German Lutherans declare fellowship with six new church bodies

SELK Bishop Voigt (far right) greets (front l-r) DELSin Bishop With, ELMDF Bishop Soramies, and AALC Presiding Pastor Leins following the vote to recognize fellowship. (Photo: Dörte Pape via DELSiN.)

GERMANY – The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche) held its 14th National Church Synod from May 21-26, 2019 in Balhorn, Germany, during which time the church declared fellowship with six church bodies from Europe, North America, and South America.

The SELK’s new fellowship partners include the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA), the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), the Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSiN), and the Mission Province in Sweden. (The Mission Province still needs to ratify the agreement with SELK before fellowship between the two churches will take effect.)

SELK also declared fellowship with Concordia Fellowship, an Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Celle, Germany.

“It’s a joy to recognize fellowship with our brothers and sisters around the world,” noted SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt. “We look forward to nurturing the growing relationships between our various church bodies, and looking for new opportunities for cooperation and partnership in our proclamation of the Gospel.”

The resolution to declare fellowship was followed by a standing ovation and a hymn of thanksgiving. The heads of three of the new partner church bodies—Bishop Thor Henrik With (DELSiN), Bishop Risto Soramies (ELMDF), and Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins (AALC)—were all on hand for the event.

SELK’s 2019 Synod met under the theme: “Good News in a Fake News World. Speakers for the event were Professor Dr. Christian Neddens (Oberursel, Germany) and Rev. Dr. Robert Kolb (St. Louis, Missouri). Among other business, the church accepted a new document from SELK’s Theological Commission on “The Lutheran Church and Judaism,” discussed the role of women in the church, and conducted elections for various boards and commissions.

SELK, the AALC, IELA, ELMDF, ILSN, DELSiN, and the Mission Province are all members of the International Lutheran Council, a growing association of confessional Lutheran churches around the world.

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Call to prayer for Nicaragua

NICARAGUA – As Nicaragua continues to face unrest, the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) and its mother church Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) are calling for prayer.

Civil unrest in Nicaragua broke out in April 2018, and the situation has increasingly deteriorated over the past few months. More than 180 people have died over the crisis, and recent talks for peace—mediated by Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic church—collapsed earlier this week. Several governments, including Canada and the United States of America, have advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the Central American country. The ILSN has likewise advised LCC that it no longer considers it safe to receive short team mission teams or international church representatives in the present situation.

LCC and the ILSN are working in close cooperation as they respond to the current crisis. LCC has sent the ILSN emergency funds to help with food costs during the ongoing crisis, and stands ready to provide further assistance as necessary.

Lutheran Church–Canada’s Committee for Missions and Social Ministry Services has issued the following prayers for the use of LCC congregations as they keep the situation in Nicaragua in prayer:

Heavenly Father, God of all concord, it is Your will that harmony prevail in every land, in order that the daily bread You provide may be received in peace. Give Your wisdom to guide the leaders in the government, businesses, churches, and movements in the nation of Nicaragua, that violence and strife may be ended, life spared, and order be restored, only for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, the Wisdom from on High, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever. Amen.

God of grace and Lord of all power and might, You rule the nations through the authorities established by your gracious will. We earnestly pray for the government, the police forces, and the people of Nicaragua, that by the working of Your generous and strong hand, peace will be restored among them. Protect all who are in danger, direct those in power to serve the cause of justice and equity, grant honesty to prevail. Guide Your church, that in the midst of every uncertainty, she will boldly proclaim Your faithfulness and the forgiveness that heals all wounds in Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

Lutheran Church–Canada and the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua are both members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Nicaraguan Lutherans call for prayer following earthquake

Distributing food and other supplies to those affected by the earthquake.
Distributing food and other supplies to those affected by the earthquake.

NICARAGUA – Late on June 9, a major earthquake struck Nicaragua near the community of Chinandega, damaging multiple buildings and homes.

