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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

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First graduates for Lutheran Leadership Development Program

Following the commencement service. The four graduates—President/Bishop John Donkoh, General Secretary Teshome Amenu, Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul, and Bishop Emmanuel Makala—pose in front, along with other participants in the LLDP, some of the LLDP’s teaching faculty (Dr. Collver, Dr. Masaki, Prof. Pless, Dr. Quill), and Dr. Carl Rockroah (Zion Lutheran in Ridgeville Corners, Ohio and former LCMS missionary to Ghana, South Africa, and Ethiopia).

USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) celebrated its first commencement ceremony following its most recent session November 8–19, 2022 in Troy, Illinois. The ceremony took place November 17 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Troy.

Dr. Masaki speaks during the commencement ceremony.

“It is a great joy to recognize the accomplishment of the first graduates of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director. “I commend them for their achievement of this Certificate of Theology in Lutheran Leadership, because, despite their demanding ministry context as church leaders back home, they have been diligent in their studies and have accomplished the goals for which the program was created. I pray the Lord of the church to continue to bless them as He uses the confessional Lutheran theology and practical skills that they have acquired in the LLDP in the service of ecclesial leadership in their home church bodies.”

Four graduates were awarded the Certificate of Theology in Lutheran Leadership on behalf of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). In addition to completing coursework on church leadership in various areas, each also wrote a graduation thesis as a culminating exercise. Each was provided a thesis advisor from the LLDP teaching faculty. Their theses were approved by the advisor as well as Dr. Masaki who served as a reader for all four theses. The graduates include:

  • President/Bishop John Donkoh (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana – ELCG) – Thesis: “Why are Some Hermeneutical Approaches Problematic, Even When Using the Bible?: A Consideration of the Proper Principles of Biblical Interpretation.” (Advisor: Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, Provost of CTSFW)
  • Bishop Emmanuel Makala (South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – SELVD-ELCT) – Thesis: “The Dodoma Statement: An Evaluation of the Position Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania Regarding Same-Sex Marriage.” (Advisor: Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, former ILC General Secretary)
  • Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa – FELSISA) – Thesis: “According to our Lutheran Confessions, Is Confession and Absolution—be it in a Corporate Service or Private Confession with the Pastor—a Prerequisite for Receiving the Lord’s Supper?” (Advisor: Rev. Prof. John T. Pless, CTSFW).
  • General Secretary Teshome Amenu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – EECMY)– Thesis: “An Analysis of the 1969 Agreement on the Integration Policy between the Mission Partners and the EECMY in the Light of Augsburg Confession, Article VII.” (Advisor: Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, former ILC General Secretary)

Participant Response

The four graduates. From left to right: President Donkoh (ELCG), Deputy Bishop Paul (FELSISA), General Secretary Amenu (EECMY), and Bishop Makala (SELVD-ELCT).

The graduates praised the knowledge and skills they had learned as a result of the program. “I’m privileged to be among the first batch of students who successfully completed the LLDP,” noted President/Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana. “This program has been an eye opener for me in many ways. Lutheran churches around the world, particularly in Africa, need assistance in leadership and theological education, particularly in leadership development for current and future leaders in the areas of Lutheran identity and confessions.”

“It is my prayer and hope that this program will continue and that more church leaders on the continent would have such opportunities to acquire leadership training,” said President Donkoh, who was also elected in 2022 to serve as secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa said that the LLDP provided him time to reflect on concrete problems and challenges in his home church. “It was of an immense value to have had opportunities to discuss and collaborate with professors and esteemed colleagues about their solutions,” he noted.

Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese reflected that the LLDP was “an overwhelming experience.” “The quality and contents of the program were deep and practical,” he explained. “It exceeded my expectation. I enjoyed everything—except for cold weather, frequent cancellation of flights and jet lags, and deadline pressure for assignments!”

LLDP participants visit with President Tom Egger during a trip to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus concurred with his colleagues on the benefits of the LLDP. He also remarked that another big benefit of the program was the connections made with leadership of other Lutheran church bodies. “Getting to know them and becoming friends can never happen by meetings,” he said. “We are not isolated. Together we are committed and pledged to exercise confessional leadership in our Lutheran churches in Africa. Particularly meaningful was the fact that selected individuals represented the largest Lutheran church bodies around the world.”

