the Malagasy Lutheran Church. But the difference becomes clear when you count by people who come to worship. In Europe, many cathedrals and churches are almost entirely empty on Sunday morning. This increasingly is happening in North America too. But when you come to Madagascar, the churches are full. On my previous visit to Madagascar, the congregation I attended had Holy Communion for more than 7,500 people that Sunday. This is completely unknown in Europe and North America today.

The season has changed in world Lutheranism. Almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther almost said the Gospel is a passing rain shower. He wrote: “Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today; certainly we read nothing of it in history. If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been… And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year” (AE 45:352).

Unfortunately for the West—for Europe and North America—the Gospel of Jesus, specifically the preaching that sins are forgiven, has been like a passing rain shower. Instead of forgiveness of sins in Jesus, many preach human rights, same sex marriage (LBGT), and saving the environment instead of saving people with the Gospel of Jesus. In the West, the Bible is not preached as true and without error. Instead, the Bible is said to contain the Word of God, and is contextualized so that anything you wish to do or say is permitted. As a result, people no longer come to church. This is why the world needs the Malagasy Lutheran Church to remain faithful to the Bible and to proclaim Jesus.

The Malagasy Lutheran Church believes in Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose again on the third day. You teach that the Bible is God’s holy Word. You teach the forgiveness of sin that is found in Jesus, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s body and blood. You have Luther’s Small Catechism. Your church has the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To paraphrase Martin Luther, it is raining in Madagascar like it once did in Europe and North America. Now is the season of growth of the church in Madagascar. Now is the season for evangelism. As it is written in the Book of Acts 1:12, “you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and to the distant parts of the earth.” You, the Malagasy Lutheran Church, are Jesus’ witnesses to the end of the earth—even to Europe and North America. You will send missionaries throughout Madagascar and to the farthest parts of the earth—even to Europe and North America. Come bring us the rain of the true Gospel of Jesus, which brings us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

One example of the Spirit of God at work is the Fifohazana, which is usually translated as “spiritual revival” in English. I would like you to understand something about my context. When an American Lutheran hears the word “revival,” he thinks of Baptist or Pentecostal worship. It doesn’t sound Lutheran to an American Lutheran. It is important that you understand this context. However, the Missouri Synod has learned and come to understand that Fifohazana is not a “revival” as understood in the American context. We understand that Fifohazana is instead a spiritual way of life. This reminds us of Martin Luther’s first these of the 95 Theses, “That the entire life of the Christian should be one of repentance.” It is a way of life. We respect your church and your ways. In fact. we have much to learn from you, including learning how to live a spiritual life filled with repentance.

I say it again: congratulations to the Malagasy Lutheran Church for 150 years of Jesus’ blessing and 150 years of bearing witness to Madagascar and to the world. Perhaps the most important time to bear witness is upon you now. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, your slightly older sister, is happy to walk with you and to partner with you as witnesses to Jesus. Thank you for desiring to partner with us. We both walk together in the Scriptures. We can share with each other and both become stronger. Be witnesses to the world and send missionaries to Europe and North America. As missionaries came to you 150 years ago, you now will go out into the world for the next 150 years. Remain faithful in the Word of God. The Reformation lives on here in Madagascar. As the Preacher says, “To everything there is a season…” and now is the season for the Malagasy Lutheran Church. May Jesus richly bless you and bring about the season of our joint partnership. Thank you.

———————

Reading the Word of God: LCC, LCMS, and NALC partner together to encourage Bible reading

ONLINE – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) have partnered together to develop a Bible reading plan entitled Reading the Word of God.

“In order to encourage the people of our church bodies in the daily reading of Holy Scripture, we have compiled a three-year plan of daily Bible readings and a year-long series of weekly readings on Martin Luther’s approach to the Scriptures,” an introduction to the reading plan explains. “The suggested readings are offered for one reason only—to enhance devotional life as an individual or a family daily examines, and is examined by, the Word of God, and then responds in prayer to the heavenly Father.”

Each day features a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm (or portion of a Psalm), and a reading from the New Testament. The guide will take readers through the entire Old Testament one time in three years, with the exception of Psalms, which are read twice each year. The New Testament will be read twice in the three years. Certain church festivals—Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and so forth—have special readings appointed for the specific occasions.

A selection of brief weekly readings on Martin Luther are also included as a companion in helping Christians better understand the value of reading God’s Word regularly. “While we in no way intend for these to replace or be understood as equal to the value of daily Bible reading, we do believe they will be helpful, especially for Lutherans,” the introduction notes. The selections, which come from Johann Michael Reu’s classic work Luther on the Scriptures, “speak to us of the clarity, simplicity, trustworthiness, and infallibility of Scripture,” the introduction goes on to say. “It is our hope and prayer that each member, household, and congregation will turn daily to the biblical readings with renewed desire for the Word which is a ‘lamp to our feet and a light to our path’’ (Ps. 119:105).”

