News

Livestream: Bishop Pohjola lecture on religious freedom

 

ONLINE – Unable to attend Bishop Juhana Pohjola’s American lecture tour in person? You can also watch online!

Bishop Pohjola’s lecture in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Saturday, November 13, 2021 will be broadcast live online at 9:30 a.m. (EST). The event will also feature a service of matins.

Simply visit the International Lutheran Council’s Facebook page here, or return to this webpage on Saturday, November 13 to watch the event live.

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Lutherans in Spain welcome new bishop

IELE Bishop José Luis de Miguel (fifth from left) and those participating in his consecration.
Rev. Miguel kneels as he is consecrated bishop of the IELE.

SPAIN – On October 9, 2021, the Spanish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Española – IELE) celebrated the consecration of its new bishop, Rev. José Luis de Miguel, during the church’s Annual Assembly in El Escorial.

Bishop Miguel has been a pastor in the Spanish church for four years. A worker-priest, he also serves as a health promotion technician for the Spanish Association Against Cancer. He succeeds Rev. David Warner, a missionary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), to become the first native-born Spaniard to lead the church in Spain.

“Lutheranism has always developed in Spain through foreign missions, mainly from Argentina and the United States,” the IELE noted in a release. “The installation of the new bishop is a sign of the maturation of the Spanish Lutheran church.”

The multi-language consecration service featured involvement from churches in Finland, Portugal, and the United States, as well as from LCMS missionaries stationed in other regions. Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), President Adalberto Hiller of the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELP), and Fifth Vice President Christopher Esget of the LCMS all participated in the service, together with Rev. James Krikava (LCMS Eurasia Director), Rev. Joel Fritche (LCMS Dominican Republic), LCMS pastor Fred Gaede, and other church representatives.

Participants in the IELE’s 2021 Annual Assembly.

The 2021 Annual Assembly also featured the ordination and installation of a new pastor, as well as a lecture by Rev. Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), who spoke on “Mercy in the Gospel of St. Luke.”

The IELE has four congregations and approximately 100 members. The church first began to emerge in the 1990s, when Spaniards interested in Lutheranism made contact with Lutherans in France. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA) subsequently began to send missionary pastors to Spain in 2000, followed later by missionaries from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

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Standing with the saints before the throne

“Adoration of the Lamb” from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, 1432.

by Roger B. James

In Revelation 7, St. John is given a vision of the holy and glorious throne of God. In front of the throne stands a great multitude of people of every sort, clothed in the white robes of Holy Baptism and waving the palm branches of salvation, crying out acclamation to God the Father and God the Son. John is then asked who these people are. He doesn’t know. He is told an amazing thing:

“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:13-17

This glorious throng of people that he saw all dazzling before God—these are the very same people that John knew on earth at the time when he lived. This crowd in heaven were the poor, struggling folks that he knew from Christian churches all around. Ordinary people who struggled with illness, persecution, poverty, temptation, and sin. Such people would one day fill the courts of the Lord’s house in heaven. “Who would think it to look at them now!” John must have thought.

Among that throng, witnessed by John so many centuries ago, you also will stand—you who have been cleansed by Jesus’ forgiving and life-giving blood, baptized into His Holy Name, and clothed in the white-robe of His righteousness. You will be there, salvation adorning your body, salvation waving in your hands, salvation on your lips as you worship the God of your salvation, singing with angels and elders and all the creatures of heaven:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb! Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!” – Revelation 7:12

Those who think that it is a small thing to stand in the presence of God and worship have little or no understanding. Those who mock and say that heaven sounds boring—that they would much rather have fun in hell—don’t grasp the insanity of what they are saying.

Just consider: if people will stand in line and in packed mobs for hours just to get a glimpse of some celebrity or, say, the president or king or queen, then how much better to be in the eternal presence of God our Saviour! If the angels who are so much more powerful and wise than we find it joy and honour constantly to be in God’s presence, then should not we agree, even though it may be hard for us to understand right now because our minds are so earth- and sin-bound?

Perhaps you can imagine waiting in a crowd to see some important or famous person, standing on tip-toes trying to see over the shoulders and heads of those in front just to get a glimpse—or, perhaps if you’re lucky, to catch the very eye of that important person—perhaps even to shake hands or to get a signature. But what does the Scripture promise? Not only will we be in the crowd and see our God and Saviour from afar; Scripture says that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” How close do you have to be to wipe away a tear? Can you remember the gentle hand of father or mother holding your face and brushing away that salty drop?

But is it possible that in such a vast throng God could or would be able to touch and speak to you so personally? Yes, for even though you are a part of this crowd—the Church, which includes believers of all generations and places—you will never be lost in the crowd; the Lord sees and loves and saves us together and also individually.

