By Mathew Block
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Lutheran leaders from across the globe gathered here Sept. 24-27 for the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) World Conference, meeting under the theme “Bringing the Reformation to the World.”
This was the 10th world conference of confessional Lutheran leaders since the ILC was constituted in 1993 and the 25th since the ILC’s predecessor organization first met in 1952. The world conference meets every three years.
A highlight of the 2015 conference was the welcoming of three new member churches: the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN) and the Lutheran Church in Norway (LKN). Their unanimous acceptance into membership Sept. 25 brings the current number of ILC member churches (including the LCMS) to 38, with a number of other Lutheran church bodies around the world expressing interest in joining the ILC.
Bishop Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin (of the SELC), President Rev. Marvin Donaire (ILSN) and Acting Bishop Rev. Torkild Masvie (LKN) were all at the conference on behalf of their church bodies and celebrated their admissions into the ILC. ILC Chairman Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt greeted each of those church leaders personally to express his congratulations, while the convention at-large applauded each of their inductions.
New members at a glance
The SELC grows out of evangelistic efforts by Lytkin, who began preaching Christianity in Novosibirsk, Siberia, in the early 1990s. The mission became associated with the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1993 and eventually became an autonomous church body in 2003.
In 1998, the SELC formally contacted The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for doctrinal discussions. And in 2010, those two church bodies declared fellowship with each other — an act that was ratified by the 2013 LCMS convention.
Today, the SELC counts about 2,100 baptized members in 25 congregations with 19 clergy (1 bishop, 14 pastors and 4 deacons).
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua was born through the mission efforts of Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), which began work in the Central American country in 1997. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and subsequent relief efforts, receptivity to LCC’s outreach increased dramatically. By 2008, the Nicaraguan people were ready to found their own church body and the ILSN was born.
In addition to serving Nicaraguans, the ILSN participates in mission work in Costa Rica and Honduras. It runs a successful Children’s Education Program (led by the church’s deaconesses) through which more than 700 children benefit from nutritious meals, after-school tutoring and Christian education.
The ILSN currently has approximately 1,800 baptized members, 23 congregations (plus missions in Honduras and Costa Rica), 26 pastors and 37 deaconesses.
The Lutheran Church in Norway’s origin dates to the 2005 founding of The Church of the Messiah. The LKN currently operates through a multi-site ministry strategy where services in one location are live-streamed to preaching points elsewhere. Audio and video links allow several hundred people to regularly benefit from the church’s services. A majority of the church’s members are young adults.
The pastors of the LKN all formerly served in the Church of Norway. Because the church is small, three of the pastors serve on a voluntary basis, while the acting bishop, who serves as pastor in Oslo, receives a half-time salary. The church also offers a theological-education program called AdFontes. Despite its small size, the Lutheran Church in Norway has started to receive significant media coverage as more Norwegians worried about the theological direction of the state church begin to look for alternatives.
The LKN has 50 baptized members, one congregation, eight preaching points and three pastors (plus one retired pastor).
The ILC also elected its executive committee during the World Conference. Voigt was re-elected chairman of the ILC. He was first elected ILC chairman at the 2012 World Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and previously served as interim chairman, beginning in 2010. President Gijsbertus van Hattem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium was re-elected as secretary for the executive committee and the committee selected LCMS Director of Church Relations Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III to continue as the ILC’s executive secretary.
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. World representatives elected for this triennium include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (served by President Rev. Norberto M. Gerke), for Latin America; the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (served by Archbishop Rev. Christian Ekong), for Africa; The Lutheran Church of the Philippines (served by President Rev. Antonio del Rio Reyes), for Asia; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (served by Chairman Rev. Jon Ehlers) for Europe; and Lutheran Church—Canada (served by President Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee) for North America.
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.
In other work, world-conference delegates took part in long-term strategic planning for the International Lutheran Council, discussed ongoing ecumenical engagement with Roman Catholics through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, heard a keynote address and feature essays on the continuing relevance of the Augsburg Confession and joined local Argentines for worship and fellowship.
Mathew Block (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of The Canadian Lutheran and communications manager for Lutheran Church—Canada. He also serves as editor for the International Lutheran Council and blogs with First Things.
Posted Oct. 19, 2015