Holy Week—the Greatest Week Indeed!

The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: Alexander Gibbs, 1883-1884.

by Timothy Quill

If professional pollsters had existed on Palm Sunday, they would have been shamed out of business in less than a week due to totally erroneous predictions about Jesus’ popularity among the people and His political prospects. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was met by a large crowd rallying their support and shouting, “Hosanna (“save us now”)! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:14) Then almost overnight the pollsters would have had to issue a major correction, embarrassed at the astonishing speed at which Jesus was abandoned by the crowds and religious leaders, betrayed and denied by His disciples, and forsaken by God Himself!

In the poignant Lenten hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown,” we sing:

Sometimes they strew His way and His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry. (LSB 430 St. 3)

Palm Sunday is also known by the name Passion Sunday, for it marks our Lord’s entrance into the most unholy week in history. I say “unholy” because this is the week which led to the crucifixion and death of our beautiful Saviour.  Since the beginning of creation, the world had never seen such divine grace and truth and beauty. Yet now, Jews and Gentles united with Satan to unleash the most brutal, inhuman, ugly attack on the most beautiful, pure, and holy, Son of God.

Today, however, Christians observe these seven days every year as Holy Week. For this is not primarily a story about the deeds of the unholy. Holy Week—also called the Great Week—is God’s beautiful story about how He so loved the world that He sent Holy Jesus, His only begotten Son full of grace and truth, into the flesh to save the world through His holy suffering and death. It is holy because it is God’s week. The Gospel story is about God’s gracious deeds and is rightly called the Great Week—the greatest week indeed!

Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine!
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend! (LSB 430 St. 7)

During Holy Week, Jesus miraculously transformed the most unholy week in the unholy history of the fallen sinful world into what today is rightly called Holy Week. The Holy One, Jesus Christ, remade His fallen creation into the new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For this reason, the joyous Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is sung at the Easter Virgil prior to the service of Holy Baptism: “Rejoice now, all you heavenly choirs of angels; rejoice now all creation…This is the night when Christ the Life, arose from the dead. The seal of the grace is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth the out of the night. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Your mercy toward us, O God.”

Christ Bearing the Cross: Alexander Gibbs, 1883-1884.

As Christians we observe Holy Week every year with special attention focused on the four great services marking the four major salvation events: (1) Palm or Passion Sunday, (2) Maundy Thursday, (3) Good Friday, and (4) Easter. In these divine services we walk with Jesus on His holy way to the cross. It is a time to listen to Sacred Scriptures. But to do so is to do more than simply listen to religious history: when we listen to our Lord’s Word at worship, where two or three are gathered together in His name, we have Jesus’ sure and certain promise that He is indeed with us (Matthew 18:20). In the Holy Week liturgies of Word and Sacrament, we travel with Jesus in repentance for our part in His suffering and death; mourning His death and our sin. We hear His words of forgiveness and in so doing receive His holy, cleansing absolution. On Maundy Thursday we hear Him tell how He bestows upon us today the forgiveness, life, and salvation He won through His suffering and death upon the cross: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

On Good Friday we hear His words from the cross spoken in unfathomable anguish because of our sins and for our sins. Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” And what He said to those who crucified Him and the penitent criminal dying on the cross next to Him, He says to us today: “Father, forgive them” and “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” The Holy Spirit moves us to acknowledge our Lord’s holy gifts with our lips in faith and song. Through His death and resurrection, we are prepared for our own most blessed death. In the hymn “O sacred head now wounded,” we sing together:

Be Thou my consolation, my shield, when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well. (LSB 449 St. 4)

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Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

Philippines: Church Planting in a Pandemic

LCP President Antonio Reyes speaks to children at COVID Lutheran Church.

PHILIPPINES – When pandemic restrictions hit the Philippines, Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) President Antonio Reyes and his wife Arlene were caught in Tiaong, Quezon Province—a small town about 100 kms away from the LCP’s main office in Manila. So he did what anyone would do: begin mission work.

