United Kingdom – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) elected a new Chairman during its 65th Synod, held September 27-28, 2019 at Christ Church (Petts Wood).
Rev. George Samiec, who formerly served as Vice Chairman, was elected Chairman of the church after Rev. John Ehlers announced he would not seek reelection. Rev. Ehlers had served three terms as Chairman of the ELCE.
While not standing for reelection as Chairman, Rev. Ehlers allowed his name to stand for Vice Chairman of the ELCE, and was elected to that position for one year.
Rev. George Samiec, arrived in the UK in 2002, seconded from the Lutheran Church of Australia at the request of the ELCE. He has served on the ELCE Executive Council since 2003 and as ELCE Vice Chairman since 2010. He also served on the executive of the European Lutheran Conference from 2004-2018. The ELCE Chairman duties are in addition to congregational ministries in the ELCE. Rev. Samiec serves congregations in Brandon, Coventry, and Harlow and teaches in the practical theology area at Westfield House, the ELCE’s theological house of studies in Cambridge.
Assisting at the installation of the Chairman were the pastors of the ELCE ministerium together with the Rt. Rev. Risto Soramies, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF); the Very Rev. Dr Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the ELMDF; and Rev. Gary Heintz, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France.
During its 65th Synod, the ELCE also declared fellowship with the ELMDF and the Evangelical Lutheran-Diocese of Norway.
United Kingdom – The 65th Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) was held September 27-28 at Christ Church (Petts Wood), during which time the ELCE recognised church fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) and the Evangelical Lutheran-Diocese in Norway (DELSiN). These church fellowship recognitions are the culmination of five years of discussion, together with the Mission Province of Sweden and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany.
Attending the ELCE Synod was Bishop Risto Soramies of the ELMDF and together with ELCE Chairman, Rev. Jon Ehlers, they signed documents and extended the right hand of fellowship. Bishop Soramies spoke about the situation in Finland, the history of his church, and their priorities in establishing worship places so that folk only have to travel up to one hour to attend worship. He also mentioned that the ELMDF was prioritising investing in personnel rather than buildings.
Bishop Thor Henrik With of the DELSiN at the last minute was unable to attend the Synod. Nevertheless the ELCE delegates also resolved recognition of church fellowship with the DELSiN.
The ELCE, ELMDF, DELSiN are all members of the International Lutheran Council.
SOUTH AFRICA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its Africa World Region conference August 16-20, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.
The triennial meeting is an important opportunity for church leaders to connect and build relationships. During the 2019 conference, each leader was invited to present a historical overview of their church. A series of daily Bible studies on the topic “Servant Leadership” were presented in three parts: 1) Christ as a servant of all; 2) Disciples of Christ as servants of all; and 3) The Church of Christ as servants to the world.
This year, church leaders from Benin, Malawi, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda gathered for the event, including: Bishop Nathaniel Bol (South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church); Bishop Mandla Khumalo (St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Synod of South Africa); General Secretary Patrice Legbanon (Lutheran Church in Africa—Benin Synod); Bishop Emmanuel Makala (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese); Bishop Modise Maragelo (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Executive Chairman David Wowa (Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod); Secretary Geoffrey Skosana (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Bishop Dieter Reinstorf (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa); and Dean Peter Maganda (Lutheran Church of Uganda). Revs. Shauen Trump and Gary Schulte, Africa Area Directors from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Missions, were also present as guests.
The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, and the Africa World Region is the ILC’s fastest growing region. The region currently has eleven full member churches, three observer members, and one diocese listed as a registered organization member. Since the beginning of 2019, the ILC has received an additional six applications from African churches seeking membership.
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
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.
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