“For me, the LLDP was the best program I have ever attended for higher theological studies,” General Secretary Amenu continued. “The program has already started to impact my church body in a special way. We have now designed a leadership capacity development project in which we train leaders of our church at all levels: head office, synods, parishes, and congregations.”

Additional students from the first cohort of students in the LLDP are expected to complete their studies in 2023, when the LLDP will welcome a new group of students into the program.

During the commencement, letters of congratulations from ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland), as well as from LLDP Council member, President Dr. Lawrence Rast of CTSFW, were also read.

Christ, Not Leaders, Sustains His Church

Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III gives the commencement address.

Serving as commencement speaker for the event was Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, who helped to found the program during his tenure as General Secretary of the ILC. “As leaders of the church, the task in front of you can seem overwhelming,” he said to the graduates. “You may not feel up to the task. Politics within your church can seem daunting or even make you wonder if the church even exists in this place or if these people around me are Christians.”

“You have been placed where you are to serve your Lord and your church, to be His instruments to guide and lead His church in the way of the Gospel,” he continued. “Jesus has promised you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. But He also has not given you the task to save His church. Jesus is the Saviour of His people. Jesus is the Saviour of His Church.”

“We do not bear that burden,” Dr. Collver stressed. “He has not given us that burden to bear. Yet graciously our Lord Jesus still gives us the privilege to work and serve in His church where He uses us according to His own purpose. Yet the responsibility is His to protect and guard and preserve the church here on earth. He calls us to remain faithful to His confession, to study His Word, and to serve Him where He has called and placed us. There is great comfort in knowing that the Lord makes use of us though we are not responsible for the future of the church. The future of the church belongs solely to Jesus.”

As Dr. Masaki conducted the commencement, he also recounted the history of the program, discussed its Student Learning Outcomes, and expressed his gratitude to the LLDP Council, ILC, and other supporters of the program, especially Concordia Publishing House (CPH), Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW), and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LLDP is a program of the ILC initiated in partnership with CPH, CTSFW, and the LCMS, and the ILC is grateful for the support of all its partners in this important endeavor.

Studies in the LLDP

Commencement Day at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Troy, Illinois, during a break from the thesis forum. Left to right: Dr. Bruce Kintz, former President and CEO of Concordia Publishing House; Dr. Timothy Quill, ILC General Secretary; Dr. Yohana Nzelu, Assistant Bishop (Bishop Elect) of South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (SELVD-ELCT); Dr. Daniel Mono, District Pastor (Assistant Bishop Elect) of SELVD-ELCT; Dr. Emmanuel Makala, Bishop of SELVD-ELCT; Rev. Helmut Paul, Deputy Bishop of Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Rev. Teshome Amenu, General Secretary of Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Rev. John Donkoh, President/Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Rev. Modise Maragelo, Bishop of Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA); Dr. Bruk Ayele, President of Mekane Yesus Seminary (EECMY); Dr. Denis Rakotozafy, President of Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM); Rev. Mandla Thwala, Deputy Bishop of LCSA; Tsegahun Assefa, Former Director of Children and Youth (EECMY); Dr. Albert Collver, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, former General Secretary of ILC; and Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Director of LLDP, Professor of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW).

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 effectively serve their church bodies.

The first cohort of students accepted into the program all hail from Africa, and began their studies in 2019. The program has seen participants gather for studies in Wittenberg, Germany; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Troy, Illinois.

