BELGIUM – On September 26, 2018, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) welcomed seventeen new church bodies into membership, representing approximately 4.15 million Lutherans across the globe. Their addition more than doubles the number of Lutherans worldwide associated with the ILC, bringing the total to approximately 7.15 million members.
Votes to accept the new churches took place September 25-26, 2018, during the ILC’s 2018 World Conference meeting in Antwerp, Belgium.
In total, the ILC received ten new member churches from Africa, three from Europe, and four from Asia (including Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church, which succeeds the now defunct Lanka Lutheran Church). That brings the total number of church bodies holding membership in the International Lutheran Council to 54.
Two additional church bodies applying for membership were declined at this time.
Of the new church bodies aligning with the ILC, eleven were received as full members and six as observer members. A synopsis of each new member church, including information on its history, membership numbers, leadership, and ILC membership class, appear below in alphabetical order by country.
Benin: Lutheran Church in Africa—Benin Synod
The Lutheran Church in Africa—Benin Synod (Eglise Luthérienne en Afrique—Synode du Bénin – ELA-SBe) has 400 members in five congregations throughout Benin. The church itself was established in 2012 and officially registered in 2014, but its history goes back to 1996, when The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod began supporting missionary work begun by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana. The ELA-SBe was born out earlier attempts to establish a confessional Lutheran church body in Benin. The church is led by President Abona Legue Koumbi. The ELA-SBe was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Burkina Faso: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Burkina Faso
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Burkina Faso (Eglise Evangelique Lutherienne du Burkina Faso – EELBF) has approximately 1,400 members in eight parishes and four preaching points throughout Burkina Faso. The church was officially established and recognized in 1996. It was born through the pioneering mission work of the evangelist Rufus K. Kormah, who passed away in early 2011. The EELBF is led by President Tanpo Tchiriteme. The EELBF was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Finland: Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland
The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (Suomen evankelisluterilainen Lähetyshiippakunta – ELMDF) has approximately 2,000 members in 33 congregations throughout Finland. The Mission Diocese was founded in 1999 as method to support confessional groups within the larger Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and transitioned into an independent church body in 2013. The ELMDF is led by Bishop Risto Soramies. The ELMDF was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Indonesia: Indonesian Lutheran Christian Church
The Indonesian Lutheran Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Luther Indonesia – GKLI) has almost 21,000 members in 102 congregations throughout Indonesia. The church was founded in 1965 and emerged out of a reform movement that began within the Protestant Christian Batak Church. The GLKI is led by Bishop Esra Sinaga. The GKLI was accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
Liberia: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL) has more than 7,300 members in 91 congregations throughout Liberia. The church officially began as a mission project of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1978, but also traces its history to earlier work by Lutheran Bible Translators beginning in 1969. As a result of civil wars in Liberia, the Lutheran presence was scattered, resulting in four separate church bodies. These groups merged in 2009 to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia. The ELCL is led by President Amos Bolay. The ELCL was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Madagascar: Malagasy Lutheran Church
The Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy – FLM) is one of the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, with approximately 4 million members in 8,500 congregations. The church’s history dates back to the work of Norwegian missionaries in 1867, and was officially established as the FLM in 1950. The church is a member of the Lutheran World Federation. The FLM is led by Presiding Bishop David Rakotonirina. The FLM was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Myanmar (Burma): Myanmar Lutheran Church
The Myanmar Lutheran Church (Myanmar Lutheran Kamkawm – MLC) has more than 3,400 members in 14 congregations throughout Myanmar. The church was founded in 1998, and has been a member of the Lutheran World Federation since 2010. The MLC is led by Bishop Mang Lone Andrew. The MLC was accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
Norway: Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway
The Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (Det evangelisk-lutherske stift i Norge – ELDiN/DELSiN) has 150 regular communicants in five congregations throughout Norway. The church began as a confessional movement in the Lutheran Church of Norway, eventually leading to the creation of the “Church of Norway in Exile” under the counter-bishop Børre Knudsen. In 2013, the movement formerly organized as the Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway. The ELDiN is led by Bishop Thor Henrik With. The ELDiN was accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Rwanda: Lutheran Mission in Africa—Synod of Thousand Hills
The Lutheran Mission in Africa—Synod of Thousand Hills (Misioni y’Abaluteri muri Afrika—Sinodi y’imisozi igihumbi – LMA-STH) has more than 2,000 members in 22 congregations throughout Rwanda. The church came out of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda over doctrinal concerns in late 2014 and established a new church body at the end of that year. The LMA-STH is led by Bishop Selestine Munyentwari Seburikoko. The LMA-STH was accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
South Africa: St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Synod of South Africa
The St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Synod of South Africa (CLCSA) has 22,000 members in congregations and 15 preaching stations throughout South Africa. The church grew out of mission efforts centered in the town of Middelburg. The CLCSA is led by Bishop John Mandla Khumalo. The CLCSA was accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
South Sudan: South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church
The South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (Kanitha de Yibenyjelikol Ludheran de Junub Thudan – SSELC) has approximately 5,000 members in 15 congregations. The church was formed in 2011, when 21 former ministers of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan left the church over doctrinal issues. The church is led by Bishop Nathaniel Boi Nyok Apar. The SSELC was accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
Sri Lanka: Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC) has 500 members in 15 congregations throughout Sri Lanka. The church was officially founded in 2017, and succeeds the Lanka Lutheran Church, which was founded in 1978 but went defunct in the mid-2000s. The CELC is led by Chairman Roger B. James. The CELC has been accepted as a full member of the ILC. At the same time, the ILC has voted to remove the former Lanka Lutheran Church, which no longer exists, from its membership.
Sweden: Mission Province in Sweden
The Mission Province in Sweden (Missionsprovinsen i Sverige) has sixteen congregations throughout Sweden, and serves several other independent congregations in that country as well. The Mission Province was founded in 2003 as a reform group within the Church of Sweden by those attempting to maintain the biblical understanding of the ministry, after several decades of increasing pressure on ministers who sought to remain faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The Mission Province is led by Bishop Roland Gustafsson. The Mission Province has been accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Taiwan: The Lutheran Church of the Republic of China
The Lutheran Church of the Republic of China (財團法人台灣中國基督教信義會總會 – LCROC) has 640 members in 11 congregations throughout northern and northeastern Taiwan. The church was founded through the work of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission in Taiwan, with congregations founded in the early 1950s. The church has been fully independent since 2006. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation. The LCROC is led by Bishop Nong-Ruay Chen. The LCROC has been accepted as an observer member of the ILC.
Togo: Lutheran Church of Togo
The Lutheran Church of Togo (Eglise Luthérienne du Togo – ELT) has 8,000 members in 45 congregations throughout Togo. It emerged out of mission work first begun by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1980. The church body was officially founded in 2009. The church is led by President Kolani Lambon Lare. The ELT has been accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Uganda: Lutheran Church of Uganda
The Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) has more than 50,000 members in 140 congregations across Uganda. It emerged in 1993 out of mission work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana working in partnership with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The church is led by Bishop Charles Bameka Isabirye. The LCU has been accepted as a full member of the ILC.
Uruguay: Lutheran Church of Uruguay
The Lutheran Church of Uruguay (Iglesia Luterana del Uruguay – ILU) has approximately 200 members in 3 congregations throughout Uruguay. The church arose out of the mission work of Argentinian Lutherans beginning in 1936. Depending on external circumstances, the original congregation was first a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil. The church became independent in 2004, and by 2010 was established a national church body. The church is led by Principal Pastor André Luiz Muller. The ILU has been accepted as a full member of the ILC.