Download the Introduction to the Bible reading guide, as well as the selection on Luther’s understanding of Scripture, in pdf form here. The daily Bible reading calendar is available to download in three parts, one for each year of the plan: 2018, 2019, and 2020.

The three-year Bible reading guide arose out of ongoing LCC/LCMS/NALC dialogues, which resulted in 2016 in the publication of a document recognizing the three church’s common understanding of the nature and authority of the Holy Scriptures. The newly released reading plan builds on that work, effectively saying “We don’t just affirm Scripture as God’s Word; we want to see it actively used.”

The LCMS and LCC are both members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

———————

British Lutherans commemorate Reformation, release free translation of Small Catechism

ENGLAND – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) held its 63rd synodical convention September 29-30, 2017 in Cambridge, during which time delegates commemorated the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation.

That focus complemented a number of other Reformation projects the ELCE has undertaken in 2017, including the publication of a new translation of Luther’s Small Catechism, available for free use by anyone. See the translation, and further information about using it under its Creative Commons Licence, at www.thesmallcatechism.org.

Rev. Dr. Robert Rosin, Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) served as guest speaker for the September synodical convention, speaking on the ongoing relevance of the Reformation. Delegates also enjoyed a series of sermons reflecting on key teachings of the Reformation, including Jesus Alone; Scripture Alone; Grace Alone; and Through Faith Alone. Other Reformation projects from the ELCE in 2017 include the creation of a Reformation Bible, Luther Reading Roadshows, numerous Reformation events, and the publication of a book on early Lutheran martyrs in the United Kingdom.

Participants in the closing worship service of the ELCE’s 2017 synodical convention.

A key topic of discussion during the synodical convention was the need to review the church’s current organisational structure. Other important business included several elections for open positions on the Executive Council, as well as various boards and committees.

The 64th synodical convention of the ELCE will take place in Fareham, England in September, 2018.

The ELCE has congregations throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, and is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. In addition to increased participation in inter-Lutheran discussions in Europe in recent years, the ELCE has also become increasingly active in ecumenical discussions throughout the United Kingdom, bringing a clear Lutheran witness to these events.

———————

Remembering the 200th anniversary of the forced union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia

King Frederick William III of Prussia.

GERMANY – September 27, 2017 marked the 200th anniversary of the Prussian King Fredrick William III’s Order-in-Council, which marked the beginning of a rather distressing journey towards the formation of autonomous Evangelical Lutheran Churches in the former Prussian territories. Beginning in 1817, Frederick William III issued a series of decrees which pushed Lutheran and Reformed churches to merge. Later decrees required churches to give up the name “Lutheran” or “Reformed” in favour of the name “Evangelical,” and to adopt a new liturgy which privileged Reformed theology in the area of Holy Communion at the expense of Lutheran beliefs.

Many Lutherans protested and their pastors refused to use the new rite. When caught using historic Lutheran liturgies, these pastors were suspended from ministry. If they were further caught continuing to practice pastoral care, they were then imprisoned. The persecution of these “Old Lutherans,” as they were called, led eventually to the formation of independent confessional Lutheran church bodies throughout German territories.

The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständigen Evangelisch Lutherischen Kirche – SELK) in Germany traces its origins to this movement, as do confessional Lutheran churches in other German territories. Some Old Lutherans emigrated from Germany to other nations in pursuit of religious freedom. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (SELK), for example, grew out of this exodus, as did the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). SELK and the LCMS are both member churches of the ILC, while the LCA is an associate member.

On September 27, to mark the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Prussian Union, the persecution of the Old Lutherans, and the origins of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the SELK, released the following letter. Bishop Voigt is also Chairman of the International Lutheran Council. (Read the letter in German here.)

Remarks on the 200th anniversary of the Frederick William III’s Union Decree

Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt

I would not want to let this date pass without pointing out its significance. We have no cause to celebrate, because September 27, 1817 is the beginning of the suppression of Lutheran congregations and their pastors by Prussian authorities. And this is the cause for Lutheran families to become refugees, feeling compelled to flee to North America and to Australia, where they founded Lutheran churches that are now sister churches of the SELK.

No one less than Dr. Martin Luther himself, at the conclusion of the attempted union discussion at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, with great regret felt it necessary to say: “You have a different spirit!” In his order-in-council released September 27, 1817, Frederick William III called this “an unfortunate sectarian spirit,” which evidenced “insurmountable difficulties” in  Martin Luther’s person. To the King’s  mind, the Lutheran  and  Reformed Churches 300 years after the Reformation were “separated protestant churches merely by certain external differences.” Thus begun the attempt to marginalize the Lutheran Church in Prussia.

On September 27, 1817, the King still claimed: “This union will only be of real value when it is effected neither by persuasion nor by indifferentism, rather that it should arise out of the free conviction of those involved, so that it is not only a union in mere external form but indeed has its roots and vital strength in a unity of the heart, according to genuine Biblical principles.” Some time later Frederick William III dissociated himself from this position, and ordered the acceptance of a union agenda which he had authored, in which Reformed and Lutheran worship was amalgamated.

