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Lutheran Church in Guatemala

Guatemalan Lutherans mourn death of former president

Rev. Dr. Abdiel Orozco

GUATEMALA – Guatemalan Lutherans are mourning the death of Rev. Dr. Abdiel Orozco Aguirre, former president of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala (Iglesia Luterana en Guatemala – ILG). Dr. Orozco recently contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized after his condition worsened. He slipped into a coma, eventually passing away on January 22, 2021.

“Brothers, our beloved pastor, Abdiel Orozco, is now in the presence of the Lord,” his congregation, Iglesia Luterana Castillo Feurte (Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church) wrote on social media announcing his death. “And it is the Lord who will allow us all to meet together in heaven.”

“This news is sad for the Lutheran Church in Guatemala,” said ILG President Ignacio Chan in a message to international church leaders. He expressed “sincere thanks for your prayers and comfort” in this time.

Dr. Orozco came to the ministry later in life, having spent many years as a medical doctor and immunohematologist. He received his medical degree from the Universidad de San Carlos de Gautemala, and eventually became an advisor to Guatemala’s ministry of health. While serving in that role, he pursued master’s studies at Cornell University (New York City, New York) and a doctorate in hematology from the University of Houston (Houston, Texas). He subsequently became the head of Guatemala’s national network of blood banks, a position in which he served for more than a decade.

Despite being the son of a Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Orozco did not attend church during his university days. While in Houston, however, he was introduced to the Lutheran faith. When he returned to Guatemala after his studies, he became involved with a Lutheran mission plant which was just beginning in Guatemala City.

Rev. Dr. Abdiel Orozco preaches at the ILC’s 2018 World Conference in Belgium.

Dr. Orozco began studies for the pastoral ministry a number of years later in 2007, and was ordained into the pastoral ministry in 2012 (he completed his service as head of Guatemala’s blood banks in 2011). In 2015, he was elected president of the ILG, a position to which he was reelected in 2017. He completed his tenure as ILG president in 2019.

In addition to serving two terms as president of the ILG, Dr. Orozco also served as National Director for the Lutheran Center for Theological Studies (Centro Luterano De Estudios Teologicos – CLET). As a testament to his continued interest in higher education, Dr. Aguirre recently received a Master of Arts from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) in 2020.

Two devotional services for Dr. Orozco were held on January 24, 2021. A funeral service was held on January 25—the date on which Dr. Orozco would have turned 63 years old. To accommodate health regulations, the services were also broadcast online.

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala is a member church of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.


Guatemalan Lutherans elect new president

Newly elected President Ignacio Chan of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala.

GUATEMALA – On January 26, 2019, the Lutheran Church in Guatemala (Iglesia Luterana en Guatemala – ILG) elected Rev. Ignacio Chan as its new president during the church’s 2019 Assembly in Cristo Rey.

President Chan succeeds Rev. Dr. Abdiel Orozco Aguirre, who was first elected as president of the ILG in 2015 and was reelected in 2017. Rev. Chan previously served as president several terms before Dr. Orozco’s tenure.

The newly elected officers of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala.

Also elected during the 2019 Assembly were Rev. Byron Paz as Vice President, Luís Mazariegos as Secretary, and Efraín García as Treasurer. The new officers were installed on January 26 by Rev. David Rodriguez, a former President of the Guatemalan church. President Chan officially took office on January 30.

“I put myself at your service as a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord, trusting in your prayers,” said President Chan in an email following his election. “With the help of God, we will work in harmony.”

The International Lutheran Council (ILC), of which the ILG is a member church, sent greetings to President Chan following his election. “Congratulations and God’s blessings on the election in your church,” said ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). “St. Augustine once wrote on the duties of a bishop as follows: He may ‘reprehend the troublemakers, console the faint-hearted, take care of the weak, refute the adversaries, beware of entrapment, arouse the languid, restrain those looking for quarrels, put the vain in their proper place, appease those who argue with one another, teach the uneducated, help the poor, set free those oppressed, encourage the good, bear with the wicked, and—oh—love them all.’ May God give you this love!”

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala has approximately 4,000 members in congregations throughout Guatemala.


Attack kills one, wounds President Emeritus of Lutheran Church in Guatemala

President Emeritus Eduardo Bonilla Porras (Image: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil.)

President Emeritus Eduardo Bonilla (Image: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil.)

GUATEMALA – The President Emeritus of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala (LCG) has been wounded and another church member was killed after unknown assailants opened fire on their vehicle Friday, November 21.

President Emeritus Eduardo Bonilla and Franciso Paxtor (Synodical Secretary for the LCG) had earlier in the day taken part in an anniversary service at New Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Chajabel, where Rev. Bonilla had been invited to preach for the special occasion. Their car was attacked while on the drive back to Guatemala City, with both men receiving gun shot wounds. The two were able to drive themselves to the nearest town, from which they were rushed by ambulance to Quetzaltengango.

President Emeritus Bonilla was shot in the chest, with a bullet grazing his lung and missing his heart by centimeters. Francisco Paxtor was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the head. President Emeritus Bonilla was stabilized and transported Sunday by plane for medical care in the capital. He is expected to make a full recovery. Tragically, Paxtor could not be stabilized. He succumbed to his injuries in Quetzaltengango on Sunday.

Local media reports initially suggested the attack might have resulted from land disputes over church properties owned by the LCG. However, LCG President Emeritus Ignacio Chan writes that this is incorrect, further noting that this area of rural Guatemala has seen a number of recent attacks by persons unknown upon the general populace.

“At this time we are deeply grieved and shocked by this violent act on the lives of our dear brothers in Christ,” said Rev. Cornelio Midence, current President of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala. He asks Christians around the world to keep President Emeritus Bonilla and his family in prayer as he recovers from this violent attack, as well to pray for the family of Francisco Paxtor as they grieve his sudden passing.

“Please also remember in your prayers those who committed this act,” President Midence continued. “May God have mercy on them.”

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala is a church body of about 4,000 members. It is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran churches.


Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Francisco Paxtor was a pastor. He was, in fact, a layman.

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