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2022 World Conference: Bishop Pohjola elected as ILC Chairman

Bishop Juhana Pohjola addresses the conference after being elected the ILC’s new chairman.

KENYA – During the afternoon of September 14, 2022, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held elections for its board of directors, during which time the ILC acclaimed Bishop Juhana Pohjola without opposition as its new chairman.

In remarks after the decision, Chairman Elect Pohjola expressed thanks to the assembly as well as his prayer that the Holy Spirit would work through him despite his weakness. He further gave thanks for the example of Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, his predecessor in office, who announced earlier in the conference that he would not stand for reelection.

“I know that I have big shoes to fill because Bishop Voigt has been such an example,” Chairman Elect Pohjola said. “If I can imitate him in even some respects, I will be happy to do so.”

“Dear brothers, pray for me and for the ILC,” the Chairman Elect continued. “I look forward to working with you all very much.”

Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola has been Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) since 2021. He previously served as the ELMDF’s Diocesan Dean from 2013 until his election, and before that as dean of the Luther Foundation Finland from 2000-2001 and 2012 until his election. He has served as a pastor in Helsinki and as a visiting scholar at Canada’s Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. He holds a Master of Theology from the University of Helsinki (1997), a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (1998), and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Helsinki (2014). He was further awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) in 2022 in part “for his calm and bold witness in the face of government persecution and pressure.”

Bishop Pohjola was catapulted to worldwide media attention in 2021 after Finland’s Prosecutor General charged him and a Finnish M.P., Dr. Päivi Räsänen, with hate crimes for the 2004 publication of a booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. In response, the ILC issued “A Protest and Call” signed by the leaders of Lutheran church bodies around the world, expressing deep concern over Finland’s infringement on the freedoms of religion and speech. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen were subsequently acquitted in early 2022 by a panel of judges who found they had committed no crimes, but Finland’s Prosecutor General has since appealed, meaning the case is not over.

Bishop Pohjola succeeds Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who has headed Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church since 2006. He was elected to serve the ILC as Europe Region representative in 2007 and 2009, following which he was named Vice Chairman. When the Chairman’s seat became vacant in 2010 between World Conferences, he was automatically advanced to become interim Chairman. The 2012 World Conference elected him to continue serving as Chairman, and he was subsequently reelected to the position again in 2015 and 2018. In total, he served 12 years as ILC Chairman and 15 years in total on the board.

After Bishop Voigt announced he would not stand for reelection, attendees gave him a standing round of applause in gratitude for his long and faithful service.

Secretary and World Region Representatives

The ILC Board of Directors for the new triennium: LCP President Antonio del Rio Reyes (Asia); IELP President Alceu Alton Figur (Latin America); LCC President Timothy Teuscher (North America); ELCG Bishop John Shadrack Donkoh (ILC Secretary); ELCE Chairman George Samiec (Europe); ELMDF Bishop Juhana Pohjola (ILC Chairman); LCMS President Matthew Harrison (Founding Member); ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Africa); LCC Past President Robert Bugbee (Member-at-Large); and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (ILC General Secretary).

The September 14 afternoon session of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference also saw the election of Bishop John Shadrack Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) to serve as Secretary of the ILC. Bishop Donkoh has been head of the ELCG since 2018. He succeeds President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB), who had served in the role since 2004.  The assembly recognized President van Hattem for his years of service with a round of applause.

During the afternoon, the ILC also acclaimed world region representatives to the board of directors for the new triennium. Serving as representative for Africa is Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK). Asia will be represented by President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP). The European representative is Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). Latin America will be represented by President Alceu Alton Figur of the Lutheran Church of Paraguay. And North America will be represented by President Timothy Teuscher of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC).

The ILC’s board of directors also includes two other members who are appointed under other criteria. Past President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada and President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) remain on the board in this capacity.

An installation service for the new triennium’s Board of Directors will take place on the conference’s final date.

Other business

Following the elections, President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) reported on the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, which is a joint project of the LCMS, Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), and the ILC.

