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Liturgy and Culture

The ILC’s 2022 World Conference in brief

Participants at the International Lutheran Council’s 2022 World Conference pose with the seminary community during a visit to Neema Lutheran College in Matongo, Kenya. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

KENYA – The 27th (12th) World Conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) took place September 13-16, 2022 in Kisumu, Kenya, during which time the council elected a new chairman: Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF).

A New Chairman for the ILC

Bishop Juhana Pohjola presents during the ILC’s 2022 World Conference.

Bishop Pohjola was acclaimed as the ILC’s new chairman without opposition. Bishop Pohjola was catapulted to worldwide media attention in 2021 after Finland’s Prosecutor General charged him and a Finnish M.P., Dr. Päivi Räsänen, with hate crimes for the 2004 publication of a booklet which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. While the two were subsequently acquitted in early 2022, Finland’s Prosecutor General has since appealed, meaning the case is not yet over.

Chairman Pohjola succeeds Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). Bishop Voigt, who announced earlier in the World Conference that he would not be standing for reelection, served as ILC Chairman for twelve years from 2010-2022. Prior to that, he served the ILC as Vice Chairman and as Europe Region representative, for a total of 15 years of uninterrupted service on the board.

Elected to serve as ILC Secretary during the 2022 World Conference was Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana. Acclaimed to serve as World Region representatives were: Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya) for Africa; President Antonio del Rio Reyes (Lutheran Church in the Philippines) for Asia; Chairman George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England) for Europe; President Alceu Alton Figur (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay) for Latin America; and President Timothy Teuscher (Lutheran Church–Canada) for North America.

The International Lutheran Council’s Board of Directors for the new triennium. Left to right: Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Kenya); President Antonio del Rio Reyes (Philippines); Chairman George Samiec (United Kingdom); Bishop John Donkoh (Ghana); Past President Robert Bugbee (Canada); Bishop Juhana Pohjola (Finland); President Timothy Teuscher (Canada); ILC General Secretary Timothy Quill; President Alceu Alton Figur (Paraguay); and President Matthew Harrison (USA). LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

The ILC’s board of directors also includes two other members who are appointed under other criteria. Past President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada and President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) remain on the board in this capacity.

ILC welcomes new members

ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt and General Secretary Timothy Quill welcome the newest members of the ILC. Left to right: Chairman Voigt, Archbishop Jānis Vanags of Latvia, President Limberth Fernandez Coronado of Bolivia, Pastor Patricio Mora Reyes of Panama, and General Secretary Quill.

The conference brought together church leaders representing 55 church bodies from around the world, including members and guests. Reflecting the ILC’s continued growth, the 2022 World Conference voted to accept two church bodies as full members and one as an associate member. The conference also formally welcomed ten new observer members accepted into the ILC since the last world conference.

The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (previously accepted as an Associate Member in 2001) was welcomed as a full member. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (accepted as an observer in early 2022) was also accepted as a full member. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama, meanwhile, was newly accepted as an associate member.

Observer membership in the ILC can be granted by the Board of Directors without needing to wait until a world conference. In total, the board has accepted ten new observer members—all from Africa—since the last World Conference in 2018: the Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi; the Lutheran Church in Africa – Burundi Synod; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Congo; the Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya; the Lutheran Church in Africa – Côte d’Ivoire; the Confessional Lutheran Church – Malawi Synod; the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan. The Lake Tanganyika Diocese and the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania make up the remaining two new observer members (accepted as “recognized organizations”).

Welcoming new observer members accepted into the ILC since the 2018 World Conference.

Liturgy and Ecumenical Relations

The theme for the ILC’s 2022 World Conference was “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do.” Serving as essayists were Bishop Juhana Pohjola of Finland; Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (Fort Wayne, USA); and Rev. Dr. Alexey Streltsov (Novosibirsk, Russia), with an additional presentation by Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna of Chile.

Based on these presentations and ensuing discussion, the conference ultimately adopted a summary Statement on Liturgy and Culture. It further decided unanimously to produce a statement rejecting virtual communion.

Among other business, the World Conference also received a report on the results of the ILC’s recent ecumenical discussions with the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). The Final Report on those discussions was published in 2021, and found significant convergences between the two traditions in a number of areas.

