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Inaugural meeting of the Concordia Lutheran-Catholic Augustana Working Group

The Augustana Working Group holds its inaugural meeting in Rome on March 1, 2024.

On March 1, 2024, the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (DPCU) hosted the inaugural meeting of the Concordia Lutheran–Catholic Augustana Working Group, which met in Rome until March 2, 2024.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the DPCU, welcomed the members of the working group and encouraged them to explore the pre-confessional/ecumenical potential of the Augsburg Confession in more detail in view of the 500th anniversary of the Confessio Augustana in 2030.

The Augustana Working Group includes representatives of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Catholic Church. Following the conclusion of the theological conversations between the ILC, an association of Concordia Lutheran churches, and the Catholic Church (2014–2019), both sides suggested the establishment of a working group as a distinct ecumenical-theological format.

The working group is not an official dialogue commission. The aim is not to produce a document of churchly consensus. However, the publication of the results of the joint research is intended to enrich the ecumenical discussion in an indirect way.

The working group is headed by two episcopal chairmen: on the Lutheran side by Bishop Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland / Chairman of the ILC; and on the Catholic side by Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Peter Birkhofer, Freiburg im Breisgau.

The working topic is: “Catholicity and Apostolicity in the Augsburg Confession, Examined in the Areas of Soteriology (Justification) and Ecclesiology (Ministry, Episcopate, and Ordination): a joint Lutheran–Catholic review of Augsburg Confession in a pre-confessional and ecumenical perspective.”

A total period of four years is planned for working on the topic. The next meeting will take place in Wittenberg on December 9 and 10, 2024.

Participants from the International Lutheran Council (ILC)

  • Bishop Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Helsinki, Finland (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, ILC Chairman)
  • Prof. Dr. Joel Elowsky, St. Louis, Mo., USA
  • Prof. em. Dr. Werner Klän, D.Litt., Lübeck, Germany
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. Jonathan Mumme, Hillsdale, Mich., USA
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Winger, St. Catharines, Ont., Canada
    ***
    Prof. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, Fort Wayne, Ind., USA (ILC General Secretary) – part-time participant, but not a member

Catholic Participants

  • Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Peter Birkhofer, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Lersch, Siegen, Germany
  • Dr. Tim Lindfeld, Aachen, Germany
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. James Prothro, Greenwood Village, Color., USA
  • Father Dr. Augustinus Sander OSB, Vatican (Permanent Representative of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity)

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ILC gives thanks for Rev. Roger James’ service

Rev. Roger James at the ILC’s 2022 World Conference in Kenya. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

USA – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is giving thanks for Rev. Roger B. James, who has transitioned out of his role as Assistant to the General Secretary. Rev. James has accepted a position as interim pastor at Our Hope Lutheran Church in Huntertown, Indiana.

“My heart has always been with preaching and teaching and pastoral care,” said Rev. James, “but I treasure the few years I have had with the ILC. At its heart, the ILC is also about the Gospel and the Word of God—the same focus as in pastoral ministry. I and my wife Amy look forward to continuing to support the ILC with our gifts and prayers.”

The ILC’s Board of Directors issued a call to Rev. James in late 2020, and he was installed on January 31, 2021. He served the majority of his tenure under former General Secretary Timothy Quill, but he also assisted his successor, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, since his installation in late 2023.

“Rev. James has played an important role in assisting the ILC during its expansion over the past three years,” said General Secretary Schulz. “He has provided guidance in the development of operating procedures and practices, assisted with major events, and made significant strides in helping to raise the profile of the ILC on the congregational level as well as developing strong relations with supporters.”

“I am also personally grateful for Rev. James’ assistance since my own installation as General Secretary,” Dr. Schulz continued. “We wish him every blessing in Christ as he enters into a new ministry opportunity.”

Prior to joining the ILC, Rev. James served as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) South Asia Area Director as a missionary in Sri Lanka.

