LCMS recognizes fellowship with four new church bodies

The LCMS’ 2019 Synodical Convention (Screengrab).

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod declared altar and pulpit fellowship with four church bodies during its 67th regular synodical convention held July 20-25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.

The LCMS’ new church partners are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België – ELKB), the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (Igreja Evangélica Luterana Portuguesa – IELP), the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa (CLCSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (Den evangelisk-lutherske Frikirke i Danmark – ELFD).

While the LCMS has historical ties to all of these church bodies, the votes regularize relations with them. The LCMS was previously in fellowship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium when it was part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France and Belgium. The ELKB became self-governing in 2002, requiring the development of a new declaration of fellowship.

The LCMS has practiced assumed fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark for more than a century, having supported the church body since it was young and having trained many of its pastors. The new agreement regularizes that relationship, and follows the ELFD’s formal declaration of fellowship with the LCMS during its July 2018 convention.

The Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in the 1959 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, when the Brazilian church was still a district of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The IELP contacted the LCMS in 2016 to request formal recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship, which was granted by the LCMS president. The 2019 LCMS convention has now endorsed that declaration of fellowship.

LCMS relations with the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa predate the CLCSA’s official founding in 1989, with the CLCSA’s founding pastor having been provided by an LCMS seminary education. The CLCSA officially requested altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS in October 2015.

In addition to these declarations of fellowship, the 2019 Convention also moved to simply the recognition of fellowship for new church bodies emerging out of the mission efforts or reorganization of a pre-existing fellowship partner of the LCMS.

The LCMS also resolved to clarify its relationship with Lutherans in Sri Lanka, recognizing fellowship with the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), which succeeds the defunct Lanka Lutheran Church. The Sri Lankan church grew out of LCMS missions in the country beginning in 1927, with the church becoming independent in 2001. The Sri Lankan government declared the church legally defunct in 2007; the church reconstituted and was legally recognized in 2017 as the CELC.

The LCMS, ELKB, IELP, CLCSA, ELFD, and CELC all hold varying forms of membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world. During the convention, the LCMS commended the work of the ILC and pledged its continuing support.

Other business

Among other work during the 2019 convention, the LCMS also adopted resolutions to encourage church planting; condemn the sin of racism; strengthen multi-ethnic outreach; encourage continued international theological education in aid of world Lutheran churches; engage in a comprehensive church worker recruitment initiative; and remember the needs of the persecuted church.

The LCMS also celebrated a number of milestones: the forthcoming 175th anniversary of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 2020; 150 years since the founding of Concordia Publishing House; 125 years of international missions to areas outside North America; 125 years since the founding of Concordia University, Nebraska; 100 years of deaconess ministry; 100 years of campus ministry; 60 years of the Director of Christian Education program; and 25 years for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation. The church also commended the upcoming 175th anniversary of the LCMS in 2022.

The convention comes just a few weeks after the LCMS announced that President Matthew C. Harrison had been reelected to a fourth term. During convention, The LCMS elected Rev. Peter K. Lange as First Vice-President. Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr. will serve as Second Vice-President, Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray as Third Vice-President, Rev. Nabil S. Nour as Fourth Vice-President, Rev. Christopher S. Esget as Fifth Vice-President, and Rev. Benjamin T. Ball as Sixth Vice-President.

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Preparing for the 2018 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council

BELGIUM – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) will hold its 26th (11th) World Conference September 25-28, 2018 in Antwerp, Belgium, meeting under the theme “Ecclesiology and Ecumenism.” The event will also mark the ILC’s 25th anniversary in its current form.

Among other business, the World Conference will elect officers to the ILC’s Executive Council as well as vote on the acceptance of several new members to the ILC.

“It is an honor and a blessing for our rather small Lutheran church in Belgium to host the ILC’s World Conference,” said President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België). “May the Lord of the Church bless our studies and decisions, in order to advance His Kingdom through the work of our confessional Lutheran churches.”

