USA – The end of 2019 saw two regular interchurch meetings between North American Lutheran church bodies.
From November 11-12, 2019, representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC), and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) held their latest round of dialogue in Columbus, Ohio. Newly elected NALC Bishop Daniel Selbo was present for the dialogue for the first time.
The dialogue featured presentations by LCMS and NALC representatives, discussing First Peter as a pillar letter of the New Testament. The dialogue between the LCMS, LCC, and NALC first began in 2011. The next meeting will take place May 20-21, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri.
In December, representatives of the LCMS, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS)met together in Jacksonville, Florida for annual informal discussions. These discussions have helped the three church bodies more clearly define areas of theological agreement as well as areas where differences remain.
During this meeting, discussions focused on the doctrine of justification, particularly objective justification—an area in which the churches find full agreement. This was the eighth regular meeting between the three churches. When representatives of the LCMS, WELS, and the ELS come together again in 2020, discussion will focus on the topics of prayer fellowship and the ministry, as well as a discussion of the WELS statement “Male and Female in God’s World.”
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church–Canada are members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
GERMANY – The respective chairmen of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, and of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), Archbishop Foley Beach, met in Wittenberg on October 30 during the latest round of dialogue between confessional Lutherans and Anglicans from North America.
Bishop Voigt is the spiritual leader of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) of Germany, and has served as ILC Chairman since 2010. Archbishop Beach is Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and is currently Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council. The ILC is a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies committed to the authority of Holy Scripture as God’s written Word, and to the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ as the heart of the Church’s faith and mission. GAFCON was born out of the realignment of world Anglicanism, as those who uphold the authority of Scripture banded together to respond to theological and spiritual decay within the Anglican communion. The churches associated with GAFCON now represent around 50 million of the 70 million Anglicans around the world.
“The theological and historical background of GAFCON deeply impressed me,” noted Bishop Voigt. “Their understanding of Holy Scripture is very close to that of ILC churches,” he continued, while acknowledging there remain differences of theology between the two organizations which would benefit from further dialogue.
For nearly a decade, representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) and the ACNA have carried out semi-annual dialogue meetings, rejoicing in their discovery of substantial biblical teaching held in common. The decision was made to hold this fall’s round of talks at Wittenberg’s Old Latin School, an agency of the LCMS, SELK and ILC, to afford the regular participants an opportunity to be introduced to each other’s European partners and mark the 502nd anniversary of the Reformation together. In that context Bishop Voigt traveled to Wittenberg and had opportunity to speak with Archbishop Beach, who was present for the regular dialogue meetings. The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England was also present, as were Anglican bishops from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Croatia.
Much of the week’s discussions provided an opportunity for those present to introduce the churches they serve. In addition, there was significant attention given to the possibilities for cooperation in theological education in Europe. Participants also toured historical Luther sites throughout Wittenberg, and in the town of Eisleben, where Luther was born and also died. On the early morning of Reformation Day, the group walked to the famous Thesentür (“theses door”) of Wittenberg’s Castle Church to offer prayers to the Lord and to acknowledge His grace in uncovering the truth of the Gospel at the time of the Reformation 502 years ago.
For more information on the dialogue meetings held in Wittenberg, see this release from the Anglican Church in North America, Lutheran Church–Canada, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) celebrated its 60th anniversary during a national convention September 1-2, 2019 in Madina.
During the anniversary service on Sunday, ELCG President John Donkoh, elected in 2018, noted that “If you don’t know where you are from, it becomes very difficult to know where you are going.” Speaking on the history of the Ghanaian church, President Donkoh remarked, “It is said that a man got to know about Lutheranism, and he wanted a church in Ghana. He was referred to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The Missouri Synod said, ‘You have a sister church in Africa.’ And so, missionaries from Nigeria were sent to Ghana. And that is how the Lutheran church began.”
That Nigerian mission work in cooperation with the LCMS would bear great fruit. The ELCG formally registered with the Ghanaian government in 1964. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana has approximately 35,000 members in 50 congregations and 600 preaching stations throughout the country. The church has also been active in international missions: the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) and the Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBe) are two church bodies founded through the mission work of the Ghanaian church, with the ELCG also having been active in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.
To honour the work of Nigerians in helping found their church, the ELCG invited the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to celebrate the special anniversary with them. Present as guest preacher for the anniversary service was the Right Rev. S.O. Willie, a provincial Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. A number of other international church partners were also present for the celebrations.
The ELCG and the LCMS, LCN, LCU, and ELA-SBe are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod declared altar and pulpit fellowship with four church bodies during its 67th regular synodical convention held July 20-25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.