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African Church Leaders gather for regional ILC conference

Participants in the ILC’s 2024 Africa Regional Conference.

KENYA – From February 6-8, Lutheran church leaders from across Africa gathered in Nairobi for the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2024 Africa Regional Conference. The bishops and presidents of 22 different African church bodies were in attendance, hailing from the nations of Benin, Burundi, Cöte d’Ivoire, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.

LCN Archbishop Christian Ekong presents during the conference.

Archbishop Joseph Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK), the Africa Region representative on the ILC’s Board of Directors, welcomed participants to Kenya and formally opened the conference. The gathering featured a number of presenters. Archbishop Christian Ekong of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) spoke on the Lord’s Supper and practice in the Lutheran Church. Bishop Modise Maragelo of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) discussed experiences of ecumenism in the African context. The ILC’s General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz, addressed church relations and altar and pulpit fellowship. ELCK Archbishop Emeritus Walter Obare shared his reflections on relationships with the ILC and other world church organizations. Finally, Rev. Dr. Tom Omolo, Principle of the ELCK’s Neema Lutheran College, addressed the call to the public ministry and the issue of women’s ordination in the African context.

ILC General Secretary Klaus Detlev Schulz presents during the conference.

“It was wonderful to gather with African church leaders to discuss these important issues,” said ILC General Secretary Schulz. “God has raised up strong leaders for the African church, and their faithfulness to Christ and His Word is a strong witness to Christians the world over. May God continue to bless the work He is doing through the member churches of the ILC in Africa.”

Preaching for Matins and Vespers over the three days were Bishop Yohana Nzelu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – Southeast of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); Bishop Charles Bameka of the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU); LCN Archbishop Ekong; Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); and Bishop Peter Anibati of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan and South Sudan (ELCSSS). Clergy from the ELCK served as liturgists.

Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana leads discussion.

In addition to worship and lectures, participants at the conference also meet for regional meetings and conducted visits to various sites in Nairobi, including the offices of the Evangelical Lutheran of Kenya as well as Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

Participants also discussed the confusion that has arisen in the African context as a result of a recent doctrinal pronouncement in the Roman Catholic Church, which authorized its clergy to bless same-sex couples. In response, the ILC’s Africa Region adopted the following statement reaffirming their own adherence to historic Christian teaching in matters of human sexuality.

ILC Africa: Statement on the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriage

In response to the recent pronouncement by the Pope allowing Roman Catholic clergy to bless same-sex couples, and the support of same-sex marriage by civil authorities  (including some African countries), we the  International Lutheran Council (ILC)’s African Region, meeting in Nairobi from February 5-8, 2024, at Corat Africa, hereby affirm the ILC’s position that marriage is “the life-long union of one man and one woman and for the procreation and nurture of children.”

In this regard, sanctioning any other form of union, especially a same-sex union, is an affront to the authority of the Holy Scriptures and a direct opposition to the Law of God in the Sixth Commandment. It is our prayer that those who are falling into this vice may turn to the Word of God for guidance.

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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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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.

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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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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola reads the new statement “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.” Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

WITTENBERG – As anniversary celebrations for the International Lutheran Council (ILC) drew to a close on October 14 in Wittenberg, Germany, the ILC released a new statement affirming its commitment to the authority of Holy Scripture, over and against the changing mores of contemporary society.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, publicly read the statement—entitled “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts”—near the end of proceedings. “We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture,” the document states. “During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”

The statement reaffirms the ILC’s unwavering commitment that “that the Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church.” The statement particularly highlights the ILC’s adherence to historic Christian teaching on issues related to the taking of human life; to marriage and human sexuality; to interchurch fellowship; to ordination; and more.

It further reaffirms its adherence to “an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible”—namely, the proclamation of “Jeus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.”

The document is available for download here. The full text of the statement also appears below.

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Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts

A Statement on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council

Wittenberg, Germany
October 14, 2023

The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is a worldwide association of 58 confessional Lutheran churches in 52 countries which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God (ILC Bylaws II, A, B).

