By ilconline

Dr. Schumacher retires

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher (right) speaks during the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya.
Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher.

WORLD – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is expressing thanks for the service of Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, who recently entered into full retirement at the end of January 2024.

Dr. Schumacher served the ILC as Chief Accreditation Officer. During his tenure, he helped investigate the possibility of the ILC establishing an accreditation agency to assist emerging seminaries and theological institutions.

“We thank Dr. Schumacher for leading the ILC through this important process,’ said ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “One of the ILC’s priorities is to encourage member churches in the development of theological curricula that form future pastors and church workers with a sound commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Dr. Schumacher played an important role in that work, and we are grateful for his service in support of theological education worldwide.”

With the conclusion of Dr. Schumacher’s work, the ILC’s Board of Directors has entered a period of renewed consideration of how best to support confessional Lutheran theological education going forward.


Bishop Bameka reelected in Uganda

Participants pose following the installation of elected officials during the LCU’s 2023 National Synod Conference.

UGANDA – Delegates from across the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) gathered for the church’s 7th National Synod Conference from December 7-10, 2023, during which time they reelected Bishop Charles Bameka to another term as National Presiding Bishop. The conference was held at Lutheran Theological College – Uganda in Magamaga.

LCU Bishop Charles Bameka.

Bishop Bameka was consecrated as the first bishop of the LCU in 2022, prior to which he had served the church body as its president. He previously served as Director of Lutheran Media Ministry Uganda. Bishop Bameka attended seminary in Accra, Ghana, and was ordained in 2001.

The conference opened with a worship service led by Archbishop Joseph Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK). Other international guests in attendance during the conference included Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Bishop David Tswaedi of the Confessional Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (CLCSA); Bishop Yohana Ernest Nzelu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); and Rev. Michael Frese, Deputy Director of Church Relations for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The convention also saw the election of Deans for the LCU’s seven deaneries, among other positions. All those elected during the conference were formally installed or reinstalled during Divine Service on December 10, 2023.

The Lutheran Church of Uganda is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies that proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


20 Years for the Mission Province in Sweden

Delegates gather for the Mission Province in Sweden’s 2023 Provincial Convention.
Bishop Bengt Ådahl of the Mission Province in Sweden.

SWEDEN – On October 28, 2023, the Mission Province (Missionsprovinsen – MP) in Sweden celebrated its 20th anniversary at an event in Tuve, Gothenburg. The event came at the conclusion of 2023’s Provincial Convention, which brought together clergy and lay representatives from congregations across the country.

MP Bishop Bengt Ådahl opened the convention on October 27, and business sessions took place that evening and the next morning. Among other business, the Mission Province discussed work in Israel; clarified the role of the diocesan priest; and conducted elections for the MP’s Mission Council.

Anniversary celebrations followed the conclusion of business sessions, with Bishop Emeritus Risto Soramies of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (Suomen evankelisluterilainen Lähetyshiippakunta – ELMDF) giving a guest lecture. Bishop Soramies spoke on the nature of confession and the characteristics of the Church. A lecture by Bishop Thor Henrik With of the Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (Det evangelisk-lutherske stift i Norge – DELSIN) followed. Bishop With spoke on “Una Sancta: Gift and Task in the Tension between Multiculturalism and Individualism.”

ELMDF Bishop Emeritus Risto Soramies.
DELSIN Bishop Thor Henrik With.

Greetings from other church leaders were also received, including from Bishop Hans Jönsson on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas Evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca – LELB). Bishop Jönsson is originally from Sweden.

The anniversary celebrations drew to a close with a communion service led by Bishop Ådahl.

The Mission Province was founded in 2003 as a confessional movement within the state Church of Sweden. Its first bishop was Arne Olsson, who was consecrated by Bishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) in 2005. In 2010, Bishop Arne was succeeded by Bishop Roland Gustafsson. The Mission Province would go on to play an important role in the establishment of the ELMDF in Finland and DELSIN in Norway, with the three dioceses enjoying close relations to this day. Bishop Gustaffson was succeeded in 2019 by Bishop Ådahl.

After many years of friendly relations, the Mission Province in Sweden was accepted into membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC) in 2018. The ILC is a global association of Confessional Lutheran churches that proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


LLDP holds classes on ecumenism and hermeneutics

LLDP participants pose with instructor, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, and LLDP Director, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki. Front, left to right: Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo of the Lake Tanganyika Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (LTD-ELCT); Bishop Jackson Mushendwa of the Western Diocese of the ELCT (WD-ELCT); President Dr. Denis Rakotozafy of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM); Dr. Collver; Dr. Masaki. Back row: Bishop Johanesa Andriamanarinjato of the Fisakana Synod of the FLM; Deputy Bishop Boss Sebeelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA); Bishop Dr. Yohana Nzelu of the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the ELCT (SELVD-ELCT); Rev. Dr. Yacob Godebo of Mekane Yesus Seminary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (MYS-EECMY); and Rev. Martin Paul, Third Minister in the Synodical Council of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA).

USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) held its eighth session at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW) from November 6-17, 2023. This session offered courses on the ecumenical movement and hermeneutics.

November’s classes also saw the LLDP welcome three new participants into the second cohort of students: Rev. Martin Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA), who serves as Third Minister in its Synodical Council; Rev. Ambele Mwaipopo, Bishop of the Lake Tanganyika Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (LTD-ELCT); and Rev. Jackson Mushendwa, Bishop of the Western Diocese of the ELCT (WD-ELCT).

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (left) and Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (right) pose with new students Bishop Mwaipopo; Third Minister, Rev. Paul; and Bishop Mushendwa. The bishops hold copies of The Book of Concord, a gift from the LLDP.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, former ILC General Secretary, taught “World Lutheranism and the Ecumenical Movement” during the first week. This is one of the most important courses the LLDP offers, helping participants to understand the history of their own church better, as well as the organizations that their churches belong to. They also learn about church fellowship from a confessional Lutheran perspective. One bishop called the class “perfect,” saying it “has helped me to be capable of understanding and teaching what fellowship really is.” Another participant expressed gratitude for the “clear understanding” the instruction had brought him “in terms of church fellowship in the ecumenical context.”

Dr. Collver was pleased with the outcome of the class, observing that students had “increased their understanding of the Lutheran confession of fellowship” and “are resolved to teach this in their church bodies and dioceses.” His presentation, which contrasted the ILC’s understanding of fellowship with the liberal model taught by other world groups, encouraged participants to remain faithful to the confessional Lutheran position, articulated especially in Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession.

Dr. Charles Gieschen teaches on Lutheran Hermeneutics.

Dr. Charles Gieschen, CTSFW’s Provost, taught the second class of the November session: “Lutheran Hermeneutics.” The course enables participants to understand and criticize recent directions in biblical interpretation from a confessional Lutheran perspective, including the historical-critical method and several reader-oriented trends in hermeneutics. “The course has been inspiring,” one participant noted. “Professor Gieschen was great in pinpointing key areas of importance in hermeneutics both in history and practice. He has equipped us with the necessary skills for the interpretation of the Bible.”

“Our November session was another great success,” commented Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Director of the LLDP. “Working with such respected scholars and churchmen like Dr. Collver and Dr. Gieschen is a privilege and an honour. But what brings me the most tremendous joy and gratitude to the Lord is that our participants keep on growing in their understanding of sound doctrine and committing themselves to be faithful to the Saviour, Jesus Christ—even when doing so sometimes brings major sacrifices.”

LLDP participants enjoy dinner at the Masakis’.

“Our participants rejoice in the doctrine that Jesus has taught the whole Church,” he continued. “By listening to what the Lord speaks, and in receiving His gifts with eager thankfulness and praise, our participants are saying back to Him what He has said to them. They repeat, yes, confess, the Lord Jesus Christ. To witness to these wonderful things in each of our participants gives me joy that words cannot express. I continue to pray for our participants and their church bodies with deepest respect and thanksgiving. We rejoice in our partnership in the Gospel.”

The LLDP is a graduate-level program of the ILC dedicated to equipping confessional Lutheran leaders around the world with the theological and practical knowledge necessary to serve their church bodies effectively.

You can support the work of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program by making a donation online. You can also mail a donation by cheque to:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 10149
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46850 USA


Prosecution appeals to Supreme Court in Finland’s Bible Trial

Bishop Juhana Pohjola (left) and Dr. Päivi Räsänen (right) at the appeal hearings in Helsinki in November 2023. Photo: ELMDF.

FINLAND – The prosecution of Finnish Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen, and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) are not yet at an end. On January 12, the prosecution announced that it would appeal the decision exonerating the pair to Finland’s Supreme Court.

The two were charged in 2021 with hate speech for their articulation of historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. Charges centre around a 2004 booklet authored by Dr. Räsänen, as well as comments made by her during a radio interview and a tweet (which included a picture of a Bible verse). Bishop Pohjola was charged as the publisher of the 2004 booklet.