The Sacraments are proof and assurance of this. Yes, the Word is preached to crowds, but the Sacraments, even though they ordinarily take place in the congregation, always are given individually and personally. Water was poured out on your head and your name was uttered when you were born again by water and the Word. Your mouth is opened, and the Lord’s Holy and Precious Body and Blood is pressed upon your lips and tongue with the full promise that your sins are forgiven. In this way, the Lord proves that His cross and the death which He died for the whole world is also intended for each of us.

It is one thing to be able to say, “I saw the president or prime-minister!” It is another to be able to say, “He saw me. He shook my hand. He spoke my name.” But we can say far more: “God, My Saviour, the Eternal Father, the glorious Son, the Holy Spirit, knows me by name. He spoke my name. He gave me His own name in Holy Baptism. My Saviour Jesus placed in my mouth—this very mouth!—His own precious Body and Blood.”

The time will come when all believers who struggle here and now in this great tribulation will stand in the throng within the presence of the Holy Lord—not as anonymous faces in a crowd, but as those named and loved by God. At that time, with all the gentleness, intimacy, and tenderness of a father with his child, the Lord will wipe every tear from your eye. But even now, right here and now, the Lord is present among us, giving His own Body and Blood in the Supper and washing us clean in Holy Baptism.

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Rev. Roger B. James is Assistant to the General Secretary for the International Lutheran Council.

ILC announces new program to support Lutheran theological education worldwide

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is pleased to announce a new program dedicated to supporting Lutheran theological education worldwide: the International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency (ILCAA).

“Lutherans from around the world—both within and outside the International Lutheran Council—have told us that they are in need of assistance in the development of pastoral training and theological education,” explains the ILC’s General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill. “This new program will help equip Lutheran seminaries and colleges worldwide to offer rigorous academic theological training, grounded in the authority of Scripture and in the Lutheran Confessions.”

The ILCAA is not intended to replace existing regional governmental accreditation, but instead to complement it, providing a basis for internationally recognized confessional Lutheran theological education. A key component of this is the development of a recommended core curriculum. Accreditation standards will also address such areas as faculty, spiritual formation, student evaluation, library resources, long-term planning, administration, financial stability, and accountability.

The rollout of an internationally recognized accreditation program will also ensure that students who wish to go on to pursue higher education at another institution have transcripts from accredited institutions.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher.

Spearheading the new program will be Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, who has accepted a call to serve as the ILCAA’s Chief Accreditation Officer. In addition to serving as a missionary with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and as Academic Dean at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Dr. Schumacher has served as an adjunct professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana since 2011. His doctoral thesis focused specifically on the question of Lutheran theological accreditation in the African context.

“It’s a joy to be joining the ILC to help strengthen the work of Lutheran seminaries and theological institutes across the world,” said Dr. Schumacher. “The ILCAA will play a major role in the renewal of global Lutheran theological education, equipping churches to train leaders and church workers faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency comes in response to a resolution of the ILC’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference in the Philippines, which called for the development of a common theological curriculum for confessional Lutherans across the globe. A committee was subsequently struck to consider the question in greater detail. Members of the committee included Rev. Dr. Daniel Gard (North America); Dr. Steven Schumacher (North America; Africa); Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Europe); and Rev. Dr. Alexey Strelstov (Eurasia). Additional advisory members included President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (Africa); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Director of Theological Education, Rev. Dr. Arthur Just (North America); Brazil’s Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden (Latin America); President Antonio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (Asia); the United States of America’s Dr. James Wagner (North America); and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Chairman of the ILC Seminary Relations Committee). ILC General Secretary Quill also participated as an ex-officio member.

Following the committee’s work and recommendations, the ILC’s Board of Directors approved the creation of the ILCAA in April 2021.

Additional information on the program, including the application process, will be made available at a later date.

You can support confessional Lutheran theological education and the work of the International Lutheran Council Accreditation Agency through online giving (select “International Seminary Accreditation Program”). You may also send a cheque by mail to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, IN  46850

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American Lecture Tour by Bishop Juhana Pohjola

NOTE: Unable to attend in person? You can also watch Bishop Pohjola’s lecture live online here.

USA – In November 2021, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola will visit the United States of America for a lecture tour sponsored by the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

On August 1, 2021, Dr. Pohjola was consecrated Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). He enters the role at a challenging time: Bishop Pohjola faces criminal charges in Finland for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

Should it be illegal to identify homosexual activity as sinful? That’s the question facing Bishop Pohjola now, seventeen years after the booklet was first published. He and the booklet’s author, Dr. Päivi Räsänen (a Finnish Member of Parliament), have been charged by Finland’s Prosecutor General with “incitement against a group of people.”

What can we learn from Bishop Pohjola’s story? How should we respond to a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christian beliefs? And what does Scripture have to say to us about being persecuted on account of our faith in Christ? Come hear Bishop Pohjola in person to find out.

