World Seminaries Conference explores a common curriculum for Lutheran education

Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley speaks during the 2019 World Seminaries Conference.
ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem and LCMS President Matthew Harrison sign an agreement for altar and pulpit fellowship between their two church bodies.

PHILIPPINES – Thursday saw the ILC 2019 World Seminaries Conference’s final presentation on the conference theme, before transitioning the conclusion of the conference theme before transitioning to the second topic of the conference: a common-ground Lutheran curriculum for theological education.

Following morning devotions, President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België) took the opportunity to sign a protocol document finalizing altar and pulpit fellowship between their respective church bodies.

ILC Chairman Hans Jörg Voigt then announced that Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill has been appointed the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

Latin American Context

The morning saw the fifth and final presentation under the theme of “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Rev. Samuel R. Fuhrmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB) brought a Latin American perspective to the topic, speaking on “Ecclesial Lutheran Identity and the Church’s Mission in the Face of the Reality of Favelas.”

Rev. Samuel R. Fuhrmann speaks on missions in the favelas of Brazil.

In explaining the history of favelas, Rev. Fuhrmann noted that they are “an urban built environment where one encounters a rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and often the problems of violence and poverty.” The Brazilian Lutheran church by contrast was founded by immigrants in a rural setting. While the IELB is present in urban centres today, Rev. Fuhrmann said, “one of the challenges is that the church needs to cross cultural, social, and even geographic boundaries to fully account for the reality of favelas in its mission practices.”

Christians are called to a “cruciform engaged presence in the world,” said Rev. Fuhrmann, which is “related to God passively and related to others and the world actively.” The latter—relations with others on a horizontal level—must often be contextualized to recognize differences in culture. “If congregations neglect the horizontal dimension of the cruciform life and the characteristics of our humanity,” Rev. Fuhrmann warned, “this neglect hinders the distinctive task of the Church: the preaching of the Gospel.” In the case of missions in favelas especially, it is necessary to recognize and embrace the deeply relational life which is the core of favela culture, in which spaces are made for frequent socialization and people support one another in the midst of challenges like poverty and violence.

A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education

During the rest of the day, attention turned to the second focus of the event: an exploration of what a common-ground Lutheran curriculum for theological education recognized by all ILC member churches would look like. Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, the ILC’s new incoming General Secretary, moderated discussion of the theme, and multiple presenters provided insight.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Schumacher speaks on theological education in Ghana.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Schumacher presented on “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” A basic foundation is important for all levels, he said, but learning styles may vary. African students for example learn by watching, copying, and repeating. Research indicates that, for theological education in Ghana, several areas need reinforcement, including a more in-depth study of pastoral theology. At the same time, a biblical and confessional structure is necessary, he said. Dr. Schumacher is a LCMS missionary and theological educator at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana.

Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov reported on “Lutheran Seminary Curriculum: Challenges and Opportunities.” He suggested that one or two years of training is inadequate for proficiency in Scripture and theology, and that residential training is the best way to go. He then provided several challenges and suggestions for theological education, finally reporting on the curriculum that is used in their seminary. Dr. Streltsov is rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, the theological institute of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In the second session of the afternoon, Dr. Klän led a discussion of “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” He summarized the findings of the ILC’s 2001 conference on this theme, and then reported the results of a new questionnaire on curriculum sent to ILC seminaries. Those that responded reported student populations ranging from six students to 615, and faculties from three to 34. A recurring challenge noted in the results are recruitment and enrollment. Most of the seminaries responded that they would like to see a common curriculum, although two said it was not possible or advisable.

Bishop Hanss Martin Jensons of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia reported on a meeting on Confessional Lutheran Church Education which was held March 26-28, 2019 in Latvia. Eight entities from around Europe were represented and they discussed the minimum standard for theological education, as well as how to facilitate mutual recognition and the possibility of one educational program in the future with combined resources. They are also investigating the idea of developing an English language distance learning program. Bishop Jenson explained how, at Latvia’s Luther Academy, they began with the Professional Standard, and from there worked toward the Educational Standard, and then to Curriculum. The worked through the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for the pastoral officeholder.

Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley speaks on the diaconate during the ILC’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference.

Later in the day, Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley gave a presentation on the history of deaconesses and their service in the church today. Dr. Lumley is principal of Westfield House in Cambridge, England, the theological institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.

Rev. Dr. Douglas Rutt presented on the topic: “Mission in the Age of Migration.” He emphasizes that much of contemporary missiological literature deals with the fact that there are 272 million refugees and immigrants in the world today, and these movements are resulting in the expansion of the gospel worldwide. Dr. Rutt is Provost and Professor of Practice Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri—a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

After the various presentations, there was time for plenary discussion. Questions of expected workload were reflected on, including the expected workload of faculty members. Some highlighted that legitimate diversity needs to be taken into consideration.  It was suggested that the starting point should be the description or characteristics of a Lutheran pastor. A further question was whether there was the possibility of a mutual accreditation program for the institutions of member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

The results of these discussions and are to be drafted into a concluding statement or resolution which will be commended to the ILC Seminary Relations Committee for further consideration.