The decision to prosecute the pair has drawn widespread concern internationally over the state of freedom of religion and freedom of speech in Finland. The two were initially brought to trial at the Helsinki District Court in 2022, with the prosecution repeatedly questioning them on matters of faith and doctrine. They were eventually acquitted unanimously by a panel of three judges, who declared that “it is not the role of the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” The prosecution appealed that decision to the Helsinki Court of Appeals. In November 2023, that court also acquitted the pair unanimously on all charges.

Now Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen must wait to hear whether the Supreme Court will accept the case. In the meantime, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is calling for continued prayer for the Finnish politician and bishop. “I encourage Christians around the world to continue to remember Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen in prayer,” said Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, General Secretary of the ILC. “They have already endured years of fear and uncertainty as a result of this unjust prosecution. May God give them courage to continue their faithful witness to Christ and His Word, and may He give them comfort in the midst of ongoing persecution.”

The ILC has strongly advocated on behalf of Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola over the past several years as they faced investigation and trial. That support includes a 2021 public letter of support for the two signed by the leaders of 45 Lutheran church bodies from around the world. The ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya made a similar show of support when church leaders elected Bishop Pohjola to serve as Chairman of the ILC.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.


Confessing Christ: New video reflects on the mission of the ILC

Lutheran leaders from around the world discuss the mission of the International Lutheran Council.

ONLINE – In October 2023, Lutheran leaders from across the globe gathered in Wittenberg, Germany to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Now the ILC is releasing a video from that event, in which a number of church leaders from around the world reflect on the value of the ILC and its service to Christ and His Church.

In their remarks, these church leaders highlight the importance of the ILC to faithful Christians across the world—especially in places where biblically-grounded Christianity is waning. They further discuss how the ILC is positioned to continue its faithful witness to the Gospel into the future. The video ends with a message from the ILC’s new general secretary, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz.

While 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the ILC’s reconstitution as a “council,” the full history of the organization goes back more than seventy years to 1952.

Additional information on the ILC’s anniversary celebrations can be found here.


Who Are You Bowing To?

The Adoration of the Magi: Stanisław Samoshootnik, c. 1535.

by Juhana Pohjola

The story of Jesus’ birth may appear to the reader of the Gospels as a beautiful but random event—something which took place a long time ago in the remote town of Bethlehem. But on closer inspection, we see how this story reveals that everyone—even the adversaries of Jesus, albeit unwittingly—has to serve this Child in the manger. The Emperor, Caesar Augustus, through his Governor Quirinius, carries out the taxation of Judea which leads Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. King Herod announces in his palace to the Magi that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. Even the movement of a star in space helps to serve the coming of the King by announcing the time and place of His birth.

But it is the Wise Men of the East—not the Emperor, not the Governor, not the King—who are the first to adopt a posture of worship before the Child of Christmas. They say: “We have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). The word “worship” here literally means “to bow one’s face to the ground.” Bowing is an outward way of expressing respect or even divine worship. Ultimately, it indicates whom a person fears and loves—in whom one put his trust and hope.

This is a theme Matthew carries throughout his Gospel. First, Herod cleverly and murderously replies that he also intends to “bow down to” this newborn King (2:8)—even though in reality he bowed only to his own power and desires. Likewise, the devil offered Jesus the riches and pleasures of the world if He would only “fall down and worship me” (4:8). A synagogue ruler also “came and bowed down before [Jesus]” (9:18), not for Jesus’ own sake, but rather out of fear for his daughter who was ill and in danger of death. Many others bowed to Jesus for various reasons, but Matthew’s Gospel ends with a picture of the disciples, who had denied their Lord, now worshipping with fear and joy the Risen One: “And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him” (28:17)—that is, they bowed before Him.

Matthew’s repeated references to bowing reminds us: everyone bows down to something. Some do it consciously, others unknowingly. Some worship the living God, others idols. Who are you bowing to? This is the most important question of your Christmas. All other topics are trivial in the face of this one question, and its answer has eternal consequences. The Child in the manger asks you: Have you pinned your hopes on Me or on ideologies and idols that will soon disappear? Do you put your trust in My Holy Words or in human promises and opportunities? Will you join Me or the worshippers of the god of this world?

Who do you bow to? The question runs through the history of the whole world, every place, every time, and confronts every man. Do we join Sunday after Sunday the eschatological community of the company of heaven worshipping the Lamb on the throne (Revelation 4:10)? Or do we bow before the might and power of darkness (Revelation 13:4), which directs us to lust after the things of this world—“the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16)?

