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Lutherans from around world gather for conference in Wittenberg

International representatives from Lutheran churches around the globe gather and worship at the historic St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, May 6. Church leaders from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans are in Wittenberg for the Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century, May 6-7. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

International representatives from Lutheran churches around the globe gather and worship at the historic St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, May 6. Church leaders from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans are in Wittenberg for the Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century, May 6-7. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

WITTENBERG, Germany – Confessional Lutheran church leaders from every continent except Antarctica are discussing burgeoning churches in the Global South and East as well as challenges in the West, during the International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century here May 6-7.

Representatives from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans worldwide have converged at the very cradle of the Reformation not long before 2017, when Lutherans will celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. Under the theme: Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing, discussions are ranging from the challenges of spreading the Gospel in Western countries to its rapid growth in places like Africa, South America, the Far East and many others.

Wittenberg-2015-02“We have representatives here from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Cameroon, Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Papua New Guinea … all over the world,” said the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III, executive secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “And yet, now the work begins for us, as we hope to reach others amid the challenges presented by post-modernity and a rise in paganism.”

Collver said the mission field in the West is a major challenge for confessional Lutherans amid a decline of Christianity in Europe and the U.S.

“As someone coming to Wittenberg for first time, it is a pleasure for me to see how it is important for our churches to be together, to make our confession known to all, particularly as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” said the Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. “This gathering of church leaders is a sign for us to go onto the next 500 years of the Reformation. The Reformation’s message to the world is that, according to the context we are in now, we need to be faithful to the Word of God as we serve God’s people.”

The collaborative event was a coordinated effort by the ILC, the Selbständige Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche (SELK) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with representatives from the North American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also participating.

“This conference is a huge sign of the catholicity of the Lutheran church,” said SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who also is the ILC’s chairman. “A central theme of this conference is that we confessional Lutherans remember, repent and celebrate the Reformation, and I’m very thankful to be a part of that.”

The ILC is an 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.

The ILC executive committee meets this week in Wittenberg to discuss locating the organization’s headquarters at the recently dedicated International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School here.

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ILC and LWF hold meetings in Luther’s Wittenberg

ILC-LWF-2013

Representatives of the ILC and the LWF meet together in Wittenberg, November 2013.

GERMANY – Executive members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) met together in Wittenberg, Germany from November 12-13, 2013 to discuss issues of common interest. Propst Dr. Johann Schneider (Wittenberg-Regional Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Central Germany) hosted the representatives at an opening dinner, November 12.

The LWF was represented by Rev. Martin Junge (General Secretary of the LWF), Rev. Dr. Nicholas Tai (Dean of Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong), OKR Norbert Denecke (LWF German National Committee), Rev. Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka (LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations), and Rev. Dr. Carlos Bock (Director of LWF Department for Mission and Development). Representing the ILC were Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany), Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (Executive Secretary of the ILC), Asia World Area Representative Rev. James Cerdeñola (President of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines), and ILC Secretary Gijsbertus van Hattem (President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium).

Of particular concern was the recent disaster in the Philippines. Each organization noted that it is encouraging its member churches to support relief efforts and pray for those affected by the typhoon. Representatives also took time to celebrate the reunification of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines. The church had previously suffered 24 years of divisions but took a historic vote to reconcile in October, 2012. The LWF and the ILC committed to “continue to encourage and to pray for the Lutheran Church of the Philippines as it continues to strengthen and grow in its unity.”

The ILC and LWF also discussed their relationship with one another, noting that 11 churches hold dual membership in the two organizations. “Both the LWF and the ILC encouraged these churches to see themselves as a bridge of understanding between these organizations,” notes the official communiqué of the meeting. Recognizing some of the differences that exist between the ILC and the LWF, representatives at the meeting also “engaged in theological discussions regarding their respective positions and agreed that future theological discussion could be beneficial.”

Other business included discussion of both the Wittenberg Project and 500th anniversary commemorations of the Reformation in 2017.

The ILC and LWF first committed to regular meetings together as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2005. The next ILC-LWF meeting will be hosted by the LWF in Geneva, Switzerland in January 2015.

More information on the November 2013 meeting is available in the official communiqué.

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