Of course, that wasn’t the plan from the beginning. President Reyes had been visiting a property recently acquired by the LCP when the quarantine was instituted. Unable to return to Manila, he organized a local food-distribution ministry, providing free rice to informal settlers living along the Philippine National Railway who were unable to work as a result of pandemic regulations. What began as a service to 12 families would eventually grow to reach 40 families.

That practical assistance led in time to Bible studies with local people, and eventually to regular worship services. Today, the LCP has a new mission congregation in the area with a unique name: “COVID Lutheran Church,” with “COVID” standing for “Christ Our Victorious Infinite Deliverer”—a deliberate reminder that God can use even the most difficult circumstances for good.

Worship at COVID Lutheran Church in the Philippines.

“Despite having to face the negative effects of the pandemic, we thank God for His grace and His mercy,” President Reyes says of the situation in the Philippines. “Even in these times, the Church prevails.”

Today, the LCP continues to provide rice to those in need, as funds are available. And the pandemic—which has resulted in job losses as well as an increase in the price of basic food commodities—has left many in need.

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

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South African Lutheran bishop passes on to glory

CLCSA Bishop Mandla Khumalo

SOUTH AFRICA – Bishop Mandla John Khumalo of the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa (CLCSA) passed away on March 1, 2021 after a brief illness. He was sixty years old.

A funeral service for Bishop Khumalo was held on March 6, conducted by Bishop Emeritus David Tswaedi of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. Rev. Manqoba Zungu will serve as acting Bishop of the CLCSA until formal elections take place.

“At some point, we will depart this world,” Bishop Khumalo wrote in a reflection on Facebook a few months ago. “I pray that, when I depart from this world, I should do so having served my God, my people to the best of my ability.”

“We are saddened to hear about the loss of Pastor Mandla yet find comfort in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council, in a letter of condolence. “The CLCSA will miss the remarkable leadership of Bishop Mandla, yet we give thanks to God for the blessings our Lord has bestowed on so many through his faithful witness.”

Bishop Mandla Khumalo

Prior to becoming a pastor, Bishop Khumalo was a rebel in South Africa against apartheid. “When the police were looking to arrest those people, I was one of those people they were looking for,” Bishop Khumalo explained in an interview with the Michigan District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. While attempting to flee the country, he and his companions sheltered in a church. “The pastor one night invited us to a revival crusade,” he explained. “We really did not want to go. But as a courtesy to this pastor, we decided we would attend this service.”

The proclamation of Law and Gospel that night led to Bishop Khumalo’s conversion. He returned to his hometown of Middleburg and presented himself to police, explaining that his faith in Christ had led him to turn himself in. The authorities instead let him go free.

Bishop Khumalo began sharing the Gospel in his home community, which led eventually to the establishment of a congregation. He graduated from the South African School of Theology in 1981.

Over time, Bishop Khumalo made connections with members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), through whom he came into contact with Lutheran theology. He eventually was accepted into Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he began studies in 1988. The congregation back in Middleburg subsequently also became Lutheran.

Today the church body which grew out of Bishop Khumalo’s missionary work now counts more than 22,000 members throughout South Africa.

In 2018, Bishop Khumalo led the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa into observer membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC). He further represented his church in recent unity talks between the CLCSA and the ILC’s two other member churches in South Africa: the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) and the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA).

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ILC calls new Assistant to the General Secretary

Rev. Roger James

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has announced Rev. Roger B. James will serve as its new Assistant to the General Secretary.

“It’s a pleasure to be joining the International Lutheran Council,” said Rev. James. “The ILC plays a vital role supporting the mission and ministry of confessional Lutherans worldwide, and I look forward to assisting in that work.”

Rev. James will be installed on January 31, 2021 in a service at New Hope Lutheran Church in Ossian, Indiana (USA), with Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the ILC, preaching. Rev. James will officially begin service with the ILC on February 1.

“It’s with great joy that I welcome Roger to the International Lutheran Council,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary. “He brings a wealth of international experience with him, especially in Asia, which will be of great service to the ILC. May God bless our work together on behalf of Lutherans around the world.”

Rev. James and his wife Amy served as missionaries in Asia for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) from 2012-2020. While living and working in Sri Lanka, Rev. James served as the LCMS’ South Asia Area Director, regularly traveling also to India and Bangladesh.