The Lutheran Church—Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana—Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN), has been hit particularly hard by the quake. “Our communities were severely affected by the earthquake,” ILSN President Marvin Donaire explains. “The people of La Joya, El Piloto, Rancheria, La Villa 15 de Julio, and Tonalas Morazan are sleeping on the street, because the earth continues shaking.”

The initial quake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter Scale, had its epicenter near Chinandega. The western coast of Nicaragua has suffered a series of aftershocks in the days following the earthquake, with magnitudes ranging from 4.4 to 5.1 so far. Aftershocks are expected to continue for weeks or even months.

A building damaged in the earthquake.
A building damaged in the earthquake.

President Donaire has called on the international Lutheran community for prayers and support. “Brothers, we need your prayer,” he said. “We need help for our brethren through your prayers. The entire western region has been damaged: homes have been destroyed and our churches severely damaged. May God bless you for your prayers.”

The ILSN was founded through the missionary activity of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), which is working with the ILSN to determine appropriate relief efforts. LCC is still assessing the full extent of the situation and determining how best to assist the Nicaraguan church. In the meantime, it is sending $3,000 USD immediately from its Emergency Relief Fund to assist with primary level needs, including purchasing food, blankets, and clothing to distribute to people in the affected area.

Families sleep in a make-shift shelter, following earthquakes and aftershocks.
Families sleep in a make-shift shelter, following earthquakes and aftershocks.

Roberto José, the administrator of LCC’s Mission Centre in Chinandega (which is near the epicenter of the quake), is conducting field visits in order to prepare estimates of additional needs. “We are waiting on additional details from the Mission Centre at this time,” explains Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, LCC’s Executive for Missions and Social Ministry. “We are ready to send additional funds to help with relief efforts as needs become better known.”

The ILSN and LCC are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Nicaragua convention re-elects President, confirms ILC membership

President Donaire makes a forceful point during his convention report.
President Donaire makes a forceful point during his convention report.

CHINANDEGA, NicaraguaThe 5th Convention of the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterano Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) met in Chinandega January 9-10, 2016. Rev. Marvin Donaire was elected to his second 4-year term as President on the first ballot of the convention’s opening day. In addition, the ILSN received three new member congregations, bringing the total to 25, and grappled with an unfulfilled resolution from the last convention to open a new mission in the national capital, Managua.

Delegates listen attentively during ILSN Convention sessions.
Delegates listen attentively during ILSN Convention sessions.

Delegates met under the theme of 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, to that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Various reports from the Synod’s life in the past biennium showed gradual growth and maturing taking place. In addition to the reception of new local churches, the Synod’s treasurer reported that financial support to the ILSN by its congregations increased about 70% in 2015 in comparison to the previous year.

Among guests at the convention was Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The ILC voted in September 2014 to receive the Nicaraguans as a member church body, and delegates in Chinandega unanimously resolved to ratify this action. Bishop Voigt brought greetings to the assembly and emphasized how deeply impressed he was over the ILSN’s development since the late Rev. Sandor Argüello first arrived to begin missions there. Bishop Voigt was especially glad to see how ILSN President Marvin has already become involved in the ILC’s Latin America world region, and felt that the Nicaraguans have much to teach other churches, particularly in their intensive use of deaconesses as the “front line” teachers of children in local congregations.

Confessional Lutheran work in Nicaragua was sponsored by Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC), which called Rev. Argüello as a lone missionary in 1997. LCC pastors and seminary professors have provided pastoral and diaconal training since that time, with significant growth leading to ILSN’s founding convention in early 2008. Since then, the ILSN has also begun mission work in the neighbouring countries of Honduras and Costa Rica. LCC continues to support ILSN pastors active as new mission developers until their stations are received as full-fledged congregations.

Guests at the convention included (left to right): LCC President Bugbee, ILC Chairman Voigt, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Missionary Edmund Auger.
Guests at the convention included (left to right): LCC President Bugbee, ILC Chairman Voigt, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Missionary Edmund Auger.

