Lutherans in Turkey and Bulgaria join the ILC

by | Jun 3, 2024

The ILK congregation in Istanbul, Turkey.

TURKEY – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has welcomed the Istanbul Lutheran Church (İstanbul Luteryen Kilisesi – ILK)/Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria (Евангелиска Лутеранска Църква в България – ELCB) as an observer member in the ILC. The decision came at a meeting of the ILC’s board of directors earlier this year.

“It is a joy to welcome the Istanbul Lutheran Church/Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria into the International Lutheran Council,” said ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “We thank God for this new partnership, and we pray that God will bless our work together on behalf of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The ILK/ELCB has applied also for full membership in the International Lutheran Council, but decisions on full membership can take place only at a World Conference. The ILC’s next World Conference will take place in 2025.

“We are very glad that the ILC has granted us observer status, and we are grateful that God provides His people with opportunities for fellowship, cooperation, and solidarity,” said Rev. Bahadir Argönül of the Istanbul Lutheran Church. In fact, this connection with other faithful Lutherans was the impetus behind the church’s decision to apply in the first place. “We want to join the ILC in order to get to know other churches with whom we share a common confessional Lutheran faith,” explained Leading Pastor Feymi Madjirov of Peshtera, “and to work together with them for the proclamation of the Gospel and the Lutheran doctrine.”

The ELCB congregation in Peshtera, Bulgaria.

The ILK/ELCB is one church body serving Turkish-speaking Lutherans in two nations: Turkey and Bulgaria. Lutheranism was first established in Turkey in 1709, when Sweden sent a Lutheran pastor to serve in Constantinople. A chapel built on the grounds of the Swedish Embassy followed in 1748. That Lutheran ministry came to a hiatus near the end of the 19th century, but late in the 20th century, Finnish Lutherans living in Turkey came together to form a new congregation out of the original chapel. The congregation called Rev. Risto Soramies—who would later become Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)—to serve as their first pastor, as he had previously served a Turkish-speaking Lutheran congregation in Germany.

The Istanbul Lutheran Church was formally established in 2003, with its Bulgarian branch—the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bulgaria—following in 2005. Today the church has about 200 members, with two congregations in Turkey (Istanbul and Ismir) and two congregations in Bulgaria (Peshtera and Krushevo).

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


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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