LCMS, WELS, and ELS leaders report significant doctrinal agreement

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USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report noting significant doctrinal agreement between the three synods, following three years of informal dialogue.

Following a fourth meeting held December 2, 2015, leaders of the three synods agreed to the publication of A Report on the Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders 2012-2015. Among the representatives present for the event were LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Mark Schroeder, and ELS President John A. Moldstad.

Primary among the contents of the report is an assessment of the doctrinal agreement already shared by the three synods. “We agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice,” the report notes. “We agree that the chief message of the Bible is justification by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, and that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”

The LCMS previously enjoyed fellowship together with the ELS and the WELS until 1955 and 1961, the document notes, before breaking fellowship as a result of doctrinal controversies in the LCMS that peaked in the 1970s. Today, the three synods share such a level of doctrinal agreement that there is a strong desire for further discussion “with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit.” They note, however, that a number of issues still need to be resolved, writing, “All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine.”

“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of LCMS Church Relations. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”

Read the full report here.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.1 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 400 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 20 thousand members) are American churches in full-fellowship with each other. WELS and ELS are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

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LCMS and NALC representatives meet in St. Louis

(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS). (Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)

(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS). (Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)

USA – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church met September 9-10, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri to continue their bi-annual consultations. The series of meetings began December 2011, at the invitation of President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS as the church bodies seek greater understanding of the other church, ways that there may be cooperation in externals, and be mutually supportive, in spite of differences that exist. A representative of Lutheran Church–Canada normally participates in the meetings as well.

This consultation was the second meeting focusing on Holy Scripture. Four questions were presented and discussed: How did the Bible get here? What kind of book is the Bible? Which method is most suitable for interpreting the Bible? What is the proper use of the Bible?

In addition to presentation of church body reports, other areas of common concern were discussed, including the recent Supreme Court Obergefell decision in the United States, the challenge to marriage in North America, and the response to the persecution of Christians today.

The representatives will meet again in March 2016.

Representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations-Assistant to the President; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Representing the NALC were the Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop; the Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus; the Rev. Mark Chavez, General Secretary; the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.

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Norwegian Lutheran Mission holds meetings with LCMS/ILC

Norwegian Lutheran Mission representatives Hjalmar Bø and Øyvind Åsland pose with ILC/LCMS representative Albert Collver at recent meetings in St. Louis, Missouri.

Norwegian Lutheran Mission representatives Hjalmar Bø and Øyvind Åsland pose with ILC/LCMS representative Albert Collver at recent meetings in St. Louis, Missouri.

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – On August 19, 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to St. Louis, Missouri to visit with The Lutheran Church–Church Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China). The NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. Their slogan is “The World for Christ.” It has approximately 2,500 chapters across Norway and runs nearly 30 schools from the elementary to college-levels. It further operates more than 40 kindergartens and community centers across the country.

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the LCMS also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of Tabor Evangelical College’s faculty are pursuing doctoral studies through the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from the NLM have also had frequent contact with LCMS missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.

The Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world since 1891 (three years before the LCMS itself began international mission work). Historically, the NLM has been a movement within, but independent of, the Church of Norway. It has, for example, opposed certain actions of the Church of Norway (such as the ordination of women). But the Norwegian Lutheran Mission recently voted to establish its own “religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.

This vote marks a shift for the NLM, as it moves from being a mission agency inside the Church of Norway to a church in its own rite. As such, the NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, including how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant) noted that the first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well, and that members are looking forward to more visits in the future.

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First graduating class of pastors for Mozambican Lutherans

Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).

Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).

MOZAMBIQUE – Mozambican Lutherans celebrated a major milestone on August 9, 2015, as Concordia Lutheran Church– Mozambique celebrated its first graduating class of eight pastors. The event drew significant local and national attention: more than a thousand people gathered in the Vila de Sena for the ordinations, including local dignitaries, and national television gave ten minutes of coverage to the event. Special church dignitaries in attendance included President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA).

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The CLCM is a young church body, and prior to this year’s graduating class had no pastors of its own. Instead, ministry in the region was overseen by those studying for by the. In 2014, the students received certification as deacons in preparation for their 2015 ordinations. Their ordination marks the end of five years of study through the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, an initiative of the IELB.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The ordination of the new pastors could not come soon enough, as the MLC continues to grow quickly (visiting professors in the TEE program were sometimes called on to conduct hundreds of baptisms at a time). Already a new class of students is beginning studies through the TEE program—and the class size has grown to fifteen.

