Ingrian Lutherans consecrate new bishop

The consecration of Bishop Ivan Laptev as head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria. (ELCI Media).

RUSSIA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (ELCI) consecrated its new bishop, Rev. Ivan Laptev, at St. Mary Cathedral in St. Petersburg on February 9, 2020. Rev. Laptev was elected bishop during the church’s synod in October 2019.

Bishop Laptev.

Participating in the service of ordination were the ELCI’s outgoing Bishop Arri Kugappi, who this month reached the church’s canonical age of retirement; Archbishop Jānis Vanags of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia; Bishop Vsevold Lytkin of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church; Bishop Tiit Salumäe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia’s West and Northern Region; Bishop Seppo Hyakkinen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s Mikkeli Diocese; and the ELCI’s Chief Secretary Mikhail Ivannon.

Rev. Ivanov served as liturgist for the event, with Bishop Elect Laptev preaching. His sermon was based on Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Prior to the consecration, Bishop Kugappi called on his successor to remember the example of their predecessors and to stand firm on God’s Word even during times of persecution.

A number of ecumenical guests were present for the event, including General Secretary Timothy Quill of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Following the service, Dr. Quill brought greetings on behalf of the ILC and its member churches, congratulating Bishop Laptev on his elevation to the bishopric. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria is a member church of the ILC.

Rev. Timothy Quill with translator Alexey Zubstov brings greetings from the International Lutheran Council.

Quoting from St. Paul’s writings to Timothy, Dr. Quill encouraged Bishop Laptev: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2). Dr. Quill said he looked forward to continued cooperation between the ILC and ELCI as they “work together and pray together for the strengthening of confessional Lutheranism throughout the world.”

Other ecumenical guests included representatives from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Almaty. A number of other churches who were unable to be present for the event sent letters of greetings marking the event.

The evening before the installation of Bishop Laptev, a special service was held in St. Mary Cathedral to mark the service of Bishop Arri Kugappi. The event featured several of Bishop Kugappi’s favourite hymns, a presentation of historical photographs, and refreshments after the service. Those wishing to honour Bishop Kugappi’s service to the church were invited to make a donation to the Theological Institute of the Church of Ingria.

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Photos by Liliann Keskinen and Heikki Jaskelyainen via ELCI media.

Ingrian Lutherans in Russia elect new bishop

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria holds its 30th Synod in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo: ELCI News, Liliann Keskinen).
Bishop Elect Ivan Laptev.

RUSSIA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (ELCI) in Russia elected Rev. Ivan Laptev to be their new bishop during the church’s 30th Synod held October 18-19, 2019 at St. Mary Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Rev. Laptev will be installed as bishop on February 9, 2020.

Rev. Laptev was elected on the second ballot, receiving 48 votes out of the total 80 ballots cast. Other candidates for bishop who had allowed their names to stand were Rev. Olav Panchu, Rev. Mikhail Ivanov, and Rev. Ivan Hutter.

Rev. Laptev, born in 1979, is rector of the Theological Institute of the Church of Ingria. He further serves as head pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Gubanitsy and as pastor of St. George’s Church in Koltushi. All candidates for the position of bishop were required to have served at least ten years in the Church of Ingria; to have higher theological education; to have a good reputation; and to be no less than 35 years of age.

Bishop Arri Kugappi.

Rev. Ivan Laptev will succeed Bishop Arri Kugappi, who is soon to reach the ELCI’s canonical age of retirement; synodical statutes require the bishop to retire no later than 67 years of age, which Bishop Kugappi will reach in February 2020. Bishop Kugappi was ordained as bishop in 1996. From 1993-1995, he served as Bishop’ Vicar. He was ordained a deacon in 1990 and a pastor in 1992.

The ELCI’s 2018 synodical gathering had voted to make an exception in the case of Bishop Kugappi to allow hm to serve until seventy years of age. However, constitutional difficulties became apparent thereafter and so Bishop Kugappi advised the Synodical Council that he would leave the episcopal ministry in February 2020 as originally called for in church bylaws.

In the run-up to the election, the church met at St. Mary Cathedral in St. Petersburg for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod on September 14, 2019 to consider and approve amendments to church law.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

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International Lutheran conference addresses the challenges of “Post-Christian” society

North European and North American churches plan to share theological resources.

Participants at 2015's Theological Commission conference in Germany.
Participants at 2015’s Theological Commission conference in Germany.

GERMANY – Following an invitation from the Commission on Theology (CT) of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK), representatives of various commissions on theology from Lutheran churches in Europe and North America met in Oberursel, Germany March 4-5, 2015. This meeting served the purpose of exchanging information about the proceedings and results of theological endeavours facing the challenges in—for the most part—post-Christian societies in the North Atlantic part of the world. Thus, the first day of the conference was filled with reports delivered by the participants, who hold a confessional Lutheran position. In the evening the conference participated in the Lenten service held at St. John’s church, Oberursel (SELK).

On the second day SELK’s Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (SELK) led Matins. It was followed by a presentation on “The Relationship of Church and State as Reflected in the Understanding of Marriage,” given by Dr. Werner Klän, professor of systematic theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel. Based on preparatory papers and a document only recently issued by the SELK Commission on Theology, Klän addressed the biblical and confessional understanding of marriage and the church wedding, especially with regard to the German situation since the 19th century. He pointed out that, if the state would revoke the privilege and precedence of marriage currently guaranteed in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, compared to other forms of living together, then churches would have to restate the basic biblical assumptions underlying matrimony, the question of establishing ecclesial jurisdiction concerning marriage, and so forth.

The discussion following the presentation identified similarities and differences for Lutherans in other nations. All agreed that the classical biblical, Lutheran understanding of marriage is being challenged in many ways, and that solutions to these challenges cannot be found easily. The topic of same-sex marriage legislation was of particular discussion, with emphases placed on the crisis of gender identity as well as the status and function of the legal protection of matrimony.

Discussions at the 2015 Theological Commission conference in Germany.
Discussions at the 2015 Theological Commission conference in Germany.

Participants in the conference agreed that the meeting contributed to discovering the common confessional grounds shared by the various church bodies, the similarity of challenges confronting them, and the diversity of contexts in which these churches exist. Participants decided to share as many theological documents as possible from their respective church bodies with the others, in order to communicate the results of theological research addressing the crucial questions of our time and day from a Lutheran point of view.

There was general support for plans to hold a second meeting in about three years’ time. Participants wished to have more time for discussion at the next meeting, and suggested future issues for consideration, including the “two realms”, ”natural law”, Luther’s position on Beruf/vocation, Islam, and mission. The CT of the SELK was asked to organize such a meeting, and Bishop Voigt agreed that the SELK would host such a follow-up conference.

Participants at the 2015 meeting included representatives from Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Finland, England, Canada, and the United States of America. Church bodies represented included the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baden (ELKib), the Mission Province in Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (ELCI), the Silesian Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession (SCEAV), the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE), Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

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Adapted from a report by Dr. Werner Klan, March 3, 2015