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South Sudan celebrates bishop’s consecration

Bishop Nathaniel Bol (centre left) is invested as bishop of SSELC.
Bishop Nathaniel Bol (front right) following his consecration.

KENYA – On April 24, 2022, Rev. Nathaniel Bol Nyok Apar was consecrated as Bishop of the South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC).

The consecration took place at Kakuma in northwestern Kenya. Kakuma is the site of a United Nations refugee camp which hosts refugees from Sudan. The church has four congregations in the camp (three South Sudanese and one Sudanese).

Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) presided over the consecration service, and Bishop Charles Bameka of the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) preached for the event. Also participating in the consecration were Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD), Bishop Robert Kaumba of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Africa—Zambia Diocese (LECA), and diocesan Bishops William Lopeta and Titus Okoda of the ELCK.

“I want to congratulate Bishop Bol on his formal consecration,” said General Secretary Timothy Quill of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “He has served the South Sudanese church for many years already, and I pray that God will continue to bless him in his ministry.”

Rev. Nathaniel Bol is consecrated as bishop of the South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Bishop Bol was elected in December 2011 but attempts to hold a formal consecration service in South Sudan were complicated by civil war which raged in the country from 2013-2020. The conflict led approximately 2.5 million people to flee the country as refugees, primarily to Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan.

An earlier attempt to hold a consecration service in Kenya in 2021 was also delayed.

The South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church is an observer member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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New President for Paraguayan Lutherans

Members of the IELP’s governing board are installed during the church’s 40th Ordinary General Assembly.
IELP President Alceu Anton Figur.

PARAGUAY – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana del Paraguay – IELP) has elected a new president. Rev. Alceu Alton Figur was elected to a three-year term during the church’s 40th Ordinary General Assembly, held March 12-13, 2022 in Santa Rita.

“It is a joy to congratulate you on your election to serve the church in Paraguay,” said General Secretary Timothy Quill of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) upon President Figur’s election. “May God bless you with His love and patience as you undertake this important work on behalf of His church.”

President Figur is originally from Brazil and studied for the ministry at Concordia Seminary in São Leopoldo. He spent the first three years of his ministry serving in Brazil. Since then, he has spent thirty years serving in Paraguay. He currently serves as pastor of Cristo Rey Lutheran Church in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital city.

Participants in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay’s 40th Ordinary General Secretary.

President Figur succeeds Rev. Eugenio Wentzel, who served five terms as President of the IELP: from 1992-1998, from 2007-2010, and from 2016-2022. President Emeritus Wentzel had earlier announced he would not be seeking reelection.

In addition to serving as president of the IELP, Rev. Wentzel served the International Lutheran Council as a member of its Board of Directors. Rev. Wentzel served as the representative for the ILC’s Latin America World Region from 2016 to 2018, and again from 2019 to 2022.

“I am very grateful to God for the opportunity to have served Him, recognizing my limitations, as one of the ILC’s regional directors,” President Emeritus Wentzel said. “I have learned a lot during these years. I thank God for this rewarding experience. May God continue to bless the work of the International Lutheran Council.”

“I want to thank Eugenio Wentzel for his service on the International Lutheran Council’s Board of Directors,” said ILC General Secretary Quill. “And we look forward to working together with President Figur moving forward.”

Because the International Lutheran Council elects church bodies and not specific individuals to serve as representatives for World Regions, this means that Rev. Figur automatically succeeds Rev. Wentzel on the ILC’s Board of Directors as representative for the Latin America World Region.

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Russian Lutheran laments “sinfulness of this war” during European ILC meetings

Destroyed buildings on the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 3, 2022. Photo: YuriiKochubey.
Destroyed buildings on the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 3, 2022. Photo: YuriiKochubey.

ONLINE – On March 21, 2022, the European World Region of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held meetings online. The meetings were led by Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE), who serves as the European representative on the ILC’s Board of Directors. Among other topics, participants discussed how churches might help people in Ukraine during the current crisis, as well as aid those who have fled.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), attended the meeting as a representative of his church body. “What was particularly moving at this meeting was not only the great helpfulness of the ILC member churches,” Bishop Voigt noted, “but also a statement that a participant from a church in Russia made to the participants and which he also made available in writing after the meeting.”

What follows are the words of the Russian representative. For security reasons, neither his name nor the name of his church is given here.

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The Russian participant reported: “The shock of what has happened is so grave that we will probably be able to realize it only years after. I think that at the moment we are going through the first four stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. ‘It can’t be! We can’t have started a war!’ ‘Damn this war!’ ‘There must be some way out!’ ‘It’s all hopeless…’ The world we lived in has been shattered and there is no way to undo it.