Regional meetings followed, after which four World Region reports were given. LCP President Reyes gave the report from Asia. ELCE Chairman Samiec reported on Europe. Finally, LCC President Teuscher, accompanied by LCMS President Harrison, reported on the North America region.

The conference then heard a brief report on Concordia Israel from Bishop Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church in Norway and Iceland. Following this, Rev. Roger James, the ILC’s Assistant to the General Secretary, then addressed the conference as well.

The day closed with a service of Vespers. President Geraldo Schüler of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) preached on the theology of the cross, tying in to the commemoration of Holy Cross Day, while conference chaplain Rev. Charles Froh served as liturgist.

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2022 World Conference: Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service

Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gives the second lecture of the 2022 World Conference.

KENYA – The 2022 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued on Wednesday morning, September 14, 2022, during which time the conference heard the second of four major lectures on the conference theme.

ILC General Secretary preaches during Matins on Holy Cross Day.

The morning began with a service of Matins, with ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill preaching. His sermon highlighted the conference’s commemoration of Holy Cross Day. Rev. Charles Froh, Conference Chaplain, served as liturgist.

Following Matins, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gave the second lecture of the conference, with a presentation entitled: “Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service Through His Office: Reflections on the Question of Liturgy and Culture.” Dr. Masaki is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana as well as Director of the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

In his presentation, Dr. Masaki analyzed how previous thinkers and organizations have discussed the relationship between liturgy and culture, noting in many a lack of emphasis—or even a denial—of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The influence of higher criticism on some scholars’ interpretation of the events of the Last Supper has gone on to negatively influence their understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the liturgy.

“When Jesus is gone in this way, what is left in the church but what we do to try to celebrate something?” Dr. Masaki asked. “Liturgy becomes what we dotoward God.” In this way of thinking, the focus on God’s service to us in the liturgy is lost; and, therefore, discussion of liturgy and culture often becomes simply about finding ways that allow us to express ourselves to God—not to enculturate God’s ministry to us through the Divine Service.

“Liturgy is not something we do,” Dr. Masaki stressed. “Basically, liturgy is Jesus’ service to us”—Him giving us His body and blood for our salvation.

He went on to share video clips of Lutherans worshipping around the world—in different languages, different cultures—and yet retaining the historic liturgy. “Why should we forsake our own rich tradition and go elsewhere to find something less good?” he asked.

Left: ELCG President/Bishop John Donkoh leads a Bible study on Romans 12. Right: ILC Business Manager and Treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gives financial reports.

Following a break, the conference turned to a Bible study by President/Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG). President Donkoh led a study of Romans 12 and the Christian life. Then the ILC’s business manager and treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gave financial reports.

The morning ended with a report by Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany on the ILC’s ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, with comments also by Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden of Brazil. The topic is scheduled to be returned to later in the conference, after which a fuller news report on the subject will be published.

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2022 World Conference: ILC Welcomes New Members

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Timothy Quill welcome the newest members of the ILC. Left to right: Chairman Voigt, LELB Archbishop Jānis Vanags of Latvia, ICEL President Limberth Fernandez Coronado of Bolivia, IELPA Pastor Patricio Mora Reyes of Panama, and General Secretary Quill.

KENYA – On the afternoon of September 13, 2022, the International Lutheran Council unanimously voted to accept two church bodies as full members and one as an associate member. The ILC also formally welcomed ten church bodies which have been accepted as observer members since the last world conference.

The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Luterana de Bolivia – ICEL) was welcomed as a full member. The ICEL’s history dates back to 1978 when Norwegian missions to the country began. The church was officially founded in 1997. The ICEL was previously accepted into the ILC as an associate member at the 2001 World Conference in South Africa. It announced at its 2022 national assembly its decision to seek full membership in the ILC. The ICEL is led by President Limberth Fernandez Coronado.

