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2022 World Conference: ILC issues statement on Liturgy and Culture, plans for statement rejecting virtual communion

ILC Chairman Elect Juhana Pohjola preaches during matins on the final morning of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.

KENYA – The final morning of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference saw the adoption of a Statement on Liturgy and Culture, as well as a unanimous decision to produce a statement rejecting virtual communion.

The first session of the day began with a service of matins. Rev. Roger James, the ILC’s Assistant to the General Secretary, served as liturgist, while incoming Bishop Juhana Pohjola, incoming ILC chairman, preached. Bishop Pohjola’s sermon focused on John 10:11-16, noting the commemoration of St. Cyprian.

After matins, Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov, Rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, presented the final paper of the conference: “Lord, to Whom Shall We Go? The Revision of Liturgical Space and Time in a ‘Virtual Worship’ Era.”

Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov

“My proposition is that there is a discrepancy between our subscription to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and reliance on the virtual format for conducting worship services (especially ones containing the Lord’s Supper),” Dr. Streltsov said during his lecture. And, while he recognized that, during the pandemic, many Lutheran churches around the world relied on online technology to reach members, Dr. Streltsov warned that allowing “virtual worship” to become part of the norm is a decision “pregnant with philosophical and theological dimensions.”

“Our traditional Lutheran liturgy emphasizes the real presence of Jesus in the Word and Sacraments made available to us in a concrete, earthly setting,” he noted. “An alternative understanding of worship would centre rather on perceived personal spiritual and emotional comfort of the worshipper, on the sense of self-fulfillment, self-realization on behalf of the worshipper…. My thesis is that these two different understandings of worship are incommensurable.”

A spirited discussion on the subject of virtual worship followed the presentation.

Report on Liturgy and Culture

Following a break, the conference considered a summary statement on Liturgy and Culture, which distills key points from the presentations and subsequent discussions. This summary was adopted by common consent. Key passages include:

  • “The Church fundamentally is the gathering of people around the Lord of the Church to encounter him, hear him, receive him, and be blessed by him for another week ‘out in the world’. The liturgy involves words and actions by which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present to the glory of the Father.”

    “Conscious that the Word of God constitutes and our Confessions shape our worship, the Church balances the truth of Jesus’ presence with his people and clearly speaking the Word of God to the world. This is particularly pertinent in liturgical reviews and the production of new rites, new hymnals, and changes to permissive rubrics. The Church has the responsibility to communicate clearly Jesus and not sacrifice Jesus in the process! The Church’s catholicity must be maintained against the deceptions of the new.”

    “As language and identity are increasingly fluid today; as the Church is increasingly aware that the world is always opposed to the God who loves her; as God’s Word sadly is always challenged by others who also say ‘Thus says the Lord’ so the Church can ‘sail such storms’ when the liturgy is faithful to the Lord of the Church who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. In the liturgy, Jesus draws all people to himself so that they can live life in all its fulness—because an embodied God comes to embodied humanity with embodied grace creating an embodied community and witness—no matter when or where people are found.”

The full summary will be released online in the days to come.

Virtual Communion

Later in the day, the world conference also approved a procedure for the publication of a statement rejecting virtual communion as contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

A proposed text was unanimously accepted in principal, with additional direction given to the board to prepare a final version for release in mid-December 2022.


2022 World Conference: Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service

Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gives the second lecture of the 2022 World Conference.

KENYA – The 2022 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued on Wednesday morning, September 14, 2022, during which time the conference heard the second of four major lectures on the conference theme.

ILC General Secretary preaches during Matins on Holy Cross Day.

The morning began with a service of Matins, with ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill preaching. His sermon highlighted the conference’s commemoration of Holy Cross Day. Rev. Charles Froh, Conference Chaplain, served as liturgist.

Following Matins, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki gave the second lecture of the conference, with a presentation entitled: “Liturgy as Jesus’ Own Service Through His Office: Reflections on the Question of Liturgy and Culture.” Dr. Masaki is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana as well as Director of the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

In his presentation, Dr. Masaki analyzed how previous thinkers and organizations have discussed the relationship between liturgy and culture, noting in many a lack of emphasis—or even a denial—of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The influence of higher criticism on some scholars’ interpretation of the events of the Last Supper has gone on to negatively influence their understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the liturgy.

“When Jesus is gone in this way, what is left in the church but what we do to try to celebrate something?” Dr. Masaki asked. “Liturgy becomes what we dotoward God.” In this way of thinking, the focus on God’s service to us in the liturgy is lost; and, therefore, discussion of liturgy and culture often becomes simply about finding ways that allow us to express ourselves to God—not to enculturate God’s ministry to us through the Divine Service.

