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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola reads the new statement “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.” Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

WITTENBERG – As anniversary celebrations for the International Lutheran Council (ILC) drew to a close on October 14 in Wittenberg, Germany, the ILC released a new statement affirming its commitment to the authority of Holy Scripture, over and against the changing mores of contemporary society.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, publicly read the statement—entitled “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts”—near the end of proceedings. “We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture,” the document states. “During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”

The statement reaffirms the ILC’s unwavering commitment that “that the Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church.” The statement particularly highlights the ILC’s adherence to historic Christian teaching on issues related to the taking of human life; to marriage and human sexuality; to interchurch fellowship; to ordination; and more.

It further reaffirms its adherence to “an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible”—namely, the proclamation of “Jeus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.”

The document is available for download here. The full text of the statement also appears below.

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Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

A Statement on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council

Wittenberg, Germany
October 14, 2023

The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is a worldwide association of 58 confessional Lutheran churches in 52 countries 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 (ILC Bylaws II, A, B).

The modern origins of the International Lutheran Council can be traced back to delegates of confessional church bodies from Europe, North and South America, and Australia meeting in Uelzen, Germany in 1952, not long after World War II. Over the next forty years the ‘International Lutheran Theological Conference,’ as it was then called, organized many international gatherings of the heads of confessional Lutheran churches. The ILC as such came into existence on September 9, 1993, when 23 Lutheran church leaders from around the world adopted a constitution while gathered in Antigua, Guatemala. The theological origins of the ILC, however, are rooted in the confession of Martin Luther and the Lutheran fathers of the 16th century Reformation, including the courageous authors who concluded the Formula of Concord (XII:40) by stating:

In the sight of God and all Christendom, the entire Church of Christ, we want to testify to those now living and those who will come after us. This declaration…is our faith, doctrine, and confession. By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it.

The 21st century members of the International Lutheran Council continue to be inspired by the intrepid hearts—the fearless hearts—of those 16th century confessors who signed the Formula of Concord. The same spirit is alive today as the ILC celebrates its 30th anniversary under the theme “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.”

The ILC remains committed in word and action to the confessional basis and purpose articulated in its Constitution (Articles II and III) and Bylaws (Article II). We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture. During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Thus, at this anniversary we re-affirm: “The Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church” (Bylaws II, D).  As a result, we assert the following truths:

  • The Fifth Commandment against murder prohibits any deliberate harm of innocent human life, including abortion and euthanasia (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, a).
  • The Sixth Commandment against adultery affirms that marriage was created by God from the beginning as the life-long union of one man and one woman and for the procreation and nurture of children. Only within marriage are conjugal relations pleasing to God (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, b). In recent years the so-called “Culture Wars” have seen attempts to re-define marriage and what it means to be human as male and female. Holy Scripture teaches that “God created man in His own image… male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Natural law concurs.
  •  “Altar and pulpit fellowship between church bodies is only possible where there is a common confession of faith based on the Word of God. Where there are disagreements between church bodies regarding the Word of God, we shall not pretend that these divisions are unimportant or give a false witness of unity by practicing altar or pulpit fellowship” (cf. Bylaws II, D, 2, a).
  • Concerning the Office of the Ministry, we believe that while “all Christians—men and women—are redeemed and able to serve the Church in many ways, Holy Scripture requires that only men who are spiritually qualified in life and doctrine are to be called and ordained as pastors to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments” (Bylaws II, D, 2, b).

These certainly are not the only teachings of Holy Scripture, but these are particularly misunderstood, challenged, and rejected in our day, and so must be all the more boldly confessed by those who hold fast the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions.

There is, indeed, an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible, which we cling to above all things. This 30th anniversary celebration is taking place at St. Mary’s City Church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther preached. Luther was not only a professor at the University of Wittenberg, he was also called as a preacher to St. Mary’s parish. His reform of the mass drew upon his brilliant linguistic, musical, and liturgical skill. However, it was motivated primarily by the biblical doctrine of justification by grace. Whether in the church or the classroom, Luther proclaimed Jesus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.

This is the chief doctrine of the Bible by which the Church stands or falls. In this teaching each Christian lives as he or she receives forgiveness in word, water, bread, and wine. It is fitting that the celebration of this 30th anniversary begins where this Chief Article of Justification was re-discovered, clearly preached, confessed, and sung with intrepid hearts. The ILC therefore supports its member churches in preaching the Gospel to the entire world and at the same time furthers “united diaconal action through intentional acts and programs of mercy in response to human need and suffering” (Bylaws II.2).