Also accepted as a full member was the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas Evaņģēliski luteriskā Baznīca – LELB). Lutheranism in Latvia traces its history back five hundred years to when the capital of Riga adopted Lutheranism in 1522. The Latvian church faced severe persecution during the 20th century under the Communist regime but has enjoyed religious freedom again since 1988. The LELB voted in 2021 to seek full membership in the ILC. The ILC’s Board of Directors accepted the LELB as an Observer Member in early 2022, with plans to bring its request for full membership to the 2022 World Conference in Kenya (votes on full membership and associate membership in the ILC must take place during a World Conference). The LELB is led by Archbishop Jānis Vanags.

During its afternoon session, the ILC also voted to accept the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana de Panamá – IELPA) as a new associate member. The IELPA arose out of mission work of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to Panama which began in 1941. It has previously attended other ILC events in the past as a guest. The church in Panama is led by Pastor Patricio Mora Reyes.

Observer Members Welcomed

Some of the leaders of new observer member churches accepted into the ILC since the last world conference.

During the afternoon, delegates also offered a formal welcome to churches that have become observers in the International Lutheran Council since the last world conference. Observer membership in the ILC can be granted by the Board of Directors without needing to wait until a world conference. In total, the board has accepted ten new observer members—all from Africa—since the last World Conference in 2018.

These new observer members include:

  • BURUNDI: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi (HELCB)
  • BURUNDI: Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod (ELA-SBU)
  • EAST CONGO: Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Congo (CELCE)
  • EASTERN KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya (ELCMK)
  • CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Lutheran Church in Africa – Côte d’Ivoire (ELA-SCI)
  • MALAWI: Confessional Lutheran Church – Malawi Synod (CLCMS)
  • RWANDA: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda (IELCR)
  • SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ELCSS/S)

The remaining two observer members welcomed since 2018—in the category of “recognized organizations”—are the Lake Tanganyika Diocese (ELCT-LTD) and the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT):

Reports and Regional Meetings

Regional meetings at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.

The afternoon session also saw reports given by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. Following other business, the conference broke into regional meetings to consider nominations for world region representatives on the ILC’s Board of Directors, as well as to discuss other regional issues.

The conference further heard a regional report from the ILC’s outgoing Africa World Region representative, Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (FELSISA). Among other comments, Bishop Reinstorf noted that, over the past few years, the African World Region has grown to be the largest region in the ILC.

The day ended with a service of vespers. ILC Chairman Quill served as liturgist while Bishop Reinstorf preached a sermon on the presentation of Jesus in the Temple from Luke 2.

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2022 ILC World Conference opens in Kenya

Participants gather for the opening worship service of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preaches.

KENYA – The International Lutheran Council’s 27th (12th) World Conference opened September 13, 2022, in Kisumu, Kenya. The conference is gathering under the theme: “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes Our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do.” The leaders of 55 confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world have gathered for the conference, the first to be held since the pandemic.

The conference began with an opening service of Matins. Rev. Charles Froh, who is serving as conference chaplain, led the liturgy while ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preached on John 7:53-8:11. “Jesus writes on this suffering, scarred earth, withered by human guilt and burdens, with the ink of His blood—the Word of His infinite forgiveness and love,” Chairman Voigt said. And just as Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, so too He is merciful to us: “I speak to you on behalf of Jesus,” Chairman Voigt concluded: “your sins are forgiven.”

Following the opening service, Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) brought greetings. The ELCK, which has more than 350,000 members, is hosting this year’s world conference. “It is with exceeding joy and gratitude that we as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya welcome you to Kenya for the 27th International Lutheran Conference,” said Archbishop Omolo. “We appreciate our fellowship with the ILC a lot. It has given us a forum to stand and walk with our fellow confessional sister churches…. May the Lord grant both increase and strength to the ILC.”

Left: ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo welcomes participants to Kenya. Right: Bishop Fidèle Mbunde (left) brings greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches, with translation provided by Bishop Ilunga Kendi Evariste (right).

The conference also received greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches. Bishop Fidèle Mbunde of the Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod expressed thanks on behalf of the union for the invitation to participate in this world conference. The union, which was founded in 2001, currently has ten member church bodies, with several others seeking membership. Two of these churches currently hold full membership in the ILC, Bishop Mbunde noted, and several others hold observer membership. One other is present at this conference as a guest. Bishop Mbunde expressed his hope that, in time, the union and all its churches would eventually enjoy membership in the ILC.

