Fourth (and Fifth) meeting of the ILC and the PCPCU dialogue group

The dialogue group of the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at their 2018 meetings in Bleckmar, Germany.

GERMANY – The fourth (and fifth) meeting of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) – Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) dialogue group took place September 17-21, 2018 at the facilities of Lutherische Kirchenmission in Bleckmar, Germany. The goal of this “informal dialogue is to find out whether an official dialogue between ILC and PCPCU on the world level is possible and might be fruitful.”

Four working groups submitted papers for plenary discussion; they were are established as follows: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany) and Prof. Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada) worked on the topic of Justification; PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn) and Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Fort Wayne, USA) on Synérgeia and Sacrifice; Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil) on Ministry and Ordination; Father Augustinus Sander (Erfurt, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany) on Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass (ApolCA XXIV).

The Lutheran team invited Dr. Pavel Butakov from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia to deliver a paper on “The Eucharistic Conquest of Time” (printed in: Faith and Philosophy Vol. 34 No 3 July 2017), pointing out to the difficulties of certain theories to explain the presence of the sacrifice of Christ in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Those papers already submitted were discussed in detail. Criticisms were debated and additional suggestions were noted. It occurred that some commonalities between the Roman-Catholic and Concordia-Lutheran traditions are to be found whereas some points still need further explanation and consideration on both sides and in plenary. Several issues however still remain controversial and obviously cannot be resolved in this informal dialogue but will have to be dealt with in future conversations.

The workings now have been appointed to rewrite their respective drafts and send them around for further discussion. Additionally text modules shall be sketched that will form part and parcel of the final report. On the grounds of these text modules a first draft of this final report is meant to be conceptualized. This task has been assigned to Dr. Klän. Over and above this, a preamble was seen as helpful to explain about the hermeneutical approaches to the dialogue and its various topics including an accurate description of the Lutheran “set of norms”, or standards that define the Church’s doctrine.

The final meeting of the dialogue group has been scheduled for September 2019 in either Canada (St. Catharines, Ontario) or the United States (St. Louis, Missouri). In that meeting, the final report is meant to be adopted. Then it will be submitted to the ILC Executive Committee and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity respectively. Those will have to decide whether or not the results presented by the dialogue group are seen as sufficiently satisfactory as to start an “official dialogue”.

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Participants in the ILC-PCPCU dialogue group include, on the ILC side, Rev. Dr. Albert Colver III, Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler, Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden, and Prof. Dr. John Stephenson. On the Roman Catholic side are Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag, PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann, Father Dr. Augustinus Sander, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen.

ILC World Conference draws to a close, issues statement on ecumenism

LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo preaches during matins.

BELGIUM – The final day of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2018 World Conference opened with a service of matins in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Antwerp. Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa preached for the service, looking forward to the commemoration of St. Michael and all Angels on September 30. Rev. Timothy Quill served as liturgist.

Following matins, Rev. Milton Huatuco, outgoing President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru, presented a study on Latin American Lutheranism and ecumenism. His report highlighted how local context affect the ecumenical efforts. In Latin America, for example, he noted that Lutherans make up only 0.15 percent of the Latin American population, making Lutherans a small player on the ecumenical scene. Likewise, historic persecution of Protestants make some groups skeptical of rapprochement with Roman Catholics, the major Christian church in Latin America. Intra-Lutheran discussions, however, have been a fruitful ecumenical project, especially in Brazil and Argentina.

Outgoing President Milton Huatuco of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru leads a study on Lutheran ecumenism in Latin America.

The morning session saw greetings to the ILC from Bishop Mark Lieschke, on behalf of Bishop John Henderson and the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). The LCA is preparing for its triennial convention, which is scheduled for the coming week. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt thanked Bishop Lieschke for his remarks, and offered his prayers that God would bless the LCA and send His Holy Spirit to guide them during their forthcoming convention.

Bishop Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church of Norway (LKN) reported on Concordia Israel, a recent project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Ingria in Russia (ELCIR) undertaken in partnership with the LKN. Concordia Israel provides Lutheran education for the evangelical Lutheran church in Israel, including support for pilgrim trips and study tours to Israel; Lutheran education to congregations and congregation members in Israel; and online theological university training.

Later in the day, the convention voted to receive the invitation from the ELCIR and LKN to host the 2021 World Conference of the ILC in Israel, directing the Executive Committee to explore the feasibility of the proposal. In the event the location proves too difficult to arrange, the Executive Committee was authorized to select another location for the 2021 World Conference.