One can hardly imagine the multiple layers of crisis that Russia and its people are now facing. It is not only political and economical, but foremost existential: the war has divided society. It has left honest, thinking people helpless and feeling fear and shame.

The current situation facing media is unprecedented. The censorship is monstrous. A new law allows people to be sentenced to 15 years in prison for sharing “fake” news about the war. That even includes just calling the “special military operation” in Ukraine a war at all.

People have to use VPN services to avoid bans of social networks. Most opposition media sources have closed down and journalists have left Russia. Those very few that remain are not able to cover the war.

People do protest. But all meetings are forbidden and people are immediately detained and fined. Those who are detained for a third time are imprisoned. Some of our congregation members went on anti-war strikes and have been detained. One Russian-Orthodox priest faces a charge because of a sermon where he urged people to pray for peace and sign a petition to stop the war. (By the way the petition was signed by 1.2 million Russian citizens. It could be even more popular but, as it requires personal information, people are reluctant to sign it—and the organizer of the petition has already been detained.

As I preach about peace and the sinfulness of this war in every sermon—and we live-stream it too—I wonder: when will my turn come?

As I preach about peace and the sinfulness of this war in every sermon, I wonder: when will my turn come?

I would say that the main feeling people in Russia have now is fear. Firstly, it is the fear to speak up. People are afraid not only to publicly share their opinion but even to “like” or repost the opinions of others. Secondly, people feel a paralyzing fear for their future. With the rise in inflation and the consequences of sanctions, people are afraid it will cut down not only supplies to foreign goods and luxuries but also to necessities, and even lead to famine.

But the church has immunity against both of these types of fear. Firstly, we have been confessing our faith boldly for more than 2,000 years now. We have learned to preach the truth no matter how unpopular it is or how dangerous it is. “So every one who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Secondly, we have learned to trust God and not to worry for He Himself will provide: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6:33-34). “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

So we continue to do what we are called to do: preach the Law in all its strictness and the Gospel in all its sweetness. As we preach the Law, we also point to the sin of the war and admonish all those responsible for bloodshed to repent. As we preach the Gospel, we remind people of God’s love for us sinners and His continual care.

In these days, we again think a lot about the Confessing Church (“Bekennende Kirche”) from the Nazi-era in Germany. But the main conclusion that I make is that the church should have preached the Law and the Gospel diligently and boldly before it came to the point when it was impossible. This is the only way to prevent society from turning to fascism.”

Bishop Voigt has expressed his admiration for the frank assessment of this Russian participant at the meetings of the ILC European World Region. “I am deeply impressed by the courageous and unflinching statement of our brother from Russia,” he said. “When I asked if we could publish his words, he answered ‘yes’ without hesitation.”

“In these days, with the horrific images from the Kiev suburbs circulating in the media, this Lutheran minister’s words show a different Russia,” Bishop Voigt continued. “Let us not tire of praying for the people of Ukraine, as well as for this ‘other Russia’

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The International Lutheran Council is supporting relief efforts in Ukraine and refugee assistance. For information on how you can help, click here.

Mercy in Mission – Aid for Ukraine

UKRAINE – As the crisis in Ukraine continues to deepen, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is soliciting support for emergency relief.

The United Nations reports that more than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since its invasion by Russian forces. An additional 6.6 million people in the country are internally displaced. Reliable counts of civilian deaths are not available at this time, but thousands are believed to have been killed in the conflict so far—with the number expected to continue to rise.

Lutheran churches in Ukraine continue to offer emergency and pastoral care to Ukrainians still in the country, while Lutheran churches in other European nations are offering physical and spiritual support to newly arrived refugees.

You can support Mercy in Mission work in Ukraine with a gift through the International Lutheran Council. Financial aid for Ukraine is being directed to Lutheran churches in Ukraine and ILC member churches with a history of direct work alongside Ukrainian Lutheran leadership. Aid is also being directed to neighbouring ILC churches who are assisting Ukrainian refugees with housing and other emergency needs.

Donate to emergency relief and aid for Ukraine online here. You can also mail donations to the address listed below (please make cheques out to “International Lutheran Council” and note the donation is for “Mercy in Mission – Ukraine”).

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

ILC member churches with an established history of work in Ukraine continue to provide direct support for relief efforts in the country. Lutheran Church–Canada, Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, for example, are supporting ongoing mission and mercy aid efforts inside Ukraine as well as refugee resettlement in neighbouring European nations. Check with these churches for further information on additional ways in which you can support their relief efforts.

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ILC brings greetings as new bishop installed for Australia and New Zealand

Bishop Emeritus John Henderson (right) installs Rev. John Henderson as Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand.