The past few years he has spent serving as a theological educator at the Lutheran Church in Philippines’s (LCP) Lutheran Theological Seminary and Training Center in Baguio City. Prior to his work as a missionary, Rev. James spent twenty years in pastoral ministry in Michigan and Minnesota in the United States.

Rev. James holds a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) and a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana).

The ILC’s Board of Directors issued a call to Rev. James in November 2020.

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COVID-19 and ILC Churches in Bolivia and Paraguay

The Evangelical Christian Lutheran Church of Bolivia distributes food to those in need.

WORLD – Member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continue to provide spiritual and physical care to members in the midst of unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, we highlight the response of ILC member churches in Bolivia and Paraguay.

Bolivia

The nation of Bolivia has reported 138,695 cases of COVID-19 to date, with more than 8,300 deaths. There are currently 28,846 active cases of the coronavirus in the country. Early in March 2020, the government moved to close borders and enact quarantine measures throughout the country. Church services were restricted in Bolivia early on.

The Evangelical Christian Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Luterana de Bolivia – ICEL) is working to support its members during the crisis, even as the virus affects some of its own members. ICEL President Limberth Fernandez himself fell ill with COVID-19 but has since recovered. Sadly, a staff worker of the church’s radio station in Sucre has passed away from the disease. President Fernandez further reports that “we have had many cases of members and their families affected by the virus, as well as other deaths” in the past few months.

ICEL President Limberth Fernandez provides a daily devotion via the church’s Facebook page.

In response to to the pandemic, the ICEL moved quickly to provide online devotional resources for members. The church’s pastors, vicars, and missionaries, have provided daily devotional videos via the church’s Facebook page, in both the Spanish and Quecha languages. The church has also led a national study of Luther’s Small Catechism which has been well-received.

Congregations themselves have stayed connected through the use of online platforms like Zoom.

Still, President Fernandez notes, online outreach is an imperfect solution, as many members of the ICEL do not have easy access to the internet. “It is impossible for us to reach a large number of our members who are from the countryside,” he says, “places where they do not have access to the internet or that unfortunately are not trained in the use of these technologies.”

The church has provided support for Bolivians in practical ways too, including through the distribution of basic necessities. The church continues to look for additional ways to support people.

A growing challenge for the ICEL is the financial stress that the pandemic has placed on the church. “We have received almost nothing in offerings during this time,” says President Fernandez. The church is working hard to find alternate sources of income to ensure the salaries of pastors can be maintained.

Paraguay

Paraguay has reported 50,344 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with nearly 1,100 deaths. Just under 16,500 cases remain active in the country. In early March, the government suspended school classes and other group events, with quarantine measures being introduced shortly thereafter.

IELP President Eugenio Wentzel leads online devotions.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana del Paraguay – IELP) continues to serve people with practical and spiritual support in the midst of the current situation. “Our country was one of the first in the region to impost quarantine, which prevented massive infections,” notes IELP President Eugenio Wentzel. But the downside has been an increase in unemployment. For this reason, the IELP has focused on distributing basic necessities to people, including food baskets as well as health and hygiene items.

Like other churches, the IELP has relied on the internet to reach members during the pandemic. “From the beginning,” President Wentzel says, churches “have been working virtually with different platforms to carry the message of the Gospel, with biblical studies, services, and devotionals.”

Different regions of the country have different restrictions, meaning some congregations have been allowed to hold face-to-face services in groups of up to fifty; some areas have allowed gatherings of twenty; others have had to rely on virtual gatherings only.

As a result of the restrictions, the church body also held its annual National Convention assembly virtually this year.

A challenge for the church remains calling and installing pastors during the current crisis. “Our church depends on sister churches to provide candidate pastors for vacant parishes,” notes President Wentzel. The closure of borders makes it difficult to call or transfer pastors. In one specific case, he says, one pastor who has accepted a call has waited months for circumstances to allow him to move to his new parish.

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For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

ILC welcomes second Tanzanian diocese into membership

Google Maps. (Map data © 2020 Google.)