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

– 2 Timothy 4:1-2 –


Issued on Behalf of the International Lutheran Council by its Board of Directors

Chairman: Bishop Juhana Pohjola
Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland

Secretary: Bishop/President John Donkoh
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana

Africa: Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo
Evangelical Lutheran in Kenya

Asia: President Antonio Reyes
Lutheran Church in the Philippines

Europe: Chairman George Samiec
Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

Latin America: President Alceu Alton Figur
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay

North America: President Timothy Teuscher
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: President Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

General Secretary: Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill
International Lutheran Council

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Looking backward, looking forward

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee speaks gives the keynote address during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) anniversary celebrations continued the afternoon of October 14 with a keynote address by Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and a current member of the ILC’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Bugbee’s lecture was entitled: “Treasuring the Treasure: Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council.” He began by considering the motivation that drove Martin Luther and the early reformers—namely, “that the Church must be devoted to the eternal salvation of people and must, above all, hold out the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ as the One who brings God’s righteousness to us.”

“‘The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God,’” Dr. Bugbee reflected, quoting the 95 Theses. “That is really the heartbeat of Lutheran proclamation and church life. It needs to remain the heartbeat of what we preach and how we believe and live. It needs to remain the heartbeat, even though over 500 years have passed since Luther’s Reformation uncovered the treasure anew. It needs to remain the heartbeat among those who come after us for long as the world endures.”

Luther preaches Christ crucified. Lower panel of the Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach the Elder and Cranach the Younger, 1547.

It was this same “foundational conviction which brought representatives of confessional Lutheran churches together in the North German city of Uelzen in 1952,” he continued, “to initiate a series of theological conferences that decades later morphed into the formal creation of the International Lutheran Council.” Dr. Bugbee went on to trace the evolution of the ILC over the decades, leading to the eventual reorganization of the International Lutheran Theological Conference—as it was then known—as the International Lutheran Council in Antigua, Guatemala in 1993. It is this the anniversary of this reorganization that the ILC is celebrating in 1993.

Since then, Dr. Bugbee noted, the ILC has grown to be an important voice for confessional Lutherans around the world—providing news, information, and resources; developing public statements; supporting theological education; and engaging in biblically faithful ecumenical dialogue, among other important work. But in everything it does, the ILC is and must remain motivated by the same thing that motivated Luther and the early Reformers: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

“It will not do for us simply to make passing reference to ‘Gospel” in our church life, or to redefine it as some general form of acceptance which has the effect of saying ‘Yes’ to anything and everything people wish to believe and do,” Dr. Bugbee said. “Nor can it be our way to set aside the apostolic proclamation of repentance and forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in favour of focusing instead on climate change, on obscuring the biblical distinctions between man- and womanhood, or on conforming the church’s primary message to ever-changing political and social agendas.”

“Something has gone wrong in a Lutheran church,” he noted, “where there is seemingly endless talk of concepts like love and acceptance and inclusivity, but where God’s people are not called to repent of their sin and to find their joy in the Christ who gave His life to win their pardon and bring them to God.” Instead, he argued, Lutherans must commit themselves ever more deeply to Scripture and draw their life from it; and to the Lutheran Confessions as well, as a true and faithful witness to that Word of God.

In conclusion, Dr. Bugbee prayed: “May God in His mercy bless our Council, all its member churches and leaders, all its affiliated seminaries and their teachers, with an enduring commitment to His Christ, His Gospel, His written Word in Scripture, and the Lutheran Confessions which reflect the heartbeat of the Scriptures! This commitment will always be the most precious contribution we could ever make to the life of the neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and countries into which the God of salvation has placed us.”

The full text of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation will be released online at a later date.

Honouring ILC leaders

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (left) and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt are recognized for their service to the International Lutheran Council.

At the conclusion of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation, the ILC turned its attention to honouring two leaders who have played an important role in the ILC’s recent history: outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill and the ILC’s former Chairman, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola addressed each of these leaders individually, highlighting their contributions to the growth of the ILC and its maturation into the strong voice for confessional Lutheranism worldwide that it has become. Chairman Pohjola and Dr. Bugbee then presented Bishop Voigt and Dr. Quill each with a plaque honouring their service.

