|Archbishop Vanags and Dr. Collver in the Archbishop’s Office|
After visiting the Lutheran church in Lithuania, we continued to Riga to meet with Archbishop Vanags and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Archbishop Vanags discussed some of the challenges facing the Lutheran church in Latvia, in particular the secularism and consumerism that filled the vacuum left after the fall of communism. Before 1918, a little more than 50% of the population of Latvia was Lutheran. Today, there are about 440,000 Lutherans in Lativa. Around 10% (or 40,000) of those who profess to be Lutheran in Latvia attend church on a regular basis. Another challenge facing Latvia is the current economic conditions. Many Latvians have left Latvia for countries such as the United Kingdom. Many parish congregations are completely vacant because there are few or even no people left in some of the villages.
|Drs. Quill and Evanson, Archbishop Vanags, and Dr. Collver|
Archbishop Vanags, who also serves as the rector of the Luther Academy, took the opportunity of our visit to discuss theological education needs. He described to Dr. Evanson, LCMS Theological Education Advisor for the Baltics, and Dr. Quill, LCMS Director of Theological Education, the need for ongoing training for pastors particularly in the areas of preaching and pastoral theology. Archbishop Vanags explained that with the near elimination of the church under communism few people remember or have direct experience with how pastors are to provide for their people.
|Drs. Quill, Didzis Stilve, Evanson, and Collver in front of the Luther Academy|
Dr. Didzis Stilve provided us with a tour of the Luther Academy. In his office, he described the challenges involved in making the Luther Academy an accredited educational institution in Latvia. He explained that under Latvian law the professors are required to speak Latvian. This highlighted the necessity of President Harrison’s desire to open LCMS seminaries to international students for advanced training so that they can return to their own countries and provide high quality theological education.
|Outside of the Luther Academy Building|
Archbishop Vanags explicitly mentioned how delighted he was that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod had adopted Witness, Mercy, Life Together as her emphasis. Archbishop Vanags said, “At a recent meeting of the consistory, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia adopted the same three-fold emphasis of martyria, diakonia, koinonia although we call it something slightly different.”
The visit to Riga, Latvia, was very brief, but important. Now we travel to Bishkek, the capital of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.