BRAZIL – On July 29, Rev. Dr. Johannes Hermann Gedrat, former Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), passed on to glory. A funeral service was held July 30 in Dois Irmãos, Brazil.
Dr. Gedrat was born August 8, 1934 in Moreira, Brazil, where his parents were missionaries. He was ordained in 1958. He was elected President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) in 1974. He would hold the position for four terms, ending his service in 1990. He later served as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Secretary for Latin America from 1990-1997.
Dr. Gedrat was first elected Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (then still called the International Lutheran Conference) during the 1984 gathering in Obot Idim, Nigeria. He first attended an ILC conference in 1975 after his election as president of the Brazilian church. He would also serve as host of the conference that year, as the 1975 conference took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
During his tenure as ILC Chairman, Dr. Gedrat oversaw 1986’s world conference in Berlin, Germany (meeting under the theme “Effective Gospel Proclamation”) and 1989’s conference in Seoul, Korea (meeting under the theme “Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Age”). The latter conference saw the adoption of Guiding Principles which helped the ILC better articulate its mission.
Over the years, Dr. Gedrat also presented major papers during ILC World Conferences on “Ecumenical Involvement” (1981) and “Holy Baptism in the Life of the Church” (1984).
Dr. Gedrat’s chairmanship of the ILC came to an end in 1991, following the completion of his service as IELB president in 1990.
BRAZIL – On April 5, 2017, Rev. Dr. Leopoldo Heimann, former chairman of the International Lutheran Council, died in the Lord at the age of 83. Dr. Heimann served as chairman of the International Lutheran Council from 1995-1998.
Dr. Heimann was born in Erechim, a city in the south of Brazil, on December 10, 1933. A 1960 graduate of Concordia Seminary at Porto Alegre, Dr. Heimann served as a pastor in congregations in Ponta Grossa and Porto Alegre from 1960 until 1973, when he became editor of the IELB’s publications. He became President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) in 1990, a position he held through 1998.
Dr. Heimann was elected chairman of the ILC at the 16th Conference of the International Lutheran Council, held in Adelaide, Australia in 1995. He was reelected chairman at the following conference in 1997, held in St. Louis, Missouri, and served until 1998 when he completed his tenure as President of the IELB.
He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 1996. After leaving the presidency of the IELB, Dr. Heimann served as a professor and Director of the Faculty of Theology at the Lutheran University in Canoas.
He was married to Marie Luize Rotmann and had three children. A funeral service took place on April 6, 2017 in São Leopoldo.
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” – (Revelation 14:13).
MOZAMBIQUE – Missions in Mozambique continue to bear fruit as the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique – ILCM) shares the good news of Jesus Christ.
In August 2015, the ILCM celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors—eight pastors to serve the young church body’s then ten churches. The celebration saw approximately 1,000 members converge on Villa de Sena, an event which drew considerable local and even national attention.
Amambo and Maviga
Among those discussing the event were Christians in Amambo, who heard the story from a local woman, who herself heard it from a truck driver. The Christian community in Amambo had been left on their own five years earlier, when the priest serving them left the village. Without pastoral care, the congregation remained isolated and alone, slowly dwindling as members fell away. The news of the ILCM ordination celebration encouraged the remaining congregation members to try to make contact with the Lutherans they had just learned of.
Two members travelled twenty kilometers by bike to a nearby town, where they found transportation by truck to Villa de Sena. In total, their trip took two days along rough roads in territory known to be frequented by lions. When they finally arrive in Villa de Sena, they were directed to Rev. Manuel Jambo, President of the ILCM, who welcomed them into his home. After a night of conversation they joined President Jambo and Rev. Mateus Sifa at the local church for worship. They returned to Amambo with the good news that the Lutherans had agreed to visit them to begin a course of instruction.
Within a few weeks, the newly ordained pastors from the ILCM did indeed visit. And on September 6, 2015, members, pastors, and visitors dedicated the Lutheran Church of Amambo. Just three weeks later, they dedicated another congregation fifty kilometers away in Maviga, as the members of Amambo shared the clear Gospel message they were now receiving.
Nine months later, international partners had the opportunity to visit the Amambo congregation. Rev. Carlos Winterle, a Brazilian pastor serving the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) with long-time involvement in the mission in Mozambique, and Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), joined eight local pastors in visiting the community. 110 members were on hand to welcome them. Knowing that the guests would be unable to visit Maviga on the same trip, the congregation there also sent a delegation to welcome them as well—twenty-one representatives who travelled the fourteen-hour journey by foot.
