2007 ILC Conference,
September 24-30, 2007
INTERNATIONAL LUTHERAN COUNCIL HOLDS CONFERENCE
IN ACCRA, GHANA
Accra, 30 September 2007. Bishops and presidents from 27 confessional Lutheran churches from all six continents of the world, together with a number of invited guests, met from 24-30 September in Accra, Ghana, for the 22nd conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) hosted the conference for the first time. Both the opening and the concluding services were led by its bishop the Rt. Rev. Paul Kofi Fynn.
The biannually held ILC conferences are a welcome forum to which member churches can bring their theological and practical needs and challenges for mutual responsibility. The challenge of dealing with conflict in our personal relationships, in the congregations of our churches, and in the world at large provided the organisers with the impetus to plan this conference around the theme “Living as reconciled children of God”. The keynote address and subsequent daily presentations on the topic were held by Mr. Ted Kober (USA), the president and founder of “Ambassadors of Reconciliation”, a peacemaking ministry for Lutherans around the world (seewww.hisaor.org). His well prepared, challenging and uplifting presentations were clearly the highlight of the conference. They centred on God first reconciling the world to himself and then prompting his reconciled children to become ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). The theme, further explored by daily Bible studies and devotions held by various church bishops and presidents, invoked in-depth theological and personal reflection. Realising the immense value of this ministry, participants gave extensive consideration on ways how this ministry can be put into practice in their respective churches and cultural contexts. For this purpose resources were made available by Mr. Kober who stressed in his concluding remark that God’s unmerited gift of forgiveness is not to be hoarded, but is meant to be given away.
In their respective reports, both the ILC chairman, Dr. Ralph Mayan (Canada), and the executive secretary, Dr. Samuel Nafzger (USA), emphasised the need, more profound than ever, for the confessional Lutheran churches from around the world to give a common and clear witness of faith in Jesus Christ. Some time was spent to explain the nature and the purpose of the ILC. The ILC is not a “church body”, nor a “communion of churches”, but a “council” where confessional Lutheran churches seek to nurture and strengthen their relationships in the common goal of carrying out the mission and ministry of the Church. Four new churches had applied for membership and were formally accepted later during the meeting: The American Association of Lutheran Churches as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Kenya, Peru, and Portugal. Dr. Nafzger also reported positively on two meetings held earlier in 2007: The 3rd World Seminaries Conference, held in Pretoria (South Africa), expressing his gratitude to the Schwan Foundation whose generous grant made the meeting possible, and the 2nd meeting with representatives between the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the ILC, held in Toronto (Canada), stressing the importance of not only talking “about” one another, but “to” each other.
In addition to the presentations and reports given, a number of resolutions were adopted. A resolution that elicited extensive discussion concerned the budget and assessments for the ILC. In an effort to present a formula that is “fair and reasonable”, a model was adopted that takes the economic differences of participating countries into consideration, with the added resolve that each member church is to accept accountability and take responsibility to pay the assessed amounts. A new cycle of meetings was also initiated, making provision for Regional Meetings, an International Conference, and a Seminaries Conference in a three-year cycle. The Executive Committee will continue to meet annually.
Elected and installed as officers of the Executive Committee of the ILC were Dr. G. Kieschnick (USA) as chairman, and Rev. R. Quirk (England) as secretary. The Lutheran Churches in Nigeria, Germany, Korea, Brazil, Philippines, and Canada were elected to represent their respective world area on the Committee. It was resolved that the vice-chairman is to be chosen by the Executive Committee itself from amongst the elected world area representatives. Notably, Dr. Ralph Mayan, after serving as chairman for the ILC for 9 years, stepped down. The ILC expressed its sincere gratitude for his efficient leadership and faithful service. The Executive Committee asked Dr. S. Nafzger to continue serving as Executive Secretary of the ILC. The next conference of the International Lutheran Council is planned to be held in 2009 in Korea.
Significant was the effort of the conference to address matters of everyday life within the mission and ministry of the Church from a Scriptural perspective, thereby living up to its expressed purpose to be a conference of confessional Lutheran churches “which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God” (ILC Constitution).
Compiled by Rev. Dr. Dieter Reinstorf (South Africa)