The modern origins of the International Lutheran Council can be traced back to delegates of confessional church bodies from Europe, North and South America, and Australia meeting in Uelzen, Germany in 1952, not long after World War II. Over the next forty years the ‘International Lutheran Theological Conference,’ as it was then called, organized many international gatherings of the heads of confessional Lutheran churches. The ILC as such came into existence on September 9, 1993, when 23 Lutheran church leaders from around the world adopted a constitution while gathered in Antigua, Guatemala. The theological origins of the ILC, however, are rooted in the confession of Martin Luther and the Lutheran fathers of the 16th century Reformation, including the courageous authors who concluded the Formula of Concord (XII:40) by stating:

In the sight of God and all Christendom, the entire Church of Christ, we want to testify to those now living and those who will come after us. This declaration…is our faith, doctrine, and confession. By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it.

The 21st century members of the International Lutheran Council continue to be inspired by the intrepid hearts—the fearless hearts—of those 16th century confessors who signed the Formula of Concord. The same spirit is alive today as the ILC celebrates its 30th anniversary under the theme “Confessing the Faith with Intrepid Hearts.”

The ILC remains committed in word and action to the confessional basis and purpose articulated in its Constitution (Articles II and III) and Bylaws (Article II). We expect churches of the ILC, and exhort churches not of the ILC, to retain, confess, and put into action the godly, wise, and beautiful way of life revealed in Holy Scripture. During these dark and later days, the world is being overwhelmed by a culture of ugliness and death which is increasingly promoted and enforced by civil authorities, even in opposition to freedom of religion and religious speech. Therefore, the ILC must continue to embrace and fearlessly proclaim God the Father’s biblical pattern of holiness, truth, and beauty which is enlivened by the atoning forgiveness of Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, and the administration of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Thus, at this anniversary we re-affirm: “The Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church” (Bylaws II, D).  As a result, we assert the following truths:

  • The Fifth Commandment against murder prohibits any deliberate harm of innocent human life, including abortion and euthanasia (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, a).
  • The Sixth Commandment against adultery affirms that marriage was created by God from the beginning as the life-long union of one man and one woman and for the procreation and nurture of children. Only within marriage are conjugal relations pleasing to God (cf. Bylaws II, D, 1, b). In recent years the so-called “Culture Wars” have seen attempts to re-define marriage and what it means to be human as male and female. Holy Scripture teaches that “God created man in His own image… male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Natural law concurs.
  •  “Altar and pulpit fellowship between church bodies is only possible where there is a common confession of faith based on the Word of God. Where there are disagreements between church bodies regarding the Word of God, we shall not pretend that these divisions are unimportant or give a false witness of unity by practicing altar or pulpit fellowship” (cf. Bylaws II, D, 2, a).
  • Concerning the Office of the Ministry, we believe that while “all Christians—men and women—are redeemed and able to serve the Church in many ways, Holy Scripture requires that only men who are spiritually qualified in life and doctrine are to be called and ordained as pastors to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments” (Bylaws II, D, 2, b).

These certainly are not the only teachings of Holy Scripture, but these are particularly misunderstood, challenged, and rejected in our day, and so must be all the more boldly confessed by those who hold fast the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions.

There is, indeed, an even greater and more blessed teaching of the Bible, which we cling to above all things. This 30th anniversary celebration is taking place at St. Mary’s City Church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther preached. Luther was not only a professor at the University of Wittenberg, he was also called as a preacher to St. Mary’s parish. His reform of the mass drew upon his brilliant linguistic, musical, and liturgical skill. However, it was motivated primarily by the biblical doctrine of justification by grace. Whether in the church or the classroom, Luther proclaimed Jesus and the Gospel of forgiveness of sins by God’s grace alone, through faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.