Ecumenism in the Confessions, Ecumenism in Practice

A highlight of the final day’s session was a report on the International Lutheran Council’s informal international dialogue with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). Rev. Dr. Werner Klän, who serves as the Lutheran co-chairman of the dialogue, addressed the convention on the work accomplished over the past several years. He noted that the initial idea for dialogue came from the Roman Catholic side, leading eventually to discussions in Rome in 2013, a preperatory meeting in 2014, and finally the official beginning of the dialogue group in 2015.

The most recent round in the ILC-PCPCU’s informal international dialogue took place September 17-21 in Bleckmar, Germany. A report on those discussions will be published online by the ILC soon. The concluding meeting of the current round of discussions is scheduled for 2019, at which time the dialogue group will present a final report summarizing their findings and making recommendations to the ILC and the PCPCU about future possibilities for continued dialogue.

Professors Roa and Klän answer questions on their respective presentations to the ILC World Conference.

Following Dr. Klän’s report, Rev. Wilando Roa presented the convention’s final lecture on its theme of ecumenism and ecclesiology. In his talk, Rev. Roa explored the Lutheran Confessions as the basis for faithful dialogue with other Christians. The conclusion of his lecture provided a roadmap for future ecumenical opportunities, noting that “those closest to us in the household of faith… deserve our first attention.” To that end, he encouraged member churches of the ILC to initially focus their ecumenical efforts inwards—working with those estranged in our own denominations—before moving outward: first by seeking greater dialogue with partner churches; then dialoguing with church bodies no longer in fellowship with us; then looking to other Lutheran churches; and finally looking out to groups outside the Lutheran tradition.

Later in the day, the convention distilled some of the week’s discussions of ecumenism and adopted a brief statement on “Confessional Identity and Ecumenical Responsibility.” Read the full statement here.

Putting that ecumenical concern into practice, the convention also adopted a resolution on ILC relations with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), noting that “the ILC Executive Committee remains open to conversation with the LWF Council to help clarify points of confusion and to facilitate an ongoing exchange of information.” The full resolution is available to download here. The 2018 resolution reaffirms the position on dual membership in the ILC and LWF first taken at the 2007 World Conference in Accra, Ghana (see the 2007 resolution here).

Closing Service and the Installation of the Executive Committee

LCC President Timothy Teuscher preaches the final sermon of the 2018 World Conference.

The convention concluded with a final service of evening prayer, with President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium serving as lector and Rev. Timothy Quill as liturgist. Serving as cantor and organist this day, as every day of the conference, was Matthew Machemer.

As with matins earlier, the service of evening prayer f focused on biblical texts surrounding the ministry of angels, with President Timothy Teuscher of Lutheran Church–Canada preaching. The passage under discussion focused on the angels’ conflict with the devil. Because that ancient serpent is the father of lies, President Teuscher noted, one of the most important weapons of the angels is the Sword of Truth, the Word of God—and this is a weapon that we too are called to wield against the devil’s lies. It is natural that angels should adopt such a weapon, President Teuscher explained, since the very meaning of their name—“angel”—is “messenger.” And the message they proclaim is Christ, God incarnate and Saviour of the world.

The service concluded with the rite of installation for the newly elected and appointed members of the International Lutheran Council’s Executive Committee.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC Executive Secretary, installs the officers of the new triennium’s Executive Committee. (Photo: S. van Hattem).

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Confessional Identity and Ecumenical Responsibility: A Statement from the XXVI World Conference of the International Lutheran Council

The following statement was adopted by the International Lutheran Council at its 26th World Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. It can be downloaded as a pdf here.

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Confessional Identity and Ecumenical Responsibility: A Statement from the XXVI World Conference of the International Lutheran Council

The International Lutheran Council (ILC) gathered in Antwerp, September 25-28, 2018, to share papers on and to discuss the twin topics of fellowship and ecumenism, framed by devotional reflection. Members of the organization, all of which share a vigorous subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, recognize that each member body will express its confessional commitment in ways unique to its specific context.

Lutherans affirm an ecumenical approach and an ecumenical claim at the same time. This is demonstrated by the inclusion of the ecumenical creeds in the Book of Concord and expressed, for instance, in the structure of the Smalcald Articles. Here Luther states a basic consensus agreement on the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ, a basic dissensus on justification, and further questions to be debated. This claim for catholicity provides a basic framework for confessional Lutheran ecumenical engagement in our time and context: identify points of agreement, points of disagreement, and points for further conversation.