Regional Perspectives on the Work of the ILC

ELCE Chairman George Samiec.

The afternoon continued with a panel of speakers who provided regional perspectives on the work of the ILC today and what that work might look like in the future. Panelists included Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England – ELCE); Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya – ELCK); President Alceu Alton Figur (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay – IELP); and President Matthew Harrison (The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod – LCMS). All four also serve on the ILC’s board of directors.

Chairman Samiec introduced the topic for discussion, asking: “What might the church be doing in your region, and globally, by 2030?”—that is to say, by the 500th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 2030. Chairman Samiec noted that the European region has been particularly concerned lately with the reemergence of armed conflict and increased political tension between European nations. The question of how churches respond not only to the conflict but also to one another takes on new importance, he noted, as member churches can find themselves embedded in countries on opposing sides of these conflicts.

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo.

Archbishop Omolo discussed some of the challenges facing Lutherans in Africa and in other developing regions more generally: namely, the pressure of external organizations that offer funding and grants to churches but undermine those churches’ adherence to the authority of Scripture. For that reason, Archbishop Omolo praised the ILC’s focus on bolstering seminary education and church worker formation. As a result of this work, he said, “I see the future of confessional Lutheranism in Africa becoming more and more strong.” And this strength can be seen in the growing number of ILC member churches in Africa today.

IELP President Alceu Alton Figur.

President Figur spoke on the growth and strong community present in Latin American Lutheranism. He noted, for example, that when the ILC was reorganized as a council in 1993, the region counted seven church bodies as members. Today, it counts eleven. And the cooperation between churches in the region—on seminary education, for example—is giving birth to increasingly fruitful mission work abroad. This missionary impulse, he noted, is itself an outworking of the missionary work of confessional Lutheran missionaries in Latin America a century ago. “We are together with you,” President Figur encouraged participants. “Together in the same faith, in the same confession of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

Finally, President Harrison brought a North American perspective to the reflections. “It is a desperate time in Western Society,” he said, acknowledging the challenges of the contemporary age. But even this can lead to greater unity in the church, as confessional Lutherans learn to stand together against these challenges. And while there are challenges in the West—declining numbers of pastoral students, for example—he noted that cooperation between ILC churches is helping churches to stand strong together. Brazil, he noted, has begun to send some of its seminary graduates to serve in the United States—a testament both to the missionary zeal of the Brazilian church and also the need in the United States to serve growing immigrant communities.

As the ILC looks to the future, President Harrison reflected, we need to work together in this cooperative way, proactively recognizing our unique strengths and applying them wherever there is need. “We need to recognize the unique capacities of the ILC,” he said—resources such as theological training capacity, language abilities, and more—“and bring them to bear on specific circumstances.”

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: New General Secretary installed

Participants gather for ILC anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – On the morning of October 14, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz was installed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), during a festive service of Matins at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg marking the ILC’s 30th anniversary as a council.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is installed as General Secretary by ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

“I want to thank you for your confidence,” Dr. Schulz said in an address to attendees later in the day. “Being Book of Concord Lutherans, we all need to know the Book of Concord. That is something it is my ambition to promote as much as possible in our churches: Book of Concord Lutheranism, that unites us all around this foundation that has been laid, Jesus Christ. I want to promote—to proclaim—our Lutheranism and preserve it, but also to protect it.”

“To accomplish this task, I ask for your support, and I ask especially for your prayers,” Dr. Schulz continued. “Thank you very much, and God bless you.”

Outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill preaches.

Serving as liturgist and officiating over the installation of Dr. Schulz was ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The ILC’s outgoing General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill, preached for the anniversary service, reflecting on John 10:1-18. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada served as an assisting minister, and Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England served as lectors. President Alceu Alton Figur of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay bore the processional cross, with other members of the ILC’s board of directors also participating in the procession.

Special music—including choral music and a brass ensemble—were provided by cantor and organist Georg Mogwitz and the choir of St. Lukas church in Leipzig.

Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber is installed by LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

The service also saw the formal installation of Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber of South Africa as pastor of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), which operates the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. The ILC is a full partner in the society, alongside The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). LCMS President Matthew Harrison officiated over the installation of Dr. Weber.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher leads a prayer of dedication for the ILC’s Accreditation Agency.