LCC was represented at the recent convention by President Robert Bugbee, who also served as a Bible study leader on the convention’s chosen theme and preached at the closing service of Holy Communion on Sunday morning. “I am overjoyed at seeing the Nicaraguans take their place among the ILC’s member churches,” he said, “and am glad that their work is an encouragement to others, just as they are grateful for the support and encouragement they have received from Canada. To be sure, the growth of God’s church is never easy or without pain. We know that from the book of Acts and from Paul’s letters in the New Testament. But the Lord is doing His work in the real world, with all its challenges and weaknesses, and the story of our beloved Nicaraguans shows just how true that is!”

A number of Canadian partners attended Sunday worship at the convention, including a large team under the supervision of Mrs. Lisa Jackson of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Waterloo, Ontario. Team members began their work with children, largely in areas in and around the city of León, the day after the convention closed. Parishes like Redeemer and St. Paul’s (Elmira, Ontario) have sent people to help with teaching and practical projects like construction and agricultural support for many years.

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ILC welcomes new member churches

Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (SELC), President Marvin Donaire (ILSN), and Acting Bishop Torkild Masvie (LKN)  after their churches were received into membership in the International Lutheran Council.
Representatives of the newest member churches of the International Lutheran Council (left to right): Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church), President Marvin Donaire (Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua), and Acting Bishop Torkild Masvie (Lutheran Church in Norway).

ARGENTINA – On September 25, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) welcomed three new church bodies from Russia, Nicaragua, and Norway into membership. The ILC is currently holding its 2015 World Conference in Buenos Ares, Argentina.

The Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), and the Lutheran Church in Norway (LKN) were all accepted unanimously into membership during the afternoon session of September 25. Their acceptance brings the current number of ILC member churches to 38, with a number of other Lutheran church bodies around the world expressing interest in joining the ILC.

Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (SELC), President Marvin Donaire (ILSN), and Acting Bishop Torkild Masvie (LKN) were all present at the convention on behalf of their church bodies and celebrated their admissions into the International Lutheran Council. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt greeted each of the church leaders personally to express his congratulations, while the convention at large applauded each of their inductions in turn.

ILC Chairman Hans Jorg Voigt welcomes each of the new member churches immediately following the votes to accept them.
ILC Chairman Hans Jorg Voigt welcomes each of the new member churches immediately following the votes to accept them.

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New ILC Members at a Glance

SELC-webSiberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC)
Сибирская Евангелическо-Лютеранская Церковь
2,100 baptized members
25 congregations
19 clergy (1 bishop, 14 pastors, 4 deacons)

While Russia at one time counted more than a million Lutherans as citizens, the 1917 revolution led to the exile or execution of most Lutheran pastors and the closure of Lutheran churches by 1939. SELC grows out of evangelistic efforts by their current bishop, who began preaching Christianity in Novosibirsk, Siberia in the early 1990s. The mission became associated with the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1993, and eventually became an autonomous church body in 2003.

Prior to that, SELC formally contacted The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) for doctrinal discussions in 1998. In 2010, the two church bodies declared fellowship with each other, an act that was subsequently ratified at the LCMS’ 2013 convention.

Among other work, the church has established its own seminary program to serve SELC and other Russian speaking Lutherans.

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ILSN-webLutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN)
Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua
1,800 baptized members
23 congregations (plus missions in Nicaragua and Costa Rica)
26 pastors
37 deaconesses

The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua was born through the mission efforts of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), which began work in the Central American country in 1997. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and subsequent relief efforts, receptivity to LCC’s outreach increased dramatically. By 2008, the Nicaraguan people were ready to found their own church body and the ILSN was born.

In addition to serving Nicaraguans, the ILSN participates in mission work in Costa Rica and Honduras. It runs a very successful Children’s Education Program (led by the church’s deaconesses) through which more than 700 children benefit from nutritious meals, after-school tutoring, and Christian education.

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LKNThe Lutheran Church in Norway (LKN)
Den Lutherske Kirke i Norge
50 baptized members
1 congregation
8 preaching points
3 pastors (plus 1 retired pastor)

The Lutheran Church in Norway’s origin dates to the 2005 founding of The Church of the Messiah. The LKN currently operates through a multi-site ministry strategy where services in one location are live-streamed to preaching points elsewhere. Audio and video links allow several hundred people to benefit from the church’s services regularly. A majority of the church’s members are young adults.