WORLD – The Board of Directors of the International Lutheran Council held online meetings September 21, 2020, during which time the board voted to accept the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – Lake Tanganyika Diocese (ELCT-LTD) into membership.

“As we evangelize, we have come to realize that the ILC is the faith-based organization with which to cooperate, for it can help strengthen us to witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ boldly,” said ELCT-LTD Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo, noting the ILC’s strong confessional Lutheran theology. “The ILC can play a role of nurturer so that the ELCT-LTD keeps in the right direction.”

The ELCT-LTD, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), counts more than 10,000 members, 35 pastors, and 22 congregations. It grew out of mission in the ELCT in two Tanzanian administrative regions, namely Rukwa and Katavi, and was formally constituted in 2014. The ELCT-LTD was registered as a legally autonomous diocese in 2015.

ELCT-LTD Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo.

“It’s a joy to welcome the Lake Tanganyika Diocese into membership,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt. “We look forward to encouraging and learning from one another in the years to come, and to building a deep and abiding spiritual relationship. May God continue to bless the ELCT-LTD as it carries out its vital ministry in Tanzania.”

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary for the ILC, also expressed joy over the Tanzanian diocese’s acceptance into membership. “We thank God for this new partnership between the International Lutheran Council and the ELCT-LTD,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know Bishop Mwaipopo and his diocese better as time goes forward.”

The ELCT-LTD has been accepted as a Recognized Organization member, a category which allows organizations other than independent church bodies (for example, councils, districts, dioceses, organized movements, and individual congregations) the opportunity to partner with the ILC. It joins the ELCT’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, which was also accepted as a Recognized Organization member of the ILC in early 2019.

Additional information on membership in the ILC, and how to apply, is available here.

Other Business

Members of the International Lutheran Council’s Board of Directors and staff hold meetings online.

The September meeting also saw the ILC’s board discuss additional membership applications, and make plans for the 2021 ILC World Conference, tentatively scheduled for September 21-24, 2021 in Kenya. Because of current uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, final decisions on the feasibility of an in-person conference will be made in early 2021.

The board also heard regional reports, as well as reports on ILC programming, like the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, which is currently paused during the coronavirus crisis. Reports on supported projects in Nigeria and in Wittenberg, Germany were also received.

During the meeting, the Board approved the appointment of Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo to fill a vacancy on the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee. Dr. Omolo is Principal of the School of Theology at Neema Lutheran College, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya. He joins Dr. Jun-Hyun Kim (Lutheran Church of Korea); Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina); and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod).

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The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies and groups which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.

You can support the work of the ILC through online giving. You can also donate by mail:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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Papers from ILC’s 7th World Seminaries Conference Published

ONLINE – The papers from the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 7th World Seminaries Conference have now been published and are available online.

Seminário Concórdia, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB), has published the papers in its academic journal, Igreia Luterana (“Lutheran Church”), Vol. 81, No. 1 (2020). 400 copies of the journal have been published simultaneously in both English and Portuguese, and a copy will be sent to each ILC seminary.

The papers are also available to download free online in both English and Portuguese at revistaigrejaluterana.com.br.

Papers include:

  • Confession is Crucial and Context Counts – Werner Klän (English / Portuguese)
  • Christology in Asia – Sam Thompson (English / Portuguese)
  • Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context – Christoph Barnbrock (English / Portuguese)
  • Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective – Nicholas Salifu (English / Portuguese)
  • No Longer Married, But Still Engaged: The Role of the Christian Church in the Face of Declining Influence – Joel Biermann (English / Portuguese)
  • Ecclesial Lutheran Identity and the Church’s Mission in the Face of the Reality of Favelas – Samuel Fuhrmann (English / Portuguese)
  • Migration and Mission – Douglas Rutt (English / Portuguese)
  • The Theological Curriculum and its Construction – Anselmo Graff (English / Portuguese)

The volume also features an introductory essay by Anselmo Ernesto Graff entitled “Both good and bad things globalize” (English / Portuguese).

The 7th World Seminaries Conference took place October 15-18, 2019 in Baguio City, Philippines. Further information on the 2019 World Seminaries Conference is available here.