AUSTRALIA – The Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ) installed its new bishop, Rev. Paul Smith, during a service of celebration in Adelaide on February 20, 2022, and the International Lutheran Council was present to bring greetings. The theme for the service was Galatians 5:1—“For freedom Christ has set us free.”

Bishop Smith was elected to lead the LCANZ in October 2021. Prior to his election, he served as bishop of the LCANZ’s Queensland District from 2005-2021. He is the sixth leader to head the LCANZ since the unification of Australia’s Lutheran churches in 1966.

“I ask you to pray for me and for all the people of our evangelical Lutheran Church in New Zealand and Australia,” Bishop Smith said in remarks following his installation, “and for the people of all Christian churches of the world, that we would gladly serve in the Lord’s name.

President Antonio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) was present for the installation of Bishop Smith to bring greetings on behalf of the International Lutheran Council. President Reyes represents the Asia World Region on the ILC’s Board of Directors.

LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith and LCP President Antonio Reyes.

“It is amazing how God’s promise of providing for His people and never abandoning them still continues to be fulfilled today,” President Reyes said. “It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide you, Bishop Paul, as the shepherd of God’s flock here in Australia and New Zealand. May the Lord of the harvest grant you wisdom, strength, and courage as you serve Him and His people.”

President Reyes also expressed his thankfulness for the LCANZ’s longstanding participation in the life of the International Lutheran Council. “My presence here signifies the ILC’s wholehearted intention to walk and work with you,” he said, “to continue to study and learn with you and your pastors the Holy Scriptures—the inspired Word of God—and the Lutheran Confessions as the correct exposition of God’s Word.”

President Reyes also expressed thanks for the cooperative work which exists between the LCANZ and the Lutheran Church in the Philippines, and especially for the love they showed the LCP during the pandemic.

President Reyes’ full remarks can be read here.

Additional information on the installation of Bishop Smith is available here.

The LCANZ is an Associate Member of the ILC,  a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as expounded in the Lutheran Confessions.

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Aid for the Ukraine crisis

The ILC’s Executive Leadership Group meet on March 2. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (right) speaks with Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee  (top) and ILC General Secretary Quill (bottom).

UPDATE: The International Lutheran Council is now accepting donations for Ukraine relief. Click here for details.

ONLINE – Immediately following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Executive Leadership Group of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met online to assess the situation and identify preliminary steps that needed immediate attention.

These discussions were followed up with a meeting on Ash Wednesday to exchange follow-up reports gleaned from the field on the well-being of Lutheran pastors, their families, and congregations, as well as efforts already underway to assist refugees fleeing Ukraine. Reports indicate that more than one million Ukrainians have already fled the country.

The meeting also addressed immediate emergency needs and possible long range plans for rebuilding and restoration in Ukraine. A procedure for charitable donations was also discussed.

Additional information on the ILC’s aid initiatives, and how you can help, will be released as time goes on.

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Nigerian Lutherans reelect Archbishop

Archbishop Christian Ekong speaks at the LCN’s 2022 Synodical Convention.

LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong and Bishop Raphael Aju after the 2021 election.

NIGERIA – The Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) held its 42nd Regular Synodical Council November 26-28, 2021, during which time the church reelected Rev. Dr. Christian Ekong to another five-year term as Archbishop and President of the church. The council took place at the LCN’s headquarters in Obot Idim Ibesikpo in Akwa Ibom State.

Dr. Ekong was reelected in a 196-78 vote. He was first elected to lead the LCN in 2009.

The 2021 council also saw the Rt. Rev. Raphael Aju elected as Vice President of the LCN, as well as elections for the church’s Board of Directors.

A little more than a month later, from January 6-9, 2022, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria held its Synodical Convention. During this time, the LCN consecrated four new bishops (Rev. Samuel Essien, Rev. Thomas Gbarato, Rev. Daniel Eshiet, and Rev. Godwin Udosen), ordained more than 40 new pastors, and certified 19 deaconesses for service in the church. The convention also saw the installation of officers elected during the Synodical Council in November 2021.

The consecration of new bishops during the LCN’s 2022 Synodical Convention.

The Synodical Council and the Synodical Convention met under the theme “Called by Christ to Bear Fruit for Jesus,” based on Romans 7:4-7. Other business conducted at the two events included a resolution calling for greater stewardship of environmental resources in Nigeria and a discussion of the LCN’s Lutheran University project, among other work.

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

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ILC Latin America regional conference meets in Mexico

Participants in the ILC’s 2021 Latin America regional conference.

MEXICO – The conference of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) Latin America Region met in Mexico City from December 2-5, 2021, following delays due to the pandemic.

ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill addresses the Latin America regional conference.