The pastors of the LKN all formerly served in the Church of Norway. Because the church is small, three of the pastors serve on a voluntary basis, while the Acting Bishop, who serves as pastor in Oslo, receives a half-time salary. The church also offers a theological education program called AdFontes. Despite its small stature, the Lutheran Church in Norway has begun to receive significant media coverage as more Norwegians worried about the theological direction of the state church begin to look for alternatives.

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Nicaraguan church signs agreement with LCMS and LCC

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver and President Marvin Donaire sign the protocol agreement.
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver and President Marvin Donaire sign the protocol agreement.

NICARAGUA – The Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) signed a protocol agreement with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) on May 13 in Chinendega, Nicaragua. The agreement will allow the three churches to better coordinate their mission work together in Nicaragua, as well as in mission areas in Honduras and Costa Rica.

Representing the ILSN at the signing was its President, Rev. Marvin Donaire. Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, Executive for Missions and Social Ministry, represented Lutheran Church–Canada while the LCMS was represented by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of Church Relations and Regional Operations.

Lutheran Church–Canada’s President, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, hailed the signing. “This agreement among [the] Missouri Synod, LCC, and ILSN is a huge encouragement to all of us who care about a faithful Lutheran presence and outreach in Central America,” he said. “When partners refrain from duplicating each other’s efforts in a given country, but instead coordinate resources and consult intentionally, the capacity of each partner is deepened greatly. I thank God for the intensified cooperation between LCMS and LCC in recent years, and hope this Nicaraguan agreement will be an inspiration to other biblical Lutheran churches to work together in many parts of the world.”

The ILSN was born out of the mission work of Lutheran Church–Canada. LCC began mission work in Nicaragua in the spring of 1998. Just over ten years later, the ILSN was officially founded. Today the church has 23 congregations, 12 pastors, 12 vicars, 36 deaconesses, and about 1,800 members. It also has four missions, two church plants in Honduras and two mission plants in Costa Rica.

While LCC enjoys altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the ILSN, the LCMS and ILSN have never officially achieved the same level of partnership at the church-level. “Eventually, the LCMS will take a similar action to the LCC,” Rev. Dr. Collver explained. “In the meantime, as a mission start of an LCMS partner church with whom the LCMS is cooperating in the mission work, the LCMS is in de facto altar and pulpit fellowship, meaning that the ILSN is regarded for fellowship purposes as if it were an LCMS mission start.”

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With files from the LCMS Reporter

Nicaraguan Church meets in convention

Nicaragua-Convention-web
LCC President Robert Bugbee, ILSN President Marvin Donaire, and SELK pastor Rev. Joerge Kallensee

NICARAGUA – The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), under the direction of its President Marvin Donaire, held its fourth convention January 9-10, taking as its theme “Let Us Walk Together in Proclaiming the Gospel.”

The ILSN is a self-governing church body which arose from the mission efforts of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), a member church of the International Lutheran Council. LCC began work in Nicaragua in 1997. Since then, the church has grown to approximately 1,700 members in 23 congregations. The ILSN has even established mission stations of its own in Costa Rica and Honduras.

LCC President Robert Bugbee brought greetings on the first day of the convention, highlighting the strong ties between the Canadian and Nicaraguan churches. He expressed joy that the Church in Nicaragua is maturing, as evidenced by its own self-governing structure and its assuming responsibility for its own governance and the spread of the Gospel in the region.

Also present for the convention were special guests from Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Hour Ministries, as well as individual members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK).

A few weeks after the convention, the ILSN celebrated the graduation of a new class of church workers. In total, 17 deaconesses and 12 pastoral students received their diplomas. The deaconesses will now begin a one-year apprenticeship teaching with the ILSN’s Children’s Education Program. The pastoral students will enter their one-year vicarage, following which they will be ordained and receive their first calls.

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