PHILIPPINES – When pandemic restrictions hit the Philippines, Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) President Antonio Reyes and his wife Arlene were caught in Tiaong, Quezon Province—a small town about 100 kms away from the LCP’s main office in Manila. So he did what anyone would do: begin mission work.
Of course, that wasn’t the plan from the beginning. President Reyes had been visiting a property recently acquired by the LCP when the quarantine was instituted. Unable to return to Manila, he organized a local food-distribution ministry, providing free rice to informal settlers living along the Philippine National Railway who were unable to work as a result of pandemic regulations. What began as a service to 12 families would eventually grow to reach 40 families.
That practical assistance led in time to Bible studies with local people, and eventually to regular worship services. Today, the LCP has a new mission congregation in the area with a unique name: “COVID Lutheran Church,” with “COVID” standing for “Christ Our Victorious Infinite Deliverer”—a deliberate reminder that God can use even the most difficult circumstances for good.
“Despite having to face the negative effects of the pandemic, we thank God for His grace and His mercy,” President Reyes says of the situation in the Philippines. “Even in these times, the Church prevails.”
Today, the LCP continues to provide rice to those in need, as funds are available. And the pandemic—which has resulted in job losses as well as an increase in the price of basic food commodities—has left many in need.
The Lutheran Church in the Philippines is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
WORLD – The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect nations around the world, and churches are responding with practical and spiritual care. In this report, we highlight the work of International Lutheran Council (ILC) member churches in the Philippines, Russia, and South Africa.
The Philippines has reported 9,485 cases of COVID-19 so far, with 623 deaths. The country entered into quarantine measures on March 15, 2020 in order to combat the spread of the disease, and those measures have been extended at least through May 15. Authorities have called on citizens to refrain from attending mass gatherings and to ensure social distancing.
In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) responded immediately, encouraging all members of the church to abide by and respect the government’s directions. Through the church’s website and social media channels, the LCP has published a wide variety of resources to assist church members during this time of crisis. These resources have included the broadcast of worship services online, the publication of written devotionals and sermons, and posting regular prayers and inspirational articles.
On the local level, pastors and congregations are also reaching out with practical support to the people in their communities. Faith Lutheran Church in Batuan City, for example, has distributed face masks, as well as food supplies, to families in need. Similar distributions of foods and other necessities have taken place in Tiaong, Quezon Province; Patag, Opol, Misamis Oriental; and in Sitio Suapog Barangay Camachile, Bulacan, among other locations.
In a prayer posted on the LCP website, President Antonio Reyes writes the following: “I come to You in behalf of those affected by COVID-19. You are the Great Physician and healer. You have healed people of old and You can do the same today.”
“Protect those serving on the frontline around the world: doctors, nurses, and others in the medical profession,” he continues. “Protect and bless the government representatives. Give wisdom and good health to those working for the antidote of the virus, that they may develop the cure.”
“Lastly, I pray for Your mercy and grace in Jesus, because it is really You who heals our sickness… Help us to be patient… Come, Lord Jesus, save us from this predicament. Amen.”
Russia reports 145, 268 cases of COVID-19 as well as 1,356 deaths so far. Different regions have enacted quarantines and lockdown procedures, with many citizens ordered to self-isolate.
As late as Easter, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) noted that its churches were still able to be open, even as they worked diligently to comply with sanitary requirements, doing everything possible to ensure the safety of members.
In an Easter letter to all parishes of the church, SELC Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin asked members to reflect not only on their physical health during the crisis but also on their spiritual health. “After all,” he wrote, “not only temporary health but also eternal life is given to us by a God who has died for us and has risen, for Whom no doors can be an obstacle.”
Noting that the current pandemic meant many parishioners were unable to attend church, Bishop Lytkin encouraged members to remember that the Eucharist will be waiting for them when they are finally able to return to church. “If current circumstances and restrictions keep you from this for the time being, please remember that in the church every service with the Holy Communion is a little Easter. And this is the main joy of Easter: Christ has risen to be with us and not to leave us; therefore, He is always waiting for us at the altar.”
