LATVIA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) held the Northern European Conservative Bishops Conference August 21-24, 2019, meeting both in Riga and at the church’s retreat centre in Mazirbe.
“It was a joy to gather with church leaders in Latvia to discuss issues of cooperation between conservative Lutheran church bodies,” said Chairman Jon Ehlers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). “The Latvian church is to be commended for its work in bringing together confessional Lutherans annually for this regional conference, and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to attend.” Chairman Ehlers serves on the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Executive Council as the Europe World Region representative. This was the second consecutive year that the ILC has sponsored the Bishops Conference.
A major focus of the event was identifying opportunities for greater cooperation between conservative Lutheran churches. One particular subject discussed was the possibility of shared theological education initiatives, a conversation hosted at the ELCL’s Luther Academy.
The conference featured opportunities for each church partner to report on their joys and challenges, and to join together in worship. Archbishop Jānis Vanags, head of the Latvian church, also presented a paper on postmodernism and the church’s response, and one evening was spent visiting with the ELCL’s governing board.
The 2019 Northern European Conservative Bishops Conference hosted leaders from Lutheran churches in Belarus, England, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Siberia (Russia), and Ukraine. A pastor of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was also in attendance.
GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) celebrated its 60th anniversary during a national convention September 1-2, 2019 in Madina.
During the anniversary service on Sunday, ELCG President John Donkoh, elected in 2018, noted that “If you don’t know where you are from, it becomes very difficult to know where you are going.” Speaking on the history of the Ghanaian church, President Donkoh remarked, “It is said that a man got to know about Lutheranism, and he wanted a church in Ghana. He was referred to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The Missouri Synod said, ‘You have a sister church in Africa.’ And so, missionaries from Nigeria were sent to Ghana. And that is how the Lutheran church began.”
That Nigerian mission work in cooperation with the LCMS would bear great fruit. The ELCG formally registered with the Ghanaian government in 1964. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana has approximately 35,000 members in 50 congregations and 600 preaching stations throughout the country. The church has also been active in international missions: the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) and the Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBe) are two church bodies founded through the mission work of the Ghanaian church, with the ELCG also having been active in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.
To honour the work of Nigerians in helping found their church, the ELCG invited the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to celebrate the special anniversary with them. Present as guest preacher for the anniversary service was the Right Rev. S.O. Willie, a provincial Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. A number of other international church partners were also present for the celebrations.
The ELCG and the LCMS, LCN, LCU, and ELA-SBe are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
GERMANY – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has become a part-owner of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), and with it, the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School (OLS) in Wittenberg.
“It’s a joy to enter into this new relationship with the ILSW,” said Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the ILC. “We look forward to deepening our relationship with the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, as it continues its vital ministry of Gospel proclamation in the region, as well as offering accommodations and Reformation education to visitors.”
The International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School provides a place for people to learn, grow, study, meet, retreat, and experience the Gospel in Wittenberg, the birthplace of the Reformation. The center stands across from St. Mary’s Church, where Martin Luther and other reformers regularly preached. The OLS was built in 1564 as a school for boys.
The OLS was founded as a joint project that included The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK). The International Lutheran Council has now purchased an interest equal to that of the LCMS, making the ILC a full partner in the project with SELK and the LCMS.
For more information on the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School, or to book accommodations, visit www.oldlatinschool.org.
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
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118
ONLINE – The work of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has recently been featured on KFUO Radio, during the popular Coffee Hour program.
Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the ILC, joined hosts Andy and Sarah on August 16 to discuss the growing importance of the International Lutheran Council in world Lutheranism today. The ILC currently counts 53 member church bodies worldwide, with several additional applications for membership pending.
The three also discuss the ILC’s upcoming 2019 World Seminaries Conference in the Philippines, noting the value the conference provides for confessional Lutheran theological institutes across the globe.
ETHIOPIA – The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) held its 15th Council in Addis Ababa from August 20-24, 2019, during which time the church reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate only with churches that accept the biblical understanding of marriage. As a consequence of that decision, the EECMY has terminated its long-term partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Concerns over the relationship arose following the PC(USA)’s decision to approve same-sex marriage in 2014. The EECMY responded at its 13th Council in 2017, deciding to send a pastoral letter to the PC(USA) encouraging them to remain faithful to the Word of God in matters of human sexuality.
The EECMY reports it has waited more than a year for a response from the PC(USA), and so has confirmed during its 15th Council the decision to end the partnership between the two churches. The Presbyterian Church has a century-long history with the Ethiopian church, having helped to found one of the EECMY’s predecessor bodies.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus previously broke fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Church of Sweden over human sexuality in 2013.
The EECMY’s 15th Council met under the theme of 2 Timothy 4:5—“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Among other business, the Council elected Ato Fekadu Begna as Associate General Secretary.
The EECMY is the largest Lutheran church body in the world with more than 9 million members. In recent years, the Ethiopian church has established friendly relations with the International Lutheran Council and some of its member churches, especially The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa, who recently completed service as General Secretary of the EECMY in 2018, has regularly represented the EECMY as a guest at ILC events for several years, including most recently at the ILC’s 2018 World Conference in Belgium. The EECMY’s current General Secretary, Rev. Teshome Amenu, is a participant in the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program.