Keynote Address

Bishop Juhana Pohjola gives the keynote address.

The morning session continued with a keynote address from Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). His address was entitled “Church and Culture: The Devastating Effects of Progressive Socio-Political Ideology and Cultural Trends on the Church, with Special Attention to Recent Events in Finland.” In his talk, Bishop Pohjola used his own experiences as a jumping off point to discuss the ideological challenges which Christians increasingly face today. In 2021, the Prosecutor General of Finland charged Bishop Pohjola with hate crimes for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. A panel of judges acquitted him earlier this year, but the Prosecutor General has appealed that decision.

The issue is not merely about sexuality either, Bishop Pohjola explained. “The real problem goes much deeper than the sexual revolution,” he said. “Ideological tectonic plates have shifted during the past 200 years, and have brought to the surface the question: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ This is what we are facing in western societies, churches, and in the court room.”

ILC Chairman Voigt thanks Bishop Pohjola for his presentation while ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill looks on.

In a world which has lost its understanding of what it means to be human and denies the goodness of physical creation, the Church must continue to reject this neo-Gnostic cultural shift. “Our faith is an embodied faith, located in Christ Jesus, in His Words and gifts,” Bishop Pohjola said. “The order of creation is material and good.” And God uses that good creation as part of His work to accomplish salvation. “The order of redemption is incarnational,” Bishop Pohjola explained. “We proclaim that salvation has been brought to us by the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and His divine blood cleanses us of all our iniquities.”

“We have not chosen the time and place in which we live,” Bishop Pohjola continued, “but we have been given all the answers we need for our cultural challenges: the Embodied God; Embodied humanity. Embodied grace. Embodied community. Embodied witness…. I want to summarize our common joy and challenge, gift and mission into one sentence: Embodied Church in a disembodied culture!”

The morning concluded with a Bible study led by Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). Chairman Samiec, who also serves on the ILC’s Board of Directors as its European Region representative, discussed 1 Timothy 2:7-15.

Participants from around the world

The 2022 World Conference continues through September 16, 2022. Among the members and guests in attendance are the leaders of 55 churches, including:

  • ARGENTINA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA)
  • AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND: Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ)
  • BELGIUM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB)
  • BENIN: Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBE)
  • BOLIVIA: Christian Evangelical Church of Bolivia (ICEL)
  • BRAZIL: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB)
  • BURUNDI: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi (HELCB)
  • BURUNDI: Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod (ELA-SBU)
  • CANADA: Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC)
  • CHILE: Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile)
  • CONGO: Church of the Faithful Confessing Lutherans in Congo (CFCLCO)
  • COTE D’IVOIRE: Lutheran Church in Africa – Synod of Cote d’Ivoire (ELA-SCI)
  • DENMARK: Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD)
  • FINLAND: Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)
  • FRANCE: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (EELSF)
  • GERMANY: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK)
  • GHANA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG)
  • GUATEMALA: Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILG)
  • INDIA: India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC)
  • ISRAEL: Concordia Israel
  • JAPAN: Japan Lutheran Church (JLC)
  • KAZAKHSTAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Almaty (ELC-RK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya (ELCMK)
  • KOREA: Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK)
  • LATVIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB)
  • LIBERIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL)
  • LITHUANIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania (ELCL)
  • MADAGASCAR: Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM)
  • MEXICO: Lutheran Synod of Mexico (SLM)
  • NIGERIA: Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church Community (ELCC)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSIN)
  • NORWAY and ICELAND: Lutheran Church in Norway and Iceland (LKNI)
  • PANAMA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama (IELPA)
  • PARAGUAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELPA)
  • PERU: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru (IEL-P)
  • PHILIPPINES: Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
  • PORTUGAL: Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELP)
  • RUSSIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR)
  • RUSSIA: Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC)
  • RWANDA: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda (IELCR)
  • RWANDA: The Lutheran Mission in Africa – Synod of Thousand Hills (LMASTH)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Confessional Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (CLCSA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA)
  • SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC)
  • SUDAN and SOUTH SUDAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan/South Sudan (ELCSS/S)
  • SWEDEN: The Mission Province in Sweden (MPS)
  • TOGO: Lutheran Church of Togo (ELT)
  • UGANDA: Lutheran Church of Uganda(LCU)
  • UNITED KINGDOM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE)
  • URUGUAY: Lutheran Church of Uruguay (ILU)
  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)
  • VENEZUELA: Lutheran Church of Venezuela (ILV)

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On the death of Queen Elizabeth II

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is calling for prayer following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III.