South Africa has reported 7,220 cases of COVID-19 and 138 deaths. A national lockdown began on March 26, 2020, with the country entering into a period of gradual easing of restrictions beginning on May 1.
From the beginning, the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) called on its members to heed government calls for lockdown, with the Office of the Bishop postponing and suspending all church activities.
Like many other churches around the world, the LCSA has embraced a number of various mediums of communication to ensure continued spiritual care for members. This has included recording and live-streaming sermons, as well as sending regular messages to members via the church’s Facebook page.
Individual members and congregations have also reached out to the needy with food parcels where possible.
“It could seem at times as if things were out of control,” acknowledged LCSA Bishop S.M.A. Modise Maragelo. “But things never get beyond the control or the reach of God. Because of the fact that He is in control, we can always look to Him and we can always trust Him.”
“We trust God to give compassion and dedication to medical professionals,” he continued, “and wisdom to researchers as the world faces this pandemic.”
“Fear and panic have been the order of the day,” he said. “Yet there is hope because God is still alive and still in control.”
For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference came to an end on October 18, 2019. The conference had been meeting in Baguio City, Philippines since October 15.
The morning began with worship, as did every day during the conference, following which representatives from each of the ILC’s five world regions were invited to respond to the conference’s presentations. Speakers included Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England); Rev. Dr. Bruk Ayele Asale (Ethiopia Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus); Rev. Dr. Samuel Liu (Taiwan’s China Evangelical Lutheran Church); Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina); and Rev. Dr. James Gimbel (Lutheran Church–Canada).
A recurring theme in their talks was gratitude for the various talks discussing Lutheran identity in different cultural contexts. Dr. Asale expressed joy over the mutual commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions which binds the participants in the conference together, even as they recognize that we must be sensitive to differences in cultural contexts—something Dr. Liu also noted. Dr. Schelske noted that we all have blind spots and that conferences like confessional Lutherans around the world learn from each other, while together focusing on Jesus Christ. Dr. Gimbel reiterated the necessity of recognizing the cruciform nature of Lutheran identity—vertically in relation to God and horizontally in our culturally-conditioned relationships with our neighbour. Dr. Lumley highlighted the value of the work done on identifying a common curriculum for confessional Lutherans around the world.
All of the major papers presented during the conference will be printed in both English and Portuguese in the theological journal of Seminario Concordia, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil.
In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to tour Baguio City, ending at the Lutheran Church of the Philippines’ Lutheran Theological Seminary. There delegates were treated to wonderful cultural celebrations by members of St. Stephen Lutheran Church as well as the seminary community. A fellowship dinner featuring local Filipino cuisine was a highlight of the event. Following the meal, the ILC World Seminaries Conference drew to a close with a closing program with expressions of gratitude to the Lutheran Church of the Philippines for hosting the conference.
A total of 23 theological institutions were represented at the conference, with participants coming from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Norway, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, the United States of America, and Venezuela.
The conference also saw the installation of a new board for the ILC’s Seminaries Relations Committee. The new members include: South Korea’s Rev. Dr. Jun Hyun Kim (Asia World Region); England’s Dcn. Dr. Cynthia Lumley (Europe World Region); Argentina’s Rev. Dr. Sergio Schelske (Latin America World Region); and the United States’ Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (North America World Region). The new board was installed by ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt during Vespers on October 17.
The next ILC World Seminaries Conference will take place in 2022.
Find all news reports from the 2019 World Seminaries Conference here.
PHILIPPINES – The 7th World Seminaries Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) opened Tuesday morning in Baguio City. The conference runs from October 15-18, 2019.
The morning began with Divine Service at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which will be the venue for regular worship during the conference. President Antonio del Rio Reyes of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, the host church, took the opportunity to welcome participants.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt also brought greetings to the conference.
In the morning, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän introduced the theme which will guide discussion in the first part of the conference: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.” Dr. Klän is Professor Emeritus of Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany.
