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

Hong-Kong-65-poster-web

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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Dialogue between LCMS, LCC, and NALC continues in Canada

Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS' CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC's CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).

Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS’ CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC’s CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).

WINNIPEG – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), and Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) met at LCC’s synodical headquarters in Winnipeg June 24-25. This is the first time the meetings have taken place in Canada.

“These consultations have happened twice each year since they began at the invitation of LCMS President Matthew Harrison in late 2011,” explained Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, LCC President and host for this round of meetings. Both days began with morning devotions in the office chapel, after which participants provided updates from their churches and discussed in detail what a distinctively Lutheran understanding of and approach to mission work should include.

A progress report was provided on a planned book of new essays on Law and Gospel, including contributors from various Lutheran church bodies. In addition, details for an upcoming second international “Confessional Lutheran Leadership Conference”—hosted by the LCMS—were shared. The event will take place in Wittenberg, Germany in May 2015.

In addition to President Bugbee, LCC was represented by Rev. Warren Hamp, Chairman of the LCC’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and by Central District President Thomas Prachar. NALC participants included Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenism and Ministry; Pastor Mark Chavez, General Secretary; and Rev. Phil Gagnon, NALC Provisional Dean for Canada. NALC Bishop John Bradosky joined the group briefly at the close of the first day. The LCMS was represented by Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Executive Secretary of their CTCR.

“We’ll meet again toward the end of this year to evaluate where we’ve been in the initial three years of dialogue and to decide on the way forward,” commented President Bugbee. “Though the participating churches have disagreements in some significant areas, there is a high level of trust and an ability both to talk and to listen despite these challenges. I do thank God for common convictions about the Holy Scripture as the written Word of God, and the urgency in proclaiming Christ, the Saviour of sinners, as the primary mission of the church.”

The next round of dialogues will be hosted by NALC, and is set to be held December 15-16 in Sarasota, Florida.

Lutheran Church–Canada and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). President Robert Bugbee serves as Vice-Chairman of the ILC’s Executive Committee.

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Files from The Canadian Lutheran.

Nicaraguan church signs agreement with LCMS and LCC

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver and President Marvin Donaire sign the protocol agreement.

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver and President Marvin Donaire sign the protocol agreement.

NICARAGUA – The Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) signed a protocol agreement with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) on May 13 in Chinendega, Nicaragua. The agreement will allow the three churches to better coordinate their mission work together in Nicaragua, as well as in mission areas in Honduras and Costa Rica.

Representing the ILSN at the signing was its President, Rev. Marvin Donaire. Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, Executive for Missions and Social Ministry, represented Lutheran Church–Canada while the LCMS was represented by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of Church Relations and Regional Operations.

Lutheran Church–Canada’s President, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, hailed the signing. “This agreement among [the] Missouri Synod, LCC, and ILSN is a huge encouragement to all of us who care about a faithful Lutheran presence and outreach in Central America,” he said. “When partners refrain from duplicating each other’s efforts in a given country, but instead coordinate resources and consult intentionally, the capacity of each partner is deepened greatly. I thank God for the intensified cooperation between LCMS and LCC in recent years, and hope this Nicaraguan agreement will be an inspiration to other biblical Lutheran churches to work together in many parts of the world.”

The ILSN was born out of the mission work of Lutheran Church–Canada. LCC began mission work in Nicaragua in the spring of 1998. Just over ten years later, the ILSN was officially founded. Today the church has 23 congregations, 12 pastors, 12 vicars, 36 deaconesses, and about 1,800 members. It also has four missions, two church plants in Honduras and two mission plants in Costa Rica.

While LCC enjoys altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the ILSN, the LCMS and ILSN have never officially achieved the same level of partnership at the church-level. “Eventually, the LCMS will take a similar action to the LCC,” Rev. Dr. Collver explained. “In the meantime, as a mission start of an LCMS partner church with whom the LCMS is cooperating in the mission work, the LCMS is in de facto altar and pulpit fellowship, meaning that the ILSN is regarded for fellowship purposes as if it were an LCMS mission start.”

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With files from the LCMS Reporter

LCMS visits Ghana and Madagascar

ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn speaks at the dedication service of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Ghana).

ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn speaks at the dedication service of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Ghana).

GHANA and MADAGASCAR – Following visits with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) President Matthew C. Harrison continued his international tour in early February with visits to Ghana and Madagascar.

On February 2, President Harrison and the LCMS delegation visited the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) to celebrate the dedication of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Greater Accra. President Harrison and ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn lead the ceremony together, with President Harrison giving the sermon. Approximately 650 people gathered for the dedication service.

The LCMS’ Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) assisted the ELCG in setting up and equipping their new seminary’s library through the Chemnitz Library Initiative—a joint project between Concordia Theological Seminary and the International Lutheran Council. Some funds for the seminary’s construction were provided by the LCMS’ Office of International Mission. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana was established in 1958 by missionaries from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Today its membership stands at approximately 29,000 members.

LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison addresses the Malagasy convention while Bishop David Rakotonirina translates.

LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison addresses the Malagasy convention while Bishop David Rakotonirina translates.