Courses and their instructors included:

Dr. Albert Collver and Dr. Naomichi Masaki led chapel and taught classes during the November 2022 sessions. Dr. Collver, with the members of St. Paul’s in Troy, were gracious hosts, as Dr. Masaki presided over the commencement ceremony.
  1. Theology of the Lutheran Confessions – Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (LLDP Director, CTSFW)
  2. World Lutheranism and the Ecumenical Movement – Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (ILC General Secretary)
  3. History of the Lutheran Church – Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast (CTSFW)
  4. Lutheran Hermeneutics – Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen (CTSFW)
  5. Ecclesial and Organizational Leadership – Archbishop Dr. Christian Ekong (LCN)
  6. Responding to Contemporary Issues and Neo-Pentecostalism – Rev. Prof. John Pless (CTSFW)
  7. The Lord’s Supper – Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (LLDP Director, CTSFW)
  8. Liturgy and Lutheran Hymnody – Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (ILC General Secretary)
  9. Strategic Planning and Task Management – Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Skopak (Grace Lutheran Church and School, Jacksonville, Florida)
  10. Budgeting and Financial Accountability – President Dr. Roger Paavola (LCMS, Mid-South District)
  11. The Office of the Holy Ministry – Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki
  12. Lutheran Mission, Ecclesiology, and Ecumenism – Rev. Dr. Albert Collver

The program has also seen the publication of three books through Concordia Publishing House during the period of the first cohort:

  • Charles Schaum and Albert Collver, Breath of God, Yet Work of Man: Scripture, Philosophy, Dialogue, and Conflict.
  • Christian O. Ekong, Strengthening Integrity and Accountability in Church Leadership.
  • Victor C. Pfitzner, Led by the Spirit: How Charismatic is New Testament Christianity?

The LLDP plans to publish additional monographs on such topics as strategic planning and accountability in biblical stewardship.

LLDP Support

LLDP participants meet with Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and Dr. Rick Serina, Associate Executive Director, during a visit to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s International Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

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

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Classes Resume for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program

In front of the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Left to right: ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill; Bishop Dr. Emmanuel Makala (South East of Lake Victoria Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa); President Dr. Denis Rakotozafy (Malagasy Lutheran Church); President John Donkoh (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana); General Secretary Teshome Amenu (Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – EECMY); President Dr. Bruk Ayele of Mekane Yesus Seminary (EECMY); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); and LLDP Director, Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki.

GERMANY – After successfully completed the first half of the two-year Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) with six classes in three sessions in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated postponement of the second half for two years. The program was finally able to resume this spring, with classes taking place February 21 through March 4, 2022 at the International Lutheran Center (Old Latin School) in Wittenberg, Germany.

The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, taught a course on “Liturgy and Lutheran Hymnody” while LLDP Director, Professor Naomichi Masaki of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), held a class on the “Lord’s Supper.”

In front of Luther’s study at Wartburg Castle.

A total of seven Lutheran church leaders from Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Madagascar gathered together for the fourth sessions. Regrettably, variations in national vaccination policies prevented some other students from South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia from obtaining visas necessary to attend.

Students were delighted to finally meet again in person, after having communicated primarily through emails and social media. Daily chapel together and classroom sessions remain the core of the program. Brotherly conversations were enhanced by living together for two weeks and by visiting significant historic locations within Wittenberg as well as in the surrounding regions of Wartburg, Erfurt, and Leipzig.

Worship and the Lord’s Supper

Dr. Quill, who has been part of the LLDP’s teaching faculty since its launch in 2019, led a course on liturgy and Lutheran hymnody. Worship is often a challenging part of the LLDP participants’ ecclesial leadership responsibilities at home. Dr. Quill addressed this important area by teaching the nature of worship as God’s service; the development of liturgy and ceremonies throughout church history; appropriate vestments; and the richness of Lutheran hymnody, with a guideline as to how one may evaluate hymns to be sung in the Divine Service. With numerous concrete stories and examples, Dr. Quill encouraged participants on how to exercise liturgical leadership in their own church bodies.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill leads LLDP participants in singing “A Mighty Fortress” in St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg.

Dr. Masaki’s topic was an equally challenging one for the participants. Issues related to administration of the Lord’s Supper were identified and participants planned how to address them in their own ministry contexts. The use of bread was an issue in some churches of the participants. The question of wine was an even more disputed one. The class discussed frequency and early ages of communion, as well as the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and the Office of the Holy Ministry. Several participants brought up the subject of unfriendly pastors at communion. Others commented on legalistic practices inherited from their missionary-forebears, such as the compulsory covering of the head for women, wearing of jacket for men, and removal of shoes for all. Charismatic and neo-Pentecostal influences on the Lord’s Supper were also deliberated. The issue of open communion prompted by ecumenical relations of churches and schools in local settings was also addressed. Dr. Masaki helped these church leaders address these and other issues, discussing the major ecumenical and liturgical movements of the last century that may have negatively impacted doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper in their contexts. He further expounded the Lord’s Supper as instituted by our Lord in Scripture and confessed in the Book of Concord, helping students prepare themselves for leadership in this area at home.