“All the confessional Lutheran churches in the ILC are committed to determining our decisions solely on the basis of the Word of God, and not on social, cultural or practical considerations,” Dr. Klän explained. But the challenge remains: “What is demanded of us is a theological answer to the challenges we as confessional Lutheran churches, pastors, and scholars are facing in our time and day, and to our specific situations and living conditions in our various countries, continents, and climes.”
In a follow-up, Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler expanded on the theme of “Doctrinal Identity in Cultural Context.” Dr. Ziegler is Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri SYnod.
“In the ILC we find churches that recognize in other churches… doctrinal identity in different cultural contexts,” he explained. “For Lutherans, the Book of Concord is of continuing importance as a true exposition of Scripture, that serves the unity of the Church by confessing the truth and rejecting error in whatever context the church finds itself.”
Asian and European Contexts
Over the course of the course of the conference, five presenters will address their common Lutheran faith and identity from within their own regional context. The afternoon saw the first two of these presenters speak.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson spoke first, presenting on “Christology in an Asian Context.” Dr. Thompson is Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Dr. Thompson outlined the varying approaches Asian cultures have taken in their approaches to Christology, with special reference to the situation in India especially among liberation theologians and theologians focuses on inter-religious dialogue. In these schools’ justifiable desire to be relevant to Asian concerns, he lamented, “sometimes fidelity to the biblical message is compromised to the extent that one ends up creating a novel ‘Christ’ fashioned after one’s own imagination.”
“The task ahead for a Lutheran theologian operating in an Asian context is two-fold,” he concluded; it requires first of all “an unconditional commitment to God’s witness as revealed in the Scriptures,” as well as “serious attempt to engage and relate the biblical message to contextual realities.” The Lutheran Confessions and the Ecumenical creeds have an important role to play in this work, as they ensure Asian cultural wrestling with the doctrine of Christology remains within “the boundaries within which authentic Christian theology and life take place.”
The second half of the afternoon saw Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock provide a European perspective on the theme, presenting on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context.” Dr. Barnbrock is Professor of Practical Theology at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany.
Dr. Barnbrock noted the irony that a speaker from Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, must now speak of his cultural context as that of a post-Christian nation. He outlined some of the symptoms of contemporary German culture, explaining that the ultimate “welfare and woe of Lutheran churches depend less on our ability to lead this church than on whether we trust in Christ as Lord of the church—even against all trends that are emerging.”
The work on articulating confessional Lutheran identity is never finished, he concluded, because the cultural contexts in which we live are continually changing. “At the same time,” he said, “we may know that our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ no longer has to be worked out, but is given with baptism and remains the decisive point of reference for our identity throughout our lives. All work on ecclesial and denominational identity is then secondary, without becoming obsolete.”
After each presentation, time was scheduled for plenary discussion by the wider conference.
PHILIPPINES – The Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) will host the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 7th triennial World Seminaries Conference in Baguio from October 15-18, 2019. Baguio is the site of the LCP’s Lutheran Theological Seminary.
The 2019 conference will feature two major themes. The first topic—“Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts”—will feature five presenters, one from each of the ILC’s five world regions.
ASIA – “Christology in an Asian Context” – Rev. Dr. Samuel Thompson, Professor of Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Nagercoil, India, a theological institution of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC).
EUROPE – “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Christian Context” – Rev. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock, Professor of Practical Theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary (Lutherische Theologische Hochschule – LThH) in Oberursel, Germany, a theological institution of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) in Germany.
AFRICA – “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” – Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG).
NORTH AMERICA – “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North American Culture” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann, Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
LATIN AMERICA – “Ecclesial Lutheran Identity in the Face of Sociology of Favelas” – Rev. Samuel Fuhrmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil – IELB).
Two members of the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee, Rev. Dr. Werner Klän (Germany) and Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler (USA), will respectively provide an introduction and a conclusion to the series of presentations.
The second theme for the 2019 World Seminaries Conference will be “A Lutheran Curriculum for Theological Education.” This section of the conference will focus on discussing a common-ground curriculum which could be acknowledged by all churches, as well as potential opportunities for shared work and seminary exchanges. Dr. Klän will serve as moderator.
