Lutheran leaders from around the globe attend ILC World Conference

Delegates and guests of the International LUtheran Council's 2015 World Conference in Argentina.
Delegates and guests of the International Lutheran Council’s 2015 World Conference in Argentina.

ARGENTINA – The International Lutheran Council welcomed church leaders representing millions of Lutherans from across the globe to its 2015 triennial convention. In total, 22 member churches, three new member churches, and eight guest churches from across every continent were present for the 25th (10th) World Conference of the ILC, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Members in attendance

Eight member churches from the Latin America region were represented at the conference, including President Carlos Nagel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina, President Rene Mendoza Viorel of the Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (Associate Member), President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, President Cristian E. Rautenberg of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, Bishop Abdiel Orozco Aguirre of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala, President Isaac Guadalupe Garcia Castillo of the Lutheran Synod of Mexico, President Norberto M. Gerke of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay, and President J. Elias Lozano of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela.

Representing European member churches were President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium, President Leif G. Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (Associate Member), Chairman Jon Ehlers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, Vice-President Philippe Volff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Bishop Arri Kugappi Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia.

Four North American ILC member churches were represented at the conference, including President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada, President Marky Kessa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins of The American Association of Lutheran Churches, and President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

As a result of visa difficulties, only two leaders of African ILC member churches and two Asian ILC member churches were able to attend this year’s conference: Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, President Shin Shimizu of the Japan Lutheran Church, and President Chul-Hwan Kim of the Lutheran Church in Korea. President Carlos Nagel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina, which hosted the conference, took the opportunity during greetings on the first day of the conference to express his deep regret that visa difficulties had left a number of ILC churches in Asia and Africa unable to attend this year’s conference.

Also present for the conference were three church bodies who were later accepted into membership during the 2015 World Conference—two church bodies from Europe and one from Latin America: Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church), President Marvin Donaire (Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua), and Acting Bishop Torkild Masvie (Lutheran Church in Norway).

Guests in attendance

In addition to delegates from ILC member churches, guests from a number of other Lutheran churches and fellowships were in attendance for the 2015 World Conference. These special guests included representatives from:

  • Ethiopia: General Secretary Ofga Berhanu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus
  • Finland: Bishop Risto Soramies of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland
  • Kazakhstan: Bishop Alexander Burtsev of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kazakhstan
  • Sweden: Bishop Roland Gustafsson of the Mission Province in Sweden
  • Tanzania: Bishop Emmanuel Makala of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (South East of LakLarch in Tanzania (South East ofof the Mission Province in Swedendance for the World Conference. (China Evangelical LUtheran Che Victoria Diocese)
  • Ukraine: Bishop Serge Maschewski of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine
  • Uruguay: Rev. André Luiz Muller of the Lutheran Church in Uruguay

Of these guests, the Ethiopian and Tanzanian churches represent the two largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, with growing memberships of 7.2 million and 6.5 million members respectively.

The presence of all these guests serves as a reminder that the ILC continues to grow as a key facilitator of dialogue between various Lutheran churches around the world.

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Hans-Jörg Voigt reelected ILC Chairman

The International Lutheran Council’s newly elected Executive Council. (Left to right: IELP President Norberto M. Gerke, LCC’s President Robert Bugbee, SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver, ILC Secretary, ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem, ELCE Chairman Jon Ehlers. Missing from the photo are LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong and LCP President Antonio del Rio Reyes; they, along with a number other African and Asian ILC member churches, were unable to attend the 2015 World Conference due to visa difficulties).
The International Lutheran Council’s newly elected Executive Council. (Left to right: IELP President Norberto M. Gerke, LCC’s President Robert Bugbee, SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver, ILC Secretary, ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem, ELCE Chairman Jon Ehlers. Missing from the photo are LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong and LCP President Antonio del Rio Reyes; they, along with a number of other African and Asian ILC member churches, were unable to attend the 2015 World Conference due to visa difficulties).

ARGENTINA – On September 26, delegates to the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2015 World Conference in Argentina reelected Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt as ILC Chairman.

Chairman Voigt is Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany, a position he has served in since 2006. He was elected ILC Chairman at the 2012 World Conference held in Niagara Falls, Ontario in Canada. Bishop Voigt had previously served as Interim Chairman of the ILC since 2010, after being automatically advanced from Vice-Chairman when the position of Chairman became vacant.

Despite the modest size of his church body, Chairman Voigt has become a prominent leader in confessional Lutheran and wider Christian circles. His 2013 Pastoral Letter “Discovering Marriage and Family as Gifts of God, along with other public action, won him recognition as “2013 Bishop of the Year” by a German interdenominational Christian news service, and he was likewise awarded a “Declaration of Respect” by the Association of Christian Publicists. In 2014, Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton, Canada awarded Chairman Voigt an honourary Doctor of Divinity Degree in recognition of his service not only to the German church but to Lutherans around the world.

Also on September 26, the ILC reelected President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) to serve as Secretary for the Executive Council.

The remainder of the ILC’s Executive Committee is composed of five World Area Representatives. According to the ILC’s constitution, members elect church bodies rather than individuals to fill these roles. Elected to serve as Latin America representative for this triennium was the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELP), currently served by President Norberto M. Gerke. The remaining World Regions saw the previous triennium’s representatives returned to office. Representing Africa is the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN), currently served by Archbishop Christian Ekong. The Asia World Area will be filled by The Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP), currently served by President Antonio del Rio Reyes. Europe will be represented by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE), currently served by Chairman Jon Ehlers. Finally, elected to represent North America is Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), currently served by President Robert Bugbee.