Professor Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director, teaches LLDP students in Wittenberg.

LLDP participants received the teachings of Dr. Quill and Professor Masaki with joy, gratitude, and excitement. “You explained everything in detail and made it easier to understand what confessional Lutheran means,” one participant remarked about his experience. “The courses have made us to think deeper in a number of issues when it comes to liturgy and the Lord’s Supper,” said another. “I strongly recommend that the LLDP continues, in order to preserve the truth among the participating churches and to strengthen the ILC,” commented still another student.

“It was gratifying that the Lord has made it possible for the LLDP to meet face to face again,” commented Dr. Masaki. “The time spent in person was another wonderful opportunity for our Lutheran leaders to deepen their confessional Lutheran theology, develop practical skills in the areas of worship, and cultivate their friendship as Lutheran church leaders.”

 “I am deeply thankful for the supporters of the LLDP, including Concordia Publishing House, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Concordia Theological Seminary,” he continued. “We were delighted to have Dr. Quill with us as General Secretary. We pray that the Lord may continue to bless this important program for the sake of serving the Lutheran Churches around the world through their leaders.”

LLDP participants at Wartburg Castle.

The next set of classes will take place July 25–August 5, 2022 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The cohort will take two practical courses and church leadership: “Strategic Planning and Task Management,” taught by Rev. Dr. Jeff Skopak, pastor of Grace Lutheran in Jacksonville, Florida; and “Budgeting and Financial Accountability,” taught by Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola, President of the LCMS’ Mid-South District.

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

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

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World Seminaries Conference considers spiritual warfare, declining religiosity

Participants in the ILC’s 2019 World Seminary Conference engage in discussions.

PHILIPPINES – The International Lutheran Council’s 2019 World Seminaries Conference continued on Wednesday.

The morning began with a service of Morning Prayer, following which participants heard additional presentations on the conference theme: “Confessional Lutheranism: Doctrinal Identity in Different Cultural Contexts.”

African Context

Rev. Dr. Nicholas Salifu presents during the 2019 ILC World Seminaries Conference.

The first presenter of the day was Rev. Dr. Nicolas Salifu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, whose presentation on “Spiritual Warfare in a Lutheran Perspective” provided an exploration of Lutheran doctrine within an African context.

“The early church accepted the influence of the demonic realm with great seriousness,” noted Dr. Salifu. And while Western culture has downplayed or even denied this aspect of historic Christian theology, Dr. Salifu said that the reality of spiritual warfare is readily apparent in the African context—and, indeed, in much of the rest of the world. “The West needs to realize that it is the only contemporary society that denies the reality of evil spirits,” he said, quoting the New Testament scholar Clinton Arnold.

When the reality of spiritual warfare is recognized, the Church is in a better position to respond appropriately to the spiritual needs of its people. “The weapons of our warfare are not guns,” Dr. Salifu noted. “The reason why physical weapons are useless in a spiritual war is because the real enemies are not people of flesh and blood but spiritual powers of wickedness.” The Christian’s true weapons for spiritual warfare are instead Word and Sacrament, Dr. Salifu continued, because through these “the Lord fights the devil.” We are to pray in Jesus’ name, for He is the one who conquers.

North American Context

Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann speaks on the state of religiosity in the United States of America.

In the afternoon, Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann led the conference’s fourth presentation on the conference theme, discussing “The Role of the Church in the Face of Declining Influence of Christianity in North America.” Dr. Biermann is Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri—a theological institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Dr. Biermann’s analysis of the state of religion in the United States of America identified three key aspects: 1) the decline of Constantinianism which has “stripped Christianity of its former prestige and clout; 2) the rise of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as a replacement faith with only the “remotest superficial resemblance to orthodox Christianity;” and 3) a dominant cultural mood of normal nihilism in which all values are mere preferences or opinions, easily dismissed or changed.