Queen Elizabeth II reigned more than seven decades on the throne, faithfully serving God and His people in the vocation of monarch to which she found herself called. Along the way, she earned the love and respect of people across the globe. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, expressed his “deepest condolences to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth” during this time of sorrow.

The ILC has members churches in four nations over which the Queen served as monarch: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Several other nations in which ILC churches are present also have ties to the monarchy through the Commonwealth of Nations.

In a statement, Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE) praised the Queen’s long service “in the role in which she found herself as a follower of Jesus Christ,” and encouraged prayer especially “for His Majesty The King and all members of the Royal Family in their time of grief.”

“In this time of mourning, let us remember the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II marked by service in the name of the King of Kings who sacrificed Himself for all,” he said. “May our lives always be marked by service to one another. And may the crucified and risen Lord of Lords whom Her Majesty served be gracious and merciful to us all.”

Chairman Samiec, who also serves as the ILC’s Europe Region representative, offered the following prayer:

Almighty and gracious God, we give You thanks for Your loving kindness shown to Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth the Second, who having finished her course in faith, now rests from her labours in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Amen.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the leaders of ILC churches in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In a statement, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Timothy Teuscher thanked God for “all the blessings You granted Elizabeth, our Queen, during her long earthly life, for her many years of dutiful, sacrificial service to our nation and all the nations of the British Commonwealth, and especially for calling her to faith in Christ and preserving her in the confession of His holy name.”

President Teuscher is also Vice Chairman of the International Lutheran Council and the ILC’s North America Region representative.

Bishop Paul Smith of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCA/NZ) likewise issued a statement, giving thanks for Queen Elizabeth II’s “faithful Christian leadership both in the Commonwealth and throughout the world” and her “long faith-filled reign over us.”

Queen Elizabeth II regularly made reference to her faith in Christ throughout her reign, especially during her annual Christmas messages. “History teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves,” she noted in her 2011 message. For this reason, she said, “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith.”

“It is my prayer,” she concluded, “that… we would all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

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ILC Prepares for 2022 World Conference

KENYA -The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is preparing for its forthcoming 27th World Conference, which will take place in Kisumu, Kenya from September 13-16, 2022. During that time, leaders of confessional Lutheran church bodies across the globe will gather to worship together, to study Scripture, and to consider their mutual proclamation to the world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes Our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do.”

The Liturgy serves and shapes the missionary task of the Church,” conference material explains. “It is in its very nature mission work in which people are brought out of one culture and integrated into another. The Liturgy teaches within the context of prayer. It shapes faith and life. It serves the common confession and fosters unity.”

“The ‘worship wars’ of recent generations continue,” the workbook explains, “while the Church is also experiencing an escalation in the more lethal ‘cultural wars.’ Churches are denied freedom of speech and access to the public square. Conference speakers will address a variety of topics in which liturgical theology and practice and church life are being challenged by external influences.”

ELMDF Bishop Juhana Pohjola

Serving as keynote speaker for the 2022 World Conference is Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). Bishop Pohjola’s address is entitled: “Church and Culture: The Devastating Effects of the Progressive Socio-Political Ideology and Cultural Trends on the Church, with Special Attention to Recent Events in Finland.”

The conference will feature three other presentations on the subject of liturgy and culture given by: Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov, Rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia; Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College in Matongo, Kenya; and Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA).

During the conference, the ILC will hold elections, hear reports, and conduct other business. Participants will also visit sites affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), the host church for this year’s conference, where they will learn about the ELCK’s works of mercy and human care as well as theological education, among other activities.

