The Communion of Nordic Dioceses — formed last year by three confessional Lutheran bodies in Scandinavia — has approached the International Lutheran Council (ILC) about its three member churches joining the council.
That membership proposal was the topic of discussion Jan. 20 when leaders of the Nordic Dioceses hosted ILC executive-committee members for Jan. 20 discussions together in Gothenburg, Sweden.
With 37 member churches including the LCMS, the ILC “seeks to encourage and support confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world through education, conferences and discussion of contemporary theological issues,” says an ILC news release about the discussions in Gothenburg.
The three independent Nordic dioceses formed since 2003 “in response to the secularization of the national/state churches in their respective countries involving matters of both Christian doctrine and ethics,” the release states. They are the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway and the Mission Province in Sweden.
Last November, those groups declared altar and pulpit fellowship with each other and established the Communion of Nordic Dioceses, which then approached the ILC about possible membership.
Concerning the outcome of the meeting in Gothenburg, the news release says, “After heartfelt, serious and collegial discussions related to the belief, confession and practice of the Nordic Dioceses, the executive committee of the International Lutheran Council invited each church body of the Nordic Dioceses to submit an application for membership, which will then be considered at the next scheduled World Conference of the [ILC].”
That World Conference is scheduled for 2018 at a location in Europe that has not yet been determined.
Bishop Roland Gustafsson of the Mission Province in Sweden said that membership in the ILC is “important” because “being in a rather small environment in the Nordic countries, we need the global fellowship of the Church of Christ. The ILC represents a Lutheran community where we do think our Nordic dioceses belong.”
Gothenburg, which has a temperate climate, was hit by a freak snow storm Nov. 19.
ILC Chairman Rev. Hans-Jörg Voigt, who is bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, said, “While we experienced the outside of Gothenburg as very cold with lots of snow, we experienced from our hosts a very warm and close confessional brotherhood during this conference. It enables us to look forward to deeper connections between the Nordic church bodies and the International Lutheran Council.”
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III — ILC executive secretary and LCMS director of Church Relations — termed the discussions with the Nordic Dioceses “very heartening and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”
“Despite the challenges the Lutheran church faces around the world in this day and age,” Collver said, “ the Lord has opened tremendous opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast — president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. (CTSFW), special consultant to the ILC and chairman of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations — also participated in the discussions with the Nordic Dioceses, “in preparation for future fellowship discussions with the [LCMS],” the news release notes.
“We are witnessing the emergence of a new era of collaboration between confessional Lutherans throughout the world,” Rast said. “As the Nordic Lutheran Dioceses and the ILC move into the future, we’re all excited to see what God has in store for His Church.”
After the discussions concluded, the ILC executive committee toured The Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg, where the Mission Province in Sweden provides preparation for future pastors. In fall 2014, CTSFW opened an extension site there, where it now offers an accredited Master of Sacred Theology degree.
Posted Jan. 28, 2016