The ILC’s Vice-Chairman is not elected by the World Conference. Instead, the Executive Council will elect a Vice-Chairman from among the World Area Representatives at their first council meeting.

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ILC leaders report, delegates discuss ecumenical relations

Discussion at the ILC's 2015 World Conference spill into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).
Discussion at the ILC’s 2015 World Conference spills into the coffee break. Bishop Hans Jorg Voigt (ILC Chairman and head of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany) and Chairman Jon Ehlers (Evangelical Church of England) speak with General Secretary Ofga Berhanu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus).

ARGENTINA – The 2015 World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) continued the afternoon of September 24 as delegates heard reports from the Executive Council and discussed ecumenical relations.

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt gave his report to the conference in the afternoon, highlighting various successes of the past triennium, including joint relief and aid following Typhoon Haiyan, the ILC’s 2013 World Seminaries Conference held in Lithuania, new contacts between ILC churches and other Lutheran churches, and the 2015 Wittenberg Conference on global confessional leadership.

In his report, Chairman Voigt also noted the challenges the Church will face in the years to come. Among these challenges he identified the fact that faith in Christ continues to decrease in Western society; that worldwide persecution of Christians is on the rise; and the rise of the global refugee crisis. We must also learn anew to speak Christian wisdom and insight into the world around us, he suggested, stressing the importance of Christian though to the cultures in which we find ourselves. Finally, he suggested, the ILC must learn to look further forward and consider what form the International Lutheran Council should take going into the future.

That last topic led into the ILC’s Executive Secretary Al Collver’s report. Dr. Collver noted that the ILC has been undertaking in depth Strategic Planning over the past triennium. He indicated that he would be bringing the details of their findings forward to the Conference to discuss in the days to come.

Ecumenical relations

Among other subjects raised by Chairman Voigt in his report was that of ecumenical relations. He noted that planning meetings between the Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the ILC have finalized the start date for informal theological dialogue between the two bodies. The first official meeting between the two dialogue groups will begin October 7. Representing the ILC are theologians from Germany (Werner Klän), Brazil (Gerson Linden), the United States of America (Roland Ziegler), and Canada (John Stephenson).

Delegates then turned their attention to a discussion of the document “From Conflict to Communion,” a reflection on Lutheran-Catholic dialogue produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. The ILC’s dialogue representatives feel that providing a confessional Lutheran statement on “From Conflict to Communion” may serve as an appropriate first step in the informal dialogues between the PCPCU and the ILC. Such a statement might also be a productive means of engaging the LWF as well, it is hoped. Discussion of the response statement will continue into Friday’s business sessions.

The LWF is represented at the ILC’s World Conference in an observer capacity by Rev. Dr. Gloria Vargas, LWF Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean region. Dr. Vargas will have the opportunity to greet delegates on behalf of the LWF during Friday’s sessions.

World Area meetings

Following these discussions, delegates broke for World Area meetings. After this, the Conference heard World Area reports from Latin America. Each member church had the opportunity to discuss a bit of their church’s history as well as their present work. A recurring theme among many of the Latin America churches was many churches and mission opportunities but too few pastors to fill them—a situation where “the harvest is ready but the workers are few.”

Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.
Latin America church leaders report to the ILC.

The day ended with Vespers. President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) served as liturgist, while ILC Executive Secretary Al Collver gave a homily reflecting on angels and the devil. In the face of the evil in this world—war, sickness, suffering—it can feel as though Christ is not really victorious, Dr. Collver noted. But we must remember that Satan and his armies already stand defeated by the blood of Jesus and the Word of God. This is how St. Michael and his angels prevailed against the devil (Revelation 12:11), Dr. Collver explained. So too, we can trust that the blood of Christ and His Word have defeated Satan on our behalf too. This promise gives us comfort and hope to stand up against the suffering and evil we experience in this world.

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ILC gears up for World Conference in September

Email-Branding-for-feedburnerThe Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is finalizing plans for its next triennial World Conference, set for September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The gathering will meet under the theme Bringing the Reformation to the World, and is being hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA) and its Concordia Seminary. Keynote speaker for the conference is Rev. Aleksey Streltsov of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

Interest in the ILC continues to grow. The Executive Committee is recommending that the Conference accept into membership confessional Lutheran churches in Liberia, Nicaragua, Norway, Siberia, and Sudan. In addition, a number of guests from outside the ILC are expected to participate in its upcoming World Conference, some expressly because of the doctrinal commitment and priorities of the Council.

During the most recent conference call of the Executive Committee, ILC Chairman Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt (Germany) expressed his joy over the financial support the Council is receiving from its member churches. Noting that the majority of the member churches had paid their commitments to the ILC in full, Bishop Voigt observed, “This is the strongest financial report we have seen so far.” The Executive Committee also expressed its gratitude to the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation for a special grant that will be used to cover expenses of the Buenos Aires conference.

Executive Committee members represent the ILC’s five world areas. They are President Egon Kopereck of Brazil (Latin America), Chairman Jon Ehlers of England (Europe), President Antonio Reyes of the Philippines (Asia), Archbishop Christian Ekong of Nigeria (Africa), and President Robert Bugbee of Canada (North America). Bishop Voigt of Germany and President Gijsbertus van Hattem of Belgium round out the committee’s membership as Chairman and Secretary, respectively. Since 2012, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver of the USA serves as Executive Secretary of the Council.

Plans were also shared for the next session of theological dialogues between the ILC and the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU), set for early October in Oberursel, Germany.

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