New Chairman for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

At the installation of Rev. George Samiec (third front left) as Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.

United Kingdom – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) elected a new Chairman during its 65th Synod, held September 27-28, 2019 at Christ Church (Petts Wood).

Rev. George Samiec, who formerly served as Vice Chairman, was elected Chairman of the church after Rev. John Ehlers announced he would not seek reelection. Rev. Ehlers had served three terms as Chairman of the ELCE.

While not standing for reelection as Chairman, Rev. Ehlers allowed his name to stand for Vice Chairman of the ELCE, and was elected to that position for one year.

Rev. George Samiec, arrived in the UK in 2002, seconded from the Lutheran Church of Australia at the request of the ELCE. He has served on the ELCE Executive Council since 2003 and as ELCE Vice Chairman since 2010. He also served on the executive of the European Lutheran Conference from 2004-2018. The ELCE Chairman duties are in addition to congregational ministries in the ELCE. Rev. Samiec serves congregations in Brandon, Coventry, and Harlow and teaches in the practical theology area at Westfield House, the ELCE’s theological house of studies in Cambridge.

Assisting at the installation of the Chairman were the pastors of the ELCE ministerium together with the Rt. Rev. Risto Soramies, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF); the Very Rev. Dr Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the ELMDF; and Rev. Gary Heintz, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France.

During its 65th Synod, the ELCE also declared fellowship with the ELMDF and the Evangelical Lutheran-Diocese of Norway.

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European Lutheran Conference meets in Belgium, celebrates 450th anniversary of first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp

Delegates to the 2016 meeting of the European Lutheran Conference.
Delegates to the 2016 meeting of the European Lutheran Conference.

BELGIUM – From June 1-5, 2016 Lutherans from several European Lutheran churches assembled in Antwerp, Belgium, for the 24th European Lutheran Conference (ELC), under the theme ‘Reformation then … and now.’

The conference was attended by ELC member churches representatives from Belgium, Denmark, England, France, and Germany, as well as by guests from the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.

A keynote address on the conference’s theme was delivered by Dr. Werner Klän of Germany. An opening service, morning devotions with Bible studies, and evening prayers shaped the spiritual frame of the conference. Several of the guest churches in attendance have expressed their intention to apply for membership in the coming years.

A special focus of this year’s conference was the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp, which was founded in 1566. From June 2-3, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) hosted an international conference highlighting this event, organized by ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem in cooperation with the University of Antwerp, and held at the Rubenianum.

Participants in the International Conference recognizing the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp.
Participants in the International Conference recognizing the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp.

The conference was opened with two keynote lectures: “The International Dimensions of the Wittenberg Reformation” by Dr. Robert Kolb (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri), and “Reformation Movements and the Wonderyear: the Antwerp Context” by Dr. Guido Marnef (University of Antwerp). The second day of the conference featured six additional lectures:  “The Role of Antwerp’s Reformed Augustinians in the Early Reformation” by Dr. Robert Christman (Luther College, Decorah, Iowa);  “Humanists on the Move: The Transfer of Ideas Between Wittenberg and Antwerp” by Dr. Victoria Christman (Luther College, Decorah, Iowa); “The First Lutheran Congregation 1566–1585 and Beyond” by Rev. Gijsbertus van Hattem (Lutheran Church of Antwerp, Belgium); “Polemics, Church Order and Confession: Matthias Flacius Illyricus in Antwerp during the ‘Wonderjaar’ 1566/67” by Dr.  Luka Ilic (Leibniz Institute, Mainz, Germany); “Christopher Plantin, Printing for the Reformation” by  Dirk Imhof (Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium); and “The Image Debates in the Low Countries: an Art Historical Review” by Dr.  Koenraad Jonckheere (Ghent University, Belgium).

President Leif Jensen (left) preached for the ELC's closing service while ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem served as liturgist.
President Leif Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (left) preached for the ELC’s closing service while ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem served as liturgist.

The conference concluded with a walking tour through 16th Century Antwerp, ending with a reception at the Town Hall, where Antwerp’s mayor Bart De Wever welcomed the participants.

The European Lutheran Conference concluded with Divine Service on June 5. ELKB President and local pastor Gijsbertus van Hattem led the liturgy, while President Leif Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark preached.

The next conference of the European Lutheran Conference will be held in England in 2018.

All of the member churches of the ELC are also member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

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ELC releases guidance document on “Living in an Ecumenical World”

ELC-header

GERMANY – At the conclusion of the European Lutheran Conference’s (ELC) conference, members and guest-churches released a document entitled “Living in an Ecumenical World.” The document is meant to provide guidance and advice to ELC congregations and friendly churches throughout Europe.

“Our world is an ecumenical one as God has given his church—placed his people—throughout it,” the preamble to the document begins. “As Lutherans we recognize this in the use of the ecumenical creeds, and see our Lutheran Confessions—particularly the Augsburg Confession—as a testament to this truth. We also note the existence of the ecumenical movement of the past hundred years which has sought to minimise the fractures and divisions in the church as it works toward a visible unity. Nevertheless the church continues to fracture.”

