Supporting Theological Education in Nigeria

Students at the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Nigeria.
During class at JEML Seminary.

NIGERIA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is working with the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to support seminary education at the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran (JEML) Seminary in Obot Idim Ibesikpo, Uyo, AKWA Ibom State, Nigeria.

In a recent interview, LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong spoke of the opportunity and need for seminary education in Nigeria. “Theological education and the training of pastors remain critically important for the support, growth, and missionary activity of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria,” he said. “Our congregations and the mission field need pastors. We have many candidates for seminary admission, but we often have to delay or deny admission to qualified students because of lack of funding.”

The Sacrament of the Altar.

Grants from the International Lutheran Council will supplement student fees and make it possible for eligible men to attend the seminary for training as Evangelists and Pastors in the LCN. “I have fallen in love with these young men who have come to the seminary with such passion and commitment to preaching the Gospel of Christ in Nigeria,” said Rev. Peter C. Bender, Visiting Professor at JEML Seminary and Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy (Sussex, Wisconsin).  “The work of this seminary is vital, not only for the LCN, but for the confessional Lutheran churches in all of Africa. The Lord has blessed the seminary with an outstanding curriculum and the unwavering leadership of Archbishop Ekong. Having lectured all over the world, JEML is worthy of the support of all who cherish the Gospel of Christ and Lutheran mission work on the continent of Africa.”

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world.

You can support the training of pastors in Nigeria by making a donation online. Simply designate “Seminary Support in Nigeria” as you make your gift.

You can also make donations by mail to the following address:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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ILC works with Nigerian Lutherans to plant churches

LCN missionary pastor, Rev. Barile Kagbor, and the mission congregation in Ugep in southern Nigeria.

NIGERIA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is working with the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to support mission outreach in cities and urban areas across the country.

While well-established in rural areas, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria has identified greater emphasis on urban outreach as a growing mission need. Responding to a request for assistance from the LCN, the International Lutheran Council agreed in 2018 to partner with the LCN, providing financial support for Nigerian pastors as they establish new mission plants in urban centres throughout Nigeria, including in Yenegoa, Warri, Asaba, Ekiti, Alagbole, Ugep, Bonny, and Akpet Central.

“One of the biggest challenges to the growth of the church in Nigeria is a lack of missionary pastors,” noted LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong. “Through the assistance of the International Lutheran Council, we are pleased to be able to send more workers into the mission field, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout our country.”

Accomodations for Rev. Kagbor and his family in Ugep.

Grants from the International Lutheran Council will supplement LCN mission funds in order to pay rent for worship space in mission sites, as well as to pay the salaries of missionary pastors. Through this project, the LCN hopes to establish ten new congregations in urban centres over the next five years.

“It is a joy to be able to support the Lutheran Church of Nigeria as its mission field expands to include new urban centres across Nigeria,” said Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the ILC. “May God bless the work of the LCN’s missionary pastors, and open hearts to receive the message of salvation with joy.”

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world.

You can support missionary pastors in Nigeria by making a donation online. Simply designate “Missionary support in Nigeria” as you make your gift.

You can also make donations by mail to the following address:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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ILC sponsors theological education in Nigera

Dr. Naomichi Masaki poses the students of Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary.

NIGERIA – From November 12-23, 2018, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) sponsored a visiting scholar to the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to provide guest lectures at Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Uyo. Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana) led two weeks of intensive teaching at the seminary following a request from LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong.

Dr. Masaki and the students of his Lutheran Confessions course.

Every day during his time in Uyo, Dr. Masaki taught a three-hour course on the Lutheran Confessions for a class of sixteen; a two-hour course on the Lord’s Supper for a class of eight; and a one-hour course focusing on theological questions and answers (for the entire student body, about 65 students in all). Dr. Masaki also preached for chapel every day, focusing on the subjects of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Office of the Holy Ministry.