This approach has manifested itself in the rich and varied histories of the church bodies of the ILC. These different historical expressions challenge us to strive towards greater internal unanimity. At the same time, we are also driven to engage churches outside of the ILC community, because we are convinced we have an obligation to share the Gospel of Christ and all its articles—our confessional heritage—with the whole of Christianity.

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ILC World Conference: In Worship and Study

President Martin Jautzy preaches during matins, while Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee translates.
Rev. Wilando Roa leads a Bible study on Ephesians.

BELGIUM – August 27, the third day of the ILC’s 2018 World Convention, began with a service of matins, with President Martin Jautzy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church-Synod of France preaching on the nature of the Church. We are individually stones in the building that is the Church, he said, and are held together by Christ, “the Stone that the builders rejected” which stands as the capstone. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and an appointed member of the ILC’s Executive Committee, served as liturgist for the service and as translator for President Jautzy.

Among the first item of business for the day was greetings from Bishop John Bradosky of the North American Lutheran Church, who expressed gratitude for the friendships which have developed between his church and those of the ILC.

The morning also saw a Bible study on St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, led by Rev. Wilando Roa, Director of Theological Education by Extension at Lutheran Theological Seminary (Baguio City, The Philippines).

President Matthew Harrison presents delegates with a gift of books.

President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) then addressed the conference, presenting a gift of books to delegates. One of these books was the new 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH). While the text of the catechism proper remains the same as in the previous edition, the Explanation to the Catechism has been updated and expanded to tackle new issues facing the Church today. The second book gifted to delegates was Closed Communion?, edited by President Harrison and John T. Pless, and also published by CPH. The work collects classic and valuable new essays on the subject of admission to the Lord’s Supper, all from a Biblical Lutheran perspective.

Delegates also received from the ILC their copies of the new two-volume dogmatics series Confessing the Gospel which was presented on a day earlier.

The morning’s work then turned to the matter of elections, with Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany being unanimously reelected as ILC Chairman. (See the full results of elections to the ILC Executive Committee here.)

Prof. Dr. Werner Klän gives his lecture on ecumenism in the European context.
Martin Luther Place in Antwerp. The church visible in the background is built on the site of the former Augustinian monastery of Esch and Voes.

A featured part of the morning was the next keynote lecture on the convention’s theme of “Ecumenism and Ecclesiology.” Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Professor Emeritus of Germany’s Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberusel, Germany, unpacked the current status of Lutheran ecumenism and fellowship in Europe, both among the churches of the ILC and those outside it, taking time to examine some of the larger ecumenical agreements which currently hold sway among European Lutheran church bodies.

From there, he turned to consider the challenges of responsible confessional Lutheran ecumenism within the complicated context of the contemporary era, with special reference to examples from the German church.

In the afternoon, delegates enjoyed a walking tour of Antwerp. Of particular interest was a visit to Maarten Luther Plein (Martin Luther Place), a site dedicated in 2017 to remember the influence of the Lutheran reformation in Antwerp. Nearby once stood an Augustinian monastery which, in the early 16th century, saw all of its monks adopt the Lutheran faith. They were subsequently arrested, and two—Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes—would later become the first martyrs of the Reformation, being burned at the stake in Brussels in 1523. Reflections on Esch and Voes, and martyrdom more generally, provided a focus to the sermons and presentations given a day earlier.

President Orozco preaches before Compline.

Thursday closed with worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, with President Abdiel Orozco of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala preaching. He encouraged delegates to remember that we do not need to seek the approval of men, because, through Christ, we have already received the approval of God.

A service of Compline, led by Rev. Timothy Quill, followed.

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ILC 2018 World Conference opens in Antwerp, Belgium

Our Lady’s Chapel at the Elzenveld, site of the opening worship service of the International Lutheran Council’s 26th (11th) World Conference.

BELGIUM – The 26th (11th) World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened the morning of September 25, 2018 in Antwerp, Belgium. The event also marks the 25th anniversary of the ILC in its current form. The conference runs until September 28.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preaches during the opening service of the International Lutheran Council’s 2018 World Conference in Antwerp, Belgium.