In light of this situation, Dr. Biermann asked: “What, precisely, is the church—the orthodox, faithful church that follows Christ and treasures the legacy of Luther and all other faithful disciples of Jesus—supposed to do?” The answer: “Resolutely follow her Lord with tenacity, trust, and a seeming indifference to the clamor of the world around.” This means neither retreating from the world, nor confronting it on its own terms, nor capitulating to the culture, but simply living out the calling of the Church in all times and places: preaching the Word of God and living lives “that are inherently and unarguably compelling through their simple and consistent witness to the reality of Christ at work in and through them.” “A rich and nuanced grasp of Luther’s insights into God’s rule of the world in terms of the two realms,” Dr. Biermann concluded, “allows Lutheran believers to understand and undertake with zeal their place and role in this world.”

Each of Wednesday’s major presentations was followed by plenary discussion. The convention also heard regional reports on the state of seminary education in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America throughout the day. It further took in several short parallel sessions during the final part of the afternoon before breaking for Vespers at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.

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ILC Africa Region meets in South Africa

Participants in the 2019 ILC Africa Region conference. Back: Davis Wowa (Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod); Nathanial Bol (South Sudan), Mandla Khumalo (South Africa -CLCSA), Emmanuel Makala (Tanzania), Modise Maragelo (South Africa, LCSA). Front: Patrice Legbanon (Benin), Geoffrey Skosana (South Africa, Secretary, Dieter Reinstorf (South Africa – FELSISA), Peter Maganda (Uganda).

SOUTH AFRICA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its Africa World Region conference August 16-20, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.

The triennial meeting is an important opportunity for church leaders to connect and build relationships. During the 2019 conference, each leader was invited to present a historical overview of their church. A series of daily Bible studies on the topic “Servant Leadership” were presented in three parts: 1) Christ as a servant of all; 2) Disciples of Christ as servants of all; and 3) The Church of Christ as servants to the world.

This year, church leaders from Benin, Malawi, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda gathered for the event, including: Bishop Nathaniel Bol (South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church); Bishop Mandla Khumalo (St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Synod of South Africa); General Secretary Patrice Legbanon (Lutheran Church in Africa—Benin Synod); Bishop Emmanuel Makala (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese); Bishop Modise Maragelo (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Executive Chairman David Wowa (Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod); Secretary Geoffrey Skosana (Lutheran Church in Southern Africa); Bishop Dieter Reinstorf (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa); and Dean Peter Maganda (Lutheran Church of Uganda). Revs. Shauen Trump and Gary Schulte, Africa Area Directors from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Missions, were also present as guests.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, and the Africa World Region is the ILC’s fastest growing region. The region currently has eleven full member churches, three observer members, and one diocese listed as a registered organization member. Since the beginning of 2019, the ILC has received an additional six applications from African churches seeking membership.

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Second Round of Classes for Lutheran Leadership Development Program

LLDP participants and their instructors at CTSFW (l-r): FELSISA Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul, LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo, EECMY General Secretary Teshome Amenu, ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala, LCSA Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala, CTSFW President Lawrence Rast, CTSFW Academic Dean Charles Gieschen, ELCG President John Donkoh, EECMY Director of Children and Youth Tsegahun Assefa, ELCT-SELVD District Pastor Daniel Mono, and LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki.

USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) held its second round of classes July 8-19, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).

“It was a joy to be reunited here at CTSFW with our colleagues and brothers in the office from countries throughout Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “We pray that their studies in this program will bear much fruit in their home church bodies”

CTSFW President Lawrence Rast teaches Lutheran history.

The first week featured a course on the History of the Lutheran Church taught by CTSFW President Lawrence Rast. This course focused on giving participants a deeper appreciation of the rich heritage of the Lutheran Church, and the tools to evaluate their own Lutheran tradition in light of the history of the Reformation. Participants also considered present day Lutheranism in the context of our changing world, both within and without the church.