“We’re excited to be celebrating this special 25th anniversary for the ILC,” noted Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Executive Secretary for the ILC. “The International Lutheran Council has become a strong voice for confessional Lutheranism worldwide, and we’re planning to continue that forward momentum during our meetings in Belgium.”

The conference theme of “Ecclesiology and Ecumenism” will be introduced by Dr. Collver and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS – Fort Wayne, Indiana) during the first day of the conference. Lectures on the topic over the following three days will be given by Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. (CTS); Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Emeritus, Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany); and Rev. Wilando T. Roa (Lutheran Theological Seminary in Baguio City, The Philippines).

Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger will also be giving a special presentation on Confessing the Gospel: A Lutheran Approach to Systematic Theology. The two-volume Confessing the Gospel, released in 2017, is the first new dogmatics published by The Lutheran Church–Missouri in nearly a century. Dr. Nafzger was General Editor for the work. He formerly served as Executive Secretary for the International Lutheran Council from 1993-2011.

Throughout the week, additional church leader from around the world will lead delegates in Matins, Bible Studies, and Vespers.

The ILC is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, presently counting 38 members throughout the world. While this year’s conference marks the 25th anniversary of the ILC in its current form, its predecessor body—the International Lutheran Theological Conference—dates back to 1952.

The ILC as it currently exists was formed in 1993 in Antigua, Guatemala, when representatives from all six continents adopted a constitution founding the International Lutheran Council as a global council of Lutheran church bodies.

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Antwerp marks Reformation 500, inaugurates Martin Luther Place

German Ambassador Rüdiger Lüdeking and Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever unveil the nameplate of Martin Luther Place in Antwerp, Belgium

BELGIUM – On October 31, 2017, “Martin Luther Place” (Maarten Lutherplein) in Antwerp, Belgium, was inaugurated by the city’s Mayor, Bart De Wever, and Germany’s ambassador to Belgium, Rüdiger Lüdeking.

The inauguration was part of Antwerp’s celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Antwerp played an important role in the early years of the Reformation. The Augustinian monastery there had several monks who studied with Luther in Wittenberg, and brought his ideas to Antwerp. Two of them—Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes—became the two first martyrs of the Reformation, executed in Brussels on July 1, 1523.

President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België, EKLB), directed the ceremony, as the local Lutheran church initiated efforts to name a place after Luther.

The ELKB is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. President van Hattem also serves as Secretary of the ILC’s Executive Council.

Antwerp, Belgium will be the venue of the International Lutheran Council’s next world conference in September 2018.

President van Hattem’s inauguration speech for “Martin Luther Place” follows:

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ELKB Gijsbertus van Hattem leads the ceremony to unveil Martin Luther Place in Antwerp.

We warmly welcome you to this festive inauguration of Martin Luther Place.

In particular, Mr. Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp, and Mr. Rüdiger Lüdeking, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany. Herzlich Wilkommen!

Today marks exactly 500 years since the monk and university professor Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis about and against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Church doors acted as message boards at that time.

Throughout the world, October 31, 1517, is seen as the symbolic date for the start of the Reformation, a movement that has had a major impact on our Western culture and society.

Since Antwerp came into contact with the Reformation early in the 16th century, and Protestantism played a major role in the city, Antwerp might have remained a Protestant city—if it did not had been brought back under the Spanish crown in 1585. For these reasons, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation may certainly be celebrated in Antwerp.

This has already happened and is happening through many activities throughout the year, not least through the exhibition at St. Andrew Church, with its focus on the early years of the Reformation in this city.

What was missing was a visible reminder of the Reformation in the Antwerp cityscape. It is for this reason that the Lutheran church, with the support of the Antwerp Council of Churches, applied to City Council to name a street or place after the Reformer, which made the city council decide to call this place “Martin Luther Place.”

