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ILC holds European Regional Conference

Back, left to right: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium); President Leif Jensen (Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark); Rev. Leif Camp (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia); President Adalberto Hiller (Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church); and Rev. Roger Zieger (representing Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). Front, left to right: Rev. Adris Kraulins (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia); Bishop Juhana Pohjola (Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland); Bishop Bengt Ådahl (Mission Province in Sweden); Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); and Rev. Philippe Volff (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France).

GERMANY – The European Region of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its 2023 Regional Conference from June 13-14 in Essen, Germany. Representatives from most member churches in the region were able to attend but work, visa issues, and deaths in the family prevented representatives from the Norwegian churches and from Siberia from being present.

The main topics for gathering were: the latest news from the churches; the situation in Ukraine and Russia, which led to a wider discussion of church life when one’s country is at war as well as questions around church relations when other churches are designated ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ because of the conflict; a review of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya; a discussion of ecumenism in representatives’ respective countries, and whether member churches were finding themselves increasingly isolated or drawing together where possible with other church bodies; and reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed congregational and synodical lives, particularly noting what was not ‘changing back’.

The war in Ukraine has affected the region variously—some specifically (as in Russia) while for other churches it has raised past tensions and fears, with all churches, to varying degrees, seeking to support refugees. As always, there are opportunities presented about how to serve in specific situations, and sadly lots of hardship, but throughout the two days there was a strong confidence that Jesus never abandons His people. References were made to the Confession of Magdeburg (1550) and its four levels of tyranny, which the Ingrian Church was using in navigating a response to government. Members agreed that all need to keep reconciliation—the Gospel—in focus as churches deal with the many levels of hostilities and fears arising out of the situation, being aware that the effects of this war will be generational.

Church leaders talk during the ILC’s 2023 European Regional Conference.

The pandemic may have come and gone yet ILC member churches in Europe are still “pandemic sensitive.’ Every church reported that some members have not returned to the Divine Service since the pandemic. Throughout Europe, churches’ response depended on governmental restrictions. As a result, there were differences among ILC churches in relation to the length of ‘lock outs’ from their church buildings, the number who could worship together, and how Holy Communion was celebrated. All churches continued to emphasise the importance of being together as much as possible, particularly at the Divine Service. Nevertheless, representatives recognized that online services are here to stay, as are online Bible Studies and even online church and synodical meetings. This is a new world, and everyone is still learning how to take the best of their pandemic response forward while also not forgetting those who do not use or have access to the internet.

Worship and fellowship at ILC events are always a rich time together. Throughout the 2023 ILC Europe Regional Conference, there was a particular focus on John 14-16 and Colossians. During the conference, Rev. George Samiec (Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and the European representative on the ILC’s Board of Directors) reminded everyone:

Christians do not relate to God via creation, worshipping an aspect of it to get close to God. Christians do not create God in their own image—a bigger, nicer (or not) version of themselves perhaps—out of their own intellect or from their hopes and fears. No, it is Jesus who reveals to us the intimacy of a personal relationship with God whom we can call ‘Father’—and assures us of reconciliation through His cross… always.

This is the reality at the heart of the Church… at the heart of our time together as church leaders. May this be a comfort and strength for us now, and may it be at the heart of each congregation of our synods: that Jesus hidden under words, water, bread and wine is giving life to His people so that they may live. Yes, we need organisational structures and bureaucracy, and they can be very visible and time-consuming. But hidden—always present and close—remains Jesus, and so in whatever we do admin-wise and churchwide-wise, may our goal always be pointing to Jesus and His cross who is among us. We are His people in this time and place. No one else is in our place; this is our time and place to live with Jesus and to share His grace and mercy with the world—that is, those around us.

And may the joy of the Lord be our strength.

The next European meeting of ILC member churches will take place online in September.