In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Masaki also participated in congregational visits and worship services on weekends, preached and participated in communion services, and even attended the wedding of a student as well as a traditional funeral.

Dr. Masaki participates in a local communion service.

“Perhaps I am overworking here everyday, including weekends,” suggested Dr. Masaki. “But that’s what I came here for. I am grateful for the opportunities of teaching, preaching, spending time with students and faculty, visiting local villages and congregations, and, of course, great time to spend with the archbishop.”

Dr. Masaki concluded his time in Nigeria by bringing greetings to the 39th Regular Council of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. The council, which took place November 23-25 in Obot Idim, met under the theme of “Called by Christ to Bear Fruit,” drawing on Romans 7:4-7. Among other subjects, the LCN discussed revisions to the church’s constitution as well as continuing training for seminary faculty.

LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong speaks during the LCN’s 2018 Regular Council.

Support for theological education is a key part of the International Lutheran Council’s programming. In addition to short-term projects like Dr. Masaki’s trip to Nigeria, the ILC has also recently launched a new program called the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP). The program, which is operated in partnership with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House, and Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), provides Lutheran church bodies around the world with an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology, as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Dr. Masaki is director of the LLDP.

In addition to theological training, the ILC has also begun to support Nigerian Missionary Pastors following a request from the Lutheran Church in Nigeria for aid in this area.

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Nigerian Lutherans remember former vice-president

Funeral banner marking the passing of LCN Vice President Emeritus Sunday Obari Owateobe.

NIGERIA – On May 5, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) held a funeral service for the Rev. Sunday Obari Owateobe, with members of the church in attendance from across the nation.

“The late Reverend was a gallant soldier of the cross,” the LCN noted on social media. “May his soul rest in peace and may the Lord protect and preserve the bereaved.”

Rev. Owateobe served as LCN Vice-President from 2002-2008. He was 80 years old at the time of his death, having been born in 1937.

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. Its membership numbers more than 80,000. The LCN is also a member church of the Lutheran World Federation.

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Latvian Lutherans consecrate confessional Swede as Bishop

by Christopher C. Barnekov

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) has consecrated as bishop a Swedish theologian previously barred from ordination in Sweden because of his confessional Lutheran faith. Rev.

Archbishop Vanags presents Hans Jönsson with the pectoral cross of a bishop. (Photo: Rihards Rasnacis).
Archbishop Vanags presents Hans Jönsson with the pectoral cross of a bishop. (Photo: Rihards Rasnacis).

Hans Jönsson, 48, was consecrated August 6 at the cathedral in Riga to serve as bishop of Liepaja Diocese in southwestern Latvia.

Bishop Jönsson graduated from Lund University in Sweden. While studying in Lund, he supplemented his studies with lectures in Lutheran theology sponsored by the Swedish Luther Foundation, which was formed in 1955 to promote theological education grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran confessional writings, thus opposing increasingly liberal trends in the Church of Sweden.

Because of his confessional Lutheran views, Jönsson was denied ordination in the Church of Sweden. He was, however, certified as qualified for ordination by the Church Coalition for The Bible and Confessions, an umbrella organization encompassing several Swedish Confessional Lutheran movements that was founded in 1958 at the initiative of Bishop Bo Giertz to defend traditional Lutheran faith in the Church of Sweden. The Coalition was formed in the context of the debate over women’s ordination, which its members viewed as clearly contradicting Scripture.

Bishop Jönsson is also an associate member of the pastoral collegium of the Mission Province in Sweden. Dr. Bengt Birgersson, Mission Province Secretary, who attended the consecration, noted, “Sweden’s loss is Latvia’s gain. Many gifted young men were forced to leave Sweden in order to serve Christ abroad, having been denied ordination in the Church of Sweden because they were faithful to Scripture. This is why the Mission Province was formed: to provide a path to ordination and service in Sweden.” Since the founding of the Mission Province in 2003, approximately 40 men have been ordained in Sweden and in the Mission Dioceses in Finland and Norway who would otherwise have been excluded because they believe the Holy Scriptures limit the pastoral office to men.