The day ended, as it began, with worship.

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New General Secretary for the International Lutheran Council

Dr. Timothy Quill, the new General Secretary of the ILC, speaks during the 2019 World Seminaries Conference in the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES – Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill has been appointed as the next General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) following a unanimous vote of the ILC Board of Directors (formerly known as the Executive Committee). The decision came during a meeting October 15, 2019 in Baguio City, Philippines.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Quill as the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt. “Dr. Quill has a long history with the international Lutheran community, including through ILC events. We ask God to bless him as he enters this new role, and that through him God would bless the International Lutheran Council as it continues to grow and expand its witness to Christ throughout the world.”

Dr. Quill has been appointed to a three-year term as General Secretary of the ILC. He was installed during evening worship on October 17 during the ILC’s World Seminaries Conference meeting in Baguio City, Philippines. Dr. Quill officially assumes duties on October 19.

Dr. Quill succeeds Darin Storkson, who had served as Interim General Secretary of the ILC since March 2019. Storkson formerly served as Deputy General Secretary.

“We are grateful for Darin’s faithful service as Interim General Secretary over the past seven months,” noted Chairman Voigt. “His leadership during the search for a permanent General Secretary has been a blessing from God, and we are grateful for his continued assistance to Dr. Quill during this time of transition.”

Dr. Quill is a longtime professor of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), having joined the faculty there in 1998. From 2002 onwards, he also served as dean of International Studies. He further served for more than 20 years as director of the seminary’s Russian Project, working with Lutherans throughout Russia and other Eastern European nations, as well as helping to establish the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Dr. Quill also served The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Mission as director of Theological Education.

Dr. Quill graduated from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 1980 and served parishes in Connecticut and Missouri before pursuing graduate work, ultimately earning his Ph.D. from Drew University in New Jersey. Since completing his work with Concordia Theological Seminary, he has served as a visitation pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dr. Quill is married to Annette, née Ziebell, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their daughter Kathryn Ann is married to Rev. Paul Gaschler who serves Concordia Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Indiana.

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World Seminaries Conference considers spiritual warfare, declining religiosity

Participants in the ILC’s 2019 World Seminary Conference engage in discussions.

PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference continued on Wednesday.

The morning began with a service of Morning Prayer, following which participants heard additional presentations on the conference theme: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.”

African Context

Rev. Dr. Nicholas Salifu presents during the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.

The first presenter of the day was Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, whose presentation on “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” provided an exploration of Lutheran doctrine within an African context.

“The early church accepted the influence of the demonic realm with great seriousness,” noted Dr. Salifu. And while Western culture has downplayed or even denied this aspect of historic Christian theology, Dr. Salifu said that the reality of spiritual warfare is readily apparent in the African context—and, indeed, in much of the rest of the world. “The West needs to realize that it is the only contemporary society that denies the reality of evil spirits,” he said, quoting the New Testament scholar Clinton Arnold.

When the reality of spiritual warfare is recognized, the Church is in a better position to respond appropriately to the spiritual needs of its people. “The weapons of our warfare are not guns,” Dr. Salifu noted. “The reason why physical weapons are useless in a spiritual war is because the real enemies are not people of flesh and blood but spiritual powers of wickedness.” The Christian’s true weapons for spiritual warfare are instead Word and Sacrament, Dr. Salifu continued, because through these “the Lord fights the devil.” We are to pray in Jesus’ name, for He is the one who conquers.

North American Context

Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann speaks on the state of religiosity in the United States of America.

In the afternoon, Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann led the conference’s fourth presentation on the conference theme, discussing “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North America.” Dr. Biermann is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri—a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Dr. Biermann’s analysis of the state of religion in the United States of America identified three key aspects: 1) the decline of Constantinianism which has “stripped Christianity of its former prestige and clout; 2) the rise of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as a replacement faith with only the “remotest superficial resemblance to orthodox Christianity;” and 3) a dominant cultural mood of normal nihilism in which all values are mere preferences or opinions, easily dismissed or changed.

In light of this situation, Dr. Biermann asked: “What, precisely, is the church—the orthodox, faithful church that follows Christ and treasures the legacy of Luther and all other faithful disciples of Jesus—supposed to do?” The answer: “Resolutely follow her Lord with tenacity, trust, and a seeming indifference to the clamor of the world around.” This means neither retreating from the world, nor confronting it on its own terms, nor capitulating to the culture, but simply living out the calling of the Church in all times and places: preaching the Word of God and living lives “that are inherently and unarguably compelling through their simple and consistent witness to the reality of Christ at work in and through them.” “A rich and nuanced grasp of Luther’s insights into God’s rule of the world in terms of the two realms,” Dr. Biermann concluded, “allows Lutheran believers to understand and undertake with zeal their place and role in this world.”