From a report by ELCE Chairman George Samiec

SELK responds to flooding in Germany

Flooding in Kordel, Germany. (Image: Chz, CC BY-SA 4.0)

GERMANY – Catastrophic flooding in Europe in mid-July destroyed homes and infrastructure in several countries, and led to the deaths of more than 200 people. Germany was particularly hit hard, with at least 170 people dead, many more currently unaccounted for, and widespread damage in the western part of the country.

Infrastructure damage at Königssee following widespread flooding in West Germany. (Image: TheGlobetrotter, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) reports that while some members of their church body have been affected by the flooding, none of their church buildings were damaged by the water. One family from the St. Johannes congregation in Cologne, for example, has had to relocate to a hotel due to damage at their home. At a parishioner’s home in Wuppertal, meanwhile, the basement has flooded with rainwater and sewage, though the situation there may be repairable. The full extent of damages incurred by members of SELK congregations is not fully clear at this time, however, as a result of partial communications interruptions.

SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt—who is also Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC)—has expressed gratitude for the several inquiries he has received from SELK’s partner churches and ILC members. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, for example, offered assistance from their disaster relief fund, but Bishop Voigt explained there did not seem to be a need for interchurch aid at present.

Speaking to selk_news, Bishop Voigt said he was impressed by this expression of worldwide solidarity in prayer for those affected by the flooding and willingness to help. He said this was just as moving and a sign of hope as the people who came to help from neighboring towns in the affected communities with rubber boots and shovels.

Church leadership and the diaconal work of the SELK has invited its congregations and parishioners to support internal relief efforts through an appeal for donations for the victims of the flood disaster.


With files from selk_news.

Lutheran young adults in Europe to hold online conference

EUROPE – Corpus Christi will hold its annual conference virtually this year, gathering online from July 30-31, 2021.

The decision to hold an online conference comes following the difficulties posed by current pandemic restrictions. 2020’s conference was postponed as a result of the pandemic.

This will be the 12th Corpus Christi Conference, and it will gather under the theme “Sharing in God’s Holiness.” Rev. Dr. John W. Kleinig of the Lutheran Church of Australia will be guest lecturer for the event.

“What happens when people no longer have a sense for God’s holiness, when they live as if nothing was sacred any longer?” Dr. Kleinig asks in promotional material. “They are unable to enjoy him and his goodness in the church and in the world. In these two sessions I intend to examine the surprising teaching of holiness in the Bible and show how the triune God purifies us from spiritual pollution and shares His holiness with us through His most holy Word by the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments in the divine service, so that as His saints we can have access to His holy presence together with His holy angels and serve Him as His holy priests already now here on earth.”

Rev. Dr. John Kleinig presents on “borrowed holiness” for Corpus Christi in May 2021.

Dr. Kleinig taught at Australian Lutheran College from 1982-2009, and is widely recognized for his work as a biblical expositor and pastoral theologian. He is the author of Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, as well as commentaries on Hebrews and Leviticus for the Concordia Commentary Series.

In the leadup to Corpus Christi’s online conference, Dr. Kleinig presented a prefatory lecture entitled “Borrowed Holiness” on May 22, 2021.

In addition to Dr. Kleinig’s lectures, the schedule for Corpus Christi’s 2021 conference also lists times of bible study, prayer, and more.

Corpus Christi is an independent Evangelical Lutheran association which pursues churchly and biblical renewal among young adults in Europe. For more information on Corpus Christi, or to register for the online conference, visit their website at


ILC World Representatives for Latin America and Europe announced

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has announced updates to the representatives for the Latin American and European World Regions.

Appointed to serve as the World Region Representative for Latin America is President Eugenio Wentzel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana del Paraguay – IELP). President Wentzel had previously served as the Latin American representative until the spring of 2018, but was ineligible for reappointment because he had announced he wouldn’t seek reelection as President of the Paraguayan church. In the end, he consented to stand for reelection of the IELP and was elected, making him eligible for reappointment to as the ILC’s regional representative.

Appointed to serve as the World Region Representative for Europe is Chairman Georg Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). This seat was previously held by the ELCE’s Chairman Jon Ehlers, but Chairman Ehlers had announced he would not seek reelection. Chairman Samiec was subsequently elected, and consented to serve as the ILC’s regional representative for Europe.