This is the chief doctrine of the Bible by which the Church stands or falls. In this teaching each Christian lives as he or she receives forgiveness in word, water, bread, and wine. It is fitting that the celebration of this 30th anniversary begins where this Chief Article of Justification was re-discovered, clearly preached, confessed, and sung with intrepid hearts. The ILC therefore supports its member churches in preaching the Gospel to the entire world and at the same time furthers “united diaconal action through intentional acts and programs of mercy in response to human need and suffering” (Bylaws II.2).

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

– 2 Timothy 4:1-2 –


Issued on Behalf of the International Lutheran Council by its Board of Directors

Chairman: Bishop Juhana Pohjola
Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland

Secretary: Bishop/President John Donkoh
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana

Africa: Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo
Evangelical Lutheran in Kenya

Asia: President Antonio Reyes
Lutheran Church in the Philippines

Europe: Chairman George Samiec
Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

Latin America: President Alceu Alton Figur
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay

North America: President Timothy Teuscher
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee
Lutheran Church–Canada

Appointed: President Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

General Secretary: Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill
International Lutheran Council

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: Looking backward, looking forward

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.

GERMANY – The International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) anniversary celebrations continued the afternoon of October 14 with a keynote address by Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and a current member of the ILC’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Bugbee’s lecture was entitled: “Treasuring the Treasure: Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the International Lutheran Council.” He began by considering the motivation that drove Martin Luther and the early reformers—namely, “that the Church must be devoted to the eternal salvation of people and must, above all, hold out the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ as the One who brings God’s righteousness to us.”

“‘The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God,’” Dr. Bugbee reflected, quoting the 95 Theses. “That is really the heartbeat of Lutheran proclamation and church life. It needs to remain the heartbeat of what we preach and how we believe and live. It needs to remain the heartbeat, even though more than 500 years have passed since Luther’s Reformation uncovered the treasure anew. It needs to remain the heartbeat among those who come after us for long as the world endures.”

Luther preaches Christ crucified. Lower panel of the Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach the Elder and Cranach the Younger, 1547.

It was this same “foundational conviction which brought representatives of confessional Lutheran churches together in the North German city of Uelzen in 1952,” he continued, “to initiate a series of theological conferences that decades later morphed into the formal creation of the International Lutheran Council.” Dr. Bugbee went on to trace the evolution of the ILC over the decades, leading to the eventual reorganization of the International Lutheran Theological Conference—as it was first known—as the International Lutheran Council in Antigua, Guatemala in 1993. It is this the anniversary of this reorganization that the ILC is celebrating in 2023.

Since then, Dr. Bugbee noted, the ILC has grown to be an important voice for confessional Lutherans around the world—providing news, information, and resources; developing public statements; supporting theological education; and engaging in biblically faithful ecumenical dialogue, among other important work. But in everything it does, the ILC is and must remain motivated by the same thing that motivated Luther and the early Reformers: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

“It will not do for us simply to make passing reference to ‘Gospel” in our church life, or to redefine it as some general form of acceptance which has the effect of saying ‘Yes’ to anything and everything people wish to believe and do,” Dr. Bugbee said. “Nor can it be our way to set aside the apostolic proclamation of repentance and forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in favour of focusing instead on climate change, on obscuring the biblical distinctions between man- and womanhood, or on conforming the church’s primary message to ever-changing political and social agendas.”

“Something has gone wrong in a Lutheran church,” he noted, “where there is seemingly endless talk of concepts like love and acceptance and inclusivity, but where God’s people are not called to repent of their sin and to find their joy in the Christ who gave His life to win their pardon and bring them to God.” Instead, he argued, Lutherans must commit themselves ever more deeply to Scripture and draw their life from it; and to the Lutheran Confessions as well, as a true and faithful witness to that Word of God.

In conclusion, Dr. Bugbee prayed: “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! 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.”

The full text of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation will be released online at a later date.

Honouring ILC leaders

Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill (left) and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt are recognized for their service to the International Lutheran Council.