The ILC’s triennial World Seminaries Conference brings together representatives from the theological institutions of ILC member churches across the globe. The last World Seminaries Conference was held in Wittenberg, Germany in 2016.
WORLD – In November 2018, Concordia Publishing House shipped thousands of copies of Luther’s Small Catechism to church bodies around the world as part of the publisher’s partnered work with the International Lutheran Council.
In total, 17,000 copies of the visual edition of the Small Catechism (with Explanation) were shipped to Lutheran church bodies around the world, including to churches in Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
“For 150 years, God has blessed CPH with the ability to help equip churches around the world with the resources they need to support theological formation and strengthen Lutheran identity,” said Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, President of Concordia Publishing House. “It’s a joy to partner with the International Lutheran Council in this important work. To God be the glory!” CPH is the world’s largest, continually-operating publisher of confessional Lutheran materials.
In addition to working together on the distribution of Lutheran resources internationally, the ILC and CPH also partner together on the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, a global initiative to train leaders for Lutheran churches around the world.
You can support the joint work of the ILC and CPH through online giving. Simply designate your gift for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program or another program of your choice.
You can also make donations by mail to the following address:
International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118
PHILIPPINES – Rev. Antonio Reyes was elected President of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) at their 23rd General Convention held October 20-24 in Baguio City.
The theme for 2014’s National Convention was taken from 1 Peter 3:18—“Christ suffered and crucified for you, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Outgoing President James Cerdeñola preached for the opening service of the convention at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.
President Cerdeñola was first elected president of the church body in 2004. He will be remembered as the president who oversaw the reunification of the Filipino Lutheran church. In 2012, after 24 years of division in the church, both sides of the two factions voted to reconcile at a joint convention.
President Reyes was elected after the second ballot in a close election. He had previously served as President of the Visayas-Mindanao District of the LCP and further served as the LCP’s Disaster Response Leader—work that was of vital importance following 2013’s devastating super typhoon.
In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan claimed more than 7,000 lives and devastated multiple communities. The Lutheran Church in the Philippines was hit hard by the typhoon, with churches, parsonages, and members suffering devastating losses. In response, the LCP immediately began offering disaster relief. It was supported in this ministry work by its partner churches in the International Lutheran Council, contributing nearly $700,000 USD in relief aid by May 2014.
In December 2014, worries that another super typhoon could devastate the Philippines were allayed when Hagupit hit the Philippines in a weakened form December 6. It landed as a category 3 typhoon but by December 9 it had been downgraded to a tropical depression. While at least 27 people were killed during Hagupit’s journey through the country and a number of rural communities were affected, the damage was less severe than expected. In the lead-up to Hagupit’s landing, the government had evacuated 1.7 million people.
“God answers prayers indeed,” said President Antonio Reyes. “I am happy to inform you that no one among our brethren in Leyte has been badly affected by Typhoon Hagupit, which turned out to be just a typhoon not a supertyphoon. This development has given me more strength and encouragement.”
“I cannot stop thanking God for you and your prayers showing your deep concern and love for us here,” he continued. “Thank you so much. This is a confirmation that with God through Christ nothing is impossible. Our joint prayers and supplication has touched His heart. Let us continue to pray for restoration of those who suffered damages. Your support and prayers are more than welcome.”
The Lutheran Church in the Philippines has approximately 25,000 members. It is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, and currently holds the position of Asia Area Representative on the ILC’s Executive Council.
PHILIPPINES – On November 8, 2013, a devastating typhoon rocked the Philippines. Destruction was widespread throughout the country. More than 6,000 people were killed and 4 million people were displaced. Members of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) did not escape unscathed. Three LCP churches were severely damaged—“one totally flattened,” noted the LCP’s President James Cerdeñola at the time—and countless people were left homeless, both members of the church and their neighbours.