The village of Cado similarly found themselves interested in learning more about Lutherans—though their reasons for doing so are somewhat different. The Christians of Cado paid dearly for pastoral services, struggling under the tyranny of a pastor who mandated a substantial cash payment for each visit. It was not until villagers started going to town, some forty-five kilometers away, to find a market for their goods that they realized not all churches operate in the same way.
When the possibility of life together under a different model came to light, the congregation took action to learn more. They sent out two youth by bicycle to Villa de Sena to make inquiries of the churches there—and once they arrived they met President Jambo and Rev. Sifa. President Jambo hosted the two Cado villagers in his home, where they discussed the theology of stewardship, offerings, and matters of financial administration in the church. Through these discussions, President Jambo was able to clearly share the Gospel, and explain the church’s focus on Word and Sacraments.
That Sunday, the two villagers attended São Paulo Lutheran Church in Villa de Sena, and got to see these focuses in practice. By the end of the service, their path was clear. They explained to the church members in Villa de Sena that they were sent out to find a parent church body for their congregation, and that they had been convicted that the Lutheran church was the one they had come to find. The Cado villagers requested the blessing of the São Paulo congregation to send a pastor to support a Lutheran church in Cado.
A few weeks later, three Lutheran pastors traveled to visit the people of Cado. The first Lutheran service was attended by fifty villagers meeting under a tree. Within a year, the congregation had grown to eighty.
It was in ministering to the community of Cado that another mission opportunity presented itself. Rev. Sifa was traveling the forty-five kilometer trip home from Cado—a trip that would be taxing in the best of circumstances, and even more so on one of Africa’s typical heavy one-speed bicycles on rough dirt roads. About ten kilometers into the trip, Rev. Sifa stopped at a trading centre for rest and a refreshment. While there, a teacher noted his clerical collar and asked if he were a priest. Rev. Sifa explained he was a pastor of the Lutheran Church, and they began to discuss the history and doctrine of Lutheranism. Interested in what the pastor had to say, the teacher asked him to consider starting a church in his village of Cado-Nhachiva.
Several weeks later, Rev. Sifa was on his way to Cado again. On the way he found the teacher and several other villagers waiting for him in Cado-Nhachiva. Rev. Sifa spoke with them and invited to travel with him to the church in Cado. They went. Not much later, Cado-Nhachiva held its first worship service, with 80 people attending. Today 150 members regularly attend services where the Gospel is clearly proclaimed.
The clarity of the Gospel preaching done by Lutherans is making an impact elsewhere in Mozambique too. In Chemba, a local community radio station host learned that firsthand. In Chemba, as in communities across Mozambique, the radio station gives regular airtime to local pastors. But when Lutheran pastor Rev. Julio Castomo had his first moment on air, the host was taken aback by his message. It was so different from the other preachers who came for their five-minute radio time.
After the broadcast, the host spoke extensively with Rev. Castomo about his message and about the church. The next day, he came to visit the pastor in his home. And that Sunday, he came to church to learn more. Immediately afterwards, he travelled to his home village of Suero to tell his extended family about the love of Christ. They asked him to go back to Chemba, collect Rev. Castomo, and bring him to tell them himself. After a few evangelistic visits, the people of Suero organized a church and invited Rev. Castomo to come. The first week 60 people attended. The next week there were 80.
The ILCM has welcomed other churches too. Rev. Rui Jalene Souza of Kapasseni has seen his evangelistic visits to nearby villages bear fruit, with four new congregations planted in the area. And an independent congregation in Mutarara, hearing of the ILCM’s work, recently sent two representatives forty kilometers to Villa de Sena looking for a church body with substance. The dedication of a Lutheran congregation in Mutarara is expected in the near future. Work continues in other areas as well.
There is a burning desire in Mozambique for clear Gospel preaching, both among the unchurched and those lacking pastoral care. The Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique is meeting that need, and they are supported in that work by faithful international partners. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB); the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); The Mission of the Lutheran Churches (Bleckmarer Mission) of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK); and Redeemer Lutheran Church (Victoria, B.C., Canada) have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique to provide guidance to ongoing mission work in the country.
Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of now retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, a Canadian organization that helped lead to the creation of a Mozambican Lutheran church body.
