PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference came to an end on October 18, 2019. The conference had been meeting in Baguio City, Philippines since October 15.
The morning began with worship, as did every day during the conference, following which representatives from each of the ILC’s five world regions were invited to respond to the conference’s presentations. Speakers included Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); Rev. Dr. Bruk Ayele Asale (Ethiopia Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus); Rev. Dr. Samuel Liu (Taiwan’s China Evangelical Lutheran Church); Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina); and Rev. Dr. James Gimbel (Lutheran Church–Canada).
A recurring theme in their talks was gratitude for the various talks discussing Lutheran identity in different cultural contexts. Dr. Asale expressed joy over the mutual commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions which binds the participants in the conference together, even as they recognize that we must be sensitive to differences in cultural contexts—something Dr. Liu also noted. Dr. Schelske noted that we all have blind spots and that conferences like confessional Lutherans around the world learn from each other, while together focusing on Jesus Christ. Dr. Gimbel reiterated the necessity of recognizing the cruciform nature of Lutheran identity—vertically in relation to God and horizontally in our culturally-conditioned relationships with our neighbour. Dr. Lumley highlighted the value of the work done on identifying a common curriculum for confessional Lutherans around the world.
All of the major papers presented during the conference will be printed in both English and Portuguese in the theological journal of Seminario Concordia, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil.
In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to tour Baguio City, ending at the Lutheran Church of the Philippines’ Lutheran Theological Seminary. There delegates were treated to wonderful cultural celebrations by members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church as well as the seminary community. A fellowship dinner featuring local Filipino cuisine was a highlight of the event. Following the meal, the ILC World Seminaries Conference drew to a close with a closing program with expressions of gratitude to the Lutheran Church of the Philippines for hosting the conference.
A total of 23 theological institutions were represented at the conference, with participants coming from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Norway, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, the United States of America, and Venezuela.
The conference also saw the installation of a new board for the ILC’s Seminaries Relations Committee. The new members include: South Korea’s Rev. Dr. Jun Hyun Kim (Asia World Region); England’s Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Europe World Region); Argentina’s Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Latin America World Region); and the United States’ Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (North America World Region). The new board was installed by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt during Vespers on October 17.
The next ILC World Seminaries Conference will take place in 2022.
Find all news reports from the 2019 World Seminaries Conference here.
PHILIPPINES – Thursday saw the ILC 2019 World Seminaries Conference’s final presentation on the conference theme, before transitioning the conclusion of the conference theme before transitioning to the second topic of the conference: a common-ground Lutheran curriculum for theological education.
Following morning devotions, President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België) took the opportunity to sign a protocol document finalizing altar and pulpit fellowship between their respective church bodies.
ILC Chairman Hans Jörg Voigt then announced that Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill has been appointed the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.
Latin American Context
The morning saw the fifth and final presentation under the theme of “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Rev. Samuel R. Fuhrmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) brought a Latin American perspective to the topic, speaking on “Ecclesial Lutheran Identity and the Church’s Mission in the Face of the Reality of Favelas.”
In explaining the history of favelas, Rev. Fuhrmann noted that they are “an urban built environment where one encounters a rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and often the problems of violence and poverty.” The Brazilian Lutheran church by contrast was founded by immigrants in a rural setting. While the IELB is present in urban centres today, Rev. Fuhrmann said, “one of the challenges is that the church needs to cross cultural, social, and even geographic boundaries to fully account for the reality of favelas in its mission practices.”
Christians are called to a “cruciform engaged presence in the world,” said Rev. Fuhrmann, which is “related to God passively and related to others and the world actively.” The latter—relations with others on a horizontal level—must often be contextualized to recognize differences in culture. “If congregations neglect the horizontal dimension of the cruciform life and the characteristics of our humanity,” Rev. Fuhrmann warned, “this neglect hinders the distinctive task of the Church: the preaching of the Gospel.” In the case of missions in favelas especially, it is necessary to recognize and embrace the deeply relational life which is the core of favela culture, in which spaces are made for frequent socialization and people support one another in the midst of challenges like poverty and violence.
A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education
During the rest of the day, attention turned to the second focus of the event: an exploration of what a common-ground Lutheran curriculum for theological education recognized by all ILC member churches would look like. Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, the ILC’s new incoming General Secretary, moderated discussion of the theme, and multiple presenters provided insight.
Rev. Dr. Stephen Schumacher presented on “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” A basic foundation is important for all levels, he said, but learning styles may vary. African students for example learn by watching, copying, and repeating. Research indicates that, for theological education in Ghana, several areas need reinforcement, including a more in-depth study of pastoral theology. At the same time, a biblical and confessional structure is necessary, he said. Dr. Schumacher is a LCMS missionary and theological educator at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana.
Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov reported on “Lutheran Seminary Curriculum: Challenges and Opportunities.” He suggested that one or two years of training is inadequate for proficiency in Scripture and theology, and that residential training is the best way to go. He then provided several challenges and suggestions for theological education, finally reporting on the curriculum that is used in their seminary. Dr. Streltsov is rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, the theological institute of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
In the second session of the afternoon, Dr. Klän led a discussion of “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” He summarized the findings of the ILC’s 2001 conference on this theme, and then reported the results of a new questionnaire on curriculum sent to ILC seminaries. Those that responded reported student populations ranging from six students to 615, and faculties from three to 34. A recurring challenge noted in the results are recruitment and enrollment. Most of the seminaries responded that they would like to see a common curriculum, although two said it was not possible or advisable.
Bishop Hanss Martin Jensons of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia reported on a meeting on Confessional Lutheran Church Education which was held March 26-28, 2019 in Latvia. Eight entities from around Europe were represented and they discussed the minimum standard for theological education, as well as how to facilitate mutual recognition and the possibility of one educational program in the future with combined resources. They are also investigating the idea of developing an English language distance learning program. Bishop Jenson explained how, at Latvia’s Luther Academy, they began with the Professional Standard, and from there worked toward the Educational Standard, and then to Curriculum. The worked through the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for the pastoral officeholder.
Later in the day, Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley gave a presentation on the history of deaconesses and their service in the church today. Dr. Lumley is principal of Westfield House in Cambridge, England, the theological institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.
Rev. Dr. Douglas Rutt presented on the topic: “Mission in the Age of Migration.” He emphasizes that much of contemporary missiological literature deals with the fact that there are 272 million refugees and immigrants in the world today, and these movements are resulting in the expansion of the gospel worldwide. Dr. Rutt is Provost and Professor of Practice Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri—a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
After the various presentations, there was time for plenary discussion. Questions of expected workload were reflected on, including the expected workload of faculty members. Some highlighted that legitimate diversity needs to be taken into consideration. It was suggested that the starting point should be the description or characteristics of a Lutheran pastor. A further question was whether there was the possibility of a mutual accreditation program for the institutions of member churches of the International Lutheran Council.
The results of these discussions and are to be drafted into a concluding statement or resolution which will be commended to the ILC Seminary Relations Committee for further consideration.
PHILIPPINES – Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill has been appointed as the next General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) following a unanimous vote of the ILC Board of Directors (formerly known as the Executive Committee). The decision came during a meeting October 15, 2019 in Baguio City, Philippines.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Quill as the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt. “Dr. Quill has a long history with the international Lutheran community, including through ILC events. We ask God to bless him as he enters this new role, and that through him God would bless the International Lutheran Council as it continues to grow and expand its witness to Christ throughout the world.”
Dr. Quill has been appointed to a three-year term as General Secretary of the ILC. He was installed during evening worship on October 17 during the ILC’s World Seminaries Conference meeting in Baguio City, Philippines. Dr. Quill officially assumes duties on October 19.
Dr. Quill succeeds Darin Storkson, who had served as Interim General Secretary of the ILC since March 2019. Storkson formerly served as Deputy General Secretary.
“We are grateful for Darin’s faithful service as Interim General Secretary over the past seven months,” noted Chairman Voigt. “His leadership during the search for a permanent General Secretary has been a blessing from God, and we are grateful for his continued assistance to Dr. Quill during this time of transition.”
Dr. Quill is a longtime professor of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), having joined the faculty there in 1998. From 2002 onwards, he also served as dean of International Studies. He further served for more than 20 years as director of the seminary’s Russian Project, working with Lutherans throughout Russia and other Eastern European nations, as well as helping to establish the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Dr. Quill also served The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Mission as director of Theological Education.
Dr. Quill graduated from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1980 and served parishes in Connecticut and Missouri before pursuing graduate work, ultimately earning his Ph.D. from Drew University in New Jersey. Since completing his work with Concordia Theological Seminary, he has served as a visitation pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dr. Quill is married to Annette, née Ziebell, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their daughter Kathryn Ann is married to Rev. Paul Gaschler who serves Concordia Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference continued on Wednesday.
The morning began with a service of Morning Prayer, following which participants heard additional presentations on the conference theme: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.”
The first presenter of the day was Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, whose presentation on “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” provided an exploration of Lutheran doctrine within an African context.
“The early church accepted the influence of the demonic realm with great seriousness,” noted Dr. Salifu. And while Western culture has downplayed or even denied this aspect of historic Christian theology, Dr. Salifu said that the reality of spiritual warfare is readily apparent in the African context—and, indeed, in much of the rest of the world. “The West needs to realize that it is the only contemporary society that denies the reality of evil spirits,” he said, quoting the New Testament scholar Clinton Arnold.
When the reality of spiritual warfare is recognized, the Church is in a better position to respond appropriately to the spiritual needs of its people. “The weapons of our warfare are not guns,” Dr. Salifu noted. “The reason why physical weapons are useless in a spiritual war is because the real enemies are not people of flesh and blood but spiritual powers of wickedness.” The Christian’s true weapons for spiritual warfare are instead Word and Sacrament, Dr. Salifu continued, because through these “the Lord fights the devil.” We are to pray in Jesus’ name, for He is the one who conquers.