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New presiding pastor for the AALC

The AALC’s new presiding pastor, Rev. Dr. Cary Larson (third from right), poses with three of his predecessors in office. Pictured (l-r) are: Rev. Dr. Curtis Leins, Rev. Dr. Duane R. Lindberg, Dr. Larson, and Rev. Dr. Thomas Aadland.
AALC Presiding Pastor Cary Larson

USA – The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) held its 28th General Convention from June 21-24, 2022 in Plymouth, Minnesota, during which time the church elected Rev. Dr. Cary Larson to serve as its new presiding pastor. The convention gathered under the theme “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of Jesus Christ,” drawn from Colossians 3:12-17.

“I am blessed beyond measure and extremely humbled to have received the call to be the fifth presiding pastor of the American Association of Lutheran Churches,” Dr. Larson wrote on social media following his installation.

Dr. Cary Larson is installed as presiding pastor of the AALC.

Dr. Larson succeeds Rev. Dr. Curtis Leins, who was first elected to the role in 2004. Dr. Leins installed Dr. Larson as presiding pastor during an evening service on June 23, assisted by Rev. Dr. Duane R. Lindberg, who led the AALC from its founding in 1987 until 1999.

Dr. Larson previously served the AALC as Assistant Presiding Pastor. Until his election as Presiding Pastor, he also served as pastor of Christ Lutheran in Waseca, Minnesota, a call he held for 12 years. Dr. Larson also serves as an Adjunct Professor with the AALC’s seminary, the American Lutheran Theological Seminary. He holds a doctorate of ministry from the Institute of Lutheran Theology.

The American Association of Lutheran Churches is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Sheltering Ukrainian refugees in Germany

Ukrainian refugees study German at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg.

GERMANY – Refugees from war-torn Ukraine have received shelter and other forms of help in several congregations of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK).

Twenty Ukrainians have taken up residence in Wittenberg’s “Old Latin School” (OLS) after arriving from Kiev, Ternopil, and Lutsk. Angelika Weber is instructing the families in everyday German language skills. She is assisted by her husband, Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber, the OLS Managing Director.

The first couple who arrived from Kiev and were housed at OLS have already moved into their own apartment in Wittenberg and have found jobs as teachers. Natalya Zubrytska formerly ran a language school in Kiev with ten employees. “Her English is good and her German skills are progressing well,” notes Dr. Wilhelm Weber. He is currently seeking additional housing in the Wittenberg area, since the OLS is also needed for seminars of the Luther Academy of Riga, as well as for various groups of international visitors.

Rev. Andriy Honcharuk holds a Ukrainian-language worship service at the Old Latin School.

The Lutheran Church Mission (LKM), affiliated with the SELK, is considering employing a Ukrainian Lutheran pastor, Rev. Andriy Honcharuk, to provide spiritual care for Ukrainian refugees throughout Germany. Rev. Honcharuk and his family currently live in Wittenberg. Consultations on this possibility took place on July 25, 2022, at the SELK’s headquarters in Hanover and involved Rev. Honcharuk; LKM Mission Director, Rev. Roger Zieger; and Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the SELK.

Ukrainian families are also being accommodated at the SELK’s seminary in Oberursel.  Already last March, a family arrived from the Kiev suburb of Butcha—an area which received extensive news coverage due to massacres there by Russian military forces. They were later joined by another Kiev family, bringing to five the total of Ukrainians living at the seminary campus in Oberursel.

The seminary is also furnishing a large lecture hall to provide German-language lessons for Ukrainians. The offer has generated a strong response, not only from refugees living at the seminary but also from numerous Ukrainians living in the wider Oberursel area.

Seminary professor Gilberto da Silva offers various forms of support to the refugees with the assistance of his wife. “We have received generous support from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Lutheran Church Mission (LKM), and the social ministry department (Diakonie) of the SELK to help with rent and utility costs of the apartments and lecture hall,” he notes. “For all this we are very grateful.”

Ukrainian refugee families at SELK’s seminary in Oberursel.

