GERMANY – From May 22-25, the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) is meeting in Bleckmar, Germany for its 23rd conference. The conference follows on the heels of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) European world region conference, also held in Bleckmar, on May 21.
The ELC has six-full member churches, all of which are also members of the ILC. The ELC’s full-member churches include the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France, the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB), and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). In addition to church leaders and lay representatives from these churches, this year’s conference includes guest participants from Spain, Switzerland, Russia, Kirghistan, Finland, and Sweden.
“Member churches need such meetings to realize that other churches know similar joys and problems,” ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig explains, “and to discover new ideas for their own church life, even if they live and work in different cultures, languages, and situations. Contacts are built between lay people of different churches which are necessary complements to the contacts between the church leaders.”
On the first day of the conference, presentations centered on two major topics. The first—what makes a Church a Church—was led by President Gisjbertus van Hattem of the ELKB. President van Hattem also serves as Secretary on the Executive Council of the ILC. The second focus of discussion—how confessional Lutheran churches ought to regard and relate to other denominations—was led by Rev. Roger Zieger, Director of SELK’s mission agency, the Lutheran Church Mission.
The origins of the ELC date back to just after the Second World War, when Confessional Lutheran churches from across Europe began meeting together in regular Mission Conferences. In 1986, these meetings transitioned to become the European Lutheran Conference. The purpose of the ELC according to its Guiding Principles is to “promote unity, fellowship, and cooperation between the member churches.”
The ELC’s conferences are currently held biannually, with the 2012 convention having taken place in Mulhouse, France.