It was at this point that real persecution commenced. The congregations in Silesia still remembered the persecution that was visited upon them during the rule of the Habsburgs, less than 100 years earlier. And so most of them were still aware of what they had to do. They held their worship services in the forests. Various congregations in Pomerania and in the provinces along the Rhine followed their example. At times, every Lutheran pastor was in jail.

I want to remind all of us of this willingness on the part of the mothers and fathers of our church to suffer and of their courageous faith. They were ready to consider questions of their faith; Holy Communion was for them so important that under no circumstances were they willing to question the certainty of the body and blood of Christ under bread and wine. They were even willing,  after the legalization of the Lutheran Church from 1845 on, to continue paying state church contributions, while in addition giving their own offerings for the construction of new Lutheran churches and parsonages and for the salaries of their pastors. This sacrificial spirit in hard times is exemplary. And our church today is alive because of this same sacrificial spirit.

It is of some value to remember this and keep it alive. But at the same time it is important for our church not to maintain the role of a victim. During the last several years we have engaged in dialogue with the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK) within the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD — the Protestant Federation of the State Churches in Germany). For the first time in 200 years we have taken a look at our common history. We have drafted a Gemeinsames Wort (“Common Address”) and a Brief an die Gemeinden (Letter to the Congregations); they are still in the process of being finalized for adoption. Both of these papers are to be signed in a Service of Repentance and Thanksgiving on the Day of Repentance and Prayer, November 22, 2017 in Berlin. These documents still clearly enunciate remaining differences separating our churches, but we also express our gratitude for common viewpoints.

This process was initiated by a very moving sermon preached 50 years ago (1967) by Franz-Reinhold Hildebrandt. At the time, he was head of the Chancellery of the Evangelical Church of the Union (EKU). In that sermon, he said: “Our church stands in guilt that is still not dealt with. Rifle butts by soldiers, forcible entry into churches and the arrest of pastors, that’s what happened. And so at that time many families left their home and emigrated to Australia and North America. They wanted to keep pure their Lutheran faith, which they saw endangered in the Union. And if guilt can only be obliterated by forgiveness, then we don’t want to let this day pass without asking our Old Lutheran brethren for such forgiveness.”

All of us today have a lasting responsibility for our history. Because we participate in the blessings that our church bestows on us, so we are also responsible for any suffering and guilt in our history. This background makes it important, to grant human forgiveness—to ask for the same and to grant it.

This day fills me with mournful remembrance and great respect for the suffering the mothers and fathers of our church had to bear. But on the other hand I am full of gratitude for the Lutheran Church into which I was baptized: the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). I am also filled with gratitude for the thorough and respectful discussions with the representatives of the UEK. They will enable both churches to look at one another in a spirit different than in the past.

Translation by Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Torgerson

———————

LCMS-NALC Dialogue Produces new book on Law and Gospel

USA – When representatives of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) started meeting together more than five years ago, it was decided that the group would sponsor a book of essays on the proper distinction of God’s Law from His Gospel. That book will be available from Concordia Publishing House in August 2017.

Edited by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (LCMS), Rev. Dr. James Arne Nestingen (NALC), and Prof. John T. Pless (LCMS), The Necessary Distinction: A Continuing Conversation on Law & Gospel contains thirteen essays on the relationship of the law/gospel distinction to preaching, pastoral care, missions, ethics, and the Christian life. Essayists include Mark Seifrid, William Cwirla, Peter Brock, Larry Vogel, Mark C. Mattes, Naomichi Masaki, James Arne Nestingen, Stephen Hultgren, John T. Pless, Steven Paulson, Albert Collver III, and Roland F. Ziegler.

“I’m pleased that we have brought together a variety of confessional Lutheran scholars from North America and Australia to provide our churches with vigorous and fresh discussion of a theme at the heart of Lutheran theology,” said the work’s editor John T. Pless. “It is our hope that this book will be used in pastoral gatherings throughout the NALC, LCC, and LCMS to challenge and better equip pastors to engage the fine art of distinguishing Law and Gospel in all that they do.”

The book’s forthcoming publication has garnered praise from a number of theologians and church leaders. “These authors take Christ, the Scriptures, and our confessions seriously,” President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada noted. “They are not carbon copies of each other. They put you through your paces, even if you wrestle with certain details of their views. Pastors as well as informed lay theologians will profit from them. What a welcome contribution to the 500th Reformation anniversary year!” In addition to serving the Canadian church, President Bugbee also serves as Vice Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.

“When participants of the LCMS, LCC, NALC consultation first discussed the need for a book on the distinction between Law and Gospel, we couldn’t have conceived this collection of essays would be so practical, direct, helpful and accessible!” explained Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel, NALC’s Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism. “In our day, when many Lutherans seem to have lost their way biblically, this book is much needed. It is for those who preach the Word and those who hear the Word, for pastors and laity, for the theologically trained and those who aren’t. It is a gift to our churches and to all who are committed to the ‘necessary distinction.’”

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church–Canada are both members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

———————