We now invite the Mayor and the Ambassador to proceed to the official inauguration of the Martin Luther Place by revealing one of the nameplates. (The mayor and ambassador revealed the nameplate.)

ELKB President van Hattem presents Ambassador Lüdeking and Mayor De Wever each with a Martin Luther figure from Playmobil.

With this the square is inaugurated. As a souvenir at this moment and this day, we would like to present you with a figure of the Reformer. (The mayor and ambassador both received a Playmobil Luther figure.)

We thank everyone for their presence and ask you to join us in St. Andrew church nearby for a few speeches alternated with music, after which will follow a reception by the District of Antwerp with Lutherbier provided by the German Embassy.

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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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Belgian Lutheran Church President Issues Call to Prayer Following Terrorist Attacks

ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem.
ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem.

BELGIUM – On the morning of March 22, Belgium suffered twin terror attacks on Brussels’ international airport and a city metro station. At least 34 people are confirmed dead with more than 230 injured as of this report. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We are devastated by this news,” said President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB – Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België), who had been scheduled to fly from the airport later the same day. “But we take comfort in the peace of Christ—a peace which passes all understanding. Despite the raging of the world, we have the suffering and risen Lord with us.”

President van Hattem is encouraging Christians across the globe to lift up the situation in prayer. “We ask our friends around the world to keep Belgium in prayer in these days,” he said. “Pray especially for those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, those who are recovering from injuries, and those tasked with investigating this dreadful incident and protecting citizens.”

“And keep not only us in prayer,” he continued. “Pray for all those suffering in the midst of civil unrest and terrorism—in Europe, yes, but especially also in the Middle East and Africa. May God grant comfort to the sorrowing and peace to the persecuted. And may the Gospel of Jesus Christ be good news to a world in great conflict.”

The ELKB is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Belgian Lutherans celebrate 75th anniversary

belgian-anniversary-01
President Emeritus Jean Thiébaut Haessig preaches at the celebration service in Antwerp.

BELGIUM – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) celebrated its 75th anniversary in late June in conjunction with a 50th anniversary celebration of the Lutheran Church building in Antwerp.

On June 20, the church held a Jubilee Concert, featuring chorals and Bach’s Fantasia, with organ music provided by Masako Honda. These pieces were interspersed with the Aria Schlümmert Ein from Bach’s Cantata 82, sung by Simon Schmidt, and the Aria If God Be For Us from Handel’s Messiah, sung by Nicola Mills. A Minuet of Bach’s was also performed by Sofia van Hattem. The concert ended with the singing of “Dankt, dankt nu allen God” (Now thank we all our God). Halfway through the program, an album on the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium was presented. By means of many photographs, the book tells the story of the church in Belgium. The book has a retail price of 25 euros.

The church building in Antwerp.
The church building in Antwerp.

On June 22, an Anniversary Service was held at the church in Antwerp, which was full for the occasion. The liturgy was held by President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the ELKB, and the sermon was given by President Emeritus Jean Thiébaut Haessig of the Evangelical Lutheran Church — Synod of France. President Emeritus Haessig also served as President of the European Lutheran Council until stepping down earlier this year. President van Hattem also serves on the Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council as Secretary.

The bible
The 1748 Bible given to the congregation in Antwerp by Dutch Lutherans in Zierikzee.

The worship service featured a choir as well as guest musicians from Alsace. A celebration banquet followed the service, with a full hall. But before the meal began, the Antwerp church was presented with a special gift from the Lutheran church in Zierikzee, the Netherlands: a 1748 edition of the Bible in the Dutch translation of Adolph Visscher. The Bible was originally used in the Lutheran Church of Middelburg in Zeeland, the Netherlands.

In addition to oral greetings from the Evangelical Lutheran Church — Synod of France, the celebration service received special greetings from churches in Germany, Denmark, England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Brazil, and Paraguay. Festivities concluded with a service of Evening Prayer/Vespers.

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