A special prayer of dedication for the ILC Accreditation Agency (ILCAA) was also held during the service. The ILCAA will assist seminaries and other educational institutions in providing a quality theological education grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The ILC’s Chief Accreditation Officer, Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, led the prayer.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions. While the ILC is celebrating 30 years since its reorganization as a “council,” the full history of the organization goes back to 1952.

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Dr. Schulz appointed new ILC General Secretary

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is welcomed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council by outgoing General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill.

WORLD – Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz has been appointed the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). His installation will take place October 14 during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz

“I am honoured to have been asked to serve as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” Dr. Schulz said. “Today, the task of promoting and nurturing confessional Lutheran identity worldwide is as important as it has ever been, and I am proud to do my part in that endeavor alongside the member churches of the ILC.”

Dr. Schulz is Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA). He further serves the seminary as Dean of Graduate Studies; Director of the Ph.D. in Missiology program; and Director of International Studies. Dr. Schulz will continue to serve in these positions even as he takes on his new role as ILC General Secretary.

“We thank God for Dr. Schulz and his willingness to serve as General Secretary,” said ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. “Dr. Schulz is an excellent theologian, outstanding seminary professor, and experienced missionary, who is well-acquainted with confessional Lutheran churches around the world. I’m sure that I speak on behalf of all ILC churches when I say we look forward to working closely with Dr. Schulz in the future and benefitting from his leadership in these challenging times, as together we give a good confession to Christ and His Word.”

Dr. Schulz succeeds Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, who recently announced his decision to step down as General Secretary. “I am wholly grateful that the Lord has gifted Dr. Detlev Schulz to the ILC as General Secretary,” Dr. Quill noted. “His theological depth and commitment to confessional Lutheran theology is complemented by his extensive international experience. His relaxed and unassuming manner with people of all stations has made him a true pastor, missionary, and professor—and now also, ILC General Secretary. He is ideally suited to meet the complex ecumenical demands and challenges on the international scale that this role brings with it.”

Originally from South Africa, Dr. Schulz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; a Master of Divinity from the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany; a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and a Doctor of Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Schulz began serving as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in 1998. Previously, he served in parish ministry in Germany and as a missionary in Botswana. He has published widely in the areas of missions and systematic theology.

Dr. Schulz brings to his new role a deep familiarity with confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world, having travelled and taught extensively throughout Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia. In his role as Dean of Graduate Studies at the Fort Wayne seminary, Dr. Schulz has also cultivated relations with many leaders of confessional Lutheran church bodies across the world.

In addition, as the son of the late Rev. Dr. Georg Schulz—founding bishop of the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa—he has a personal connection to the early history of the International Lutheran Council. Bishop Schulz attended many gatherings of what would eventually become the ILC, beginning with the third such conference in 1963.

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Dr. Quill stepping down as ILC General Secretary

Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya. (Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

WORLD – Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill has announced his decision to step down as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

“We all feel deep gratitude and appreciation for Dr. Quill’s leadership over the past four years,” said ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. “He has an unwavering commitment of service to the Gospel of Christ Jesus and His Church. Dr. Quill’s long experience teaching Lutheran doctrine and our liturgical heritage in Lutheran church bodies across five continents, his passion to grow the ILC, and his warm and joyful personality have all been a great blessing to us. We thank our Lord for our dear brother and his faithful service.”

Dr. Quill was appointed General Secretary by the ILC’s Board of Directors during meetings in Baguio City, Philippines in 2019. His tenure over the past four years has seen the ILC continue to grow as an important voice for confessional Lutheranism on the world stage. Activities which took place during Dr. Quill’s tenure as General Secretary include the development of the ILC’s Accreditation Agency; the graduation of the first students from the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program; major activities in defense of religious liberty; the authorization of continued dialogue with Roman Catholics on the international level; and the 2022 World Conference in Kenya.

“I want to express my sincere thanks to the International Lutheran Council for allowing me to serve our Lord as General Secretary of this marvelous confessional Lutheran association,” Dr. Quill writes in a farewell letter to the ILC’s Board of Directors. “You will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”­

Dr. Quill notified members of the Board of Directors earlier this year of his intention to retire from service as General Secretary. He explains in his letter that he accepted the position with the intention of helping the ILC through a significant transitional period, a period he anticipated would take about three years.

“Where has the time gone?” he writes. “As I write this letter, my tenure with the ILC is one month short of four years. I still consider it a joy and privilege to serve as General Secretary. However, it is time for me to step aside and for a new General Secretary to be appointed.”