In 2014, mission developments in Mozambique took another step forward as partners in the region signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the TEE program. Signatories included the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The MOU calls for the construction of a permanent seminary building: the Concordia Lutheran Center.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

LCC, FELSISA, the LCMS, and IELB are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

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New Presiding Bishop for Tanzanian Lutherans

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Alex Malasusa waves with Bishop Elect Frederick Shoo after the latter’s election to serve as head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Alex Malasusa waves with Bishop Elect Frederick Shoo after the latter’s election to serve as head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.

TANZANIA – On August 16, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) elected a new Presiding Bishop at its 19th Church Assembly at Makumira University near Arusha. Rev. Dr. Frederick Onael Shoo was elected to a four-year term as head of the ELCT.

Prior to his election, Bishop Elect Shoo served as bishop of the ELCT’s Northern Diocese. He earned the moniker “the tree bishop” due to his work planting trees to help preserve the shrinking glaciers of Kilimanjaro. PBS featured this work in a 2012 report. Bishop Shoo was first ordained for pastoral ministry in 1986.

Bishop Shoo succeeds Bishop Alex Gehaz Malalusa, who has retired after completing two four-year terms as head of the ELCT.

The ELCT is the world’s second largest Lutheran church body, with a growing membership of more than 6.5 million members as of 2014. The church body is affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation. A number of the ELCT’s bishops have in recent years also developed friendly relations with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), a member church of the International Lutheran Council.

One such area of cooperation has been the ELCT’s Bishop Emmanuel Makala Training Center in northern Tanzania. The Center has been a joint venture of the ELCT’s South-East of Lake Victoria Diocese and the LCMS, with the LCMS providing financial support for the training program as well as providing theological professors. That partnership culminated in March with the first graduating class of the Center, as 21 new pastoral candidates were ordained and seven deaconesses commissioned for service in the ELCT.

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Responding to Ebola in West Africa

Bishop Amos Bolay.

Bishop Amos Bolay at the LCMS 2013 convention. (Photo: LCMS Communications.)

WEST AFRICA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) notes that partnerships that began with the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) are now making the response to West Africa’s Ebola crisis easier—an unanticipated benefit of the project.

“With our experience in doing the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, we had no problem organizing an Ebola-relief project to assist the church and people of Liberia,” said Bishop Amos Bolay of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL). “With a good structure in place, you can easily do other new projects.”

Bishop Bolay said that, with support from the LCMS and Lutheran World Relief (LWR), the ELCL is readily able to provide relief supplies to churches, hospitals and quarantine centers in Liberia in response to the crisis.

“When people are being quarantined, the next problem becomes the need for food. And so, we quickly responded with large supplies of food, especially rice and oil, along with chlorine and buckets for hand-washing as prevention against the deadly Ebola epidemic,” he said.

Partnerships with governmental and nongovernmental agencies also are essential to responding to Ebola. Such partnerships have been established faster than normal through LMI.

“One of our goals in helping our partner churches build capacity is accessing additional funding once all of the LMI funds have been depleted,” said Martha Mitkos, the LCMS’ campaign director for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, a cooperative project of the LCMS and LWR. “In order to do that, we must help [partner churches] establish relationships with their local governments and organizations like The Global Fund, The President’s Malaria Initiative and USAID. It can take years for these relationships to develop. However, things have moved really fast in Liberia because of the connections and expertise of our local consultant, Dr. Mosoka Fallah.”

Mitkos said Fallah is an epidemiologist and public health specialist with extensive knowledge and expertise in the areas of malaria, Ebola, and other endemic health issues affecting developing nations. She said Fallah also used his expertise to help the ELCL obtain a seat with Liberia’s National Malaria Steering Committee to assist in determining how malaria funds are spent in the country.

“Because of the trust that has been established through LMI in the local communities in and around Monrovia, Liberia, the ELCL has been able to provide Ebola relief under the same umbrella and through the same volunteers that serve LMI,” said Mitkos. They have been able to access communities where LMI is currently working to educate and help end malaria deaths. Ultimately, the trust and relationship building afforded through the church’s gifts to LMI have helped the people of Liberia to see the church as a place of hope with the crucial goal of [proclaiming] the life-saving Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for our sins.

