2022 ILC World Conference opens in Kenya

by | Sep 13, 2022

Participants gather for the opening worship service of the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.
ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preaches.

KENYA – The International Lutheran Council’s 27th (12th) World Conference opened September 13, 2022, in Kisumu, Kenya. The conference is gathering under the theme: “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes Our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do.” The leaders of 55 confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world have gathered for the conference, the first to be held since the pandemic.

The conference began with an opening service of Matins. Rev. Charles Froh, who is serving as conference chaplain, led the liturgy while ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt preached on John 7:53-8:11. “Jesus writes on this suffering, scarred earth, withered by human guilt and burdens, with the ink of His blood—the Word of His infinite forgiveness and love,” Chairman Voigt said. And just as Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, so too He is merciful to us: “I speak to you on behalf of Jesus,” Chairman Voigt concluded: “your sins are forgiven.”

Following the opening service, Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) brought greetings. The ELCK, which has more than 350,000 members, is hosting this year’s world conference. “It is with exceeding joy and gratitude that we as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya welcome you to Kenya for the 27th International Lutheran Conference,” said Archbishop Omolo. “We appreciate our fellowship with the ILC a lot. It has given us a forum to stand and walk with our fellow confessional sister churches…. May the Lord grant both increase and strength to the ILC.”

Left: ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo welcomes participants to Kenya. Right: Bishop Fidèle Mbunde (left) brings greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches, with translation provided by Bishop Ilunga Kendi Evariste (right).

The conference also received greetings from the African Union of Francophone Confessional Lutheran Churches. Bishop Fidèle Mbunde of the Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod expressed thanks on behalf of the union for the invitation to participate in this world conference. The union, which was founded in 2001, currently has ten member church bodies, with several others seeking membership. Two of these churches currently hold full membership in the ILC, Bishop Mbunde noted, and several others hold observer membership. One other is present at this conference as a guest. Bishop Mbunde expressed his hope that, in time, the union and all its churches would eventually enjoy membership in the ILC.

Keynote Address

Bishop Juhana Pohjola gives the keynote address.

The morning session continued with a keynote address from Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF). His address was entitled “Church and Culture: The Devastating Effects of Progressive Socio-Political Ideology and Cultural Trends on the Church, with Special Attention to Recent Events in Finland.” In his talk, Bishop Pohjola used his own experiences as a jumping off point to discuss the ideological challenges which Christians increasingly face today. In 2021, the Prosecutor General of Finland charged Bishop Pohjola with hate crimes for his role in publishing a 2004 booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. A panel of judges acquitted him earlier this year, but the Prosecutor General has appealed that decision.

The issue is not merely about sexuality either, Bishop Pohjola explained. “The real problem goes much deeper than the sexual revolution,” he said. “Ideological tectonic plates have shifted during the past 200 years, and have brought to the surface the question: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ This is what we are facing in western societies, churches, and in the court room.”

ILC Chairman Voigt thanks Bishop Pohjola for his presentation while ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill looks on.

In a world which has lost its understanding of what it means to be human and denies the goodness of physical creation, the Church must continue to reject this neo-Gnostic cultural shift. “Our faith is an embodied faith, located in Christ Jesus, in His Words and gifts,” Bishop Pohjola said. “The order of creation is material and good.” And God uses that good creation as part of His work to accomplish salvation. “The order of redemption is incarnational,” Bishop Pohjola explained. “We proclaim that salvation has been brought to us by the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and His divine blood cleanses us of all our iniquities.”

“We have not chosen the time and place in which we live,” Bishop Pohjola continued, “but we have been given all the answers we need for our cultural challenges: the Embodied God; Embodied humanity. Embodied grace. Embodied community. Embodied witness…. I want to summarize our common joy and challenge, gift and mission into one sentence: Embodied Church in a disembodied culture!”

The morning concluded with a Bible study led by Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). Chairman Samiec, who also serves on the ILC’s Board of Directors as its European Region representative, discussed 1 Timothy 2:7-15.

Participants from around the world

The 2022 World Conference continues through September 16, 2022. Among the members and guests in attendance are the leaders of 55 churches, including:

  • ARGENTINA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA)
  • AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND: Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ)
  • BELGIUM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB)
  • BENIN: Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBE)
  • BOLIVIA: Christian Evangelical Church of Bolivia (ICEL)
  • BRAZIL: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB)
  • BURUNDI: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi (HELCB)
  • BURUNDI: Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod (ELA-SBU)
  • CANADA: Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC)
  • CHILE: Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile)
  • CONGO: Church of the Faithful Confessing Lutherans in Congo (CFCLCO)
  • COTE D’IVOIRE: Lutheran Church in Africa – Synod of Cote d’Ivoire (ELA-SCI)
  • DENMARK: Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD)
  • FINLAND: Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)
  • FRANCE: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (EELSF)
  • GERMANY: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK)
  • GHANA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG)
  • GUATEMALA: Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILG)
  • INDIA: India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC)
  • ISRAEL: Concordia Israel
  • JAPAN: Japan Lutheran Church (JLC)
  • KAZAKHSTAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Almaty (ELC-RK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK)
  • KENYA: Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya (ELCMK)
  • KOREA: Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK)
  • LATVIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB)
  • LIBERIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL)
  • LITHUANIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania (ELCL)
  • MADAGASCAR: Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM)
  • MEXICO: Lutheran Synod of Mexico (SLM)
  • NIGERIA: Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church Community (ELCC)
  • NORWAY: Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSIN)
  • NORWAY and ICELAND: Lutheran Church in Norway and Iceland (LKNI)
  • PANAMA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama (IELPA)
  • PARAGUAY: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELPA)
  • PERU: Evangelical Lutheran Church – Peru (IEL-P)
  • PHILIPPINES: Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP)
  • PORTUGAL: Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELP)
  • RUSSIA: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR)
  • RUSSIA: Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC)
  • RWANDA: Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda (IELCR)
  • RWANDA: The Lutheran Mission in Africa – Synod of Thousand Hills (LMASTH)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Confessional Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (CLCSA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA)
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA)
  • SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC)
  • SUDAN and SOUTH SUDAN: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan/South Sudan (ELCSS/S)
  • SWEDEN: The Mission Province in Sweden (MPS)
  • TOGO: Lutheran Church of Togo (ELT)
  • UGANDA: Lutheran Church of Uganda(LCU)
  • UNITED KINGDOM: Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE)
  • URUGUAY: Lutheran Church of Uruguay (ILU)
  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)
  • VENEZUELA: Lutheran Church of Venezuela (ILV)


By Mathew Block

Mathew Block is Communications Manager for the International Lutheran Council. He is also editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine, and formerly served as Communications Manager for Lutheran Church–Canada.

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