IELB, FELSISA, LCC, SELK, and the LCMS are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
God gave us His Word, clear and pure, for our guidance—for our solace and comfort. The author of Psalm 119:105 writes, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This is the Word which we know and upon which we base our confession of faith and life. It must be defended, proclaimed, and lived by us in word and deed.
We live in a secularized world. The Bible, God’s Word, is relativised. For many, this Word seems outdated and retrograde in its values, ethics, and moral concepts. The marriage of a man and a woman, as God commanded, is no longer seen as valid. And so it is also with abortion and euthanasia: zeal for life as God’s gift is no longer respected or taken seriously in many countries and cultures. We see the family and Christian principles founded in the Holy Scriptures being trampled upon and tossed aside.
Faced with this reality, we must ask ourselves: What can we do? Do we just shake our heads? Or do we instead express our concerns and fight back, by writing, publicly manifesting our beliefs even though they run counter to public relativism. Are we brave enough to disagree, to debate, and raise high the banner of our faith based and grounded in the Holy Bible? We must act. We need to speak out. We must defend what we believe without fear or shame, even if it brings us adversity and discomfort.
So, dear fellow pastors, brothers and sisters in Christ! To defend an idea we need to know it well. We must first have conviction about it before we go into battle. In this sense, I point to the example of Martin Luther. He fought back. He did not ignore error, but rather defended his positions, not on the basis of reason but rather on the Word of God. Grounded on that foundation, he was willing to give his life rather than deny God’s Word. To do this as he did, he studied hard, meditating, researching, and reflecting upon what the Scriptures offered and pointed to. Look what he said and the example he left us:
“For several years, I have read the entire Bible at least twice each year. And if the Bible were a huge and imposing tree and if its words were branches, then I can say that I have shaken each of these branches to really know what was hung on them. And again and again I found I could gather more apples or pears. I want to see what is in Scripture—what is most durable—and only after that to read other writings based on Scripture, accepting it or rejecting it without caring who its author is.”
Luther not only recommended reading Scripture, but he actually read. He practiced what he preached.
God is the Lord, and if we are with Him we have nothing to fear. Believe that. And then live your life in a manner consistent with that belief.
Rev. Egon Kopereck is President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and sits on the International Lutheran Council’s Executive as representative for Latin America.
BRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB) celebrated their 110th anniversary as a church in Brazil at its national convention May 1-4. President Egon Kopereck was re-elected May 2 to serve the IELB for another term. See the convention in photos below:
BRAZIL – On the first weekend of May, the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Executive Council held meetings together in Acracuz, Brazil, where they had gathered for the 61st convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB). A visual snapshot of their meetings appear below:
In addition to regular business, the ILC Executive Committee worked on strategic planning centered around the ILC’s core objectives.
BRAZIL – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil—IELB) is holding its 61st National Convention from May 1-4 in the city of Aracruz in the province of Espírito Santo. More than 1,100 people are registered to take part in the convention, with more than 7,000 people expected to attend the convention’s closing worship service.
The convention begins the morning of May 1 with an opening worship service. President Egon Kopereck of the IELB will preach that day. The convention will include a presidential election, with President Kopereck having indicated his willingness to stand for a second term. He first came to office in 2010.
On May 2, Brazilian pastor Rev. Mario R. Yude Fukue will take the stage as the convention’s first lecturer, speaking on “The Challenge of Being a Confessional Church in Missions Today.” The day following, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison (President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) will lecture on “The Challenge of Preserving Confessional Identity.”
A number of dignitaries will be present for the event in addition to President Harrison. Partner churches from various countries are sending representatives, including International Lutheran Council (ILC) Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church), ILC Vice-Chairman Robert Bugbee (President of Lutheran Church–Canada), President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Belgium), Chairman Jon Ehlers (United Kingdom), Archbishop Christian Ekong (Nigeria), and President James Cerdeñola (Philippines). Local Brazilian government officials, including Espírito Santo’s Governor, José Renato Casagrande, and Deputy Governor, Givaldo Vieira, have also confirmed their attendance at the convention’s closing service.
Among other business, the convention will see the signing of a cooperation protocol document between the IELB and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (Congregacion Evangélica Luterana San Pablo) in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil grew out of missionary work by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in the early 1900s. It became self-governing in 1980. Today, the IELB has approximately 240,000 baptized members.
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