Dr. Quill goes on to thank ILC staff and members of the Board of Directors, both for their assistance to him personally and for the work they undertake on behalf of confessional Lutherans worldwide.

The International Lutheran Council will formally announce Dr. Quill’s successor in the next few days, and the new General Secretary will be installed during ILC anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14.

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LLDP celebrate more graduates, welcomes new students

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Daniel Mono (front, second from left) and LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo (front, second from right) celebrate their graduation from the LLDP program. Among those pictured are LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (back left), ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill (front left), and Concordia Theological Seminary President Lawrence Rast (front right).

USA – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) celebrated its second commencement during its most recent session earlier this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana—and at the same time welcomed new students into the program.

Graduating were Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) and Assistant Bishop Daniel Mono of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD). Each received a Certificate of Theology in Lutheran Leadership.

The commencement service was conducted by the LLDP’s Director Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, with ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill also addressing the graduates. President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, who sits on the LLDP’s council, brought greetings. Additional greetings by letter were shared from ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola and former ILC General Secretary Albert Collver. The first four graduates of the LLDP, who completed the program in November 2022, also sent brief words of congratulations.

Dr. Masaki described the graduates’ theses as “noteworthy and quite relevant.” Bishop Maragelo wrote on “The Rise, Decline, and Hopeful Future of a Confessional Lutheran Church: The LCSA in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Assistant Bishop Mono’s thesis was: “The Growing Lay Ministry Movement in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese: Its Theological Evaluation, and Suggestions for the Future.”

The Value of the LLDP

“When this program was introduced to me, I was skeptical,” LCSA Bishop Maragelo admitted. “I did not know what it was, yet I was asked to nominate men to participate in this training. I decided my deputy and I should attend so that we would know what this was all about before sending others.”

“It was heartwarming to be welcomed so warmly by such friendly, humble, and open servant-minded lecturers,” he continued. “Finding oneself among other diverse African Lutheran men of God as fellow students was a blessing from God of its own kind. The program was the manifestation of God Himself at work through dedicated servant leaders. The courses were at a high academic proficiency, yet also comprehensive and practical. The richness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was shared.”

“As a graduate, I now proudly advocate for the LLDP without a shadow of doubt,” Bishop Maragelo concluded. “What we were given will never go to waste for the future of our church—for the LCSA, in particular, as well as for the other churches who have sent participants. The richness of the Gospel will be proclaimed in our pulpits, taught in our seminaries, and shared wherever we get a chance.”

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Mono, LCSA Bishop Maragelo, and LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki.

ELCT-SELVD Assistant Bishop Mono also had positive words to say about the program. “The LLDP gave me the opportunity to visit Wittenberg and to learn many things about the history of Lutheranism and Martin Luther’s life,” he explained. “I was not deeply rooted in confessional Lutheran theology in my own theological background, because I was raised in liberal Lutheranism and my bachelor and master’s degrees in theology came from a liberal seminary in Tanzania. Only the Doctor of Ministry program at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, USA) had given me basic confessional Lutheran theology.”

“The LLDP helped me to go deeper into the Book of Concord and confessional theology,” he explained. “Now I have deep confidence in identifying myself as a confessional Lutheran leader. I am able now to distinguish between real Lutheranism and those who call themselves Lutheran but do not hold to the Lutheran confessions.”

Dr. Mono noted that the courses in the LLDP were very helpful for his own service to the church. “The issues of church fellowship; stewardship and accountability; planning and task management; Lutheran liturgy and hymnody; the Office of the Holy Ministry and the means of grace… these were all very important subjects taught by competent instructors,” he said. “Moreover, our time together in the LLDP was very interactive; I was given opportunities to learn from others. Hearing the experiences of other Lutheran church bodies was very educational and has helped me to evaluate my own church body. I will use what I have gained in this program to serve my church. My hope is that more leaders will be given the opportunity to participate in the LLDP. This will help our church bodies to be strong and identify as confessional Lutherans.”

Bishop Maragelo and Assistant Bishop Mono both expressed their heartfelt thanks to the International Lutheran Council, to Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne), and to the LLDP’s Director, Dr. Masaki.

A new class of students

Rev. Dr. Paul Grime teaches a course on Lutheran liturgy and hymnody.

