Blessing & Challenges: Churches in Fellowship

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has historic and fruitful partnerships with over 30 Lutheran churches and their seminaries around the world. Sharing the expertise of the LCMS’ seminaries’ professors as well as engaging in the exchange of theological ideas, both Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, send Master of Divinity students to study at partner seminaries each year for a one-year-long program. In return, pastors, church officials and graduate students from other seminaries around the globe attend one of the LCMS’ two seminaries. A handful of those very students describe the history of their home churches as well as their blessings and challenges.

The Lutheran Church in Brazil
The Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil (IELB) celebrated its 107th anniversary June 24. The church was founded at the end of the 19th century when Rev. F. Brutschin, an aging German pastor serving in Brazil, requested that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod send a younger pastor to take his place. The LCMS responded, and four years later, in 1904, God blessed Brazil with the founding of the IELB.

When it first began, the church consisted of 14 pastors, 10 congregations and roughly 3,000 members. Today, by God’s grace, it has grown to 238,000 members, 800 pastors and almost 1,500 congregations.

Blessings

  • In the past 10 years, church membership has increased almost 10 percent.

Challenges

  • There are many who need to hear the Gospel, and prayers are requested for the pastors of the IELB, that they would have the strength to continue to spread the Good News.


About the Author:
Matheus Schmidt is a 2011–2012 Brazilian exchange student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The Independent–Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Selbständige Evangelisch–Lutherische Kirche (SELK) was the result of a 1972 merger between several small Lutheran church bodies in the former West Germany. The German government hoped to unite Reformed and Lutheran churches, thinking each would overlook theological differences for the sake of institutional unity and altar and pulpit fellowship.

But many Lutherans refused to compromise on important matters of faith and confession (e.g., bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, predestination and Christology). In 1991, the Evangelisch–Lutherische Kirche, also known as the “old Lutherans,” from the former East Germany (DDR) joined the SELK. This merger finally brought the majority of confessional Lutheran churches from various German territories into one church body.

Blessings

  • The church has over 35,000 church members in 175 congregations, which are served by 125 pastors.
  • The church continues the tradition of liturgical worship services, largely based on the renewal from the 19th–century confessional Lutheran revival.

Challenges

  • Pastors are preaching to a populace influenced by secularism and Islam.
  • There is a lack of resources that communicate Lutheranism in a language fitting for laypeople.


About the Author:
Benjamin Friedrich was a 2011 German exchange student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya
Born out of the work of the Swedish Lutheran Mission in 1948, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) exists to proclaim the Gospel through preaching of the Word and proper administration of Sacraments. After Kenya attained its independence in 1963, the church was officially registered as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya. In 1996, the church adopted Episcopal polity and the first archbishop was elected. Presently, the church is divided into four dioceses with a population of about 100,000 members.

Blessings

  • The church has a confessional Lutheran seminary for training faithful pastors.
  • The ELCK came into fellowship with the LCMS in 2004, which gave an enormous boost to theological education for our clergy at LCMS seminaries.
  • The church’s headquarters was constructed in Nairobi through an LCEF loan.
  • The first Kenyan hymnal is being developed.

Challenges

  • The church must respond to Pentecostal and Charismatic movements that are affecting the church’s young people.
  • Members suffer the effects of poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
  • There are economic difficulties among the clergy.


About the Author:
Rev. Isaiah Obare is a 2011–2012 Kenyan exchange student at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
The Mission Province in Sweden and Finland
In 2000, the national Church of Sweden decided that every candidate for the Office of the Holy Ministry had to confess the legitimacy of female pastors by receiving Communion from one of them. Out of this emergency situation, some conservative pastors and laymen formed the Mission Province (www.missionsprovinsen.se). In 2005, a bishop was installed to ordain those conservative theologians.

The Mission Province considers itself a free, non-territorial diocese in historic continuation with the national churches of Sweden and Finland, but it is not recognized as such by these churches. It has a few thousand members and has some contact with the LCMS. In recent years, several young men have completed graduate work at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Blessings

  • The number of congregations is growing rapidly.

Challenges

  • Sweden has few churchgoers.
  • Conservative evangelical Lutherans are few and scattered.
  • A vast number of immigrants need to hear the Gospel.

About the Author: Rev. Daniel Brandt is a 2011–2012 Swedish exchange student at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

> On the Web: To learn more about the exchange program, go to www.csl.edu or www.ctsfw.edu.

> The LCMS is in fellowship with churches in North America, South America, Africa and Europe.

August 2011

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