The LCMS’ new church partners are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in België – ELKB), the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (Igreja Evangélica Luterana Portuguesa – IELP), the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa (CLCSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (Den evangelisk-lutherske Frikirke i Danmark – ELFD).
While the LCMS has historical ties to all of these church bodies, the votes regularize relations with them. The LCMS was previously in fellowship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium when it was part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France and Belgium. The ELKB became self-governing in 2002, requiring the development of a new declaration of fellowship.
The LCMS has practiced assumed fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark for more than a century, having supported the church body since it was young and having trained many of its pastors. The new agreement regularizes that relationship, and follows the ELFD’s formal declaration of fellowship with the LCMS during its July 2018 convention.
The Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in the 1959 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, when the Brazilian church was still a district of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The IELP contacted the LCMS in 2016 to request formal recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship, which was granted by the LCMS president. The 2019 LCMS convention has now endorsed that declaration of fellowship.
LCMS relations with the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa predate the CLCSA’s official founding in 1989, with the CLCSA’s founding pastor having been provided by an LCMS seminary education. The CLCSA officially requested altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS in October 2015.
In addition to these declarations of fellowship, the 2019 Convention also moved to simply the recognition of fellowship for new church bodies emerging out of the mission efforts or reorganization of a pre-existing fellowship partner of the LCMS.
The LCMS also resolved to clarify its relationship with Lutherans in Sri Lanka, recognizing fellowship with the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), which succeeds the defunct Lanka Lutheran Church. The Sri Lankan church grew out of LCMS missions in the country beginning in 1927, with the church becoming independent in 2001. The Sri Lankan government declared the church legally defunct in 2007; the church reconstituted and was legally recognized in 2017 as the CELC.
The LCMS, ELKB, IELP, CLCSA, ELFD, and CELC all hold varying forms of membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a growing association of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world. During the convention, the LCMS commended the work of the ILC and pledged its continuing support.
Among other work during the 2019 convention, the LCMS also adopted resolutions to encourage church planting; condemn the sin of racism; strengthen multi-ethnic outreach; encourage continued international theological education in aid of world Lutheran churches; engage in a comprehensive church worker recruitment initiative; and remember the needs of the persecuted church.
The LCMS also celebrated a number of milestones: the forthcoming 175th anniversary of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 2020; 150 years since the founding of Concordia Publishing House; 125 years of international missions to areas outside North America; 125 years since the founding of Concordia University, Nebraska; 100 years of deaconess ministry; 100 years of campus ministry; 60 years of the Director of Christian Education program; and 25 years for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation. The church also commended the upcoming 175th anniversary of the LCMS in 2022.
The convention comes just a few weeks after the LCMS announced that President Matthew C. Harrison had been reelected to a fourth term. During convention, The LCMS elected Rev. Peter K. Lange as First Vice-President. Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr. will serve as Second Vice-President, Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray as Third Vice-President, Rev. Nabil S. Nour as Fourth Vice-President, Rev. Christopher S. Esget as Fifth Vice-President, and Rev. Benjamin T. Ball as Sixth Vice-President.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has commended the work of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), pledging its continued support as the ILC expands its operations in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide. The LCMS’ resolution came during the church’s 67th regular synodical convention, taking place in Tampa, Florida.
“The ILC has become a beacon to worldwide Lutheranism by upholding the Holy Scriptures as the infallible Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions,” notes Resolution 5-08: To Commend and Support the International Lutheran Council. In the resolution, the LCMS gives thanks to God for the ILC and its continuing expansion.
The LCMS resolved “that the ILC be commended for its work to provide a place for worldwide Lutheran churches to be strengthened in the Holy Scriptures and in Lutheran identity as it bears witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.” The LCMS also resolved to encourage greater knowledge of the ILC within the LCMS, and pledged its continued support for the ILC’s work, resolving: “that the LCMS encourage its members to learn more about the work of the ILC, continue its involvement in the ILC, and support the ILC so that Lutheran churches worldwide will have a place to be encouraged, strengthened, and encouraged to remain faithful and bold witnesses.”
The resolution was adopted unanimously.
“It is gratifying to see the work of the International Lutheran Council be recognized in this way,” said ILC Interim General Secretary Darin Storkson following the vote. “The LCMS is an important ally in service of confessional Lutheranism worldwide, and we are thankful for their continued strong support.”
ILC Vice Chairman Timothy Teuscher (President of Lutheran Church–Canada) also expressed gratitude. “The International Lutheran Council is at a critical point in its history,” he said. “A growing number of Lutherans around the world are seeking to reembrace their confessional heritage. The ILC, thanks to the support of its members like the LCMS, is in a key position to assist these churches to stand more firmly on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. May God give us strength for this task, and use us as He sees fit.”
USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) held its second round of classes July 8-19, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).
“It was a joy to be reunited here at CTSFW with our colleagues and brothers in the office from countries throughout Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “We pray that their studies in this program will bear much fruit in their home church bodies”
The first week featured a course on the History of the Lutheran Church taught by CTSFW President Lawrence Rast. This course focused on giving participants a deeper appreciation of the rich heritage of the Lutheran Church, and the tools to evaluate their own Lutheran tradition in light of the history of the Reformation. Participants also considered present day Lutheranism in the context of our changing world, both within and without the church.
The second week of classes featured Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, CTSFW’s Academic Dean, teaching a course on Lutheran Hermeneutics. The course provided instruction for students on how to read and understand Scripture faithfully, while also addressing the dangers of the higher-critical method and reader-oriented hermeneutics of biblical interpretation common in some parts of world Lutheranism. Among other resources, students read the book How to Read the Bible with Understanding, a publication from Concordia Publishing House (CPH).
The students were also joined outside of class by Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a certificate program of the ILC.
“One of the recurring requests we hear from Lutheran Churches around the world is the need for solid theological training,” said General Secretary Storkson. “The International Lutheran Council is proud to offer the Lutheran Leadership Development Program as a way of helping Lutherans around the world meet their theological education and leadership-training needs.”
In addition to classes, participants enjoyed plenty of time for food and fellowship, as well as visiting local Lutheran sites. The group also participated in the regular daily chapel services of CTSFW, where four of the LLDP participants were invited to preach. The intensive two-week period ended with a banquet featuring Lutheran choral music.
“The reaction of the participant in the LLDP remains overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Masaki. “They express gratitude and joy in hearing lectures that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and in receiving the Lord’s gifts in daily chapel and Sunday divine services. It’s wonderful to see the growing confessional fellowship and networking among participants and their churches.”
“To many, this program has been an eye-opening experience which they do not want to keep to themselves,” Dr. Masaki continued. “They request an expansion of the program. They also request that the lectures would be made available in book form as well, so that they may be more easily shared with others in in their home countries—something we are exploring with Concordia Publishing House.”
Eight students from across Africa were present for the latest round of classes, including General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of the Department of Children and Youth in the EECMY; President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Bishop Modise Maragelo the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (LCSA); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala of LCSA; Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); and District Pastor Daniel Mono of ELCT-SELVD.
Three additional LLDP participants from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) and the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) were unable to attend the current round of classes in Fort Wayne.
The LLDPis a two-year certificate program which aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Students in the LLDP meet three times a year over two years for a total of twelve courses. Additional course work, writings, and examinations take place at a distance. More information on the LLDP is available here.
USA – On June 26, 2019, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) announced that Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison has been reelected as President of the church for a fourth term.
President Harrison was first elected to office in 2010, and his fourth term runs from 2019-2022. He was reelected with 51.76% of the vote (3,014 votes).
Other candidates for the position, Rev. Dr. David P.E. Maier (President of the LCMS’ Michigan District) and Rev. Timothy M. Klinkenberg (Senior Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange, California), received 39.89 percent and 8.35 percent of the vote respectively (or 2,323 and 486 votes).
The LCMS holds its presidential elections in advance of its synodical convention. Nominations for president were due in February 2019, with the three candidates receiving the highest portion of votes and consenting to serve if elected added to the slate. Voting was held June 22-25, 2019.
The LCMS will hold its 67th regular synodical convention July 20-25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. In addition to his service to The LCMS, President Harrison has served on the ILC’s Executive Committee since 2018.
CANADA – Rev. Joseph Khembo Alfazema, the father of confessional Lutheran missions in Mozambique and a pastor of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), passed on to glory on May 11, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. A funeral service for Rev. Alfazema was held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Edmonton.
Rev. Alfazema was native to Mozambique, but fled to Canada with his wife Perpetua in the 1980s to escape civil war. After the war ended, the Alfazemas were asked to assist in the founding of a school, health centre, and clean water supply in their homeland. This led to the founding of the Kapesseni Project, which brought not only physical assistance to those struggling in the aftermath of the civil war but also spiritual care as well.
Rev. Alfazema pursued pastoral ministry through Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario), and was called to serve Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) as a missionary to Mozambique upon his graduation. While his wife Perpetua focused on social ministry needs through the Kuwangisana Project, Rev. Alfazema focused on Gospel proclamation and evangelization.