Each of Wednesday’s major presentations was followed by plenary discussion. The convention also heard regional reports on the state of seminary education in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America throughout the day. It further took in several short parallel sessions during the final part of the afternoon before breaking for Vespers at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.

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ILC World Seminaries Conference opens in the Philippines

Attendees of the opening worship service of the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.
President Antonio del Rio Reyes welcomes World Seminaries Conference participants on behalf of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES – The 7th World Seminaries Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened Tuesday morning in Baguio City. The conference runs from October 15-18, 2019.

The morning began with Divine Service at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which will be the venue for regular worship during the conference. President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, the host church, took the opportunity to welcome participants.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also brought greetings to the conference.

Guiding Theme

Dr. Werner Klän introduces the conference theme.

In the morning, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän introduced the theme which will guide discussion in the first part of the conference: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Dr. Klän is Professor Emeritus of Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany.

“All the confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC are committed to determining our decisions solely on the basis of the Word of God, and not on social, cultural or practical considerations,” Dr. Klän explained. But the challenge remains: “What is demanded of us is a theological answer to the challenges we as confessional Lutheran churches, pastors, and scholars are facing in our time and day, and to our specific situations and living conditions in our various countries, continents, and climes.”

Dr. Roland Ziegler speaks during the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.

In a follow-up, Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler expanded on the theme of “Doctrinal Identity in Cultural Context.” Dr. Ziegler is Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod.

“In the ILC we find churches that recognize in other churches… doctrinal identity in different cultural contexts,” he explained. “For Lutherans, the Book of Concord is of continuing importance as a true exposition of Scripture, that serves the unity of the Church by confessing the truth and rejecting error in whatever context the church finds itself.”

Asian and European Contexts

Dr. Samuel Thompson speaks on “Christology in Asian Context.”

Over the course of the course of the conference, five presenters will address their common Lutheran faith and identity from within their own regional context. The afternoon saw the first two of these presenters speak.

Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson spoke first, presenting on “Christology in an Asian Context.” Dr. Thompson is Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Dr. Thompson outlined the varying approaches Asian cultures have taken in their approaches to Christology, with special reference to the situation in India especially among liberation theologians and theologians focuses on inter-religious dialogue. In these schools’ justifiable desire to be relevant to Asian concerns, he lamented, “sometimes fidelity to the biblical message is compromised to the extent that one ends up creating a novel ‘Christ’ fashioned after one’s own imagination.”

“The task ahead for a Lutheran theologian operating in an Asian context is two-fold,” he concluded; it requires first of all “an unconditional commitment to God’s witness as revealed in the Scriptures,” as well as “serious attempt to engage and relate the biblical message to contextual realities.” The Lutheran Confessions and the Ecumenical creeds have an important role to play in this work, as they ensure Asian cultural wrestling with the doctrine of Christology remains within “the boundaries within which authentic Christian theology and life take place.”

The second half of the afternoon saw Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock provide a European perspective on the theme, presenting on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.” Dr. Barnbrock is Professor of Practical Theology at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany.

Dr. Christoph Barnbrock speaks on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.”

Dr. Barnbrock noted the irony that a speaker from Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, must now speak of his cultural context as that of a post-Christian nation. He outlined some of the symptoms of contemporary German culture, explaining that the ultimate “welfare and woe of Lutheran churches depend less on our ability to lead this church than on whether we trust in Christ as Lord of the church—even against all trends that are emerging.”

The work on articulating confessional Lutheran identity is never finished, he concluded, because the cultural contexts in which we live are continually changing. “At the same time,” he said, “we may know that our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ no longer has to be worked out, but is given with baptism and remains the decisive point of reference for our identity throughout our lives. All work on ecclesial and denominational identity is then secondary, without becoming obsolete.”

After each presentation, time was scheduled for plenary discussion by the wider conference.

The day ended with a service of vespers.

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ILC and PCPCU complete current round of informal dialogue

Members of the ILC-PCPCU informal dialogue group meet in Fort Wayne, Indiana in September 2019.

USA – The working group established in 2014 to conduct an informal dialogue between the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) completed its task during a final session held September 23-26. 2019 on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Taking part from the Roman Catholic Church were Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Paderborn, Germany), Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn), and Fr. Augustinus Sander O.S.B. (who has recently moved from Germany to Rome). Taking part on behalf of the churches of the ILC were Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany), Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), and Dr. Roland Ziegler (Fort Wayne, Indiana). In addition, the chairman of the ILC, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Hanover, Germany) of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran, attended the sessions in a guest capacity.