North American Context
In the afternoon, Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann led the conference’s fourth presentation on the conference theme, discussing “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North America.” Dr. Biermann is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri—a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Dr. Biermann’s analysis of the state of religion in the United States of America identified three key aspects: 1) the decline of Constantinianism which has “stripped Christianity of its former prestige and clout; 2) the rise of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as a replacement faith with only the “remotest superficial resemblance to orthodox Christianity;” and 3) a dominant cultural mood of normal nihilism in which all values are mere preferences or opinions, easily dismissed or changed.
In light of this situation, Dr. Biermann asked: “What, precisely, is the church—the orthodox, faithful church that follows Christ and treasures the legacy of Luther and all other faithful disciples of Jesus—supposed to do?” The answer: “Resolutely follow her Lord with tenacity, trust, and a seeming indifference to the clamor of the world around.” This means neither retreating from the world, nor confronting it on its own terms, nor capitulating to the culture, but simply living out the calling of the Church in all times and places: preaching the Word of God and living lives “that are inherently and unarguably compelling through their simple and consistent witness to the reality of Christ at work in and through them.” “A rich and nuanced grasp of Luther’s insights into God’s rule of the world in terms of the two realms,” Dr. Biermann concluded, “allows Lutheran believers to understand and undertake with zeal their place and role in this world.”
Each of Wednesday’s major presentations was followed by plenary discussion. The convention also heard regional reports on the state of seminary education in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America throughout the day. It further took in several short parallel sessions during the final part of the afternoon before breaking for Vespers at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.
PHILIPPINES – The 7th World Seminaries Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened Tuesday morning in Baguio City. The conference runs from October 15-18, 2019.
The morning began with Divine Service at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which will be the venue for regular worship during the conference. President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, the host church, took the opportunity to welcome participants.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also brought greetings to the conference.
In the morning, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän introduced the theme which will guide discussion in the first part of the conference: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Dr. Klän is Professor Emeritus of Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany.
“All the confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC are committed to determining our decisions solely on the basis of the Word of God, and not on social, cultural or practical considerations,” Dr. Klän explained. But the challenge remains: “What is demanded of us is a theological answer to the challenges we as confessional Lutheran churches, pastors, and scholars are facing in our time and day, and to our specific situations and living conditions in our various countries, continents, and climes.”
In a follow-up, Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler expanded on the theme of “Doctrinal Identity in Cultural Context.” Dr. Ziegler is Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod.
“In the ILC we find churches that recognize in other churches… doctrinal identity in different cultural contexts,” he explained. “For Lutherans, the Book of Concord is of continuing importance as a true exposition of Scripture, that serves the unity of the Church by confessing the truth and rejecting error in whatever context the church finds itself.”
Asian and European Contexts
Over the course of the course of the conference, five presenters will address their common Lutheran faith and identity from within their own regional context. The afternoon saw the first two of these presenters speak.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson spoke first, presenting on “Christology in an Asian Context.” Dr. Thompson is Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Dr. Thompson outlined the varying approaches Asian cultures have taken in their approaches to Christology, with special reference to the situation in India especially among liberation theologians and theologians focuses on inter-religious dialogue. In these schools’ justifiable desire to be relevant to Asian concerns, he lamented, “sometimes fidelity to the biblical message is compromised to the extent that one ends up creating a novel ‘Christ’ fashioned after one’s own imagination.”
“The task ahead for a Lutheran theologian operating in an Asian context is two-fold,” he concluded; it requires first of all “an unconditional commitment to God’s witness as revealed in the Scriptures,” as well as “serious attempt to engage and relate the biblical message to contextual realities.” The Lutheran Confessions and the Ecumenical creeds have an important role to play in this work, as they ensure Asian cultural wrestling with the doctrine of Christology remains within “the boundaries within which authentic Christian theology and life take place.”
The second half of the afternoon saw Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock provide a European perspective on the theme, presenting on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.” Dr. Barnbrock is Professor of Practical Theology at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany.
Dr. Barnbrock noted the irony that a speaker from Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, must now speak of his cultural context as that of a post-Christian nation. He outlined some of the symptoms of contemporary German culture, explaining that the ultimate “welfare and woe of Lutheran churches depend less on our ability to lead this church than on whether we trust in Christ as Lord of the church—even against all trends that are emerging.”
The work on articulating confessional Lutheran identity is never finished, he concluded, because the cultural contexts in which we live are continually changing. “At the same time,” he said, “we may know that our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ no longer has to be worked out, but is given with baptism and remains the decisive point of reference for our identity throughout our lives. All work on ecclesial and denominational identity is then secondary, without becoming obsolete.”
After each presentation, time was scheduled for plenary discussion by the wider conference.