Nurturing long-term partnerships is crucial to the future success of both LMI and the response to Ebola, said Tracy Quaethem, project coordinator for the LCMS Office of National Mission.

“The way that the LMI is structured provides a great match for Ebola [response] efforts in West Africa,” said Quaethem. “Rather than ‘outsiders’ who come in and then are quickly gone again, LMI focuses on those who have vested, caring bonds within the community.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Liberia was founded in 2009 following the merger of four separate Lutheran groups in Liberia. The church has 350 congregations, 30 schools, and 11,000 members. It established altar and pulpit fellowship with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2012, with the LCMS ratifying that agreement at its 2013 national convention. The LCMS has more than 2.3 million members and is part of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.

Earlier this year The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod announced a number of initiatives to help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The church has provided financial support to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. In November the church also announced travel scholarships for medical personnel who wish to support African partners in treating Ebola.

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Adapted from a LCMS Reporter article.

EECMY and LCMS sign Revised Extended Working Partnership Agreement

President Edosa and Dr. Collver sign the new

President Wakseyoum Idosa and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver sign a revised working partnership agreement between the EECMY and the LCMS, while other participants in the discussions look on.

ETHIOPIA – Representatives and leaders from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met November 10-13 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the EECMY headquarters, and the Gudina Tumsa Wholistic Training Center to discuss the relationship between the two church bodies, revise an extended working agreement, and make plans to strengthen theological education within the Mekane Yesus Church by creating a relationship between the church bodies’ seminaries.

This round of discussions was the result of a January 2014 meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the EECMY.

The recent meeting for discussions included the following for the EECMY: President Idosa; General Secretary Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa; and Rev. Yonas Yigezu, director of Mission and Theology. For the LCMS, the discussions included Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations; Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR Executive Director; and Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, president of Concordia University in Selma, Alabama.

The discussion team reviewed the history of the EECMY, including the history of the EECMY’s mission partners, and the history of the LCMS. The review of this history helped the discussion team recognize how the EECMY and the LCMS could better relate to one another. The team reviewed the past work between the EECMY and the LCMS and discussed ways to enhance that working relationship. The team also examined the commitment each church holds to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessional documents.

Article 2 of the EECMY constitution states the following: “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice; the Church adheres to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed … ; the Church sees in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, which was worded by the Church Reformers, as well as in Luther’s Catechisms, a pure exposition of the Word of God.”

Article 2 of the LCMS constitution states: “The Synod, and every member of Synod, accepts without reservation: The Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice; All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.”

The representatives agreed that their two churches will respect each other’s constitution, bylaws, and policies as doctrinal discussions and cooperative efforts continue. They also discussed areas where the two churches could work together, such as with theological education and various human care projects.

After the discussions, the delegates of the EECMY and LCMS team signed a working partnership agreement. The agreement emphasizes the ongoing need for the two churches to understand one another better and to identify the challenges that are common and unique to both churches.  While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

This partner agreement is a revision of the 2010 agreement between the Department of Mission and Theology of the EECMY and the World Mission Department of the LCMS. The revised agreement signed in Addis Ababa was between the two church bodies rather than between units within the church bodies. This demonstrates increased commitment between the EECMY and LCMS to become closer to one another.

EECMY and LCMS representatives, meeting on the campus of Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, also discussed how they might increase their work together in the area of theological education. EECMY participants included President Wakseyoum, General Sectretary Berhanu, the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) President Rev. Dr. Belay Guta, along with many of the seminary’s faculty members. LCMS participants included Drs. Collver and Rast (President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne), along with Drs. Jeffrey Kloha and William Schumacher, respectively provost and chairman of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. The parties agreed to work closely together toward the accreditation of MYS, particularly in the areas of curriculum review and library enhancement.

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About The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY)
The EECMY was formed in 1959 as various synods started by several different mission societies merged into one church. In the 1970s the EECMY developed the theme, “Serving the Whole Person,” now often quoted and referred to as wholistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle for all evangelistic, development, and social ministry of the church. Beginning with 20,000 members in 1959, the EECMY has grown to 6.7 million members. Learn more at http://www.eecmy.org.

