Brazil’s Lutherans united against COVID-19

IELB President Geraldo Walmir Schüler leads worship online for the Second Sunday of Easter.

BRAZIL – Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing in March 2020, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) has been concerned with helping its members and pastors acclimatize to the current reality the world is facing. With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, IELB President Geraldo Walmir Schüler encouraged congregations to suspend all onsite activities, including worship services. At the same time, the church made available to congregations a variety of resources to assist their ministry work during the pandemic.

Worship services were organized with the assistance of IELB’s communication agency IELBcom and pastors from the church’s national board, and transmitted live via the web radio station Cristo Para Todos (CPT) on Sunday mornings. Services were rebroadcast Sunday evenings. Since June, Cristo Para Todos has been highlighting the efforts of IELB congregations across the country who are broadcasting their own services. Every week, CPT’s Facebook page highlights the worship schedule of one of the IELB’s 59 districts, and on Sunday broadcasts the worship service from one of that district’s congregations.

While many IELB congregations have been livestreaming services and Bible studies for some time, others have only begun using this tool in response to the coronavirus. To assist pastors and congregations with this new work, IELBcom produced and made available technical tutorials to assist with recording and livestreaming as well as sharing CPT materials via social media. The latter tutorials were an adaptation from the “Media Training” workshop, which has been taught by the IELB’s communications department to students of Concórdia Seminary in São Leopoldo since 2017.

Moreover, many CPT radio programs have addressed the current crisis, providing guidance on how the church can help everyone to deal with the pandemics with caution, common sense, faith, and hope in God the Creator. (CPT podcasts are available in Portuguese here).

The Department of Christian Education had also increased the number of home worship service materials available from monthly to weekly, and the blog Criança Cristã (“Christian Child”) provides devotion and activities for children. In addition, the IELB’s website, with help from Editora Concórdia (the IELB’s publishing house) and Hora Luterana (Brazil’s Lutheran Hour), offers several materials to promote spiritual growth for the whole family.

In partnership with Editora Concórdia, the IELB celebrated its 116th anniversary on June 24, 2020—a celebration held online for the first time. The celebration had a special guest, the Brazilian musician and Lutheran, Carlos Magrão, and drew approximately 20,800 viewers via the IELB’s YouTube channel.

One of the IELB’s web conferences for church leaders.

The board of the IELB has also organized twenty-four web conferences in order to consult with congregational leaders and pastors from the entire country, gathering about 1,500 participants from all 59 districts through the end of July. “In these online meetings the Board has listened to reports on the situation in each place, answered questions, and provided information on what is being planned nationwide,” notes Aline Gehm Koller Albrecht, Vice President of Communications. “These moments bring stimulus, comfort in the Word of God, and encouragement to the Church to keep facing these challenging times, united and standing firm in Christ Jesus.”

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For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

New President for Brazilian Lutherans

IELB President Geraldo Schüler following his election.

BRAZIL – On November 14, 2019, Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler was elected President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB).

The decision came during the annual meeting of the IELB’s Board of Directors, which brought together pastoral counsellors and lay leaders from across the IELB’s 59 Districts, as well as representatives from various departments, boards, and auxiliary organizations. The meetings were held November 14-17, 2019 in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul.

Prior to his election, President Schüler previously served the church as Vice President of Missionary Expansion (2014-2019). Before that, he served as Second Vice President of the IELB (2010-2014) with responsibilities for Missionary Expansion and Social Action. He also served as pastor of congregations in Vila Velha, Espírito Santo (1994-1999) and Cacoal, Rondônia (1999-2010).

President Schüler succeeded President Rudi Zimmer, who resigned as President of the IELB in March 2019 for health reasons. Dr. Zimmer had been elected as President in May 2018 during the IELB’s 62nd National Convention. Rev. Joel Müller, Vice President of Education, served as Interim President of the Brazilian church between President Zimmer’s resignation and President Schüler’s election.

The November meetings also saw the election of Rev. Héder Gumz as Vice President of Missionary Expansion, filling the vacancy caused when Rev. Schüler was elected President. Also elected during the meeting were Rev. Egon Kopereck as Vice President of the Board of Directors and Rev. Ademir Stahl as Deputy Secretary.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil has more than 240,000 members in more than 1,500 congregations and 440 mission stations across the country. It is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Reflections on the ILC Latin America regional conference

by Egon Kopereck

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

President Egon Kopereck.
President Egon Kopereck.

It was with these words—first uttered by the people of Israel when, in an unexpected, wonderful, and surprising way they received the right, the permission of God to leave their captivity and to return to their own country—it was with these words, that the Latin-American Lutheran churches returned to their homes, having participated in the International Lutheran Council’s Regional Conference (held earlier this month in Caracas, Venezuala).

They were four wonderful days of fellowship, study, reflection, debate, reports, exchange of experiences, and mutual strengthening. Participants highlighted in this conference the importance of reading, meditating, and deepening ever more our study of the word of God. They also stressed the importance of Lutheran Hour ministry outreach, which opens doors for the Church’s mission.

Conference participants stressed the need to provide theological support to smaller Lutheran churches in the region, especially through the theological seminaries of Brazil and Argentina. By helping each other and looking for more opportunities to cooperate, they hope to take Christ’s message, the Gospel of salvation to all people, races, peoples and nations of Latin America and, where possible, to cross the seas with this challenge to go to the “ends of the Earth”—something Brazil is already doing in Africa with Mozambique and Angola.

