“The ILC is Growing”: Papers from 2015 World Conference published

Journal-Lutheran-Mission-ILC-coverONLINE – Presentations from the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 25th World Conference (held in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 23-26, 2015) have been published in a special issue of the Journal of Lutheran Mission.

In a preface to the issue, ILC Vice Chairman Robert Bugbee reflects on the continuing growth of the ILC. “This is not only true from the perspective of membership numbers and statistics,” he notes. “There is a rising urgency within the Council to become more vigorous in its goal of extending the reach of a truly confessional Lutheran witness to additional places throughout the world. The Council’s leadership is currently grappling with concrete plans to bring that about.”

Such growth has more to do with than just ILC infrastructure of course. “If this growth had only to do with a human agency, its structures, personnel, and funding, it would be of little moment to those who care deeply about the mission of Christ’s church in the world,” Vice Chairman Bugbee explains. “For us, the happiest news flash is the one St. Paul identified long ago when he wrote his friends of ‘the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing’ (Col. 1:5-6).

That emphasis on Gospel-proclamation ties into the ILC’s 25th World Conference in Buenos Aires, where the theme was “Bringing the Reformation to the World.” Papers presented at that conference focused on proclaiming Reformation truths to a contemporary world, and are now available in this special issue of Journal of Lutheran Mission. In addition to the convention’s Keynote Address on “The Augsburg Confession in the 21st Century,” the issue includes lectures, reports, and sermons. It also includes a statement adopted by the ILC at its world conference on the document “From Conflict to Communion,” a document published by the Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholics regarding the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

To read this special ILC issue of the Journal of Lutheran Mission, see the embedded document below or click one of the links below. You may also download the full issue in pdf format here.

Among other material, the issue includes:

  1. A Sermon for the International Lutheran Council—2015 World Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  2. The Augsburg Confession in the 21st Century: Confessing the Faith Once for All Delivered by Rev. Alexey Streltsov.
  3. The Report of the ILC’s Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  4. A Statement from the International Lutheran Council on the Document ‘From Conflict to Communion:’ Lutheran—Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation 2017
  5. A Sermon on St. Michael and All Angels (Luke 10:20; Rev. 12:11) by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III.
  6. Our Confession in Augustana IV-VI by Rev. Sergio Adrián Fritzler.
  7. A Devotion on Matthew 6:24-34 by Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast.
  8. Augustana VII: The Church and Fellowship by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III.
  9. Bringing the Reformation to the World: The Means of Grace by Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt.
  10. Faith, Ethnicity, and Social Issues in the Thoughts and Work of Pastor Vladislav Santarius by Rev. Dr. Martin Pię

———————

ILC joins local Argentines for worship, pledges support for Buenos Aires seminary

A choir performs during worship at St. Peter church in Buenos Aires.
A choir performs during worship at St. Peter church in Buenos Aires.

ARGENTINA – In the final days of the 2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), participants joined local Argentine Lutherans for worship and fellowship. On the final day, the ILC also pledged a financial gift to support the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina’s (IELA) Concordia Seminario (Concordia Seminary) in Buenos Aires.

IELA President Carlos Nagel preaches at St. Peter church in Buenos Aires.
IELA President Carlos Nagel preaches.

On the evening of September 26, the conference joined Peace Church and School in San Justo, Buenos Aires for Vespers. After worship, the congregation and school hosted ILC participants for a traditional picada meal of sliced meats, cheeses, bread, and drinks. On the next morning, participants joined St. Peter Church in Villa Ballester, Buenos Aires for Sunday morning worship. IELA President Carlos Nagel preached on the work of angels, noting the festival of St. Michael and All Angels, and a choir performed special music for the event.

Following the service, the International Lutheran Council’s newly elected Executive Council was officially installed. At this time, ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also took the opportunity to officially thank the Argentine church for their hospitality, presenting small gifts of thanks to President Nagel and others.

ILC participants visit the IELA's Seminario Concordia (Concordia Seminary) in Buenos Aires.
ILC participants visit the IELA’s Seminario Concordia (Concordia Seminary) in Buenos Aires.

After worship, ILC participants were welcomed to the IELA’s Seminario Concordia, where they toured the facility and learned about its history and present work. The seminary is 73 years old, and was founded by the Argentine church as a means to provide local theological training for pastoral candidates.

ILC participants enjoy a traditional Argentine barbeque.
ILC participants enjoy a traditional Argentine barbeque.

A traditional asado barbecue with seminary students, faculty, and the wider community followed, as did a program including greetings, special music, traditional dance, and closing worship.