“Liturgy is not something we do,” Dr. Masaki stressed. “Basically, liturgy is Jesus’ service to us”—Him giving us His body and blood for our salvation.

He went on to share video clips of Lutherans worshipping around the world—in different languages, different cultures—and yet retaining the historic liturgy. “Why should we forsake our own rich tradition and go elsewhere to find something less good?” he asked.

Left: ELCG President/Bishop John Donkoh leads a Bible study on Romans 12. Right: ILC Business Manager and Treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gives financial reports.

Following a break, the conference turned to a Bible study by President/Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG). President Donkoh led a study of Romans 12 and the Christian life. Then the ILC’s business manager and treasurer, Alison Blodgett, gave financial reports.

The morning ended with a report by Rev. Dr. Werner Klän of Germany on the ILC’s ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, with comments also by Rev. Dr. Gerson Linden of Brazil. The topic is scheduled to be returned to later in the conference, after which a fuller news report on the subject will be published.


Classes Resume for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program

In front of the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Left to right: ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill; Bishop Dr. Emmanuel Makala (South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa); President Dr. Denis Rakotozafy (Malagasy Lutheran Church); President John Donkoh (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana); General Secretary Teshome Amenu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – EECMY); President Dr. Bruk Ayele of Mekane Yesus Seminary (EECMY); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); and LLDP Director, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki.

GERMANY – After successfully completed the first half of the two-year Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) with six classes in three sessions in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated postponement of the second half for two years. The program was finally able to resume this spring, with classes taking place February 21 through March 4, 2022 at the International Lutheran Center (Old Latin School) in Wittenberg, Germany.

The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, taught a course on “Liturgy and Lutheran Hymnody” while LLDP Director, Professor Naomichi Masaki of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), held a class on the “Lord’s Supper.”

In front of Luther’s study at Wartburg Castle.

A total of seven Lutheran church leaders from Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Madagascar gathered together for the fourth sessions. Regrettably, variations in national vaccination policies prevented some other students from South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia from obtaining visas necessary to attend.

Students were delighted to finally meet again in person, after having communicated primarily through emails and social media. Daily chapel together and classroom sessions remain the core of the program. Brotherly conversations were enhanced by living together for two weeks and by visiting significant historic locations within Wittenberg as well as in the surrounding regions of Wartburg, Erfurt, and Leipzig.

Worship and the Lord’s Supper

Dr. Quill, who has been part of the LLDP’s teaching faculty since its launch in 2019, led a course on liturgy and Lutheran hymnody. Worship is often a challenging part of the LLDP participants’ ecclesial leadership responsibilities at home. Dr. Quill addressed this important area by teaching the nature of worship as God’s service; the development of liturgy and ceremonies throughout church history; appropriate vestments; and the richness of Lutheran hymnody, with a guideline as to how one may evaluate hymns to be sung in the Divine Service. With numerous concrete stories and examples, Dr. Quill encouraged participants on how to exercise liturgical leadership in their own church bodies.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill leads LLDP participants in singing “A Mighty Fortress” in St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg.

Dr. Masaki’s topic was an equally challenging one for the participants. Issues related to administration of the Lord’s Supper were identified and participants planned how to address them in their own ministry contexts. The use of bread was an issue in some churches of the participants. The question of wine was an even more disputed one. The class discussed frequency and early ages of communion, as well as the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and the Office of the Holy Ministry. Several participants brought up the subject of unfriendly pastors at communion. Others commented on legalistic practices inherited from their missionary-forebears, such as the compulsory covering of the head for women, wearing of jacket for men, and removal of shoes for all. Charismatic and neo-Pentecostal influences on the Lord’s Supper were also deliberated. The issue of open communion prompted by ecumenical relations of churches and schools in local settings was also addressed. Dr. Masaki helped these church leaders address these and other issues, discussing the major ecumenical and liturgical movements of the last century that may have negatively impacted doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper in their contexts. He further expounded the Lord’s Supper as instituted by our Lord in Scripture and confessed in the Book of Concord, helping students prepare themselves for leadership in this area at home.

Professor Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director, teaches LLDP students in Wittenberg.

LLDP participants received the teachings of Dr. Quill and Professor Masaki with joy, gratitude, and excitement. “You explained everything in detail and made it easier to understand what confessional Lutheran means,” one participant remarked about his experience. “The courses have made us to think deeper in a number of issues when it comes to liturgy and the Lord’s Supper,” said another. “I strongly recommend that the LLDP continues, in order to preserve the truth among the participating churches and to strengthen the ILC,” commented still another student.