On February 5, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison was invited to address the opening of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonano Loterana Malagasy) synodical convention near Antsirabe, Madagascar. On February 6, the LCMS delegation then visited the Antsirabe school for the blind. The school was recently the recipient of an LCMS emergency grant after Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant, learned in October 2013 that the children were malnourished due to budget cuts from European partners.

During meetings between the Malagasy Lutheran Church’s leaders and LCMS representatives, 17 Malagasy bishops asked for LCMS assistance in helping their churches affording roofs. Many Malagasy churches can afford local building materials (like red bricks) to construct their buildings, but have difficulty obtaining tin roofs to keep members dry during the rainy season. The LCMS is currently awaiting a formal proposal from the Malagasy Lutheran Church to see how the LCMS might assist. The Malagasy Lutheran Church has approximately 4 million members and is a member of the Lutheran World Federation.

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Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the LCMS announce formal discussions

EECMY and LCMS leaders, including President Harrison (left of cross banner) and President Idosa (right of cross banner) meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

EECMY and LCMS leadersincluding LCMS President Harrison (left of cross banner) and EECMY President Idosa (right of cross banner)—meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Representatives and leaders from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the EECMY headquarters, and the Gudina Tumsa Wholistic Training Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 23-26 to discuss the relationship between the two church bodies.

Representatives at the meetings included Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, (President of the EECMY); Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa (General Secretary of EECMY); Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison (President of the LCMS); Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver (LCMS Director of Church Relations and Regional Operations); and LCMS missionaries Rev. Dr. Carl Rockrohr (Dean of the School of Theology at Mekane Yesus Seminary) and Deaconess Dr. Deborah Rockrohr.

Although the churches have diverse histories and developed in different contexts, the EECMY and the LCMS have discovered that both church bodies believe that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and the only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice. Both churches also subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions.

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, to wit: the three Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Large Catechism of Luther, the Small Catechism of Luther, and the Formula of Concord.”

Although the two church bodies recognize they have differences in doctrine and practice in certain specific areas, both believe that the common confession they share about the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of the ecumenical creeds, the unaltered Augsburg Confession, and the Small and Large Catechisms justifies, even demands, that the two churches engage in more formal discussion regarding areas of agreement and disagreement.

As an outcome of the meeting, the EECMY and the LCMS agreed to appoint a three-member team from each church body, along with the church bodies’ respective presidents, to begin formal doctrinal discussions. This six-person team, plus the two church body presidents, will begin doctrinal discussions within the next nine months and have the authority to form other ad hoc committees for particular topics as needed.

President Idosa said he hopes that, “through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the study of the Holy Scriptures, both church bodies would come closer to each other.”

President Harrison said: “Contact between our church bodies began almost a decade ago. We have been tremendously encouraged by Mekane Yesus’ public confession of the Holy Scriptures regarding issues of sexuality. Their zeal in outreach is something the Missouri Synod can learn from. I am glad that we have come by God’s grace to this moment of serious dialogue.”

While the church bodies engage in dialogue, both will look for areas where they can mutually support one another.

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 holistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle for all evangelistic or developmental church work. Beginning with 20,000 members in 1959, the EECMY has grown to 6.35 million members.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, 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.

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LCMS meets with ELS, WELS representatives

wels-els-lcmsTUCSON, ARIZONA – Representatives from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) met for three days of meetings in December 2013 in Tucson, Arizona, in keeping with the encouragement given by the 2013 conventions of both WELS and the LCMS.

The meeting—a follow-up to a similar meeting held in December 2012—was intended as an opportunity for informal discussions to clarify doctrinal positions and to gain a better understanding of current situations in each church body. While those who were at the meeting held various leadership positions in ELS, WELS, and the LCMS, these talks did not take place among the churches’ constitutionally established bodies for formal doctrinal discussions. No decisions were made and no formal declarations were adopted.

The major topic for discussion was Church and Ministry. Participants gained a better understanding of the doctrinal positions each synod holds when it comes to the definition of “the Church,” and also had the opportunity to discuss in some detail the perceptions and understandings of the public ministry. The talks helped to clarify some issues, remove some misunderstandings, and shed light on the various terminology used in the three synods.

The talks were cordial and beneficial. All involved are committed to striving for a better understanding of where there is agreement and where genuine differences remain. The group agreed to hold another meeting in the coming year.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.2 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (380 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (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 delegation visits Kenya

Rev. Dr. Al Collver, Archbishop Walter Obare, and President Harrison in Nairobi.

KENYA – On January 22, 2014, President Matthew Harrison and a delegation from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) visited the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK). The two churches, which are in altar and pulpit fellowship and are both members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), were meeting to celebrate a decade of work together. Ten years earlier, in December 2003, President Harrison (Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care at the time) visited Kenya in December 2003 at the request of then Bishop (now Archbishop) Walter Obare.

A choir performs at the celebration of a decade of joint ministry between the ELCK and the LCMS.

The LCMS delegation—which included Rev. Dr. Al Collver (LCMS Director for Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant) and Rev. Shauen Trump (LCMS Missionary in Kenya) in addition to President Harrison—spent the day with Archbishop Obare and the bishops and bishops elect from each of the ELCK’s dioceses. Celebration of the past ten years and planning for the future occupied the day.

Following the event, President Harrison and Dr. Collver departed Kenya for Ethiopia where they will be meeting with representatives of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.

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