ELC-2014-letter-webThe document goes on to consider the issue from a broad perspective down to a narrow one. It begins by considering the place of the ‘holy, Christian, and apostolic Church’ in an ecumenical world, before considering the subject from the vantage point of church bodies, then congregations, and finally Christians.

“We live at the time God has placed us,” the document notes in its conclusion. “His church is one. We also live as pilgrims in a fractured church where the confession of God’s Word is significantly different and at a time when our society increasingly marginalises us. Our understanding of Church means that we will be scrupulous about the truth of God’s Word (what it says and doesn’t say) and aware of our own history as church bodies. Confident of our confession, we are confident in our mission—not arrogantly but always in love—and eager to maintain the unity in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).”

An English translation of the document is available online here. German and French translations are forthcoming. 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 European Lutheran Conference met together in Bleckmar, Germany from May 22-24, 2014.

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France’s Lutheran Church President Recovering After Stroke

President Roger Jones.
President Roger Jones.

FRANCE – During meetings of the International Lutheran Council and the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) in Bleckmar, Germany, French representatives reported that President Roger Jones of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (EELSF) is making steady recovery in hospital following a stroke.

President Jones suffered a severe stroke in March 2014, resulting from a previously unrecognized heart condition. Since then, he has been in hospital, having to learn anew how to walk and write. Despite these challenges, President Jones has seen in them opportunity for spiritual growth. “While I wouldn’t wish a stroke on anyone,” he writes in a letter read to conference participants in Bleckmar, “I think we can all pray, ‘Lord, increase my faith.’”

The EFC has assured President Jones of their prayers and well-wishes. “We are indeed saddened by your circumstances,” they write in a letter, “and yet you have encouraged us to continue to trust in God and to be assured that he is gracious and good. We pray for your continued recovery and that God will hold you and Emily, your congregation, and your church in his hands.”

Signing the ELC letter to President Jones.
Signing the ELC letter to President Jones.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France has ten churches, eight pastors, and more than 700 members. President Jones was elected to serve the church as its president in 2012.

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ELC: Living in an ecumenical world

ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on "living in an ecumenical world." In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.
ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on “living in an ecumenical world.” In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.

GERMANY – The European Lutheran Conference (ELC) continued into its second day of meetings May 23 in Bleckmar, Germany.

Discussion of this year’s theme—“Living in an Ecumenical World”—continued Friday, with Chairman Jon Ehlers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE) giving the event’s third major presentation. Chairman Ehlers, who also serves the International Lutheran Council as its European world region representative, spoke on the practical challenges confessional Lutheran churches face today, using the experiences of the ELCE to illustrate. Among the topics he discussed were who can serve as baptismal sponsors, visitors attending worship services at which Holy Communion is being served, participation in local ecumenical events, and more.

Conference participants then broke into small groups where they discussed Chairman Ehler’s presentation, before reporting their thoughts back to the larger conference. A day earlier the same groups discussed two additional topics: the nature of the church, and how confessional Lutherans should relate to other denominations. The conclusions drawn by the ELC in these discussions will be used in the formation of a guidance document on “Living in an Ecumenical World”—a series of recommendations on the subject for confessional Lutheran congregations in Europe.

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European Lutheran Conference meets in Germany

Participants at the ELC's 2014 conference in Germany.
Participants at the ELC’s 2014 conference in Germany. (Photo: Rick Steenbock)

GERMANY – From May 22-25, the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) is meeting in Bleckmar, Germany for its 23rd conference. The conference follows on the heels of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) European world region conference, also held in Bleckmar, on May 21.

The ELC has six-full member churches, all of which are also members of the ILC. The ELC’s full-member churches include the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France, the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB), and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). In addition to church leaders and lay representatives from these churches, this year’s conference includes guest participants from Spain, Switzerland, Russia, Kirghistan, Finland, and Sweden.

“Member churches need such meetings to realize that other churches know similar joys and problems,” ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig explains, “and to discover new ideas for their own church life, even if they live and work in different cultures, languages, and situations. Contacts are built between lay people of different churches which are necessary complements to the contacts between the church leaders.”

On the first day of the conference, presentations centered on two major topics. The first—what makes a Church a Church—was led by President Gisjbertus van Hattem of the ELKB. President van Hattem also serves as Secretary on the Executive Council of the ILC. The second focus of discussion—how confessional Lutheran churches ought to regard and relate to other denominations—was led by Rev. Roger Zieger, Director of SELK’s mission agency, the Lutheran Church Mission.

The origins of the ELC date back to just after the Second World War, when Confessional Lutheran churches from across Europe began meeting together in regular Mission Conferences. In 1986, these meetings transitioned to become the European Lutheran Conference. The purpose of the ELC according to its Guiding Principles is to “promote unity, fellowship, and cooperation between the member churches.”

The ELC’s conferences are currently held biannually, with the 2012 convention having taken place in Mulhouse, France.

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