There are three opportunities to hear Bishop Pohjola speak:

  • November 10, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Washington, D.C at the office of the Alliance Defending Freedom
  • November 13, 2021 (9:30 a.m.) in Fort Wayne, Indiana at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • November 16, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Boston, Massachusetts at First Lutheran Church

NOTE: Those wishing to attend the Washington event are required to register in advance here: http://www.adfinternational.org/DCLecture.

Those wishing to advertise the event in their local congregation can download a poster and bulletin inserts (black and white/colour) here.

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New Bishop for Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand

Bishop Elect Paul Smith (Image: LCA)

AUSTRALIA – On October 1, the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) elected Rev. Paul Smith as its new bishop. The election came during the LCA’s 20th Convention of General Synod, which is being split into two parts: one online in October 2021, and a second in-person gathering scheduled for 2022.

Bishop Elect Smith was ordained in 1988, and has served in parishes and school ministry in Queensland and South Australia. At the time of the election, Rev. Smith was serving a temporary placement at St Peter’s Lutheran College Indooroopilly. He previously served as bishop of the LCA’s Queensland District from 2015-2021.

Also on the ballot for president was Rev. Matt Anker, LCA Assistant to the Bishop for International Mission. The nominees were selected at the LCA’s General Pastors Conference in July.

Bishop Elect Smith succeeds Bishop John Henderson who announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking reelection. The transition in leadership will take place towards the end of the year. More information on Bishop Elect Smith is available from the LCA here.

Also elected during this online portion of the Convention of General Synod was Rev. Neville Otto to serve as Assistant Bishop of the LCA. Rev. Otto succeeds Rev. Dr. Andrew Pfeiffer, who did not stand for reelection as Assistant Bishop. Rev. Dr. Stephen Pietsch was also on the ballot.

The LCA’s 20th Convention of General Synod’s theme verse is Isaiah 55:3—“…come to me, listen, that you may live.” The convention will reconvene in-person in 2022.

The Lutheran Church of Australia, which includes the Lutheran Church of New Zealand, is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

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SELK’s Bishop Emeritus, former ILC Vice Chairman, enters into glory

SELK Bishop Emeritus Jobst Schöne. (Image: SELK)

GERMANY – On September 22, 2021, Rev. Dr. Jobst Schöne, Bishop Emeritus of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) finished his earthly race. He was 89 years old.

The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Chairman, Hans-Jörg Voigt, is also Bishop of SELK, and shares the following words on the passing of Dr. Schöne: “Last Tuesday Jobst Schöne called me by phone to say good-bye and farewell. God gave me grace to visit him one last time on Tuesday afternoon with the Body and Blood of Christ. I have never experienced such a clear and peaceful time in the last hours of one’s life. His last words to me were the following: ‘I am not sure, but if there is the possibility during eternal worship, I will pray for you.’ And I answered: ‘Thank you, and I will see you soon!’”

Bishop Voigt continues: “Together with his family we are feeling both sadness and joy together—sadness because we will miss him very much, and joy because we know he has been welcomed into eternity by his Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Dr. Schöne was born on October 20, 1931 in Naumburg (Saale). After finishing school, he pursued theological studies at universities and seminaries in Bethel, Tübingen, Oberursel, and Münster. From 1957-1958, he served as an assistant at the Ecumenical Institute in Münster.

He was ordained in 1959 and completed his vicarage in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. He served in Cologne from 1961-1962, before being called as pastor of St. Mary’s Evangelical Lutheran in Berlin-Zehlendorf and Holy Ghost Lutheran in Berlin-Spandau, a position in which he served from 1962-1975.

While serving in Berlin, he would go on to receive a doctorate in theology from the University of Münster in 1968. He later received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 1978.

From 1973-1985, Dr. Schöne served as superintendent of SELK’s Berlin district. On November 3, 1985, he was elected the national Bishop of SELK, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1996. During his tenure as bishop, Dr. Schöne expanded the ecumenical relations of the SELK, including through his involvement with the International Lutheran Council. He served as a frequent lecturer at ILC events from 1970 on, eventually serving two terms as Vice Chairman (1991-1995) followed by one as secretary. He also oversaw the merger of the Evangelical Lutheran (Old Lutheran) Church—a church body in former East Germany—into SELK in 1991 following German reunification.

Dr. Schöne was the author of several books, and his writing has been collected into two anthologies. In a 1994 pastoral letter, he defended SELK’s adherence to historic Christian teaching in rejecting female ordination.

He continued to teach and lecture in Germany and abroad following his retirement, and continued serving as a preacher and liturgist in local services. He celebrated his 60th ordination anniversary in 2019, where he—at 88 years old—preached and led the liturgy. He continued to preach even thereafter, giving his final sermon only the Sunday before his death.

Dr. Schöne is remembered by his wife, Ingrid, and three children.

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

Former President of Lutheran Church of Australia passes on to glory

LCA President Emeritus Lance Steicke (Image: Lutheran Church of Australia).

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.

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