An opening service was held in Our Lady’s Chapel, a fifteenth century chapel of the medieval St. Elizabeth convent (now the Elzenveld Hotel and Conference Centre). ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) served as preacher for the service, with Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (ILC Executive Secretary) serving as liturgist.

Following the service, the ILC received greetings from several local political and ecclesiastical dignitaries, including Antwerp’s Mayor, Bart De Wever; Antwerp’s Vice-Mayor of Culture and Religion, Jan Rombouts; Vicar General Bruno Aerts on behalf of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Antwerp; and Chairman John van der Dussen of the Antwerp Council of Churches.

Each was presented with a copy of the book 450 Years – Lutheran Church in Antwerp: 1566-1586 and Beyond, a new history by President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium. It details in both Flemish and English the early history of Lutheranism in Belgium.

Ecclesiology and Ecumenism

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver speaks on ecumenism.

The morning of the first day of the ILC’s 2018 World Conference focused on a discussion of the convention theme: “Ecclesiology and Ecumenism.” Dr. Collver introduced the topic, joined by Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana).

In his remarks, Dr. Collver noted that the very first meeting of the group that would become the ILC likewise focused on the topic of church fellowship. The 2018 convention’s focus on ecclesiology and ecumenism is therefore a return to a discussion that has been ongoing for decades.

He went on to note that the first arrest of Lutherans took place 497 years ago this week in Antwerp. Two years later, the first Lutheran martyrs—Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes—were burned at the stake in Antwerp. And yet the opening of the ILC World Conference in 2018 saw greetings from the local Roman Catholic Archdiocese. So too the ILC has for several years been participating in an informal international dialogue group with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “Times have changed,” Dr. Collver reflected, “yet our Confessions remain the same.”

Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler continues the introduction of the convention theme.

Dr. Ziegler continued the discussion, noting that a confessional Lutheran understanding of ecumenism begins first by remembering the unity of Christ’s body which already exists, and recognizing that spiritual reality to be the work of God and not man. From that foundation, he turned to a discussion of the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession, unpacking what it means for the unity of the visible church to be dependent on the Gospel being taught purely and the sacraments rightly administered. Dr. Ziegler outlined four different interpretations of this article, ultimately arguing that agreement on the Gospel and the sacraments includes agreement not only on the teachings of the Confessions but also in all teachings of Holy Scripture.

Beginning from such a point, confessional Lutheran ecumenism seeks to determine what schisms in the church are justified (as a rejection of errant doctrine) and which are unjustified (where people prefer one human tradition over another), while ultimately seeking resolution to both forms of division through: the preaching of the Gospel in its fullness, seeking opportunities to speak with one another through the work of groups like the ILC, praying for the unity of the Church, and working to preserve unity in our own individual church bodies. At its heart, confessional Lutheran ecumenism is grounded in both truth and love, Dr. Ziegler said: “Love and truth belong together,” he explained. Both are necessary “in our striving for unity.”

The theme will be further unpacked through three keynote lectures over the next days of the conference.

Growing to meet the needs of confessional Lutherans worldwide

Work in the afternoon was overshadowed in part by the report of a fire in the tower of a Lutheran church in Latvia. ILC Chairman Voigt led the World Council in prayer for the affected congregation and community.

The afternoon featured the report of the ILC’s Executive Secretary, who traced the history of the ILC from earlier confessional Lutheran inter-church assemblies in the 19th century down to the present day, where the ILC is celebrating 25 years in its current form. “In 25 years, much has remained the same about the ILC,” noted Dr. Collver in his report, “particularly the ILC’s commitment to the inspired, inerrant Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and unreserved acceptance of the Lutheran Confessions found in the Book of Concord.” But one thing that has changed, he noted, is ever-growing interest in the work of the ILC by Lutheran churches around the world.

“Back in 1993 when the ILC was formed, it represented approximately four million Lutherans worldwide,” Dr. Collver noted. By contrast, he said, the current gathering in Belgium “has church leaders in attendance representing around 20 million Lutherans worldwide.” That number includes current member churches, 19 churches currently seeking membership in the ILC, and church bodies represented at the conference which are not yet seeking membership in the ILC, but whose leaders have grown close to the ILC in recent years as a result of the organization’s defense of the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

President Antonio Reyes of The Lutheran Church of the Philippines preaches during vespers.