At the conclusion of Dr. Bugbee’s presentation, the ILC turned its attention to honouring two leaders who have played an important role in the ILC’s recent history: outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill and the ILC’s former Chairman, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany.

ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola addressed each of these leaders individually, highlighting their contributions to the growth of the ILC and its maturation into the strong voice for confessional Lutheranism worldwide that it has become. Chairman Pohjola and Dr. Bugbee then presented Bishop Voigt and Dr. Quill each with a plaque honouring their service.

Regional Perspectives on the Work of the ILC

ELCE Chairman George Samiec.

The afternoon continued with a panel of speakers who provided regional perspectives on the work of the ILC today and what that work might look like in the future. Panelists included Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England – ELCE); Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya – ELCK); President Alceu Alton Figur (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay – IELP); and President Matthew Harrison (The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod – LCMS). All four also serve on the ILC’s board of directors.

Chairman Samiec introduced the topic for discussion, asking: “What might the church be doing in your region, and globally, by 2030?”—that is to say, by the 500th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 2030. Chairman Samiec noted that the European region has been particularly concerned lately with the reemergence of armed conflict and increased political tension between European nations. The question of how churches respond not only to the conflict but also to one another takes on new importance, he noted, as member churches can find themselves embedded in countries on opposing sides of these conflicts.

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo.

Archbishop Omolo discussed some of the challenges facing Lutherans in Africa and in other developing regions more generally: namely, the pressure of external organizations that offer funding and grants to churches but undermine those churches’ adherence to the authority of Scripture. For that reason, Archbishop Omolo praised the ILC’s focus on bolstering seminary education and church worker formation. As a result of this work, he said, “I see the future of confessional Lutheranism in Africa becoming more and more strong.” And this strength can be seen in the growing number of ILC member churches in Africa today.

IELP President Alceu Alton Figur.

President Figur spoke on the growth and strong community present in Latin American Lutheranism. He noted, for example, that when the ILC was reorganized as a council in 1993, the region counted seven church bodies as members. Today, it counts eleven. And the cooperation between churches in the region—on seminary education, for example—is giving birth to increasingly fruitful mission work abroad. This missionary impulse, he noted, is itself an outworking of the missionary work of confessional Lutheran missionaries in Latin America a century ago. “We are together with you,” President Figur encouraged participants. “Together in the same faith, in the same confession of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

Finally, President Harrison brought a North American perspective to the reflections. “It is a desperate time in Western Society,” he said, acknowledging the challenges of the contemporary age. But even this can lead to greater unity in the church, as confessional Lutherans learn to stand together against these challenges. And while there are challenges in the West—declining numbers of pastoral students, for example—he noted that cooperation between ILC churches is helping churches to stand strong together. Brazil, he noted, has begun to send some of its seminary graduates to serve in the United States—a testament both to the missionary zeal of the Brazilian church and also the need in the United States to serve growing immigrant communities.

As the ILC looks to the future, President Harrison reflected, we need to work together in this cooperative way, proactively recognizing our unique strengths and applying them wherever there is need. “We need to recognize the unique capacities of the ILC,” he said—resources such as theological training capacity, language abilities, and more—“and bring them to bear on specific circumstances.”

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ILC Anniversary Celebrations: New General Secretary installed

Participants gather for ILC anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany on October 14, 2023. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

GERMANY – On the morning of October 14, Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz was installed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), during a festive service of Matins at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg marking the ILC’s 30th anniversary as a council.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is installed as General Secretary by ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.

“I want to thank you for your confidence,” Dr. Schulz said in an address to attendees later in the day. “Being Book of Concord Lutherans, we all need to know the Book of Concord. That is something it is my ambition to promote as much as possible in our churches: Book of Concord Lutheranism, that unites us all around this foundation that has been laid, Jesus Christ. I want to promote—to proclaim—our Lutheranism and preserve it, but also to protect it.”