The conference brought together representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina; the Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil; the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile; the Lutheran Church of Guatemala; the Lutheran Synod of Mexico; the Lutheran Church of Panama; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay; the Evangelical Lutheran Church-Peru; the Lutheran Church of Uruguay; and the Lutheran Church of Venezuela. The ILC’s General Secretary Timothy Quill and Assistant to the General Secretary Roger James were also present, as were a number of other guests.

Theological presentations were given on two themes: 1) “The Confessional Orthodox Lutheran Role in a Heterodox and Subjective Context” (Prof. Dr. Clóvis Prunzel of Concordia Seminary in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil); and 2) “Pastoral Vocation: Lack, Stimuli, and Contextual Factors” (Prof. Dr. Sergio Schelske of Concordia Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina). Discussion centered on two areas: 1) the need to recruit a larger number of pastoral candidates; and 2) unique challenges related to opening new missions in each country.

IELA President Arturo Truenow and ILC-Chile President Juan Pablo Lanterna sign a protocol agreement between their two church bodies.

During the conference, the Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia officially announced its intention to seek full membership in the ILC after more than a decade as an Associate Member. Other noteworthy events included the signing of a mutual cooperation protocol between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA) and the Confessional Church of Chile (ILC-Chile).

The gathering also celebrated the forthcoming publication of a new Lutheran hymnal in Spanish after fifteen years of work. The hymnal will be welcomed into use throughout Spanish-speaking countries in the region, as well as in other parts of the world.

“It was a great meeting, since it was finally possible to overcome the challenges that have delayed celebrating this moment due to the current pandemic,” noted President Juan Pablo Lanterna of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile. “It should be counted as a historic moment.”

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From a report by ILC-Chile President Juan Pablo Lanterna

Final report on ILC-PCPCU conversations released

ONLINE – The final report on conversations between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has now been released.

The five-year informal dialogue began in 2014 when a working group was organized by the PCPCU and the ILC. In this final report, the results of the dialogue are presented to Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the PCPCU and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman of the ILC.

The report contains a preamble, which treats the “normative structure” for church doctrine and life. The second part discusses “The Mass as Eucharistic Sacrificial Banquet” and the third part treats “Justification by Faith.” The report concludes by formulating “Ecumenical Tasks” that apply to both sides of the discussion.

The ILC will discuss the results of the informal dialogue at its 2022 World Conference, after which next steps will be considered in coordination with the PCPCU.

In the discussions, the Roman Catholic Church was represented by Prof. Dr. Josef Freitag (Lantershofen, Germany), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen and PD Dr. Burkhard Neumann (Paderborn, Germany), and Dom. Dr. Augustinus Sander OSB (Rome, Italy). The churches of the ILC were represented by Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Lübeck, Germany), Prof. Dr. Gerson Linden (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Prof. Dr. John Stephenson (St. Catharines, Canada), and Prof. Dr. Roland Ziegler (Ft. Wayne, USA). Prof. Dr. Thomas Winger (St. Catharines), Dr. Albert Collver (St. Louis, USA), Prof. Dr. Grant Kaplan (St. Louis), as well as the ILC chairman, Bishop Voigt, all served as part-time participants in the discussions.

The final report appears in Volume 33 (2021) of Lutheran Theological Review, a journal produced by the seminaries of Lutheran Church–Canada. German, Spanish, and Portuguese translations will be released at a later date.

Download the final report here.

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American Lecture Tour by Bishop Juhana Pohjola

NOTE: Unable to attend in person? You can also watch Bishop Pohjola’s lecture live online here.

USA – In November 2021, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola will visit the United States of America for a lecture tour sponsored by the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

On August 1, 2021, Dr. Pohjola was consecrated Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). He enters the role at a challenging time: Bishop Pohjola faces criminal charges in Finland for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

Should it be illegal to identify homosexual activity as sinful? That’s the question facing Bishop Pohjola now, seventeen years after the booklet was first published. He and the booklet’s author, Dr. Päivi Räsänen (a Finnish Member of Parliament), have been charged by Finland’s Prosecutor General with “incitement against a group of people.”

What can we learn from Bishop Pohjola’s story? How should we respond to a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christian beliefs? And what does Scripture have to say to us about being persecuted on account of our faith in Christ? Come hear Bishop Pohjola in person to find out.

There are three opportunities to hear Bishop Pohjola speak:

  • November 10, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Washington, D.C at the office of the Alliance Defending Freedom
  • November 13, 2021 (9:30 a.m.) in Fort Wayne, Indiana at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • November 16, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Boston, Massachusetts at First Lutheran Church

NOTE: Those wishing to attend the Washington event are required to register in advance here: http://www.adfinternational.org/DCLecture.

Those wishing to advertise the event in their local congregation can download a poster and bulletin inserts (black and white/colour) here.

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