In Latin America we have many challenges, many opportunities, and much work to do. People are thirsty for the water of life; if we don’t offer it, as Jesus asks us to, then people will turn to contaminated water—waters of death and not life.

People are thirsty for the water of life; if we don’t offer it, as Jesus asks us to, then people will turn to contaminated water—waters of death and not life.

Many of us today cannot imagine living in a house where you don’t have water: water to drink, water for washing, water for cooking, well-water. So too we cannot imagine a Christian home without the Bible, God’s Word, the water of life. Christian homes, satiated in their own spiritual thirst for truth, cannot look to others without extending to them the same blessing, without offering them that treasure of eternal life. They share it with their compatriots of all peoples, races, and nations. They share it with them who are dying of thirst and starvation.

With cheerful and grateful hearts, therefore, we also say: “The LORD has done great things for us” (Psalm 126:3). But on the other hand we also say with Nehemiah, “the work is great and widely spread” (Nehemiah 4:19). As the Israelites did then, so too we also “prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9), that He would bless our lives and attitudes as people of God, and our testimony of what we believe and confess. May God bless the mission of the Christian Church throughout the world.

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Rev. Egon Kopereck is President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and sits on the International Lutheran Council’s Executive as representative for Latin America.

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IELB celebrates 110th anniversary

BRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB) celebrated their 110th anniversary as a church in Brazil at its national convention May 1-4. President Egon Kopereck was re-elected May 2 to serve the IELB for another term. See the convention in photos below:

President Matthew Harrison (left) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod gives the keynote presentation at the IELB’s 61st convention. His presentation was titled “The Challenge to Preserve Confessional Identity,” and was based upon Martin Luther’s On Counsels and the Church. Rev. Gerson Lindon (right) translates for President Harrison.
International Lutheran Council (ILC) Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada) greets the convention. ILC members and other international guests stand in the background.
President Egon Kopereck (left) of the IELB signs a protocol document for altar and pulpit fellowship with St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (Congregacion Evangélica Luterana San Pablo) of Montevideo, Uruguay. At the convention, the IELB also committed to church planting in Mozambique.
In between sessions of the IELB convention, the ILC conducted strategic planning. A significant part of the time was spent planning for next year’s World Conference in South America. ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver is featured in this photo.
Over 7,000 people arrived by the bus load for the worship service commemorating the 110th anniversary of the IELB. The choir alone numbered in the thousands.
Some of the international guests at the IELB convention. LCMS President Matthew Harrison, ILC Secretary Gijsbertus van Hattem (President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium), ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver, and ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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ILC Meeting in Brazil

BRAZIL – On the first weekend of May, the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Executive Council held meetings together in Acracuz, Brazil, where they had gathered for the 61st convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB). A visual snapshot of their meetings appear below:

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) talks to Rev. Ted Krey (Latin American Regional Director for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) about the situation of the church in Latin America.
The ILC Executive Committee is interviewed by press for the IELB. Pictured in top frame: ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver and ILC Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada).
A look at the agenda for the ILC’s meetings.

In addition to regular business, the ILC Executive Committee worked on strategic planning centered around the ILC’s core objectives.

The ILC Executive Committee meets in Brazil (left to right): ILC Executive Secretary Albert Collver; ILC Africa Region representative Christian Ekong (Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria); ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church); ILC Latin America Region representative Egon Kopereck (President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil); President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (guest at the meetings); ILC Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada and ILC North America Region representative); ILC representative for the European region Jon Ehlers (Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England; ILC Secretary Gijsbertus van Hattem (President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium); and ILC Asia Region representative James Cerdinõla (President of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines.

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Brazilian Church holds 61st National Convention

IELBwebBRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB) is holding its 61st National Convention from May 1-4 in the city of Aracruz in the province of Espírito Santo. More than 1,100 people are registered to take part in the convention, with more than 7,000 people expected to attend the convention’s closing worship service.

The convention begins the morning of May 1 with an opening worship service. President Egon Kopereck of the IELB will preach that day. The convention will include a presidential election, with President Kopereck having indicated his willingness to stand for a second term. He first came to office in 2010.

On May 2, Brazilian pastor Rev. Mario R. Yude Fukue will take the stage as the convention’s first lecturer, speaking on “The Challenge of Being a Confessional Church in Missions Today.” The day following, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison (President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) will lecture on “The Challenge of Preserving Confessional Identity.”

A number of dignitaries will be present for the event in addition to President Harrison. Partner churches from various countries are sending representatives, including International Lutheran Council (ILC) Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church), ILC Vice-Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada), President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Belgium), Chairman Jon Ehlers (United Kingdom), Archbishop Christian Ekong (Nigeria), and President James Cerdeñola (Philippines).  Local Brazilian government officials, including Espírito Santo’s Governor, José Renato Casagrande, and Deputy Governor, Givaldo Vieira, have also confirmed their attendance at the convention’s closing service.

Among other business, the convention will see the signing of a cooperation protocol document between the IELB and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (Congregacion Evangélica Luterana San Pablo) in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil grew out of missionary work by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in the early 1900s. It became self-governing in 1980. Today, the IELB has approximately 240,000 baptized members.

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