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European Lutheran Conference

ELC meets in Germany for 27th conference

Delegates and guests at the 27th European Lutheran Conference.

GERMANY – Delegates and guests from thirteen European countries, the United States, and Canada gathered from June 14-17 in Essen, Germany for the 27th European Lutheran Conference (ELC). The event took place just after a gathering of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) European Region in the same location.

This was the first in-person meeting of the ELC since the COVID-19 pandemic. The ELC normally meets every two years, and brings together clergy and laity from confessional Lutheran churches across Europe.

The theme for this year’s gathering was “Gender and Church: From a Theological, Legal, and Personal Perspective.” What might be a taboo subject for some Christians to talk about was boldly addressed by three keynote speakers and intensive discussions afterwards.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Barnbrock (Oberursel, Germany) presented his thoughts under the title: “Living as a Christian in a Rapidly Changing World: Reflections Based on the Example of the Gender Debate.” The second paper was given by the lawyer and notary Claudia Hüstebeck (Göttingen, Germany), discussing “Gender and Church” from a legal perspective. The third paper was a personal account by ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. Bishop Pohjola spoke about the legal trial he has faced in Finland as a result of the 2004 publication of a booklet on the topic of human sexuality.

While the European Lutheran Conference does not give guidelines about how churches should act, it nevertheless encourages member and guest churches to learn from the papers and discussions at its conferences. Individual churches must of course address these many theological and practical questions directly themselves. However, the discussions of the ELC’s 27th conference concluded that the blessing of same-sex partnerships or marriages is not possible, because they are contrary to the will of God. According to His Word, God has planned marriage to take place between man and woman, a relationship with the potential to be blessed with children.

The ELC steering committee (l-r): Rev. Claudio Flor, Secretary; Rev. Klaus Pahlen, President; and Rev. Philippe Volff, Vice-President

The next gathering of the ELC will be held in either Denmark, Portugal, or Norway, and will be organised by the new steering committee: Rev. Klaus Pahlen (Germany), who was reelected as ELC president; Rev. Philippe Volff (France), who was newly elected as Vice President; and Rev. Claudio Flor (United Kingdom), who was reelected as Secretary.

The European Lutheran Conference is an association of confessional evangelical Lutheran churches in Europe.


From a report by the European Lutheran Conference

European Lutheran Conference: Sharing Hope in Times of Fear

Some of the participants in the 2021 European Lutheran Conference.

EUROPE – The 26th European Lutheran Conference (ELC) was held online from June 2-4, 2021, following a year’s delay due to the pandemic. Participants gathered under the theme “Sharing Hope in Times of Fear.”

The conference featured three keynote presentations: Rev. Sebastian Gruenbaum of Finland presented on “Living in My Generation: Hopes and Threats of Our Time in the Light of Christ’s Word;” Rev. Dr. Christian Neddens of Germany spoke on “Living with Hope in Daily Life: How the Christian Faith Shapes Our Actions and Witnessing to Our Generation;” and Rev. Dr. Asger Christian Hoejlund of Denmark lectured on “Hope as Drawn from Martin Luther’s Writings of 1520.”

“The presentations stimulated lots of discussion,” noted Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE), who participated in the event. In addition to the pandemic, he said, topics of discussion included personalities, the Last Judgement, looking to the future with fear or love, and the question of whether society is becoming increasingly intolerant. “It occurred to me that our conference theme is applicable all the time and not just in a pandemic,” Chairman Samiec continued, “because our world is full of mishap and mayhem, sudden death and chronic conditions where injustice and the grave seem to have the last word. Jesus has a message for all time because His love can cast out fear (1 John 4:18).”

The conference also featured morning and evening devotions, reports from member churches, group discussions of presentations, and the writing of a paper on the conference theme.

The next conference is set to take place in 2023 in Aarhus, Denmark. The Executive Committee members for that event are the same as for 2021’s: Rev. Klaus Pahlen of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche – SELK) will serve as ELC President; President Leif Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (Den evangelisk-lutherske Frikirke i Danmark – ELFD) will serve as ELC Vice President; and Rev. Claudio Flor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England will serve as ELC Secretary.

The ELC is an association of Confessional Lutheran church bodies in Europe. Delegates at this year’s conference included representatives of member churches in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, all of whom are also members of the International Lutheran Council. The event also saw guests from churches in the Czech Republic, Finland, Spain, and Switzerland.

Additional information on the European Lutheran Conference is available on their website at:


New Chairman for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

At the installation of Rev. George Samiec (third front left) as Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.

United Kingdom – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) elected a new Chairman during its 65th Synod, held September 27-28, 2019 at Christ Church (Petts Wood).

Rev. George Samiec, who formerly served as Vice Chairman, was elected Chairman of the church after Rev. John Ehlers announced he would not seek reelection. Rev. Ehlers had served three terms as Chairman of the ELCE.