Many of the ILC’s Latin American churches send pastoral candidates to the Buenos Aires seminary for theological education. During the program, the heads of six of these church bodies took the stage, flanked by their church’s students at the Buenos Aires seminary, to thank the Argentine church. They spoke of the valuable service Seminario Concordia provides not only to the Argentine church but to Lutherans across Latin America, and expressed their thanks and support for their faithful work.

ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver announces a $12,000 gift to Concordia Seminario in Buenos Aires.
ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver announces a $12,000 gift to Concordia Seminario in Buenos Aires.

Rev. Dr. Al Collver, Executive Secretary of the ILC, also addressed the crowd to thank the Argentine church for their hospitality and to highlight the work of the seminary in Buenos Aires. He further announced a gift of $12,000 USD to the seminary on behalf of the International Lutheran Council, in recognition of the service it provides to confessional Lutherans across Latin America.

The official program of the ILC’s 2015 World Conference came to a conclusion following the seminary barbecue.

——————–

ILC World Conference reflects on the relevance of the Augsburg Confession today

Essayists: Rev. Sergio Adrián Fritzler,
Essayists: Rev. Sergio Adrián Fritzler, ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver.

ARGENTINA – Throughout the 2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), Lutheran leaders from around the world considered the continuing relevance of the Reformation for today. In doing so, they focused their attention especially on the Augsburg Confession.

The first day of the conference welcomed a keynote address on the subject by Rev. Alexey Streltsov, rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. A series of three essays followed over the next days, building on the topics raised in the keynote address.

The first essay focused on Articles 4-6 of the Augsburg Confession and was presented by Rev. Sergio Adrián Fritzler (Director of Concordia Seminary in Buenos Aires). His essay examined the relationship between justifying faith and the office of preaching—the means by which justifying faith is granted, through Gospel proclamation and Sacraments. This faith, he continued, brings about the new obedience in which Christians serve their neighbours in love.

The second essay was led by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (Executive Secretary of the ILC), and focused on the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession. Dr. Collver examined the Confession’s teaching on the doctrine of the church in relation to contemporary questions of ecumenical relations vis-à-vis the approaches taken by other groups.

The final essay, given by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, focused on Articles 9 and 10 of the Augsburg Confession and the Means of Grace. In addition to speaking about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and confession and absolution, Chairman Voigt also discussed the nature of ordination. In all of these subjects, Chairman Voigt suggested that we must take pains to ensure our practice in all these matters corresponds to our beliefs.

All of these essays will be released for download online at a later date.

World Conference participants also benefited from a series of Bible studies intended to complement themes brought up in the major essays. Bible Study leaders included: Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (speaking on Romans 3:21-31); Rev. Dr. Jose Pfaffenzeller, Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Concordia Seminary in Buenos Aires (speaking on Ephesians 4:1-16), and President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada (speaking on 1 Corinthians 11:17-29).

Throughout the conference, Matins and Vespers homilies were presented by  ILC Chairman Voigt, Dr. Collver, President Lawrence Rast (Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana), President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod, Vice-President Philippe Volff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France, and President Marvin Donaire of the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua.

———————

ILC leaders report, delegates discuss ecumenical relations

Discussion at the ILC's 2015 World Conference spill into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).
Discussion at the ILC’s 2015 World Conference spills into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).

ARGENTINA – The 2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued the afternoon of September 24 as delegates heard reports from the Executive Council and discussed ecumenical relations.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt gave his report to the conference in the afternoon, highlighting various successes of the past triennium, including joint relief and aid following Typhoon Haiyan, the ILC’s 2013 World Seminaries Conference held in Lithuania, new contacts between ILC churches and other Lutheran churches, and the 2015 Wittenberg Conference on global confessional leadership.

In his report, Chairman Voigt also noted the challenges the Church will face in the years to come. Among these challenges he identified the fact that faith in Christ continues to decrease in Western society; that worldwide persecution of Christians is on the rise; and the rise of the global refugee crisis. We must also learn anew to speak Christian wisdom and insight into the world around us, he suggested, stressing the importance of Christian though to the cultures in which we find ourselves. Finally, he suggested, the ILC must learn to look further forward and consider what form the International Lutheran Council should take going into the future.

That last topic led into the ILC’s Executive Secretary Al Collver’s report. Dr. Collver noted that the ILC has been undertaking in depth Strategic Planning over the past triennium. He indicated that he would be bringing the details of their findings forward to the Conference to discuss in the days to come.