“To accomplish this task, I ask for your support, and I ask especially for your prayers,” Dr. Schulz continued. “Thank you very much, and God bless you.”

Outgoing ILC General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill preaches.

Serving as liturgist and officiating over the installation of Dr. Schulz was ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The ILC’s outgoing General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill, preached for the anniversary service, reflecting on John 10:1-18. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada served as an assisting minister, and Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and Chairman George Samiec of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England served as lectors. President Alceu Alton Figur of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay bore the processional cross, with other members of the ILC’s board of directors also participating in the procession.

Special music—including choral music and a brass ensemble—were provided by cantor and organist Georg Mogwitz and the choir of St. Lukas church in Leipzig.

Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber is installed by LCMS President Matthew Harrison.

The service also saw the formal installation of Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber of South Africa as pastor of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), which operates the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. The ILC is a full partner in the society, alongside The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). LCMS President Matthew Harrison officiated over the installation of Dr. Weber.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher leads a prayer of dedication for the ILC’s Accreditation Agency.

A special prayer of dedication for the ILC Accreditation Agency (ILCAA) was also held during the service. The ILCAA will assist seminaries and other educational institutions in providing a quality theological education grounded in the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The ILC’s Chief Accreditation Officer, Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher, led the prayer.

The International Lutheran Council is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions. While the ILC is celebrating 30 years since its reorganization as a “council,” the full history of the organization goes back to 1952.

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Dr. Schulz appointed new ILC General Secretary

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is welcomed as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council by outgoing General Secretary Timothy C.J. Quill.

WORLD – Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz has been appointed the new General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). His installation will take place October 14 during the ILC’s anniversary celebrations in Wittenberg, Germany.

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz

“I am honoured to have been asked to serve as General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council,” Dr. Schulz said. “Today, the task of promoting and nurturing confessional Lutheran identity worldwide is as important as it has ever been, and I am proud to do my part in that endeavor alongside the member churches of the ILC.”

Dr. Schulz is Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA). He further serves the seminary as Dean of Graduate Studies; Director of the Ph.D. in Missiology program; and Director of International Studies. Dr. Schulz will continue to serve in these positions even as he takes on his new role as ILC General Secretary.

“We thank God for Dr. Schulz and his willingness to serve as General Secretary,” said ILC Chairman Juhana Pohjola. “Dr. Schulz is an excellent theologian, outstanding seminary professor, and experienced missionary, who is well-acquainted with confessional Lutheran churches around the world. I’m sure that I speak on behalf of all ILC churches when I say we look forward to working closely with Dr. Schulz in the future and benefitting from his leadership in these challenging times, as together we give a good confession to Christ and His Word.”

Dr. Schulz succeeds Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, who recently announced his decision to step down as General Secretary. “I am wholly grateful that the Lord has gifted Dr. Detlev Schulz to the ILC as General Secretary,” Dr. Quill noted. “His theological depth and commitment to confessional Lutheran theology is complemented by his extensive international experience. His relaxed and unassuming manner with people of all stations has made him a true pastor, missionary, and professor—and now also, ILC General Secretary. He is ideally suited to meet the complex ecumenical demands and challenges on the international scale that this role brings with it.”

Originally from South Africa, Dr. Schulz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; a Master of Divinity from the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany; a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and a Doctor of Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Schulz began serving as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in 1998. Previously, he served in parish ministry in Germany and as a missionary in Botswana. He has published widely in the areas of missions and systematic theology.

Dr. Schulz brings to his new role a deep familiarity with confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world, having travelled and taught extensively throughout Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia. In his role as Dean of Graduate Studies at the Fort Wayne seminary, Dr. Schulz has also cultivated relations with many leaders of confessional Lutheran church bodies across the world.

In addition, as the son of the late Rev. Dr. Georg Schulz—founding bishop of the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa—he has a personal connection to the early history of the International Lutheran Council. Bishop Schulz attended many gatherings of what would eventually become the ILC, beginning with the third such conference in 1963.

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