ILC and PCPCU complete current round of informal dialogue

Members of the ILC-PCPCU informal dialogue group meet in Fort Wayne, Indiana in September 2019.

USA – The working group established in 2014 to conduct an informal dialogue between the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) completed its task during a final session held September 23-26. 2019 on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Taking part from the Roman Catholic Church were Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany), Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn), and Fr. Augustinus Sander O.S.B. (who has recently moved from Germany to Rome). Taking part on behalf of the churches of the ILC were Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany), Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), and Dr. Roland Ziegler (Fort Wayne, Indiana). In addition, the chairman of the ILC, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Hanover, Germany) of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran, attended the sessions in a guest capacity.

The Fort Wayne meeting followed previous gatherings at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel in 2015, the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt in 2016, the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute in Paderborn in 2016, and the Guesthouse of the Mission of Lutheran Churches (Bleckmar Mission) in 2018.

An open and friendly atmosphere marked the final session, which discussed the topics of the umbrella norms of Scripture, tradition, and confession; the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist; the doctrine of justification; and the understanding of ministerial office and ordination. The last-named topic proved so complex as to defy coming to a conclusion, with the result that further work is contemplated in this area.

The results of the conversations will shortly be summarised in a common report to be presented to both the PCPCU and the ILC, which will then consult among themselves and with each other on the best way to pursue further contacts on the basis of what has already been achieved.

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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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Second Meeting of the ILC-PCPCU Dialogue Group

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Roman Catholic and Lutheran delegates to the ILC-PCPCU meetings in May 2016.

GERMANY – On May 6-7, 2016 the Dialogue Group of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) met for the second time. The venue was the Augustinian Monastery at Erfurt, Germany. Delegates on the Roman Catholic side were Dr. Josef Freitag (Erfurt, Germany) Dr. Grant Kaplan (Mainz, Germany/St. Louis, USA), Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn, Germany) and Fr. Dr. Augustinus Sander (Maria Laach, Germany). Delegates on the Lutheran side were Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (St. Louis, USA), Dr. Werner Klän (Oberursel, Germany) Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada), Dr. Roland Ziegler (Ft. Wayne, USA). Unable to attend the meeting were Lutheran delegate Dr. Gerson Linden (Sao Leopoldo, Brasil) and Roman Catholic delegate Dr. Wolfgang Thoenissen (Paderborn, Germany).

As agreed upon at the first meeting, held in Oberursel, Germany in October 2015, the chief topic was the Sacrifice of the Mass. Presentations were given on Articles 24 of the Augsburg confession and its Apology by Dr. Neumann from a Roman-Catholic perspective, and by Rev. Dr. Collver from a Lutheran perspective. It was noted that the terminology on sacrifice was used in a complex manner already in the 16th century, and ambiguously at times as well. Additionally, changes in the understanding of what “sacrifice” means, occurred—especially in the Roman-Catholic camp—before the Second Vatican Council and beyond. The Dialogue Group also discussed issues like “opus operatum,” commemoration and representation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, faith and the receiving of the sacramental gift, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the connection between the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with the whole of the liturgy.

For the next meeting, the Dialogue Group established working groups to address: a) how Lutheran liturgies addressed the concept of sacrifice and the sacrifice (of the Mass) from a Roman Catholic perspective,and how the concept has developed  in Roman Catholic liturgies since the 16th century  as seen from a Lutheran perspective, b) an evaluation of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue on the theme of the Eucharist and the theology of the Lord’s Supper over the last half century, and c) a historical survey of developments and changes in the interpretation of the sacrificial dimension of the Lord’s Supper that affect how each side understands its own confession and that of its dialogue partner.

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Lutherans from around world gather for conference in Wittenberg

International representatives from Lutheran churches around the globe gather and worship at the historic St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, May 6. Church leaders from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans are in Wittenberg for the Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century, May 6-7. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)
International representatives from Lutheran churches around the globe gather and worship at the historic St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, May 6. Church leaders from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans are in Wittenberg for the Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century, May 6-7. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

WITTENBERG, Germany – Confessional Lutheran church leaders from every continent except Antarctica are discussing burgeoning churches in the Global South and East as well as challenges in the West, during the International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century here May 6-7.

Representatives from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans worldwide have converged at the very cradle of the Reformation not long before 2017, when Lutherans will celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. Under the theme: Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing, discussions are ranging from the challenges of spreading the Gospel in Western countries to its rapid growth in places like Africa, South America, the Far East and many others.

Wittenberg-2015-02“We have representatives here from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Cameroon, Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Papua New Guinea … all over the world,” said the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III, executive secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “And yet, now the work begins for us, as we hope to reach others amid the challenges presented by post-modernity and a rise in paganism.”

Collver said the mission field in the West is a major challenge for confessional Lutherans amid a decline of Christianity in Europe and the U.S.

“As someone coming to Wittenberg for first time, it is a pleasure for me to see how it is important for our churches to be together, to make our confession known to all, particularly as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” said the Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. “This gathering of church leaders is a sign for us to go onto the next 500 years of the Reformation. The Reformation’s message to the world is that, according to the context we are in now, we need to be faithful to the Word of God as we serve God’s people.”

The collaborative event was a coordinated effort by the ILC, the Selbständige Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche (SELK) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with representatives from the North American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also participating.

“This conference is a huge sign of the catholicity of the Lutheran church,” said SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who also is the ILC’s chairman. “A central theme of this conference is that we confessional Lutherans remember, repent and celebrate the Reformation, and I’m very thankful to be a part of that.”

The ILC is an association of established 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.

The ILC executive committee meets this week in Wittenberg to discuss locating the organization’s headquarters at the recently dedicated International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School here.

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‘A rather unusual church’: IDEA interviews ILC Chairman

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Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt.

GERMANY – In the lead-up to 2014 Reformation Day observances, the journal IDEA (a prominent evangelical German publication) featured an interview with Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany. In addition to leading SELK, Bishop Voigt serves as Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.

The interview was conducted by Karsten Huhn and attempts to answer the question: “What is the significance of the Reformation today?” Throughout the discussion, Bishop Voigt ends up speaking on a number of topics, including liturgy, confessional Lutheran witness, the nature of ordination, and the Reformation in 2017.

IDEA: Bishop, you lead a rather unusual church. Liturgically the SELK is almost catholic; its organizational form is that of a free church; and spiritually you try to be more Lutheran than the [State Church] Lutherans.

Voigt: I do not consider ourselves to be unusual. But I can understand that people are somewhat astonished. Yes, our worship services are quite liturgical. But we also use some newer forms of worship; but that is more a case of normality and exception. Financially we are organized as a free church: We do not participate in the church tax system; rather we depend on free-will offerings. Our synodical and episcopal structure is not typical for a free church. And whether we are more Lutheran than other churches? We attempt to organize our spiritual life in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. We respect them as fully adequate expositions of the Holy Scriptures.

The interview continues from there. Members of the International Lutheran Council will find it an insightful look at the position of confessional Lutheranism in Germany. Read the interview in German here and in English here.

In addition to leading SELK, Bishop Voigt serves as Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.

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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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