Ecumenical relations

Among other subjects raised by Chairman Voigt in his report was that of ecumenical relations. He noted that planning meetings between the Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the ILC have finalized the start date for informal theological dialogue between the two bodies. The first official meeting between the two dialogue groups will begin October 7. Representing the ILC are theologians from Germany (Werner Klän), Brazil (Gerson Linden), the United States of America (Roland Ziegler), and Canada (John Stephenson).

Delegates then turned their attention to a discussion of the document “From Conflict to Communion,” a reflection on Lutheran-Catholic dialogue produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. The ILC’s dialogue representatives feel that providing a confessional Lutheran statement on “From Conflict to Communion” may serve as an appropriate first step in the informal dialogues between the PCPCU and the ILC. Such a statement might also be a productive means of engaging the LWF as well, it is hoped. Discussion of the response statement will continue into Friday’s business sessions.

The LWF is represented at the ILC’s World Conference in an observer capacity by Rev. Dr. Gloria Vargas, LWF Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean region. Dr. Vargas will have the opportunity to greet delegates on behalf of the LWF during Friday’s sessions.

World Area meetings

Following these discussions, delegates broke for World Area meetings. After this, the Conference heard World Area reports from Latin America. Each member church had the opportunity to discuss a bit of their church’s history as well as their present work. A recurring theme among many of the Latin America churches was many churches and mission opportunities but too few pastors to fill them—a situation where “the harvest is ready but the workers are few.”

Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.
Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.

The day ended with Vespers. President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) served as liturgist, while ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver gave a homily reflecting on angels and the devil. In the face of the evil in this world—war, sickness, suffering—it can feel as though Christ is not really victorious, Dr. Collver noted. But we must remember that Satan and his armies already stand defeated by the blood of Jesus and the Word of God. This is how St. Michael and his angels prevailed against the devil (Revelation 12:11), Dr. Collver explained. So too, we can trust that the blood of Christ and His Word have defeated Satan on our behalf too. This promise gives us comfort and hope to stand up against the suffering and evil we experience in this world.

———————

2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council begins in Argentina

Delegates at the 2015 ILC World Conference.
Delegates at the 2015 ILC World Conference.

ARGENTINA – The 25th (10th) World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) officially opened the morning of September 24, 2015 as Lutheran leaders from across the globe converged in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt delivers a homily.
Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt delivers a homily.

The ILC is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. Every three years ILC member churches and friends gather to conduct business, hold elections, and discuss challenges and opportunities facing the Church at large.

The conference began Thursday morning with a Matins service, with ILC Executive Secretary serving as liturgist. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany, gave the homily, drawing the parallels between the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the plight of Syrian refugees today. Like the Good Samaritan, he said, we too are called to care for the downtrodden—and Jesus, who is our own Good Neighbour, can give us the strength to do so despite our own weaknesses.

Bringing the Reformation to the World

A primary focus of the Thursday morning session was a keynote lecture from Rev. Alexey Streltsov, rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Rev. Streltsov was invited to speak on the topic of bringing the Reformation to the world in the 21st century.

That task assumes three different but related goals, he said. First, it requires us to “evangelize or re-evangelize the world outside the Church.” Second, we must “testify to the truth of the original Reformation to other Christian traditions.” And third, we must “correct errors in our own midst.”

Delegates listen to Rev. Alexey Streltsov's keynote lecture.
Delegates listen to Rev. Alexey Streltsov’s keynote lecture.

Rev. Streltsov explored these goals through a close reading of the Augsburg Confession. “We face a markedly different situation than that of the 16th century,” he explained, noting that the Reformers and their opponents all agreed on basic principles like faith in the Triune God. Today that is often not the case, at least in much of Western society. In other places, it is the challenge of Pentecostalism, he suggested, that will shape how Lutherans share their message with the world around them.

But though the challenges we face are not the same as our Lutheran forebears, we have the same mission: to correct error where we must, to maintain true faith where we have it, and to pass on that faith to others. We may face challenges, Rev. Streltsov said, but “Decay will always be followed by regeneration.”

“This is not the end,” he continued. “The end has come at the cross. And this end makes for us a new beginning.”

Churches apply for ILC membership

Also during Thursday morning, the ILC Executive Council introduced three Lutheran church bodies that have applied for membership in the International Lutheran Council. These applicants include two church bodies from Europe (Norway and Siberia) and one from South America (Nicaragua). Leaders of the three churches all addressed the conference, sharing their churches’ backgrounds and desire to join the International Lutheran Council.

Voting to receive the proposed new member churches will take place later in the conference.

The morning session ended with a Bible study on Romans 3:21-31 led by Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.

The 2015 World Conference of the ILC runs September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

———————