The commencement ceremony took place near the end of the LLDP’s most recent two-week session, which was held May 22 to June 2, 2023 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne (CTSFW). Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Dean of Chapel for CTSFW and the project director of the Lutheran Service Book, taught the first week’s course on “Issues in Lutheran Liturgy and Lutheran Hymnody.” LLDP Director Masaki taught on “The Lord’s Supper” during the second week.

“Our May/June sessions brought much joy for me for a variety of reasons,” commented Dr. Masaki. “That two more worthy leaders of the first cohort have completed the program is a tremendous joy. Bishop Maragelo was the leader of our first cohort. Dr. Mono also played an important part in the group, and is now serving as Assistant Bishop in his own church.”

“But on top of it all, I was also delighted in welcoming students for the second cohort,” Dr. Masaki continued. “The fact that the LLDP is continuing in this way is such a blessing and gift from the Lord. I am thankful to the Lord for the leadership of the ILC in supporting this program.”

LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (right) poses with students during the most recent round of classes.

As a result of visa issues, not all new students were able to attend the most recent session in Fort Wayne. But the students newly enrolled in the LLDP, and those still finishing studies from the first class, hail from twelve church bodies in nine countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, South Sudan/Sudan, and Tanzania.

With the most recent commencement service, six students have now graduated from the program, with another three expected to graduate in 2024.

The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a graduate-level program of the International Lutheran Council dedicated to equipping confessional Lutheran leaders around the world with the theological and practical knowledge necessary to serve their church bodies effectively.

You can support the work of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program by making a donation online. You can also mail a donation by cheque to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46850 USA

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ILC to celebrate 30th anniversary as a council

GERMANY – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a council this year, and will hold formal events to mark the anniversary in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. The ILC adopted its current form on September 9, 1993, when 23 Lutheran church leaders from across the globe gathered in Antigua, Guatemala and unanimously adopted a Constitution and Guiding Principles. Today, the International Lutheran Council has grown to include 59 member churches representing more than 7.2 million Lutherans around the world.

“Wittenberg is of course the historic home of Martin Luther and the Reformation,” noted ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill. “From that epicentre, the Lutheran witness to the Gospel—grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions—has gone out into the whole world. It is fitting then that confessional Lutherans from across the globe should gather again in Wittenberg to mark this important anniversary. The International Lutheran Council has grown to play a vital role in world Lutheranism, strengthening and supporting confessional churches in their witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The anniversary events in Wittenberg will begin in the morning with a festive service of Choral Matins at St. Mary’s Church, the church where Luther regularly preached. ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland) will serve as liturgist for the event, and General Secretary Timothy Quill will preach. Georg Mogwitz of St. Lukas Church in Leipzig will serve as cantor and organist, and the choir of St. Lukas Church will provide special music.

The service will also see a rite of prayer and blessing for the establishment of the ILC’s Accreditation Agency, a ministry that will assist Lutheran seminaries around the world in providing pastoral training and theological education grounded in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

Later in the afternoon, participants will gather for the keynote address. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and a member of the ILC’s Board of Directors,will speak on the history of the International Lutheran Council. A panel discussion will follow, led by members of the ILC’s board. Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England) will serve as moderator, and panel members will include President Matthew Harrison (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod), Archbishop Joseph Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya), President Antonia Reyes (Lutheran Church in the Philippines), and President Timothy Teuscher (Lutheran Church–Canada).

Finally, ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola will provide concluding thoughts about where the ILC goes from here.

The ILC anniversary celebration itself will come at the culmination of a multi-day gathering of international Lutheran church leaders in Wittenberg organized by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions. While the ILC is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a “council,” the full history of the organization goes back more than seven decades. The first large international gathering of Lutheran church leaders which gave birth to the ILC took place in Uelzen, Germany in 1952. At the third meeting of this group—in Cambridge, England in 1963—the gathering adopted the name “International Lutheran Theological Conference.” At the ninth gathering of the group—in Wabag, Papua New Guinea in 1978—the name was shortened to the “International Lutheran Conference.”

Finally, at its 15th gathering in Antigua, Guatemala, the ILC formally constituted itself as the International Lutheran Council. Since that time, the ILC has grown to play a major role in supporting confessional Lutheran churches around the world.

For further details on the International Lutheran Council’s 30th anniversary commemoration in Wittenberg, please contact the ILC.