The Fort Wayne meeting followed previous gatherings at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel in 2015, the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt in 2016, the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute in Paderborn in 2016, and the Guesthouse of the Mission of Lutheran Churches (Bleckmar Mission) in 2018.

An open and friendly atmosphere marked the final session, which discussed the topics of the umbrella norms of Scripture, tradition, and confession; the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist; the doctrine of justification; and the understanding of ministerial office and ordination. The last-named topic proved so complex as to defy coming to a conclusion, with the result that further work is contemplated in this area.

The results of the conversations will shortly be summarised in a common report to be presented to both the PCPCU and the ILC, which will then consult among themselves and with each other on the best way to pursue further contacts on the basis of what has already been achieved.

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ILC BOD to consider membership applications, appoint new General Secretary

PHILIPPINES – The Board of Directors of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) will hold meetings concurrent with the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference meeting in Baguio City, Philippines from October 15-18, 2019.

Among other business items, the Board of Directors will consider a number of new applications for membership in the International Lutheran Council, primarily from church bodies in Africa. It is also envisioned that the Board will appoint a new General Secretary to replace Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, who resigned in early 2019.

“Our consultations in the Philippines will be crucial,” noted Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee “because there is an ever-growing number of church bodies and groups who want to work with the International Lutheran Council. We are excited to expand and move our work forward under the leadership of a new General Secretary.” Dr. Bugbee is former President of Lutheran Church–Canada and a Member at Large on the ILC’s Board of Directors.

The Board is led by Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, who serves as its Chairman. Each of the ILC’s five world regions—Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America—is represented on the Board by the head of one of the ILC member churches in that region.

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ILC Africa Region meets in South Africa

Participants in the 2019 ILC Africa Region conference. Back: Davis Wowa (Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod); Nathanial Bol (South Sudan), Mandla Khumalo (South Africa -CLCSA), Emmanuel Makala (Tanzania), Modise Maragelo (South Africa, LCSA). Front: Patrice Legbanon (Benin), Geoffrey Skosana (South Africa, Secretary, Dieter Reinstorf (South Africa – FELSISA), Peter Maganda (Uganda).

SOUTH AFRICA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its Africa World Region conference August 16-20, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.

The triennial meeting is an important opportunity for church leaders to connect and build relationships. During the 2019 conference, each leader was invited to present a historical overview of their church. A series of daily Bible studies on the topic “Servant Leadership” were presented in three parts: 1) Christ as a servant of all; 2) Disciples of Christ as servants of all; and 3) The Church of Christ as servants to the world.

This year, church leaders from Benin, Malawi, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda gathered for the event, including: Bishop Nathaniel Bol (South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church); Bishop Mandla Khumalo (St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Synod of South Africa); General Secretary Patrice Legbanon (Lutheran Church in Africa—Benin Synod); Bishop Emmanuel Makala (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese); Bishop Modise Maragelo (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Executive Chairman David Wowa (Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod); Secretary Geoffrey Skosana (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Bishop Dieter Reinstorf (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa); and Dean Peter Maganda (Lutheran Church of Uganda). Revs. Shauen Trump and Gary Schulte, Africa Area Directors from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Missions, were also present as guests.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, and the Africa World Region is the ILC’s fastest growing region. The region currently has eleven full member churches, three observer members, and one diocese listed as a registered organization member. Since the beginning of 2019, the ILC has received an additional six applications from African churches seeking membership.

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Former ILC Chairman passes on to glory

Rev. Dr. Johannes Hermann Gedrat

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.

Rev. Dr. Johannes Hermann Gedrat.

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.

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Philippines to host 2019 ILC World Seminary Conference

PHILIPPINES – The Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) will host the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference in Baguio from October 15-18, 2019. Baguio is the site of the LCP’s Lutheran Theological Seminary.

The 2019 conference will feature two major themes. The first topic—“Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts”—will feature five presenters, one from each of the ILC’s five world regions.

ASIA – “Christology in an Asian Context” – Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson, Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC).

EUROPE – “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context” – Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock, Professor of Practical Theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule – LThH) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) in Germany.

AFRICA – “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” – Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG).

NORTH AMERICA – “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North American Culture” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann, Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

LATIN AMERICA – “Ecclesial Lutheran Identity in the Face of Sociology of Favelas” – Rev. Samuel Fuhrmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB).

Two members of the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Germany) and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (USA), will respectively provide an introduction and a conclusion to the series of presentations.

The second theme for the 2019 World Seminaries Conference will be “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” This section of the conference will focus on discussing a common-ground curriculum which could be acknowledged by all churches, as well as potential opportunities for shared work and seminary exchanges. Dr. Klän will serve as moderator.

The ILC’s triennial World Seminaries Conference brings together representatives from the theological institutions of ILC member churches across the globe. The last World Seminaries Conference was held in Wittenberg, Germany in 2016.

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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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