In light of this report, and taking into account the written recommendation of Cardinal Kurt Koch of the PCPCU and ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, the ILC World Conference adopted a resolution calling for continued ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church in the leadup to the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 2030.

Additional news on the ILC’s 2022 World Conference can be found here.


2022 World Conference: Theological Education and Liturgy in Culture

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo preaches for the ILC’s 2022 World Conference during a visit to Neema Lutheran College.

KENYA – On the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2022, participants in the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) 2022 World Conference made an excursion to Matongo to visit Neema Lutheran College, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), the conference’s host church.

There they joined members of the seminary community for a service of Matins in Swahili. The service also featured a hymn in Swahili which conference participants have been learning throughout the conference: “Yesu Wangu Simwachi.” A seminary student served as liturgist, while ELCK Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo preached on John 4, drawing out what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. A Bible study on 1 Kings 8:22-30 followed, led by Rev. Joseph Abuor, a doctoral student from Kenya.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher (right), Chief Accreditation Officer of the ILCAA and Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College.

Following this, the conference heard a report from Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher of the ILC’s International Accreditation Agency (ILCAA). The ILCAA is a new initiative of the ILC that will “strengthen confessional Lutheran theological education,” he explained. The program will ensure that participating seminaries and colleges all provide robust theological training that is recognizable and transferable to other institutions for higher academic study.

In addition to providing standards for an institutions’ educational program and mission and integrity, the ILCAA will also provide standards for: governance, administration, and finances; planning and review; faculty, education, and staff; student services; and resources.

Liturgy, Theology, and Culture

Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo speaks on theology, liturgy, and culture.

The morning session continued with the third of four major presentations on the conference theme. Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College, gave a lecture entitled “The Relationship Between Liturgy, Theology, and Culture.”

Dr. Omolo argued that, for Christian worship to be appropriately brought into a given culture, it is necessary to “balance the local and the universal natures of Christian liturgy, so that the overarching meaning in liturgy is neither lost nor communicated unintelligibly to the people.” Key to striking this balance is careful fidelity to the doctrine which underlies liturgical expression: “the content of worship,” he explained, must remain “consistent with the church’s doctrine and the overall Christian narrative.”

“Meaningful w­orship is that in which Christ’s gift of life and salvation is offered to the sinful man in a clear and intelligible language so that the people experience this gift in an understandable way,” Dr. Omolo concluded. But when pursuing such adaptation, he cautioned, “care must be taken so that the liturgy remains Christian in its core and purpose, and continues to bear the marks of the catholicity of the church of Christ. To attain such balance, inculturation must take seriously the complementary dynamics between liturgy and doctrine, so that celebration of the liturgy in different cultures is done within the framework of the Christian language anchored in the biblical narrative.”

ILC-Chile Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna (left) speaks on the new Spanish Lutheran hymnal.

Following Principal Omolo’s presentation, Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile), also addressed the subject of liturgy and culture, providing a concrete example in the recently published Spanish hymnal produced in Latin America: Himnario Luterano. The hymnal was first conceived by the Chilean church 14 years ago, eventually growing to become a joint project of the ILC-Chile, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELP), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA).

The new hymnal is “a contribution from the mission field to the mission field,” said Bishop Lanterna, “a contribution from Latin America to Latin America, and from confessional Lutherans to confessional Lutherans.”

Himnario Luterano.

Indeed, Bishop Lanterna continued, the new hymnal can justly be considered the third most important confessional Lutheran publication ever published in Spanish, preceded by Casiodoro de Reina’s classic 1569 translation of the Bible as well as the Spanish translation of the Lutheran Confessions.

The hymnal, which incorporates hundreds of classic and contemporary hymns as well as newly provides services for Matins, Vespers, and Complines, has been received with joy by Spanish-speaking Lutherans. Asked what impact the hymnal will have, the missionaries who began the project were clear: “They unanimously responded,” Bishop Lanterna explained, that it will help Spanish-speaking Lutherans to “revalue and discover confessional Lutheran liturgical theology.”

The morning session concluded with a lunch on the grounds of the seminary.


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