BRAZIL – On July 29, Rev. Dr. Johannes Hermann Gedrat, former Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), passed on to glory. A funeral service was held July 30 in Dois Irmãos, Brazil.
Dr. Gedrat was born August 8, 1934 in Moreira, Brazil, where his parents were missionaries. He was ordained in 1958. He was elected President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) in 1974. He would hold the position for four terms, ending his service in 1990. He later served as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Secretary for Latin America from 1990-1997.
Dr. Gedrat was first elected Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (then still called the International Lutheran Conference) during the 1984 gathering in Obot Idim, Nigeria. He first attended an ILC conference in 1975 after his election as president of the Brazilian church. He would also serve as host of the conference that year, as the 1975 conference took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
During his tenure as ILC Chairman, Dr. Gedrat oversaw 1986’s world conference in Berlin, Germany (meeting under the theme “Effective Gospel Proclamation”) and 1989’s conference in Seoul, Korea (meeting under the theme “Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Age”). The latter conference saw the adoption of Guiding Principles which helped the ILC better articulate its mission.
Over the years, Dr. Gedrat also presented major papers during ILC World Conferences on “Ecumenical Involvement” (1981) and “Holy Baptism in the Life of the Church” (1984).
Dr. Gedrat’s chairmanship of the ILC came to an end in 1991, following the completion of his service as IELB president in 1990.
PHILIPPINES – The Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) will host the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference in Baguio from October 15-18, 2019. Baguio is the site of the LCP’s Lutheran Theological Seminary.
The 2019 conference will feature two major themes. The first topic—“Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts”—will feature five presenters, one from each of the ILC’s five world regions.
ASIA – “Christology in an Asian Context” – Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson, Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC).
EUROPE – “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context” – Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock, Professor of Practical Theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule – LThH) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) in Germany.
AFRICA – “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” – Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG).
NORTH AMERICA – “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North American Culture” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann, Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
LATIN AMERICA – “Ecclesial Lutheran Identity in the Face of Sociology of Favelas” – Rev. Samuel Fuhrmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB).
Two members of the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Germany) and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (USA), will respectively provide an introduction and a conclusion to the series of presentations.
The second theme for the 2019 World Seminaries Conference will be “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” This section of the conference will focus on discussing a common-ground curriculum which could be acknowledged by all churches, as well as potential opportunities for shared work and seminary exchanges. Dr. Klän will serve as moderator.
The ILC’s triennial World Seminaries Conference brings together representatives from the theological institutions of ILC member churches across the globe. The last World Seminaries Conference was held in Wittenberg, Germany in 2016.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod declared altar and pulpit fellowship with four church bodies during its 67th regular synodical convention held July 20-25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.
The LCMS’ new church partners are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België – ELKB), the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (Igreja Evangélica Luterana Portuguesa – IELP), the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa (CLCSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (Den evangelisk-lutherske Frikirke i Danmark – ELFD).
While the LCMS has historical ties to all of these church bodies, the votes regularize relations with them. The LCMS was previously in fellowship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium when it was part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France and Belgium. The ELKB became self-governing in 2002, requiring the development of a new declaration of fellowship.
The LCMS has practiced assumed fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark for more than a century, having supported the church body since it was young and having trained many of its pastors. The new agreement regularizes that relationship, and follows the ELFD’s formal declaration of fellowship with the LCMS during its July 2018 convention.
The Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in the 1959 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, when the Brazilian church was still a district of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The IELP contacted the LCMS in 2016 to request formal recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship, which was granted by the LCMS president. The 2019 LCMS convention has now endorsed that declaration of fellowship.
LCMS relations with the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa predate the CLCSA’s official founding in 1989, with the CLCSA’s founding pastor having been provided by an LCMS seminary education. The CLCSA officially requested altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS in October 2015.
In addition to these declarations of fellowship, the 2019 Convention also moved to simply the recognition of fellowship for new church bodies emerging out of the mission efforts or reorganization of a pre-existing fellowship partner of the LCMS.
The LCMS also resolved to clarify its relationship with Lutherans in Sri Lanka, recognizing fellowship with the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), which succeeds the defunct Lanka Lutheran Church. The Sri Lankan church grew out of LCMS missions in the country beginning in 1927, with the church becoming independent in 2001. The Sri Lankan government declared the church legally defunct in 2007; the church reconstituted and was legally recognized in 2017 as the CELC.
The LCMS, ELKB, IELP, CLCSA, ELFD, and CELC all hold varying forms of membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world. During the convention, the LCMS commended the work of the ILC and pledged its continuing support.
Among other work during the 2019 convention, the LCMS also adopted resolutions to encourage church planting; condemn the sin of racism; strengthen multi-ethnic outreach; encourage continued international theological education in aid of world Lutheran churches; engage in a comprehensive church worker recruitment initiative; and remember the needs of the persecuted church.