In total, five World Regional Representatives serve on the ILC’s Board of Directors (formerly known as the Executive Committee), along with the ILC Chairman, Secretary, two appointed members, and the ILC’s General Secretary (as a non-voting, ex-officio member).


ILC World Seminaries Conference opens in the Philippines

Attendees of the opening worship service of the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.

President Antonio del Rio Reyes welcomes World Seminaries Conference participants on behalf of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES – The 7th World Seminaries Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened Tuesday morning in Baguio City. The conference runs from October 15-18, 2019.

The morning began with Divine Service at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which will be the venue for regular worship during the conference. President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, the host church, took the opportunity to welcome participants.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also brought greetings to the conference.

Guiding Theme

Dr. Werner Klän introduces the conference theme.

In the morning, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän introduced the theme which will guide discussion in the first part of the conference: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Dr. Klän is Professor Emeritus of Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany.

“All the confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC are committed to determining our decisions solely on the basis of the Word of God, and not on social, cultural or practical considerations,” Dr. Klän explained. But the challenge remains: “What is demanded of us is a theological answer to the challenges we as confessional Lutheran churches, pastors, and scholars are facing in our time and day, and to our specific situations and living conditions in our various countries, continents, and climes.”

Dr. Roland Ziegler speaks during the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.

In a follow-up, Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler expanded on the theme of “Doctrinal Identity in Cultural Context.” Dr. Ziegler is Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod.

“In the ILC we find churches that recognize in other churches… doctrinal identity in different cultural contexts,” he explained. “For Lutherans, the Book of Concord is of continuing importance as a true exposition of Scripture, that serves the unity of the Church by confessing the truth and rejecting error in whatever context the church finds itself.”

Asian and European Contexts

Dr. Samuel Thompson speaks on “Christology in Asian Context.”

Over the course of the course of the conference, five presenters will address their common Lutheran faith and identity from within their own regional context. The afternoon saw the first two of these presenters speak.

Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson spoke first, presenting on “Christology in an Asian Context.” Dr. Thompson is Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Dr. Thompson outlined the varying approaches Asian cultures have taken in their approaches to Christology, with special reference to the situation in India especially among liberation theologians and theologians focuses on inter-religious dialogue. In these schools’ justifiable desire to be relevant to Asian concerns, he lamented, “sometimes fidelity to the biblical message is compromised to the extent that one ends up creating a novel ‘Christ’ fashioned after one’s own imagination.”

“The task ahead for a Lutheran theologian operating in an Asian context is two-fold,” he concluded; it requires first of all “an unconditional commitment to God’s witness as revealed in the Scriptures,” as well as “serious attempt to engage and relate the biblical message to contextual realities.” The Lutheran Confessions and the Ecumenical creeds have an important role to play in this work, as they ensure Asian cultural wrestling with the doctrine of Christology remains within “the boundaries within which authentic Christian theology and life take place.”

The second half of the afternoon saw Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock provide a European perspective on the theme, presenting on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.” Dr. Barnbrock is Professor of Practical Theology at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany.

Dr. Christoph Barnbrock speaks on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.”

Dr. Barnbrock noted the irony that a speaker from Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, must now speak of his cultural context as that of a post-Christian nation. He outlined some of the symptoms of contemporary German culture, explaining that the ultimate “welfare and woe of Lutheran churches depend less on our ability to lead this church than on whether we trust in Christ as Lord of the church—even against all trends that are emerging.”

The work on articulating confessional Lutheran identity is never finished, he concluded, because the cultural contexts in which we live are continually changing. “At the same time,” he said, “we may know that our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ no longer has to be worked out, but is given with baptism and remains the decisive point of reference for our identity throughout our lives. All work on ecclesial and denominational identity is then secondary, without becoming obsolete.”

After each presentation, time was scheduled for plenary discussion by the wider conference.

The day ended with a service of vespers.


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