Who you bow to is not an abstract question but something that affects our everyday life. During the past number of years, I have been tempted from without by the pressures of the media and even by state prosecutors in courtrooms to bow down to the spirit of this age. I have been told: Give up your biblical confession! Give up your Christian understanding of humanity and marriage, and nod your head in acceptance to tolerance, equality, and progress! But even when we are not asked to deny biblical truth and the order of creation, there remains a great temptation to remain silent about the truth out of fear—to consent, effectively, to the lies. Who will speak boldly for life, goodness, and truth if we as the Christian Church remain mute?

There is also another temptation when we see the growing darkness around us. We can turn our back on the Lord from within, by bowing down to fear, despair, and bitterness. We curve in upon ourselves, and start counting how few and weak we are and all the wrongs done to us. We focus more on the darkness and ugliness of our time, and not on the light and hope we have in Christ.

Our hope in Christ lies not only in the fact this small Child in the manger has the power to give renewal to His Church and change the direction of our culture of death for the better. Nor is our hope in Christ something merely eschatological—the knowledge that in the end there will come a time when everything is in perfect order and whole, beautiful and pure. Our hope in Christ is that already now—in the midst of hostility and cultural pressure, apostasy and sufferings—He is graciously present among us. Our hope is not only for the future but is a blessed reality here and now. Our hope understands how He carries us in His Church, nurturing us by His Holy Spirit at the altar and the pulpit. Our hope sees with the eyes of faith how He does not abandon us but encourages us through brotherly love and shared life together. Our hope remembers that everything must ultimately bow down to His good will and plan for us. He can turn evil for the good of His disciples. That is why Christians remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Roman 12:12).

The Adoration of the Magi: Hans Thoman, c. 1520.

Today, more and more Christians in our post-Christian culture are paying a high price for not bowing down to lies. How could it be otherwise, since the servant is not greater than the Master (John 15:20)? But what is the price we might have to pay compared to the price which the Son of God was willing to pay for us? He who, as the King of Kings, asks you this question is also Christ crucified for our sins—the King who came not to be worshipped but to bow down to you in humiliation: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Before Him, we do not bow out of slavish fear nor merely for the sake of obedience. Neither do we bow down to Him in order to get something from Him, as payment for our adoration. The Christian Church bows down to the manger and the altar of her Lord out of love for Him who first loved us—Him who still loves us, bearing us up with His grace and filling us with His gifts. Our hope is not in our personal feeling of hope, but in Christ Jesus Himself and His promises! In Him is our hope and joy, and no one can take them away from us. We receive Him in His Words, in the water, in the wine and the bread, so that we rejoice and confess together with St. Paul: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)!

Therefore, on Christmas night, Christendom joins in the joyful hymn that echoes through the darkness of death, fear, and despair:

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord! (LSB 379)


Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

This article was originally published by The Canadian Lutheran.

Praying for Peace at Christmas

WORLD – As the world prepares to celebrate Christmas, the International Lutheran Council is encouraging prayer for those suffering the effects of devastating warfare—especially those in Ukraine, in Sudan, and in the Holy Land.

“Angels greeted the birth of Jesus Christ with the proclamation of peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” noted ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz. “And yet, in this fallen world, we often see the opposite: hatred and violence and bloodshed. In such times, the good news of the birth of the Prince of Peace is all the more precious, as we remember how His life, death, and resurrection make possible reconciliation both with God and with one another.”

“I encourage Lutherans across the world to remember those currently suffering in the midst of warfare,” Dr. Schulz continued. “Pray that God would be with them in this time—that those grieving the loss of loved ones would be comforted; that the innocent would be protected; that wrongdoers would be brought to justice; and that peace would be achieved.”

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.


Treasuring the Treasure: Anniversary keynote lecture now available

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee gives the keynote address during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

WITTENBERG, Germany – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) has now released the keynote lecture from its recent anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany.

On October 14, 2023, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee served as keynote speaker during events marking the ILC’s 30th anniversary since its reconstitution as a council in 1993. His lecture —“Treasuring the Treasure”—explores the history of the ILC from its beginnings in 1952, focusing not only on concrete developments over that time but also considering the fundamental beliefs which have driven the ILC in the past and will continue to animate it in the future.

“May God in His mercy bless our Council, all its member churches and leaders, all its affiliated seminaries and their teachers, with an enduring commitment to His Christ, His Gospel, His written Word in Scripture, and the Lutheran confessions which reflect the heartbeat of the Scriptures!” Dr. Bugbee prays in the course of his lecture. “This commitment will always be the most precious contribution we could ever make to the life of the neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and countries into which the God of salvation has placed us.”

Download the full lecture here.


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