Ukrainian Lutherans elect new bishop

Bishop Aleksandr Yurchenko preaches at his installation service.
Bishop Aleksandr Yurchenko preaches at his installation service.

UKRAINE – The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU), meeting in convention November 17-18, elected Rev. Aleksandr Yurchenko as its new bishop. He succeeds Rev. Dr. Viktor Gräfenstein, who served as bishop for 18 years and had declined to accept nomination for another term.

Bishop Yurchenko graduated from Odessa Theological Seminary in 2002. He currently serves as a missionary to prisoners in the Nikolaev region and as a temporary pastor at the newly organized congregaton in Nova Kachovka. He lives in Odessa.

The convention also elected Rev. Oleg Shewtschenko as Assistant to the Bishop.

Convention sessions were held at Concordia Seminary in Usatovo, a suburb of Odessa, located in the southern part of the country on the Black Sea. Long-time partner church Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) sent representatives to the convention, with President Robert Bugbee (Vice-Chairman of the International Lutheran Council) and Rev. Dr. Norman Threinen (who has long served as Rector of the Ukranian seminary) in attendance. President Bugbee preached for the opening service of the convention, brought greetings from LCC, and was asked for advice periodically throughout the sessions on various business matters coming before the assembly.

President Bugbee (front left) struggles to read a portion of the Russian-language installation of SELCU Bishop Aleksandr Yurchenko (right). Standing between them is outgoing Bishop Viktor Gräfenstein, while Dr. Norman Threinen looks on.
President Bugbee (front left) struggles to read a portion of the Russian-language installation of SELCU Bishop Yurchenko (right). Standing between them is outgoing Bishop  Gräfenstein, while Dr. Norman Threinen looks on.

Among other things, the convention determined to resume instruction at Concordia Seminary in September 2015. The seminary had suspended classes in the past year due to the political instability caused by the Russian invasions. Odessa is fortunately far from the fighting, and so students and teachers should be able to do their work in a secure environment. The convention resolved to ask LCC to extend the appointment of Dr. Threinen to continue serving as Rector of the seminary as preparations are made to begin classes again.

President Bugbee took the opportunity of this visit to accept preaching invitations at local parishes in Nikolayev, Oktyabrskoye and Savran. He was also the featured preacher at an evangelistic service hosted by the congregation in downtown Odessa on a Saturday evening as it sought to invite unchurched people from the area.

“Our brothers and sisters here have gone through a very trying time in recent months,” President Bugbee observed, “but I am impressed with their willingness to carry on and make the best of the crisis besetting their country. They are deeply grateful for the attitude of support on the part of the Canadian government and people, and are glad for the partnership between LCC and their church. They took time during their convention to pray for the work we do in Canada, and I do hope our churches will repeatedly name them and their needs before the Lord in their public prayers. The relationship to this church remains one of our primary partnerships, and there’s still a lot of work to do here!”

Lutheran Church–Canada—a member church of the International Lutheran Council—has long supported SELCU in its outreach work, its social ministries, and its theological education. SELCU is a young church body, with thirteen congregations throughout the region. Five of these congregations are in Crimea. Consequently, the emergence of a new federal border between these congregations and the rest of SELCU’s congregations (in Ukraine) has created significant difficulties for the church.

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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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LCC meets in convention, reelects President Bugbee

bugbee-elected
President Robert Bugbee addresses the convention. (Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi)

VANCOUVER – From June 6-9, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) held its triennial national convention on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The event saw lay and clergy representatives from across the nation gather together to conduct the business of the church, during which time President Robert Bugbee was acclaimed to another term without opposition.

Reflecting on the election, President Bugbee noted that, when he first entered the ministry years ago, he “never expected to serve as President of Synod, an honor which has been bestowed on me three times by our convention.” “I deeply appreciate your kindness, dear brothers and sisters,” he went on to say. “I cannot say that I understand it exactly, and I’m not even sure I agree with the action you’ve taken in re-electing me, but I do deeply appreciate it. And I am willing once again to embrace it.”

The opening worship service, held at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver.
The opening worship service, held at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. (Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi)

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee was first elected President of Lutheran Church–Canada in 2008. He was acclaimed without opposition to a second term in 2011. Since 2010, President Bugbee has also served as Vice-Chairman of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies of which LCC is a member.

“In some small way, I hope that the task God is entrusting to me for the coming three years will help our pastors and our people see the glory in the Gospel, and in the work you share in Alfalfa Junction, or whatever your town happens to be called,” he continued. “Thanks again for the honour you have done me with this election. God in Christ pour out on you all His joy and grace and blessing!”

Rev. Nolan Astley was reelected to serve as Vice President for the East District and Rev. Thomas Kruesel was reelected to serve as Vice President for the ABC District. Rev. Mark L. Smith was newly elected as Vice President for the Central District, succeeding Rev. Rudy Pastucha. Rev. Astley will serve as First Vice President, Rev. Kruesel as Second Vice President, and Rev. Smith as Third Vice President.

2014-logo-bannerThe convention gathered around the theme “Come to Him who answers prayer” (Psalm 65:2). Rev. Kurt Reinhardt of Kurtzville, Ontario served as one of the convention’s essayists, giving a presentation over two days entitled “As Dear Children Ask Their Dear Father.”

Also serving as an essayist for the convention was Deacon Jennifer Shack, who presented on the history and biblical foundation of the diaconate in Lutheran Church–Canada. The topic was particularly relevant, as a number of resolutions adopted by the convention focused on the diaconate. The convention voted June 7 to make provision for deacons to serve on Synod’s boards, commissions and committees. On June 8, the convention adopted a resolution “to study and provide for diaconal voting at Synod and District convention.” Currently LCC’s voting structure allows for equal pastoral/lay representation at convention, but does not make allowance for deacons to vote.

LCC was pleased to receive a number of international guests during the convention, including President Chul-Hwan Kim of the Lutheran Church in Korea, President Vannarith Chhim of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia, Bishop David Altus of the Lutheran Church of Australia, President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and Rev. Dr. David Wendel of the North American Lutheran Church. The convention also welcomed letters of greeting from the Anglican Network in Canada, as well as Lutheran church bodies from India, Japan, Chile, England, Germany, and Ukraine.

Lutheran Church–Canada has 65,000 members in more than 300 congregations across the nation, served by approximately 250 active pastors and 95 deacons.

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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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