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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Seminaries of Siberian and Ingrian Evangelical Lutheran Churches to Cooperate in Laity Instruction

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Theological seminary of Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Theological Institute of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (both members of the International Lutheran Council) have reached preliminary agreement to conduct a joint educational program serving the needs of the people in the parishes in the eastern part of Russia.

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This breakthrough came as a result of the meeting involving the rectors of respective institutions and staffs involved in the training of the laity. The program will be based on the standard used in the Ingrian Church. In many ways it is similar to the Biblical school program, which was implemented in the Siberian Church since 1999, so there would be relatively little adjustment for SELC representatives. Novosibirsk seminary of SELC will share resources such as its facility and teachers. Instructors may also come from other places as needed. Most participants will come from Siberian deanery of ELCI, though parishioners of the SELC parishes who had not had a chance to go through the Biblical school program in the previous years, will also join the ranks of the program’s students. Select sessions may take place in ELCI and SELC parishes across Siberia and the Ural region. According to the experience of the Ingrian Church representatives, having such movable element assists in building stronger ties between various congregations and their members, which is vital given the vast distances in Siberia.

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Both at the general meeting of the seminar participants and the focus group meeting there was emphasized a strong need to have the Lutheran church members instructed in the matters of the faith as much as possible given the current situation, in which the faithful traditional Churches find themselves in the Lutheran world.

Joint Seminar in Novosibirsk, Russia

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By Rev. Alexey Streltsov

How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Ps 133:1)

A joint theological seminar took place in Novosibirsk on the premises of the Theological Seminary of Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. During the week of February 29 – March 4, more than 30 clergy and church workers from the Siberian deanery of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church heard lectures on Lutheran theology. Rev. Alan Ludwig presented series of lectures on theology of the Book of Concord (covered were the topics of Christology, Church, and Free Will). Rev. Daniel S. Johnson spoke on the rationale for use of Father Confessor by the clergy. Finally, Rev. Pavel Khramov addressed the question of the relevance of the Smalcald Articles for the church today.

Initiative for the joint meeting came from local Lutherans who increasingly realize that the common confessional voice of the Lutherans in Siberia and Russia in general would have greater impact both for the inner life of the local Lutheran congregations and on the public square. Dean Ville Melanen, of the ELCI’s Siberian deanery, was instrumental in making the event happen.

Lectures presented during the Conference were geared specifically toward the clergy who are actively involved in the parish work. They were thus of a very practical character emphasizing relevance of discussed theological points for the matter of preaching and pastoral care.

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Also special time was allotted for the bishops to address the pastors and deacons of the two sister churches and answer their questions. There was a very fruitful discussion on the practical aspects of the ministry in contemporary Russia. In particular, church workers wanted to know how to deal with people coming over from heterodox communities including those who externally professed to be Lutheran. The bishops answered that upon close examination in case of doubt, thorough catechesis must be provided for such people as it happens with any converts from non-Lutheran groups.

Being united in the doctrine of the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessional writings, Conference participants also rejoiced in the common celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It was a historic occasion, as for the first time Bishops Arri Kugappi and Vsevolod Lytkin of the two sister churches served together at the SELC altar. Celebration took place at the regular Wednesday service at St. Andrews parish in Novosibirsk.

The joint theological seminar is likely to become a regular event, which will further strengthen participating Lutheran clergy from both jurisdictions.  

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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