The LCMS also celebrated a number of milestones: the forthcoming 175th anniversary of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 2020; 150 years since the founding of Concordia Publishing House; 125 years of international missions to areas outside North America; 125 years since the founding of Concordia University, Nebraska; 100 years of deaconess ministry; 100 years of campus ministry; 60 years of the Director of Christian Education program; and 25 years for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation. The church also commended the upcoming 175th anniversary of the LCMS in 2022.
The convention comes just a few weeks after the LCMS announced that President Matthew C. Harrison had been reelected to a fourth term. During convention, The LCMS elected Rev. Peter K. Lange as First Vice-President. Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr. will serve as Second Vice-President, Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray as Third Vice-President, Rev. Nabil S. Nour as Fourth Vice-President, Rev. Christopher S. Esget as Fifth Vice-President, and Rev. Benjamin T. Ball as Sixth Vice-President.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has commended the work of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), pledging its continued support as the ILC expands its operations in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide. The LCMS’ resolution came during the church’s 67th regular synodical convention, taking place in Tampa, Florida.
“The ILC has become a beacon to worldwide Lutheranism by upholding the Holy Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions,” notes Resolution 5-08: To Commend and Support the International Lutheran Council. In the resolution, the LCMS gives thanks to God for the ILC and its continuing expansion.
The LCMS resolved “that the ILC be commended for its work to provide a place for worldwide Lutheran churches to be strengthened in the Holy Scriptures and in Lutheran identity as it bears witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.” The LCMS also resolved to encourage greater knowledge of the ILC within the LCMS, and pledged its continued support for the ILC’s work, resolving: “that the LCMS encourage its members to learn more about the work of the ILC, continue its involvement in the ILC, and support the ILC so that Lutheran churches worldwide will have a place to be encouraged, strengthened, and encouraged to remain faithful and bold witnesses.”
The resolution was adopted unanimously.
“It is gratifying to see the work of the International Lutheran Council be recognized in this way,” said ILC Interim General Secretary Darin Storkson following the vote. “The LCMS is an important ally in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide, and we are thankful for their continued strong support.”
ILC Vice Chairman Timothy Teuscher (President of Lutheran Church–Canada) also expressed gratitude. “The International Lutheran Council is at a critical point in its history,” he said. “A growing number of Lutherans around the world are seeking to reembrace their confessional heritage. The ILC, thanks to the support of its members like the LCMS, is in a key position to assist these churches to stand more firmly on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. May God give us strength for this task, and use us as He sees fit.”
USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) held its second round of classes July 8-19, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).
“It was a joy to be reunited here at CTSFW with our colleagues and brothers in the office from countries throughout Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “We pray that their studies in this program will bear much fruit in their home church bodies”
The first week featured a course on the History of the Lutheran Church taught by CTSFW President Lawrence Rast. This course focused on giving participants a deeper appreciation of the rich heritage of the Lutheran Church, and the tools to evaluate their own Lutheran tradition in light of the history of the Reformation. Participants also considered present day Lutheranism in the context of our changing world, both within and without the church.
The second week of classes featured Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, CTSFW’s Academic Dean, teaching a course on Lutheran Hermeneutics. The course provided instruction for students on how to read and understand Scripture faithfully, while also addressing the dangers of the higher-critical method and reader-oriented hermeneutics of biblical interpretation common in some parts of world Lutheranism. Among other resources, students read the book How to Read the Bible with Understanding, a publication from Concordia Publishing House (CPH).
The students were also joined outside of class by Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a certificate program of the ILC.
“One of the recurring requests we hear from Lutheran Churches around the world is the need for solid theological training,” said General Secretary Storkson. “The International Lutheran Council is proud to offer the Lutheran Leadership Development Program as a way of helping Lutherans around the world meet their theological education and leadership-training needs.”
In addition to classes, participants enjoyed plenty of time for food and fellowship, as well as visiting local Lutheran sites. The group also participated in the regular daily chapel services of CTSFW, where four of the LLDP participants were invited to preach. The intensive two-week period ended with a banquet featuring Lutheran choral music.
“The reaction of the participant in the LLDP remains overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Masaki. “They express gratitude and joy in hearing lectures that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and in receiving the Lord’s gifts in daily chapel and Sunday divine services. It’s wonderful to see the growing confessional fellowship and networking among participants and their churches.”
“To many, this program has been an eye-opening experience which they do not want to keep to themselves,” Dr. Masaki continued. “They request an expansion of the program. They also request that the lectures would be made available in book form as well, so that they may be more easily shared with others in in their home countries—something we are exploring with Concordia Publishing House.”
Eight students from across Africa were present for the latest round of classes, including General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of the Department of Children and Youth in the EECMY; President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Bishop Modise Maragelo the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (LCSA); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala of LCSA; Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); and District Pastor Daniel Mono of ELCT-SELVD.
Three additional LLDP participants from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) and the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) were unable to attend the current round of classes in Fort Wayne.
The LLDPis a two-year certificate program which aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Students in the LLDP meet three times a year over two years for a total of twelve courses. Additional course work, writings, and examinations take place at a distance. More information on the LLDP is available here.