“It was gratifying that the Lord has made it possible for the LLDP to meet face to face again,” commented Dr. Masaki. “The time spent in person was another wonderful opportunity for our Lutheran leaders to deepen their confessional Lutheran theology, develop practical skills in the areas of worship, and cultivate their friendship as Lutheran church leaders.”

 “I am deeply thankful for the supporters of the LLDP, including Concordia Publishing House, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Concordia Theological Seminary,” he continued. “We were delighted to have Dr. Quill with us as General Secretary. We pray that the Lord may continue to bless this important program for the sake of serving the Lutheran Churches around the world through their leaders.”

LLDP participants at Wartburg Castle.

The next set of classes will take place July 25–August 5, 2022 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The cohort will take two practical courses and church leadership: “Strategic Planning and Task Management,” taught by Rev. Dr. Jeff Skopak, pastor of Grace Lutheran in Jacksonville, Florida; and “Budgeting and Financial Accountability,” taught by Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola, President of the LCMS’ Mid-South District.

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

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


“Glory to God in the Highest” – Where Did it Go?

The annunciation to the shepherds, Govert Flinck: 1639.

by Timothy Quill

This past Sunday was the last in Advent, and once again immediately following the Kyrie ,the pastor went directly into the Greeting and Salutation: “The Lord be with you,” “and with your spirit.” The Gloria in Excelsis was nowhere to be found. It has been gone since the first Sunday in Advent.

When Martin Luther undertook his remarkable 1526 restoration and German translation of the Latin Mass, he did not include the ancient Gloria in Excelsis. How was it possible for someone as theologically and musically gifted as Dr. Luther to delete the Gloria? At first glance this seems a bit baffling, but a closer look reveals that the reason for the omission was most likely because the German Mass was first sung in December of 1525 which put it during the penitential season of Advent when the Gloria was not customarily sung. New compositions of the Gloria would eventually be composed by Nicolaus Decius, Luther, and others.

The Gloria is also omitted during the penitential season of Lent, but its omission is most striking during the Advent-Christmas season since it is the song of the angels to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.

Lutherans greatly value and retain the traditional liturgical practices of the church.

In the Introduction to his 1523 revision of the Latin Mass, Luther explained: “It is not now or ever has been our intention to abolish the liturgical service of God completely, but rather to purify the one that is now in use from accretions which corrupt it and to point out an evangelical use.” He commends those parts of the service added by the early church fathers and recommends they be retained in the liturgy: Psalms and Introit Psalm, Kyrie, Readings from Epistle and Gospel, Gloria in Excelsis, and so forth (LW AE 53:20-21).

In 1530, the Lutherans confessed in Article 15 of the Augsburg Confession, “We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify” (Ap XV, Tappert 220:38, emphasis mine).

One year after the Diet of Augsburg, Luther was preaching at St. Mary’s parish church in Wittenberg. He expressed amazement that the evangelical movement was still alive: “A year ago, at the Diet of Augsburg, the [general] opinion was that everything would go topsy-turvy within four weeks, and that all Germany would founder. [No one knew how things would end up,] or from what source help and comfort might come. The situation baffled and defied all reason and wisdom, and one was constrained to say: ‘It all depends on God’s power, and it is all staked on His Word’” (LW AE 23:400).

It is now 489 years after the Diet of Augsburg and the world in which we live—including numerous churches which bear the names “Evangelical” and “Lutheran”—are in many respects topsy-turvy, upside down, and in a state of confusion. And we too are led to express amazement and thanksgiving that after all she has gone through, the Lutheran Church has not foundered. She continues to depend on “God’s power, and it is all staked on His Word.” This is articulated on the International Lutheran Council website: “The International Lutheran Council is a growing worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies 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” (emphasis mine). It is extremely encouraging to know that we are not alone. Over 50 churches worldwide have chosen to be part of an association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which share this commitment to the Gospel and the Word of God.

Martin Luther retained the historic liturgy but insisted that it be in the vernacular, so that the people could understand and participate meaningfully in the Divine Service. For this reason, the Gloria in Excelsis was also composed in hymn form in order to foster congregational singing.

As Advent gives way to Christmas, ILC Churches from many countries and cultures will worship in different languages yet share in the common faith, the common Lutheran confession, and common Lutheran liturgical tradition. In the Divine Service the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word made flesh, comes to us through the Word and in his very Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament to bestow upon us the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Lutherans from all ages and throughout the world join the angels, who sang to the shepherds when Jesus was born in Bethlehem: “Glory be to God on high; and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).

All glory be to God alone,
Forever more the highest one,
Who did our sinful race befriend
And grace and peace to us extend.
Among us may His gracious will
All hearts with deep thanksgiving fill.
– Martin Luther, All Ehr und Lob, stanza 1


Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

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