Relief Efforts in Ukraine

Relief efforts also continue in Ukraine. On July 23, 2022, SELK Bishop Voigt held a phone call with Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko, a pastor of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) serving in Odessa. Rev. Schewtschenko brought his wife and children to safety in Germany but chose to return to Ukraine—despite holding a German passport—in order to continue serving his parishioners.

During the call, Rev. Schewtschenko thanked Bishop Voigt for the German church’s strong support, which has allowed SELCU to purchase food and other necessities for people in Ukraine. “The help of our sisters and brothers in Canada and Germany not only helps us to survive in this war, but also strengthens our faith,” he said. The SELK’s social ministry department (Diakonie) is working alongside Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) to assist people in the Odessa area. LCC has worked with the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine since the 1990s. Since the outbreak of war, LCC’s members have raised nearly $600,000 in emergency aid to assist SELCU.

Bishop Voigt noted the deep impression Rev. Schewtschenko made upon him during the phone call. “Here is a pastor continuing his ministry in a war zone, though he could leave without difficulty on a German passport,” he said. “But both he and his family have chosen to be separated for a long period of time. I have great respect for this. May God strengthen and protect him, his family, and all the sisters and brothers still in Ukraine.”

The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany, along with LCC and the LCMS, are member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Bolivian Lutherans reelect president

Participants in the Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia’s 2022 national assembly.

BOLVIA – The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Luterana – ICEL) held its 12th national assembly March 26-27, 2022, during which time the church elected Rev. Limberth Fernandez Coronado to another four-year term as president. Hugo Hinojosa was elected vice president.

The assembly, which drew 44 delegates from across the country, also saw discussion centered on bolstering the doctrinal commitments in the church’s statutes. To that end, the church adopted a new statement on the office of the ministry, expressing the necessity of a full subscription to the Book of Concord. This change was followed with the ordination of eight pastors during the assembly’s closing service, presided over by Vice President Airton Schroeder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB). The ICEL and the IELB entered into fellowship in 2002.

The ICEL has submitted additional changes to its congregations for study, as it contemplates becoming a full member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

The Bolivian church receives copies of Luther’s Small Catechism in Quechua, presented by representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The Bolivian church’s assembly also celebrated the release of a new translation of Luther’s Small Catechism into Quechua. Approximately 40 percent of the ICEL’s members speak Quechua, so the launch of the new translation—the printing of which was sponsored by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation—was an emotional event. Reflecting the catechism’s importance, the assembly saw several sessions on it led by President Fernandez in both Spanish and Quechua.

The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia is an associate member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Lutherans in Brazil reelect President Schüler

President Geraldo Walmir Schüler preaches during the opening worship service of the IELB’s 63rd National Convention.

BRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) held its 63rd National Convention from June 16-19, 2022 in Guarapari, Espírito Santo, during which time the church reelected Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler to a second term as president. The convention met under the theme “Living in Christ,” drawn from Colossians 2:6-7.

Rev. Schuler receives a pectoral cross as president of the IELB.

President Schüler was first elected to lead the IELB in 2019. Prior to that, he served the church as vice president of missionary expansion (2014-2019) and second vice president with responsibilities for missionary expansion and social action (2010-2014).

Also elected during the Brazilian church’s 2022 convention were: Vice President of Teaching, Joel Müller; Vice President of Missionary Expansion, Heder Frederico Pieper Gumz; Vice President of Christian Education, Fernando Ellwanger Garske; Vice President of Social Action, Airton Scheunemann Schroeder; Vice President of Communication, Éderson Wasem; and Vice President of Administration, Gustavo Becker da Silveira.

Among other business, the IELB’s national convention approved three opinions from the church’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations addressing the issues of homosexual relations, the ordination of women, and the involvement of pastors in political parties. The church also commemorated the 118th anniversary of the IELB.

Participants in the IELB’s 2022 national convention.

International guests in attendance included representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay; the Lutheran Church of Uruguay; and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with which the IELB signed new protocol agreements. Ecumenical representatives from the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Brazil and the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil were also in attendance.

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

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