Rev. Alfazema returned to Canada for health reasons following his retirement, but the work they began continued. In 2018, the church which grew out of his mission work was officially recognized by the Mozambican government as the Concordia Christian Church in Mozambique (Igreja Cristãda Concórdia em Moçambique – ICCM). While the church was officially registered by the government in 2018, it had previously operated unofficially for several years under the name Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique —federal requirements in Mozambique prevented the young church from registering with the word “Lutheran” in its legal name).
The church grew out of Rev. Alfazema’s missions, and drew on the support of a number of international partners. Early on, Rev. Alfazema partnered with Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle to collaborate on mission work in the area. Dr. Winterle is president emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and was at the time serving with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). Together, LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, along with support from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany’s (SELK) Bleckmar Mission project, coordinated mission outreach and theological training in the country, especially through the formation of a Theological Education by Extension Program organized by the IELB.
In August 2015, the Mozambican church celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors from the TEE. At the time, the church had ten congregations. By June of the next year, they had 31 congregations. Today, the ICCM has 80 congregations and a current class of thirty students training for the pastoral ministry.
The ICCM’s parent churches and supporters—LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, the LCMS, and SELK—are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.
The family of Rev. Aflazema has invited those wishing to honour his legacy to contribute to the building of new classrooms for an elementary school in Mozambique.
SOUTH KOREA – The Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) held its 48th regular convention October 10-12 at Luther University in Yongin, South Korea, during which time the church celebrated 60 years of Lutheran witness in Korea. The gathering took place under the theme “Arise, Shine.”
The first Lutheran outreach in Korea took place in 1832, but sustained Lutheran ministry in the country did not take place until 1958, when The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) established mission work in the region. That work was undertaken by three American missionaries (Paul Bartling, Maynard Dorow, and Kurt Voss) and their families, along with one Korean clergyman, Dr. Won-Yong Ji, who had received his doctorate from the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
The church achieved independence in 1971. Today, the LCK counts more than 5,000 members in more than 50 churches across the country, though it has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands more through various mass-media mission programs, like the Lutheran Hour and the Bethel Bible study program.
LCMS President Matthew Harrison was present for the event, bringing greetings to the church as it celebrates 60 years of Lutheranism in Korea. On October 10, the two churches took the opportunity to reaffirm their ties to one another, with LCK President Young-Seok Jin and LCMS President Harrison signing an updated protocol document between the two churches. The document will guide continued cooperation between the two churches going forward.
The Lutheran Church in Korea is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the ILC, was also present for anniversary celebrations in Korea.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Lutherans in Papua New Guinea are celebrating 70 years since the arrival of Lutheran missionaries in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea, an event which led in time to the founding of the Gutnius Lutheran Church (GLC). A celebration was held October 31 to November 3, 2018 in Yaramanda, the site where missionaries to the region first arrived.
The event featured several guest speakers highlighting both the history of the Lutheran missions to the Enga region, missions to the Siassi Island, and the 501st anniversary of the Reformation. The GLC also presented representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) with sand art portraying a missionary giving the Bible to an Enga man, symbolizing the coming of the LCMS missionaries to Yaramanda on November 2, 1948.
The history of the GLC dates to 1947, when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia requested The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) assist with mission outreach in unreached parts of Papua New Guinea. The LCMS responded positively, sending Rev. Dr. Willard Burce and Rev. Dr. Otto Hintze as missionaries in 1948, and cooperating with missionaries Rev. Harold Freund and Patrick Kleinig from Australia.
Along with 230 builders and cargo carriers, Drs. Burce and Hintze travelled 60 miles by foot from Ogelbeng to Yaramanda, where a local leader had invited missionaries to come visit. That site would serve as the staging grounds for Lutheran missionary outreach in the nearby Enga territory. They first entered the Enga area on November 3, 1948. Five days later, on November 7, they held their first worship service in the Enga region, with about 40 local men in attendance.
The first baptisms in the Lutheran community took pace in January 1957, when 79 people were baptized. The church organized to become the Wabag Lutheran Church in 1961, eventually changing its name to the Gutnius Lutheran Church in 1978. Today the GLC has about 125,000 members. In addition to mission and congregational ministry, the church also runs a hospital, schools, and seminaries.
Dr. Burce, now into his nineties, sent video greetings to Papua New Guinea in 2017 on the occasion of the GLC’s commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Between one and two thousand people gathered in Irelya for the historic event.
The GLC is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies worldwide.
In recent years, the GLC has struggled with leadership disputes. The ILC recognizes Bishop Nicodemus Aiyene as the legitimate, duly elected head of the GLC.
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