The second week of classes featured Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, CTSFW’s Academic Dean, teaching a course on Lutheran Hermeneutics. The course provided instruction for students on how to read and understand Scripture faithfully, while also addressing the dangers of the higher-critical method and reader-oriented hermeneutics of biblical interpretation common in some parts of world Lutheranism. Among other resources, students read the book How to Read the Bible with Understanding, a publication from Concordia Publishing House (CPH).

Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen teaches on Lutheran hermeneutics.

The students were also joined outside of class by Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a certificate program of the ILC.

Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of ILC, speaks with LLDP participants.

“One of the recurring requests we hear from Lutheran Churches around the world is the need for solid theological training,” said General Secretary Storkson. “The International Lutheran Council is proud to offer the Lutheran Leadership Development Program as a way of helping Lutherans around the world meet their theological education and leadership-training needs.”

In addition to classes, participants enjoyed plenty of time for food and fellowship, as well as visiting local Lutheran sites. The group also participated in the regular daily chapel services of CTSFW, where four of the LLDP participants were invited to preach. The intensive two-week period ended with a banquet featuring Lutheran choral music.

“The reaction of the participant in the LLDP remains overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Masaki. “They express gratitude and joy in hearing lectures that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and in receiving the Lord’s gifts in daily chapel and Sunday divine services. It’s wonderful to see the growing confessional fellowship and networking among participants and their churches.”

“To many, this program has been an eye-opening experience which they do not want to keep to themselves,” Dr. Masaki continued. “They request an expansion of the program. They also request that the lectures would be made available in book form as well, so that they may be more easily shared with others in in their home countries—something we are exploring with Concordia Publishing House.”

Eight students from across Africa were present for the latest round of classes, including General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of the Department of Children and Youth in the EECMY; President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Bishop Modise Maragelo the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (LCSA); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala of LCSA; Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); and District Pastor Daniel Mono of ELCT-SELVD.

LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (bottom) and ILC Interim General Secretary Darin Storkson (third row, right) pose with LLDP participants in front of a mosaic in the library at CTSFW. This section of the mosaic shows Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses and Martin Chemnitz holding the completed Book of Concord. “How fitting it is that we all stand here together as heirs of this common and rich Reformation heritage!” said Dr. Masaki, noting that those in the picture come from many different nations (South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Japan, and the United States) but are united in the same Lutheran faith.

Three additional LLDP participants from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) and the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) were unable to attend the current round of classes in Fort Wayne.

The LLDPis a two-year certificate program which aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Students in the LLDP meet three times a year over two years for a total of twelve courses. Additional course work, writings, and examinations take place at a distance. More information on the LLDP is available here.

The first round of LLDP classes took place February 18-March 1, 2019 in Wittenberg, Germany. The next set of classes will take place November 18-29, 2019 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

You can support the LLDP by making a donation online. You can also make a donation by cheque to:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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Commentary: Methodist rejection of same-sex marriage is a victory for Christians of the Global South

by Mathew Block

News that the United Methodist Church (UMC) has reaffirmed the historic teaching of Christianity on same-sex relationships is a welcome surprise, and represents a victory for Christians of the Global South.

The 2019 General Conference of the UMC, which just met in St. Louis, Missouri, was widely expected to be a turning point for Methodists. A vast majority of bishops were pushing for the adoption of the “One Church Plan,” which would have seen the church strike prohibitions on the marriage of same-sex couples and the ordination of practicing homosexual ministers in the United States, and open up the possibility for other countries to follow suit.

The plan, however, was defeated by a vote of 449 to 374 (about 55 percent to 45 percent). Instead, delegates voted in favor of the Traditional Plan, reaffirming the church’s historic position on gender by a vote of 438 to 384 (about 53 percent to 47 percent).

So what happened? How did the historic Christian understanding of sexuality carry the day against the wishes of most UMC bishops? The answer is simple: Africa said no.

For a long time, the affluent church in the United States has pressed dependent churches in Africa and elsewhere to adopt the progressive ideologies of western mainline Protestantism. But the churches of the Global South have resisted, culminating in the recent votes at the UMC General Conference.