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A Reaffirmation of the ILC’s 2021 letter protesting religious persecution in Finland

FINLAND – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) have published a new letter reaffirming their support for Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) and Dr. Päivi Räsänen, Finnish Member of Parliament. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen are being prosecuted in Finland for their expression of historic Christian teaching.

“We call on all people of good will to condemn this unconscionable prosecution, to take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all, and to pray for Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen and their acquittal,” the letter states. “When we compromise on freedom for just one or two, we ultimately place freedom at risk for all.”

The new letter, which is signed by ILC General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, and LCMS Director of Church Relations Jonathan E. Shaw, reaffirms an earlier 2021 ILC statement entitled “A Protest and Call for Free Religious Speech in Finland: An International Lutheran Condemnation of the Unjust Criminal Prosecution of the Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, and a Call for All People of Good Will to Support the Freedom of Religious Expression in Finland.” That statement was signed by 48 ecclesial leaders and 45 church bodies and associations, representing hundreds of millions of Lutherans worldwide.

Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen were put on trial in 2022 for the publication of a 2004 pamphlet which had articulated historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. While the Helsinki District Court acquitted them unanimously in 2022, Finland’s Prosecutor General appealed the decision. Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen will face trial again at the Helsinki Court of Appeals from August 22-24, 2023.

The new letter condemns the continued prosecution, saying: “This represents nothing less than a years-long relentless attack against free speech, religious expression, personal moral integrity, and limited government’s proper sphere of jurisdiction as articulated in the Constitution of Finland, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Download the full letter here or read it below:






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ILC holds European Regional Conference

Back, left to right: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium); President Leif Jensen (Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark); Rev. Leif Camp (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia); President Adalberto Hiller (Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church); and Rev. Roger Zieger (representing Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). Front, left to right: Rev. Adris Kraulins (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia); Bishop Juhana Pohjola (Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland); Bishop Bengt Ådahl (Mission Province in Sweden); Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); and Rev. Philippe Volff (representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France).

GERMANY – The European Region of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its 2023 Regional Conference from June 13-14 in Essen, Germany. Representatives from most member churches in the region were able to attend but work, visa issues, and deaths in the family prevented representatives from the Norwegian churches and from Siberia from being present.

The main topics for gathering were: the latest news from the churches; the situation in Ukraine and Russia, which led to a wider discussion of church life when one’s country is at war as well as questions around church relations when other churches are designated ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ because of the conflict; a review of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya; a discussion of ecumenism in representatives’ respective countries, and whether member churches were finding themselves increasingly isolated or drawing together where possible with other church bodies; and reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed congregational and synodical lives, particularly noting what was not ‘changing back’.

The war in Ukraine has affected the region variously—some specifically (as in Russia) while for other churches it has raised past tensions and fears, with all churches, to varying degrees, seeking to support refugees. As always, there are opportunities presented about how to serve in specific situations, and sadly lots of hardship, but throughout the two days there was a strong confidence that Jesus never abandons His people. References were made to the Confession of Magdeburg (1550) and its four levels of tyranny, which the Ingrian Church was using in navigating a response to government. Members agreed that all need to keep reconciliation—the Gospel—in focus as churches deal with the many levels of hostilities and fears arising out of the situation, being aware that the effects of this war will be generational.

Church leaders talk during the ILC’s 2023 European Regional Conference.

The pandemic may have come and gone yet ILC member churches in Europe are still “pandemic sensitive.’ Every church reported that some members have not returned to the Divine Service since the pandemic. Throughout Europe, churches’ response depended on governmental restrictions. As a result, there were differences among ILC churches in relation to the length of ‘lock outs’ from their church buildings, the number who could worship together, and how Holy Communion was celebrated. All churches continued to emphasise the importance of being together as much as possible, particularly at the Divine Service. Nevertheless, representatives recognized that online services are here to stay, as are online Bible Studies and even online church and synodical meetings. This is a new world, and everyone is still learning how to take the best of their pandemic response forward while also not forgetting those who do not use or have access to the internet.

Worship and fellowship at ILC events are always a rich time together. Throughout the 2023 ILC Europe Regional Conference, there was a particular focus on John 14-16 and Colossians. During the conference, Rev. George Samiec (Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and the European representative on the ILC’s Board of Directors) reminded everyone:

Christians do not relate to God via creation, worshipping an aspect of it to get close to God. Christians do not create God in their own image—a bigger, nicer (or not) version of themselves perhaps—out of their own intellect or from their hopes and fears. No, it is Jesus who reveals to us the intimacy of a personal relationship with God whom we can call ‘Father’—and assures us of reconciliation through His cross… always.