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a biblical, confessional, witness-oriented Christian denomination with 2.3 million members – 600,000 households – in 6,200 congregations. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church carries out its mission worldwide to make known the love of Jesus Christ. It is a member of the International Lutheran Council. Learn more at http://www.lcms.org.

Hong Kong Lutherans celebrate 65 years of ministry

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A poster from the LCHKS’ 65th Anniversary Celebration Service.

HONG KONG – The Lutheran Church–Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS) celebrated 65 years of ministry at a Thanksgiving Service October 26, 2014 in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The event also marked the ordination of eight new pastors—a record number for one year in the LCHKS.

President Allan Yung of the LCHKS recently gave an interview to Lutheran Radio UK where he discussed the history and present work of the church in Hong Kong. Missionary activity from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) began in China a century ago (an event the LCHKS celebrated last year), but missionaries were forced to leave the mainland in 1949. LCMS missionaries who evacuated to Hong Kong, a city at the time that was much smaller and poorer than it is today.

“It was still a very small place—less than half a million people,” President Yung notes. “Most of them were refugees. They were very poor. They needed material support and spiritual support—they were very hungry.” The Lutheran missionaries requested to stay and serve permanently in Hong Kong, a request that was granted. “Since then, a lot of work has been carried out,” President Yung said. “Now we are a city of seven million people.”

President Allan Yung at a 2013 service celebrating 100 years of Lutheran witness in China.

President Allan Yung at a 2013 service celebrating 100 years of Lutheran witness in China.

President Yung entered office in 1997, the same year Hong Kong was transferred to the authority of the Chinese government. While at the time some Westerners worried what impact that might have on Christian witness in Hong Kong, President Yung is happy to say that the mission of the church continues to flourish.

Today, the LCHKS has 10,500 communicants, 36 congregations, six mission stations, 40 schools, 45 social service centres, and other agencies like a seminary, counseling services, and more. In total, the church has more than 130 service units throughout Hong Kong.

That strong push towards community service brings with it an opportunity for Gospel witness. “We have 20,000 students studying in our schools,” President Yung explains, “and about 90% of them are not Christian. So we build up in all our schools a mission station, and some have become congregations already. So they are fed not only worldly knowledge but also spiritual knowledge.”

The same is true of social service projects. “We share our earthly things with people because that’s what Jesus wants,” President Yung notes. “We want to share the love of God with them. The people understand that this comes from a church, and it is very well received by the public.”

The respect the church has gained because of its education work has led in recent years to unique opportunities. The LCHKS is now starting an English school in Shenzhen, a neighbouring city in mainland China. President Yung notes that they are also working with the national church there to offer an English-language Sunday service.

These opportunities are possible because the church is careful to avoid politics. “We don’t want to get ourselves into political issues,” President Yung explains. “We just want to be involved in Gospel issues and service issues, so we can grow and move forward in Hong Kong. We want to have a good relationship with the authority in Hong Kong as well as the authority in mainland China.”

The church also has good relations with other Christians. The church works with other Christians in Hong Kong on external matters (like disaster relief, for example), but is careful to defend its confessional Lutheran identity. The LCHKS is known locally as a conservative church because of its strict adherence to biblical teachings on issues like female ordination, President Yung notes, but he clarifies that “we are a growing conservative church.” “We are most grateful to be able to say that,” President Yung continued. “We have a constant growth of about three to five percent membership a year.”

The LCHKS has a strong relationship with Christians around the world as well. The church retains close ties to the LCMS, its mother church, and further sits as a member of the International Lutheran Council.

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Protocol agreement for Lutheran ministry in Cambodia

An ELCC congregation in Kampot, Cambodia.

An ELCC congregation in Kampot, Cambodia.

CAMBODIA – A new protocol agreement signed in September by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia (ELCC), Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) will guide the next three years of confessional Lutheran mission and ministry in Cambodia.

President Vannarith Chhim.

President Vannarith Chhim at LCC’s 2014 National Convention in Vancouver.

President Vannarith Chhim of the ELCC hailed the agreement, calling it a “great blessing” for his “small church from a small country” to partner with the LCMS and LCC in ministry. In particular, he stressed the Cambodian church’s thanks for the aid North American Lutherans will continue to offer in theological training.