The ILC is expanding its capacity to meet the growing interest and needs of confessional Lutherans around the world, Dr. Collver noted. Some of these initiatives—the formalization of the ILC’s legal status, for example, and the Lutheran Leadership Development Program—will be discussed in greater detail over the coming days.

Other business attended to in the afternoon of the first day of the conference included initial votes on the acceptance of new members to the ILC, World Region breakout sessions, and the report of the European World Region.

ILC Chairman Voigt (left) greets the publication of a new history of Lutheranism in Antwerp, following an introduction by Dr. Guido Marnef (centre). The book was written by President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (right).

The day’s business closed with Vespers, held in the historic St. Anne’s Chapel (also known as the Emperor’s Chapel), first built in 1512. The church is notable not only for its remarkable Counter-Reformation artwork, but also because it served as a Lutheran church from 1578 until the fall of Antwerp in 1585. President Antonio Reyes of The Lutheran Church of the Philippines preached the sermon, with Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana) serving as liturgist.

Following dinner, attendees of the ILC convention were presented with copies of President van Hattem’s new history of Lutheranism in Antwerp, which was revealed earlier in the day when it was given as a gift to several dignitaries attending the ILC World Conference’s worship. Professor Guido Marnef of the University of Antwerp introduced the book, saying that “this fascinating but not well-known history deserves a broad circulation within the Lutheran community and far beyond.”

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The International Lutheran Council 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, member churches of the ILC and friends gather for the ILC World Conference, where they conduct business, hold elections, and discuss challenges and opportunities facing the confessional Lutheran church around the world.

Meetings between ILC and PCPCU continue

GERMANY – On September 17-22, 2018 the Informal Dialogue Group between the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) will meet again. This time the gathering will take place on the premises of the Lutherische Kirchenmission (Lutheran Church Mission centre) in Bleckmar, Germany. The general topic of this informal dialogue is “The Presence of Divine Salvation in this World,” especially in the Church and its liturgy. This was stated at the beginning of the informal dialogue.

In Bleckmar, the conversations will center on the understanding of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, the understanding of the presence of Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Church, the co-operation between God and man in this regard, the office of the ministry, and the doctrine of justification.

Delegates on the ILC side are Rev. Dr. Albert Colver III (St. Louis, Missouri), Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany), Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), and Prof. Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada); for the topic of “time and simultaneousness”, Mr. Pavel Butakov has been co-opted. On the Roman Catholic side are Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn, Germany), Father Dr. Augustinus Sander (Maria Laach, Germany), and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany).

The dialogue group will prepare a final report that is meant to be adopted in the course of next year. Then it will be submitted to the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch, and to the Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council.

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LCMS, WELS, and ELS leaders report significant doctrinal agreement

wels-els-lcms

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report noting significant doctrinal agreement between the three synods, following three years of informal dialogue.

Following a fourth meeting held December 2, 2015, leaders of the three synods agreed to the publication of A Report on the Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders 2012-2015. Among the representatives present for the event were LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Mark Schroeder, and ELS President John A. Moldstad.

Primary among the contents of the report is an assessment of the doctrinal agreement already shared by the three synods. “We agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice,” the report notes. “We agree that the chief message of the Bible is justification by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, and that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”

The LCMS previously enjoyed fellowship together with the ELS and the WELS until 1955 and 1961, the document notes, before breaking fellowship as a result of doctrinal controversies in the LCMS that peaked in the 1970s. Today, the three synods share such a level of doctrinal agreement that there is a strong desire for further discussion “with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit.” They note, however, that a number of issues still need to be resolved, writing, “All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine.”

“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of LCMS Church Relations. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”

Read the full report here.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.1 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 400 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 20 thousand members) are American churches in full-fellowship with each other. WELS and ELS are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

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International Lutheran Council – Roman Catholic dialogue begins

Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.

GERMANY – Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met October 7-8 on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel, Germany to initiate a three-year series of informal academic dialogues. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman of the ILC, greeted the participants and wished them God’s blessing and good progress for their discussions.

The Roman Catholic delegation includes Professor Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Presiding Director of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism, Paderborn, Germany); Professor Dr. Josef Freitag (University of Erfurt, Germany); Dr. Burkhard Neumann (a Director at the Möhler Institute); Professor Dr. Grant Kaplan (St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA), and Father Dr. Augustinus Sander, OSB (Maria Laach, Germany). Representing the ILC were Professor Dr. Werner Klän (President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Oberursel); Professor Dr. John Stephenson (Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON, Canada); Professor Dr. Roland Ziegler (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, USA); Professor Dr. Gerson Linden (Concordia Seminary, São Leopoldo, Brazil); and Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver (Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, St. Louis, MO, USA).