While not standing for reelection as Chairman, Rev. Ehlers allowed his name to stand for Vice Chairman of the ELCE, and was elected to that position for one year.

Rev. George Samiec, arrived in the UK in 2002, seconded from the Lutheran Church of Australia at the request of the ELCE. He has served on the ELCE Executive Council since 2003 and as ELCE Vice Chairman since 2010. He also served on the executive of the European Lutheran Conference from 2004-2018. The ELCE Chairman duties are in addition to congregational ministries in the ELCE. Rev. Samiec serves congregations in Brandon, Coventry, and Harlow and teaches in the practical theology area at Westfield House, the ELCE’s theological house of studies in Cambridge.

Assisting at the installation of the Chairman were the pastors of the ELCE ministerium together with the Rt. Rev. Risto Soramies, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF); the Very Rev. Dr Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the ELMDF; and Rev. Gary Heintz, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France.

During its 65th Synod, the ELCE also declared fellowship with the ELMDF and the Evangelical Lutheran-Diocese of Norway.


European Lutheran Conference meets in Belgium, celebrates 450th anniversary of first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp

Delegates to the 2016 meeting of the European Lutheran Conference.

Delegates to the 2016 meeting of the European Lutheran Conference.

BELGIUM – From June 1-5, 2016 Lutherans from several European Lutheran churches assembled in Antwerp, Belgium, for the 24th European Lutheran Conference (ELC), under the theme ‘Reformation then … and now.’

The conference was attended by ELC member churches representatives from Belgium, Denmark, England, France, and Germany, as well as by guests from the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.

A keynote address on the conference’s theme was delivered by Dr. Werner Klän of Germany. An opening service, morning devotions with Bible studies, and evening prayers shaped the spiritual frame of the conference. Several of the guest churches in attendance have expressed their intention to apply for membership in the coming years.

A special focus of this year’s conference was the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp, which was founded in 1566. From June 2-3, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) hosted an international conference highlighting this event, organized by ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem in cooperation with the University of Antwerp, and held at the Rubenianum.

Participants in the International Conference recognizing the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp.

Participants in the International Conference recognizing the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lutheran congregation in Antwerp.

The conference was opened with two keynote lectures: “The International Dimensions of the Wittenberg Reformation” by Dr. Robert Kolb (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri), and “Reformation Movements and the Wonderyear: the Antwerp Context” by Dr. Guido Marnef (University of Antwerp). The second day of the conference featured six additional lectures:  “The Role of Antwerp’s Reformed Augustinians in the Early Reformation” by Dr. Robert Christman (Luther College, Decorah, Iowa);  “Humanists on the Move: The Transfer of Ideas Between Wittenberg and Antwerp” by Dr. Victoria Christman (Luther College, Decorah, Iowa); “The First Lutheran Congregation 1566–1585 and Beyond” by Rev. Gijsbertus van Hattem (Lutheran Church of Antwerp, Belgium); “Polemics, Church Order and Confession: Matthias Flacius Illyricus in Antwerp during the ‘Wonderjaar’ 1566/67” by Dr.  Luka Ilic (Leibniz Institute, Mainz, Germany); “Christopher Plantin, Printing for the Reformation” by  Dirk Imhof (Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium); and “The Image Debates in the Low Countries: an Art Historical Review” by Dr.  Koenraad Jonckheere (Ghent University, Belgium).

President Leif Jensen (left) preached for the ELC's closing service while ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem served as liturgist.

President Leif Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (left) preached for the ELC’s closing service while ELKB President Gijsbertus van Hattem served as liturgist.

The conference concluded with a walking tour through 16th Century Antwerp, ending with a reception at the Town Hall, where Antwerp’s mayor Bart De Wever welcomed the participants.

The European Lutheran Conference concluded with Divine Service on June 5. ELKB President and local pastor Gijsbertus van Hattem led the liturgy, while President Leif Jensen of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark preached.

The next conference of the European Lutheran Conference will be held in England in 2018.

All of the member churches of the ELC are also member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.



ELC releases guidance document on “Living in an Ecumenical World”


GERMANY – At the conclusion of the European Lutheran Conference’s (ELC) conference, members and guest-churches released a document entitled “Living in an Ecumenical World.” The document is meant to provide guidance and advice to ELC congregations and friendly churches throughout Europe.

“Our world is an ecumenical one as God has given his church—placed his people—throughout it,” the preamble to the document begins. “As Lutherans we recognize this in the use of the ecumenical creeds, and see our Lutheran Confessions—particularly the Augsburg Confession—as a testament to this truth. We also note the existence of the ecumenical movement of the past hundred years which has sought to minimise the fractures and divisions in the church as it works toward a visible unity. Nevertheless the church continues to fracture.”