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The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies and groups which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.

You can support the work of the ILC through online giving. You can also donate by mail:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

Burkina Faso: “We Are Very Discouraged…”

Lutherans struggle in Burkina Faso, a nation riven by rising terrorism, internal displacement, and food insecurity

Google Maps. (Map data © 2020 Google.)

BURKINA FASO – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is urging prayer for Lutherans in Burkina Faso, as the church there struggles in the midst of widespread violence and terrorist attacks.

The nation of Burkina Faso has faced multiple terrorist attacks over the past five years, with targets ranging from military and police, villages, markets, schools, and churches. The United Nations reports that violence in the nation has led to the displacement of more than one million people as of August 2020—an increase of more than 453,000 since the beginning of 2020, and a dramatic change from early 2019 when there were 87,000 internally displaced people in the country.

Today, five percent of the entire population is now displaced. More than 2,500 schools have been closed, and health care access has been significantly decreased in the areas most regularly affected, especially northern and eastern parts of the country.

Members of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burkina Faso (Église Évangélique Luthérienne du Burkina Faso – EELBF) have not escaped the growing violence. Over the past three years, the EELBF has seen twelve of its members killed in terrorist attacks. Several others have disappeared and remain missing.

“We are very discouraged,” confessed President Tanpo Tchiriteme of the EELBF. “We ask for your prayers that peace would return. Pray also for those who have lost family members—orphans and widows—and for all of us.”

Of the missing, he adds, “we hope that by the grace of God we will find them.”

The displacement of people in Burkina Faso has led to the closure of multiple EELBF congregations and preaching points, complicating Gospel-proclamation and practical care for members in the beleaguered nation.

“Our sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso are suffering,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. “I encourage Lutherans around the world to lift up the nation of Burkina Faso in prayer. O God, be merciful to a suffering people. Bring an end to the growing violence and grant your people peace. We especially pray for the pastors and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Burkina Faso. Grant them the peace which passes understanding, and give them strength and hope to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—good news sorely needed in these difficult times.”

Those wishing to support the work of the EELBF during the current crisis can donate via The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), which has supported work in Burkina Faso since 2000. Gifts should be designated for “Mercy Work.” 

Even before the rise of terrorism in the country five years ago, Burkina Faso faced significant challenges. Burkina Faso remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with about 40 percent of the country living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. As of 2018, the United Nations estimated that nearly one million people in the country needed food security support, and that more than 187,000 children under the age of five could be expected to face severe malnutrition.

These challenges have been aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of displaced people, the extreme poverty, and the lack of access to health resources makes it difficult for people to practice safe hygiene and social distancing. As of August 24, 2020, the country has recorded 1,328 cases of the coronavirus, with 55 deaths. 223 cases remain active.

The pandemic has not slowed instances of terrorism either. Since July 27, 2020 sixteen schools in the east part of the country have been burned down, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. On August 7, 2020, gunmen also attacked a cattle market in an eastern village, leading to the death of about twenty people with many others injured.

Prayer for Burkina Faso:

Gracious God, heavenly Father, You know the shock and sorrow that the events of these days have spread across the land. We are helpless before the evil that afflicts us and therefore cry out to You for comfort, shelter, and protection. Mercifully embrace the frightened in Your love, empower the weak with Your strength, restrain the wicked by Your might, and preserve the righteous in Your grace, giving us Your peace and turning tragedy to triumph; though Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

– From the LCMS Pastoral Care Companion

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burkina Faso is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

Finnish theologian and missionary enters into glory

Rev. Dr. Anssi Simojoki

FINLAND – Rev. Dr. Anssi Simojoki, a major figure in Finnish Lutheranism and African missions, passed away on July 6, 2020 at his home in Uusikaupunki. He was 75 years old.

Dr. Simojoki left a deep spiritual impact on Finland and more broadly on missions. He was known as a powerful preacher of the Gospel, a versatile theologian, a courageous ecclesiastical debater, and a prolific writer and wordsmith.