The way had been paved for this consultation by a three-year series of talks carried out on a national level within Germany. Because of the positive developments achieved at that time, representatives of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Oberursel had appealed for discussions to continue on an international basis.

At this initial consultation evaluations were shared from a confessional Lutheran point of view of documents already produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. Discussions focused specifically on the documents The Eucharist (1978), The Ministry in the Church (1981), and Church and Justification (1993). In addition, Roman Catholic participants were made aware of an ILC response to the document produced in 2014 by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Unity Commission entitled From Conflict to Communion. This response was recently approved formally by the 25th ILC World Conference, meeting September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Beyond findings reached in Lutheran-Catholic dialogues up to the present time, the goal of the planned discussions is to determine whether exchanges between confessional Lutherans and Catholics could lead to mutual enrichment leading to a discovery—or re-discovery—of a certain shared apostolic, catholic heritage.

The next meeting of the dialogue commission is set for May, 2016, in either Erfurt or Paderborn.

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Danish Church issues translation of “Living in an Ecumenical World”

The logo for the ELFCD's 2014 convention. In Danish, it reads "On This Rock I Will Build."
The logo for the ELFCD’s 2014 convention. In Danish, it reads “On This Rock I Will Build.”

DENMARK – The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD) held its annual convention July 19-20 in Langeland. At that time, it released a Danish translation of the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) guidance document “Living in an Ecumenical World.”

The event saw 75 Danish Lutherans and guests gather together under the theme “On this Rock I Will Build.” Among other business, attendees heard presentations on the ELC’s 23 convention, held May 22-24, 2014 in Bleckmar, Germany, at which time “Living in an Ecumenical World” was adopted. Signatories of the document represent confessional Lutheran communities in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Kyrgyz Republic, Siberia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.

The Danish church reports that the guidance document was well received at its annual convention, and was commended to the church’s congregations for further study. Download the Danish translation (“At leve i en Økumenisk Verden”) of the document here.

The convention was followed by a four-day summer Bible Camp. Participants studied John 20-21 in depth, as well as the story of Gideon (Judges 6-8). Rev. George Samiec (Vice-Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England and Secretary of the ELC) served as guest instructor and preacher for the event.

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Dialogue between LCMS, LCC, and NALC continues in Canada

Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS' CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC's CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).
Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS’ CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC’s CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).

WINNIPEG – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), and Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) met at LCC’s synodical headquarters in Winnipeg June 24-25. This is the first time the meetings have taken place in Canada.

“These consultations have happened twice each year since they began at the invitation of LCMS President Matthew Harrison in late 2011,” explained Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, LCC President and host for this round of meetings. Both days began with morning devotions in the office chapel, after which participants provided updates from their churches and discussed in detail what a distinctively Lutheran understanding of and approach to mission work should include.

A progress report was provided on a planned book of new essays on Law and Gospel, including contributors from various Lutheran church bodies. In addition, details for an upcoming second international “Confessional Lutheran Leadership Conference”—hosted by the LCMS—were shared. The event will take place in Wittenberg, Germany in May 2015.

In addition to President Bugbee, LCC was represented by Rev. Warren Hamp, Chairman of the LCC’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and by Central District President Thomas Prachar. NALC participants included Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenism and Ministry; Pastor Mark Chavez, General Secretary; and Rev. Phil Gagnon, NALC Provisional Dean for Canada. NALC Bishop John Bradosky joined the group briefly at the close of the first day. The LCMS was represented by Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Executive Secretary of their CTCR.

“We’ll meet again toward the end of this year to evaluate where we’ve been in the initial three years of dialogue and to decide on the way forward,” commented President Bugbee. “Though the participating churches have disagreements in some significant areas, there is a high level of trust and an ability both to talk and to listen despite these challenges. I do thank God for common convictions about the Holy Scripture as the written Word of God, and the urgency in proclaiming Christ, the Saviour of sinners, as the primary mission of the church.”

The next round of dialogues will be hosted by NALC, and is set to be held December 15-16 in Sarasota, Florida.

Lutheran Church–Canada and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). President Robert Bugbee serves as Vice-Chairman of the ILC’s Executive Committee.

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Files from The Canadian Lutheran.