This is the reality at the heart of the Church… at the heart of our time together as church leaders. May this be a comfort and strength for us now, and may it be at the heart of each congregation of our synods: that Jesus hidden under words, water, bread and wine is giving life to His people so that they may live. Yes, we need organisational structures and bureaucracy, and they can be very visible and time-consuming. But hidden—always present and close—remains Jesus, and so in whatever we do admin-wise and churchwide-wise, may our goal always be pointing to Jesus and His cross who is among us. We are His people in this time and place. No one else is in our place; this is our time and place to live with Jesus and to share His grace and mercy with the world—that is, those around us.

And may the joy of the Lord be our strength.

The next European meeting of ILC member churches will take place online in September.

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From a report by ELCE Chairman George Samiec

French speaking Lutherans gather in Canada for liturgy workshop

Participants at the French liturgy workshop in Montreal. Pictured are participants from Haiti, Congo, France, the United States, and Canada.

CANADA – French-speaking Lutherans from across the world gathered for a workshop on the basics of Lutheran liturgy in Montreal, Quebec from May 17-21, 2023. The event, which was hosted by Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), also marked the official launch of a new African edition of LCC’s French hymnal: Liturgies et cantiques luthériens – Édition africaine (LCL-ÉA).

The workshop opened with remarks by LCC President Timothy Teuscher, bringing greetings on behalf of the Canadian church as well as the International Lutheran Council (ILC), which helped to sponsor the event. President Teuscher, who also serves as Vice Chairman of the ILC, encouraged the gathering to reflect on the necessity of right worship.

Rev. Walta Clercius, Assistant Missionary-at-Large for LCC French Ministries.

The gathering brought together participants from nine countries, including members of: Lutheran Church–Canada; Lutheran churches in Haiti, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH); five new African francophone congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (the Église évangélique luthérienne – Synode de France – EEL-SF); Lutheran churches in Burundi and Congo; Lutherans in Africa; and an African Pentecostal church body that is considering the adoption of Lutheran teaching. LCC, ELCH, the LCMS, and the ELL-SF are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

In addition to those present in person, the Saturday session saw students from the Concordia Theological Seminary of Haiti – Laochikit Centre (Séminaire Théologique Concordia d’Haiti – Centre de Laotchikit) participate online.

The development of French Lutheran hymnals by LCC French Ministries represents a major contribution to the worship life of the francophone Lutheran world. The new African edition of the hymnal (LCL-ÉA) is a fruit of the collaboration of LCC’s Francophone Lutheran Liturgical Institute (Institut liturgique luthérien francophone – ILLF). IILF members include Rev. Dr. David Saar (St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mount Forest, Ontario); Rev. Dr. David Somers (LCC Missionary-at-Large, French Ministries); and LCMS Cantor Phillip Magness, who served as main presenter at the workshop. Rev. David Milette (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Moncton, New Brunswick) served as liturgist throughout the workshop.

The ILLF’s constituting members and LCC President with the new African edition of the French hymnal. Left to right: Cantor Phillip Magness, Rev. Dr. David Somers, LCC President Timothy Teuscher, and Rev. Dr. David Saar

In addition to the presentation of the LCL-ÉA, the workshop also provided an opportunity to showcase French Lutheran materials, many of which are available through Lutheran Church–Canada’s French Ministries, including the new Viens et vois Jésus (“Come and See Jesus”) Sunday school curriculum and accompanying lectionary-based children’s activity pages based on those prepared in English by Lutheran Laymen’s League of Canada.

Finally, the workshop provided a unique opportunity for confessional francophone Lutherans from three continents to get to know each other and become more familiar with the work and challenges of the world’s burgeoning French-language Lutheranism.

Support for the workshop was provided by the International Lutheran Council; the C.T. Wetzstein Donor Advised Fund in Support of Christian Education; the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – Canada (LWMLC); the Laurentian District of the LWMLC; the Lutheran Heritage Foundation; Lutheran Laymen’s League – Canada; The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; and Lutheran Church–Canada.

Additional French-language workshops on Lutheran liturgy in Africa are also being planned.

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Adapted from a report by Rev. Dr. David Somers.

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