ELC-2014-letter-webThe document goes on to consider the issue from a broad perspective down to a narrow one. It begins by considering the place of the ‘holy, Christian, and apostolic Church’ in an ecumenical world, before considering the subject from the vantage point of church bodies, then congregations, and finally Christians.

“We live at the time God has placed us,” the document notes in its conclusion. “His church is one. We also live as pilgrims in a fractured church where the confession of God’s Word is significantly different and at a time when our society increasingly marginalises us. Our understanding of Church means that we will be scrupulous about the truth of God’s Word (what it says and doesn’t say) and aware of our own history as church bodies. Confident of our confession, we are confident in our mission—not arrogantly but always in love—and eager to maintain the unity in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).”

An English translation of the document is available online here. German and French translations are forthcoming. Signatories of the document represent confessional Lutheran communities in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Kyrgyz Republic, Siberia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.

The European Lutheran Conference met together in Bleckmar, Germany from May 22-24, 2014.


France’s Lutheran Church President Recovering After Stroke

President Roger Jones.

President Roger Jones.

FRANCE – During meetings of the International Lutheran Council and the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) in Bleckmar, Germany, French representatives reported that President Roger Jones of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France (EELSF) is making steady recovery in hospital following a stroke.

President Jones suffered a severe stroke in March 2014, resulting from a previously unrecognized heart condition. Since then, he has been in hospital, having to learn anew how to walk and write. Despite these challenges, President Jones has seen in them opportunity for spiritual growth. “While I wouldn’t wish a stroke on anyone,” he writes in a letter read to conference participants in Bleckmar, “I think we can all pray, ‘Lord, increase my faith.’”

The EFC has assured President Jones of their prayers and well-wishes. “We are indeed saddened by your circumstances,” they write in a letter, “and yet you have encouraged us to continue to trust in God and to be assured that he is gracious and good. We pray for your continued recovery and that God will hold you and Emily, your congregation, and your church in his hands.”

Signing the ELC letter to President Jones.

Signing the ELC letter to President Jones.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France has ten churches, eight pastors, and more than 700 members. President Jones was elected to serve the church as its president in 2012.


ELC: Living in an ecumenical world

ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on "living in an ecumenical world." In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.

ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on “living in an ecumenical world.” In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.

GERMANY – The European Lutheran Conference (ELC) continued into its second day of meetings May 23 in Bleckmar, Germany.

Discussion of this year’s theme—“Living in an Ecumenical World”—continued Friday, with Chairman Jon Ehlers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE) giving the event’s third major presentation. Chairman Ehlers, who also serves the International Lutheran Council as its European world region representative, spoke on the practical challenges confessional Lutheran churches face today, using the experiences of the ELCE to illustrate. Among the topics he discussed were who can serve as baptismal sponsors, visitors attending worship services at which Holy Communion is being served, participation in local ecumenical events, and more.

Conference participants then broke into small groups where they discussed Chairman Ehler’s presentation, before reporting their thoughts back to the larger conference. A day earlier the same groups discussed two additional topics: the nature of the church, and how confessional Lutherans should relate to other denominations. The conclusions drawn by the ELC in these discussions will be used in the formation of a guidance document on “Living in an Ecumenical World”—a series of recommendations on the subject for confessional Lutheran congregations in Europe.


European Lutheran Conference meets in Germany

Participants at the ELC's 2014 conference in Germany.

Participants at the ELC’s 2014 conference in Germany. (Photo: Rick Steenbock)

GERMANY – From May 22-25, the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) is meeting in Bleckmar, Germany for its 23rd conference. The conference follows on the heels of the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) European world region conference, also held in Bleckmar, on May 21.

The ELC has six-full member churches, all of which are also members of the ILC. The ELC’s full-member churches include the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France, the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB), and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). In addition to church leaders and lay representatives from these churches, this year’s conference includes guest participants from Spain, Switzerland, Russia, Kirghistan, Finland, and Sweden.

“Member churches need such meetings to realize that other churches know similar joys and problems,” ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig explains, “and to discover new ideas for their own church life, even if they live and work in different cultures, languages, and situations. Contacts are built between lay people of different churches which are necessary complements to the contacts between the church leaders.”

On the first day of the conference, presentations centered on two major topics. The first—what makes a Church a Church—was led by President Gisjbertus van Hattem of the ELKB. President van Hattem also serves as Secretary on the Executive Council of the ILC. The second focus of discussion—how confessional Lutheran churches ought to regard and relate to other denominations—was led by Rev. Roger Zieger, Director of SELK’s mission agency, the Lutheran Church Mission.

The origins of the ELC date back to just after the Second World War, when Confessional Lutheran churches from across Europe began meeting together in regular Mission Conferences. In 1986, these meetings transitioned to become the European Lutheran Conference. The purpose of the ELC according to its Guiding Principles is to “promote unity, fellowship, and cooperation between the member churches.”

The ELC’s conferences are currently held biannually, with the 2012 convention having taken place in Mulhouse, France.


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