Dr. Simojoki was ordained by Archbishop Martti Simojoki at Turku Cathedral in 1972. He served the parishes of Kodisjoki and Pori before being elected pastor of Lappi in southwest Finland. During this time, he became acquainted with the spiritual heritage of the so-called Prayer Revival of Western Finland. He served as the longtime editor of the movement’s magazine Länsi-Suomen Herännäislehti.

Dr. Simojoki was a founding member and longtime General Secretary of the St. Paul’s Synod in 1975, a forum and think tank for the confessional Lutheran defence of the office of the ministry in public discussions—including in the theological debate on woman’s priesthood, a debate which led to deep divisions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

In 1989, Dr. Simojoki was invited to serve as a missionary of the Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland to Kenya, where he served as a teacher at the Matongo Lutheran Theological Seminary and as pastor to a congregation in Nairobi. While serving in the field, he completed his doctoral thesis on the reception of the Book of Revelation in Finnish theology, which he defended at Åbo Akademi University in 1997.

In 1996, with the support of the Association of the Western Finland Prayer Movement, he joined the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, pioneering their work in Africa. In that role, he led numerous translation projects of Lutheran literature into dozens of African languages. He taught in many countries across the continent, including in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together with Rev. Dr. Robert Rahn and Rev. Andrew Mbugo, he helped found the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan. He also helped lead Gospel ministry efforts in hostile places like Somalia, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Before retiring in 2010, Dr. Simojoki completed a translation of the Lutheran Confessions into Swahili.

Dr. Simojoki helped to establish the Finnish Luther Foundation in 1999, and was subsequently also involved in the founding of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). He served as chairman of the church’s Lutheran Hymns committee, producing a number of new hymns through original writing and translation.

His membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese led the Turku Archdiocese to defrock him from ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland in 2014. He spent his remaining years helping to build the Mission Diocese. In 2014, the Mission Diocese published a Festschrift in honour of his 70th birthday, the title of which summed up Simojoki’s spiritual heritage: It is True as it is Written.

In retirement, Dr. Simojoki continued to serve as pastor to the Laitila congregation of the Mission Diocese. His ministry there bore witness to the focal point of his teaching and ministry: that God works through His Holy Word. From week to week, he focused on teaching and preaching. The gifts of Christ were to be distributed as they were instituted, so that even the weakest may possess the grace of Christ. The day before his death, he preached his final sermon at the congregation’s summer festival in Pyhäranta.

Dr. Simojoki is survived by his wife Marja, their six children, and twenty-four grandchildren.

Rev. Dr. Simojoki’s motto was Ps. 118:17, a fitting memorial to the faith of the great theologian and churchman: “Non moriar sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini – I shall not die but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

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From a report by the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, with information also from a report by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

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

ILC Board looks toward 2021

Members of the International Lutheran Council’s Board of Directors and staff hold meetings online.

WORLD – The Board of Directors of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held regular meetings May 26-27, 2020 via online videoconferencing, during which time the board continued planning for the ILC’s 2021 World Conference, as well as received a report on the ILC’s ecumenical discussions with Roman Catholics.

The International Lutheran Council’s 27th (12th) World Conference will take place September 21-24, 2021 in Kenya. Some on-the-ground preparations have been interrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but planning otherwise is progressing normally. The board will announce further information, including the conference theme, at a later date.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt holds a Zoom meeting ILC board members and staff.

During the May 2020 meetings, the Board of Directors also accepted the concluding report of the informal academic dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). The document will be now distributed to the churches of the ILC for study and reaction, with plans to make official recommendations on the report during the 2021 ILC World Conference.

“The dialogue groups from both the Lutheran and Roman Catholic sides have done marvelous work,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt of the final report. “I am grateful to them for their diligence, and for the results of their theological discussions. They deserve our sincere thanks.”

The board also considered ongoing membership applications during their meetings, as well as regular business such as reports from ILC programs, organizations, and world regions. The current pandemic has led to the postponement of several ILC initiatives, including regional conferences in Latin America and Europe, as well as classes in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

The board also approved an update to the ILC’s Mission Statement, which now reads:

The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies and groups which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among its members and throughout the world.

The next meeting of the ILC Board of Directors will take place online on September 21, 2020.

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