Despite having 32 congregations and approximately 3,000 members, the ELCC has only six ordained pastors. Consequently, the church relies heavily on the leadership of 14 male lay-leaders (who require additional training before they can be ordained), five deaconesses, and ten female evangelists. LCC has long supported the ELCC’s missions and social ministry work, with particular emphasis on providing theological education for church workers through the Lutheran Institute Southeast Asia (LISA). The LCMS operated a missionary presence in the country from 2006 until earlier this year.

Around the year 2000, Lutheran Heritage Foundation offered to interested pastors of all denominations in Cambodia the opportunity to take classes on Luther’s Small Catechism, which had just been translated into Khmer. Rev. Dr. Leonard Harms, then LCC’s Missions Director, became involved with managing these classes, becoming the director of LISA. The men and women taking these classes decided on their own to form the ELCC in 2009.

“We are thankful to God for strengthening the ELCC, LCC, and LCMS by His Holy Spirit to carry on His mission jointly in Cambodia,” said Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, LCC Executive for Missions and Social Ministry. “It is a testament of our three churches’ desire to coordinate our work in Cambodia—to work together in spiritual and human care of many in this region of the world.”

“As we do so, we will rely on the Cambodian church to lead the way,” he continued. “They know the needs of their nation better than we do. May God bless our work together, that it bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. And we pray the Lord’s blessing upon President Chhim and the entire ELCC as they bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Southeast Asia.”

Cambodia is primarily Buddhist, with only three percent of the population identifying as Christian.The ELCC is a young church but one committed to the Gospel. They are also deliberate in cultivating a strong Lutheran identity—translating the Book of Concord into the Khmer language, to guide their church in an authentically Lutheran faith.

They “deeply desire to be confessionally Lutheran but are still learning what that means,” said Darin Storkson, Senior Regional Director with the LCMS Office of International Mission in an interview with The Reporter. “They are probably already in line with [us] doctrinally,” he continued, “and they are trying to learn how to express that in practice.” President Robert Bugbee of LCC agreed, noting he is “impressed with the doctrinal soundness” of the young church.

In addition to theological education, the protocol agreement “unites the three churches in a common bond of faith and confession” in a number of areas, including evangelism, emergency relief, social ministry, and short-term missions. For more information on the protocol agreement, read The Reporter’s article on this story.

LCC and the LCMS are both members of the International Lutheran Council.

(The above article is from The Canadian Lutheran).

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Mozambique’s Lutherans eager for first ordinations

Mozambique’s TEE students (all in blue shirts) pose with Kapasseni Project founder Rev. Joseph Alfazema (back row, far left) as well as TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Walter Winterle (South Africa: back-row, second-from-left) and André Plamer (Brazil: front row, far right).

Mozambique’s TEE students (all in blue shirts) pose with Kapasseni Project founder Rev. Joseph Alfazema (back row, far left) as well as TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Walter Winterle (South Africa: back-row, second-from-left) and Rev. André Plamer (Brazil: front row, far right). (Photo: pastorwinterle.blogspot.ca)

MOZAMBIQUE – Thanks to the work of numerous partners, Lutheran missions in Mozambique continue to flourish. Three new congregations have been established in the past year, with more than 100 people attending the first service in each new village.

The Mozambique Lutheran Church has no pastors of its own, so ministry is overseen by eight local men preparing for ministry. These men are all students in the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, and recently received the certification as deacons after completing their most recent round of intensive studies in July. The TEE program is organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB), and brings instructors from other countries to offer theological education in Mozambique. The eight students will complete their studies in 2015 and be ordained to pastoral ministry the same year.

The day of their ordination cannot come soon enough: in 2012, one Brazilian pastor reported being called upon to perform nearly 300 baptisms while visiting Mozambique as a TEE instructor. The newly appointed deacons are now allowed to perform baptisms in addition their current duties (which include leading services, preaching, teaching, and counseling). But even as these students prepare for ordination, plans are underway for the beginning of a new TEE class of students. By July of this year, twenty students had already enrolled for the new class, set to begin in 2015. There are also plans for the construction of a new building, the Concordia Lutheran Center, to continue theological education in the future.

These developments in Mozambique will be guided through a new Memorandum of Understanding (Addendum) signed this past July by partners in the TEE program: the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and Lutheran Church–Canada are all members of the International Lutheran Council.

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