That experience is hardly unique to Methodism. We see the same thing happening in world Lutheranism. A few years ago, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council, published an article entitled “Colonialism in the Global South: The Imperialism of Western Sexual Ethics.” There he argues that the imposition of western progressive theology on churches in places like Africa represents a new form of colonial oppression by western churches.

And yet, many mainline Protestants seem to think the opposite. In his article, Dr. Collver notes a 2014 essay from the Lutheran World Federation which argued that “the rejection of homosexual love” was itself “another form of colonialism.”

This position leads to the incongruous image of western Protestants accusing their African brethren of colonialism, even as they attempt to push western progressive theology on their dissenting historic colonies. What is more, western mainline Protestants are increasingly tying financial support for churches in places like Africa with the acceptance and promotion of progressive ideology on issues like sexuality—an apparent attempt to starve out dissenters.

Despite this pressure, many churches of the Global South have firmly resisted attempts by westerners to impose progressive theology. Churches like the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, for example, have made their opposition to same-sex marriage clearly known, rebuking western church bodies which have departed from Scriptural teaching in this matter.

Their position will only become stronger, given the rapid growth of Christianity in the Global South. This is especially true as mainline Protestantism in the West continues its long decline.

It was precisely this sort of situation—the growth of Christianity in the Global South and the decline of mainline Protestantism in the West—which led to the dramatic showdown at the United Methodist Church’s recent General Conference. Unlike many denominations which have separate national church bodies in different countries, the UMC functions as a single church body throughout multiple nations. So while western progressives planned to push through divisive doctrinal change on the issue of sexuality, the growth of Methodism in the Global South meant Africans (who now make up more than 40 percent of all United Methodists worldwide) had a much stronger voice than in years past—and a much greater share of voting delegates.

Their voice was powerfully present during the General Conference. This was particularly true during a speech by the Liberian theologian Dr. Jerry P. Kulah on the morning of February 23. “We Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics,” he said. “We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to ‘grow up.’”

His words are a stunning rebuke to the colonialist ideologies of western mainline Protestantism. He continued:

“We Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.

We stand with our Filipino friends! We stand with our sisters and brothers in Europe and Russia! And yes, we stand with our allies in America.

We stand with farmers in Zambia, tech workers in Nairobi, Sunday School teachers in Nigeria, biblical scholars in Liberia, pastors in the Congo, United Methodist Women in Cote d’Ivoire, and thousands of other United Methodists all across Africa who have heard no compelling reasons for changing our sexual ethics, our teachings on marriage, and our ordination standards!

We are grounded in God’s word and the gracious and clear teachings of our church. On that we will not yield! We will not take a road that leads us from the truth! We will take the road that leads to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world!”

That stance may mean some financial difficulties for orthodox Methodists in Africa and elsewhere if western Christians choose to withhold funding. But that doesn’t mean African Methodists will back down. Dr. Kulah continued:

“Some United Methodists in the U.S. have the very faulty assumption that all Africans are concerned about is U.S. financial support. Well, I am sure, being sinners like all of you, some Africans are fixated on money.

But with all due respect, a fixation on money seems more of an American problem than an African one. We get by on far less than most Americans do; we know how to do it. I’m not so sure you do. So if anyone is so naïve or condescending as to think we would sell our birth right in Jesus Christ for American dollars, then they simply do not know us.”

These are powerful words, and well worth reflecting on in our own Lutheran circles. Many Lutheran church bodies today face similar pressures to submit to western ideologies contrary to the teachings of Scripture. You who resist are to be commended for your faithfulness in the midst of great challenges. I pray that the words of the great Lutheran hymnwriter Paul Gerhardt will give you strength to meet whatever challenges you may face:

If God Himself be for me,
I may a host defy;

For when I pray, before me
My foes, confounded, fly.
If Christ, my Head and Master,
Befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster
Can drive me from His love?

May that love of God be your strength as you continue to stand firm in His Word. And as you stand firm, know that we in the International Lutheran Council stand with you. May God bless you and your churches with every good thing in Christ.

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Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine and communications manager for the International Lutheran Council.

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