Following the typhoon, the Lutheran Church in the Philippines reacted quickly, sending their emergency response teams to help those in some of the hardest hit areas. Relief focused on immediate needs—like food provision and temporary shelter—as well as long-term needs, like rebuilding homes and livelihood projects. And the work continues.
It’s work that has been noticed by people in wider society as well. “When I went to these areas and talked to the people—not only among our members but also the people in the community—they were saying so many good things,” President Cerdeñola explained, “things like: ‘When the Lutherans give, they give not only to their members but also to the people in the community.’”
“It gives us an opportunity to be known as a church—as a church that cares, a church that loves” President Cerdeñola continued. “And as those great gifts were given, the Word was preached.”
The LCP was aided in its relief work through the support of a number of International Lutheran Council churches. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) offered $100,000 USD in immediate aid, though its contributions have since risen to more than $528,400 USD in aid for the Philippines. That number includes grants the LCMS pledged to make to match donations from ILC members and other partner churches that were directed through LCMS World Relief. The American Association of Lutheran Churches, the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, Japan Lutheran Church, the Silesian Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession, and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark all responded, and together raised more than $20,200 USD for relief work in the Philippines.
Because of legal restrictions in their countries, a number of other churches sent contributions directly to the Philippines. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England raised more than $4,750 USD in relief, while the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany raised more than $130,300 USD in relief. In total, then, ILC members and partner churches have contributed more than $683,650 USD for relief work in the Philippines to date, in addition to the money and man-power the Lutheran Church in the Philippines has itself offered.
PHILIPPINES – As the Philippines struggles in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon, confessional Lutherans around the world are sending aid. More than 2,200 people have been confirmed dead, with thousands more injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. The destruction of homes and infrastructure is widespread. The Philippines’ government has said 11.3 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
In the face of this disaster, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is calling on its member churches to respond with prayer and financial aid. ILC member church The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has already offered $100,000 for immediate typhoon relief, and has pledged an additional $50,000 to match donations by other ILC churches.
“As we see the devastation unfolding on our television screens, our hearts go out to the victims of the typhoon,” said Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt of the International Lutheran Council. “President James Cerdeñola of The Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP) was with us in Germany when the disaster struck. I have prayed with him, and promised the ILC will do what it can to help the people of the Philippines.”
ILC churches are already collecting donations. The Japan Lutheran Church has promised 500,000 yen, and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK) reports it began collecting funds this past Sunday. ILC churches wishing to contribute to the fund are encouraged to contact the ILC’s Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver at Albert.Collver@lcms.org. Individuals and congregations wishing to make donations should contact their church body for further information.
“As people forgiven by God, we are called to show the same love and mercy to others,” said Dr. Collver. “Helping the people of the Philippines now in their time of need is a tangible way we can share with them the love of God in Christ.”
Funds collected by the ILC will be directed to The Lutheran Church of the Philippines. Communications with the Philippines are still spotty, but the LCP’s President Cerdeñola was by Sunday able to determine the following: “We have three congregations in the areas worst hit by the storm,” he reported. “One is in Mahayag, Albuera, Leyte (a coastal town), and the pastor, Rev. Xavier James Palattao, told me that almost all houses in his area including those of our members are either totally destroyed or significantly damaged by Yolanda’s winds. The church building and the parsonage were not spared.”
In a later report, President Cerdeñola noted that the LCP’s three churches in the area “are gone—one, totally flattened.” Despite the devastation, he reports the good news that “many of our members—almost all of them actually—are safe,” though “their properties and means of living are gone.” The LCP’s own disaster response team is already hard at work, but the full extent of damages and loss of life is not yet known. An LCMS World Relief team is set to leave for the Philippines on Friday.
The Rev. James Cerdeñola, president of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), shares this update in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which wreaked havoc across the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 8. Rev. Cerdeñola has been in contact with LCP officials, Mindanao District officers, as well as the local ALERT team (Active Lutherans Emergency Response Team) as they mobilize in the Philippines to extend the mercy of Christ. For more news on The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s response to Typhoon Haiyan, plus information on how you can help, visit: www.lcms.org/disaster.