The ELCL has a close historical relationship to the Church of Sweden. Unlike the Church of Sweden, however, the Latvian church has remained faithful to Confessional Lutheran theology. In 2000, Jönsson was invited to serve in Latvia while learning the language, receiving financial support from the Swedish Luther Foundation. He was subsequently ordained in Riga in 2003, and most recently served as pastor in Madona, about 40 miles east of Riga. He was also given responsibility for managing the national church’s finances and currently serves as chairman of the board for pastoral education.

Rev. Jönsson was elected June 3 to replace the retiring Bishop of Liepaja. The diocese consists of 124 congregations served by 40 pastors.

Bishop Jönsson with Archbishop Vanags after the consecration.
Bishop Jönsson with Archbishop Vanags after the consecration.

Archbishop Janis Vanags conducted the consecration, which was broadcast in its entirety by Latvian national television. Archbishop Vanags was assisted by Latvia’s bishops as well as Bishop Tiits Salumäe of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). Bishop Voigt is also Chairman of the International Lutheran Council. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was represented by Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President. Provisional Bishop Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church in Norway also participated in the service. Representatives also attended from the Nordic Mission Dioceses, as well as the Swedish Luther Foundation and other confessional Lutheran movements.

With nearly 300 congregations, the ELCL is the nation’s largest church. It is in fellowship with the LCMS and also has close ties to the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany. In June, the ELCL amended its constitution to reverse a policy imposed during the Soviet domination that opened ordained ministry to women (although no women had been ordained since shortly after Latvia’s liberation).

Although ELCL is still a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), it rejected heavy pressure from the LWF in moving to limit ordination to men. Advocates of women’s ordination argued that this decision would strain relations with LWF members. In addressing the June synod, however, Archbishop Vanags expressed the intention of drawing closer to the International Lutheran Council and its member churches, including the LCMS, which ordain only men. Relations between ELCL and the Church of Sweden have also been greatly strained since the CoS accepted same-sex marriage.

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Nigerian Lutherans meet in convention, raise funds for university project

LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong gives the benediction during worship at the church's 2016 national convention.
LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong gives the benediction during worship at the church’s 2016 national convention.

NIGERIA – The Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) held its Biennial Synod Convention in Obot Idim from January 6-10, 2015. Approximately 6,000 people attended the convention, which met under the theme “Christ Lives in Me, For Life Together,” based upon Colossians 1:27.

January 6 was a Choir Conference, and featured lectures on worship and liturgy. Dr. Isaac Udo of the University of Uyo presented on “Evangelical Church Music: Church Hymns and Anthems” in the morning while the Bishop S.O. Willie of the Rivers Zone presented on “Understanding Lutheran Liturgy and Presentation.”

The convention proper began January 7. Archbishop Christian Ekong took time to explicate the theme for the convention and lead prayer for a successful gathering. A major focus of the convention was the funding and development of the Lutheran University Nigeria Project. Nigerian Lutherans see great potential for the opening of a university, as education in the country is much sought after. The convention organized fundraising for the project and also broke ground near the LCN’s headquarters in Obot Idim.

Saturday evening saw Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver give the convention’s keynote lecture on “Christ Lives in Me for Life Together.” Dr. Albert B. Collver is Executive Secretary for the International Lutheran Council and Director of Church Relations for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The event closed with a massive celebration of worship on Sunday. Approximately 6,000 people were in attendance for the eight-hour service. Dr. Collver preached on the Baptism of Christ for the event. The service saw LCN Archbishop Ekong consecrate two new bishops for service in the church, following which Holy Communion was celebrated for the thousands in attendance.

Archbishop Ekong consecrates two new bishops for the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
Archbishop Ekong consecrates two new bishops for service in the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.

2016 marks the 80th anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, which was founded in 1936 by missionaries from LCMS. Both the LCN and the LCMS are member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

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