German Lutherans declare fellowship with six new church bodies

SELK Bishop Voigt (far right) greets (front l-r) DELSin Bishop With, ELMDF Bishop Soramies, and AALC Presiding Pastor Leins following the vote to recognize fellowship. (Photo: Dörte Pape via DELSiN.)

GERMANY – The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche) held its 14th National Church Synod from May 21-26, 2019 in Balhorn, Germany, during which time the church declared fellowship with six church bodies from Europe, North America, and South America.

The SELK’s new fellowship partners include the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA), the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), the Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSiN), and the Mission Province in Sweden. (The Mission Province still needs to ratify the agreement with SELK before fellowship between the two churches will take effect.)

SELK also declared fellowship with Concordia Fellowship, an Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Celle, Germany.

“It’s a joy to recognize fellowship with our brothers and sisters around the world,” noted SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt. “We look forward to nurturing the growing relationships between our various church bodies, and looking for new opportunities for cooperation and partnership in our proclamation of the Gospel.”

The resolution to declare fellowship was followed by a standing ovation and a hymn of thanksgiving. The heads of three of the new partner church bodies—Bishop Thor Henrik With (DELSiN), Bishop Risto Soramies (ELMDF), and Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins (AALC)—were all on hand for the event.

SELK’s 2019 Synod met under the theme: “Good News in a Fake News World. Speakers for the event were Professor Dr. Christian Neddens (Oberursel, Germany) and Rev. Dr. Robert Kolb (St. Louis, Missouri). Among other business, the church accepted a new document from SELK’s Theological Commission on “The Lutheran Church and Judaism,” discussed the role of women in the church, and conducted elections for various boards and commissions.

SELK, the AALC, IELA, ELMDF, ILSN, DELSiN, and the Mission Province are all members of the International Lutheran Council, a growing association of confessional Lutheran churches around the world.

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The AALC seeks fellowship with German, Norwegian Lutherans

Participants in the AALC-SELK fellowship talks.

FORT WAYNE, Indiana – The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) recently held talks with representatives of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) on October 10-11, 2017 to discuss entering into altar and pulpit fellowship, as well as to consider potential opportunities for partnership.

Representing the SELK at the meetings were Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt and Rev. Dr. Werner Klän. Representing the AALC were Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins, Rev. Richard Shields, and Rev. Joseph Dapelo.

The meetings began the morning of October 10 on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the AALC has its national headquarters. Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins of the AALC led opening devotions. Discussions the first day focused on confessional basis and ecclesial identity, as well as the doctrines of Holy Scripture, God, sin, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit, justification and sanctification, the Church, and the office of the Holy Ministry, with general agreement on the issues discussed.

Leading the SELK’s delegation was Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who also serves as Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies worldwide. Both SELK and the AALC are member churches of the ILC. The second day of meetings between SELK and the AALC began with devotions led by Bishop Voigt, followed by discussions on the sacraments, worship, ethics, and eschatology, with the two sides finding consensus in these areas.

Each group plans to encourage their respective church bodies to vote on entering into fellowship at coming conventions (SELK at their pastoral convention in November 2017 and the AALC at their general convention in June 2018).

Participants in the AALC-LKN fellowship talks.

Earlier in 2017, the AALC also entered into fellowship talks with Lutheran Church in Norway (Den Lutherske Kirke i Norge – LKN). March saw talks between the AALC’s President Pastor Leins, Rev. Dapelo, and Rev. Jordan Cooper and the LKN’s Bishop Torkild Msavie and Rev. Eirik-Kornelius Garnes-Lunde. On the basis of those talks, the LKN decided to enter into fellowship with the AALC. The AALC will bring the matter forward for a vote at the AALC’s general convention in June 2018. The LKN, like SELK and the AALC, is a member church of the International Lutheran Council.

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TAALC elects new Presiding Pastor

Worship at the 2014 General Convention of The American Association of Lutheran Churches.
Worship at the 2014 General Convention of The American Association of Lutheran Churches (via Facebook).

USA – The 24th General Convention of The American Association of Lutheran Churches (TAALC) convened June 24-27 at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, during which time they elected Rev. Dr. Curtis Leins as their new Presiding Pastor. The convention gathered under the theme “Equipping the Saints”.

Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy, District President of the Minnesota South District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, served as Keynote Speaker. He also brought greetings on behalf of President Matthew C. Harrison and the LCMS. In addition to Dr. Nadasdy’s keynote address on equipping the saints, he also preached at the Thursday evening service of installation for the newly elected Presiding Pastor of The AALC, the Rev. Dr. Curtis E. Leins. Also elected at the convention were Rev. Roger Twito as Assistant Presiding Pastor and Rev. Irv Stapf as Secretary of TAALC.

Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins (via Facebook).
Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins (via Facebook).

Dr. Leins served previously as Assistant Presiding Pastor of TAALC. He had also served the national office full-time as National Home Mission Developer. Dr. Leins was ordained into the Office of Holy Ministry in 1978. He received his Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (Columbia, South Carolina). He also holds a Master of Theology from Duke University, a Master of Arts from Temple University, and a Ph.D. from Temple University.

Among other business at convention, The AALC passed a resolution calling the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to repentance and back to Scripture. The resolution reads “that for the sake of the truth of the gospel and the greater welfare of the body of Christ, The AALC urges the ELCA, on the basis of scripture to repent of their false doctrine, renounce the spirit of the age, and seek forgiveness for their blasphemies through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.” The resolution also directs the Presiding Pastor of The AALC to personally communicate their position to the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

The convention opened the evening of June 24 with Divine Service. Dr. Leins preached from Matthew 9 under the theme, “Calling All Sinners.” Worship was at the center of the gathering, with services of Holy Communion every evening and worship every morning. The closing worship service also included a graduation ceremony for students of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary. Two men, Dean Stoner and Jordan Cooper, graduated from the pastoral program, while Brigitte Gassman became the first to graduate from the deaconess studies route.

The AALC formed in 1987 during the lead up to the formation of the ELCA. It emerged mostly from churches of The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. It centers itself in the inerrancy of Scripture, the veracity of the Lutheran Confessions (according to a quia subscription), the primacy of world missions and evangelism, and the authority of the local congregation. Currently, The AALC has 65 congregations across the United States, and is seeking to expand nationally and internationally.

At its 2007 convention, the AALC voted to join the International Lutheran Council. The same year it entered into altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS. Residential students of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary have been attending Concordia Theological Seminary—a seminary of the LCMS—in Fort Wayne, Indiana since 2005. The AALC seeks to strengthen its partnership with Lutherans around the world through their partnerships with the LCMS and the ILC.

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