The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, leads a tour of Wittenberg, Germany, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

International representatives from Lutheran churches around the globe gather and worship at the historic St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, May 6. Church leaders from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans are in Wittenberg for the Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century, May 6-7. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

NOTE: Just over five years ago, in June of 2010, a group of 25 leaders representing a dozen Lutheran churches from around the globe met on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for what was described as a “Confessional Leadership Conference” sponsored by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the LCMS. This genesis of this conference was a resolution (3-03) adopted by the 2007 convention of the LCMS.

This resolution

• rejoiced that “the LCMS has been richly blessed with theological resources including two outstanding seminaries and a rich heritage and history of being confessionally strong,” and that “the LCMS is blessed to work with other confessional Lutheran churches around the world”;

• urged “the CTCR, in consultation with the Office of the President and our seminaries, [to] coordinate fundamentally constructive and intentionally supportive efforts such as theological symposia [and] conferences … to uphold and nurture confessional Lutheranism”; and • asked that “members of partner churches, members of the ILC, as well as other church bodies and individuals be invited to participate” in these events for the purpose of “furthering and nurturing confessional Lutheran theology at home and abroad.”

 With 2017 approaching, we dare not stop now. “World Lutheranism,” noted the Synod, “is in the process of a seismic realignment, which creates tremendous opportunities and challenges.” “The memory and theology of the Reformation…is in serious danger of extinction,” even among churches and organizations around the world that bear the name “Lutheran” but have forsaken critical aspects of historic Lutheran theology. “We urge the CTCR and the President’s Office,” said the Synod, “to continue their plans” for another international conference set for the spring of 2015, “to discuss possibilities for collaborative efforts among confessional Lutherans around the world toward the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017” (Res. 4-04).

So here we are in “Little Wittenberg,” where it all began almost 500 years ago. We are here to celebrate the Reformation rightly: to remember, to repent, and to rejoice. We are delighted that you are with us in this historic place, at this historic time, to celebrate, reflect, discuss, and collaborate. The future of world Lutheranism truly is in the balance nearly 500 years after Luther shook the church and the world by posting his theses on the door of the Castle Church, just across town. As we gather, worship, listen and join in fellowship, please know and be assured: “That we, as a Synod, give thanks for the encouragement of the bold witness and dedication to the Word of God of confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world and urge the members of the Synod to pray for these church bodies…that God may continue to bless us and them” (2013 Res. 4-04).

In Christ’s Name, Rev. Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer

(English and German Text Below)

WITTENBERG, Germany – Confessional Lutheran church leaders from every continent except Antarctica are discussing burgeoning churches in the Global South and East as well as challenges in the West, during the International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century here May 6-7.

Representatives from 41 countries representing 23 million Lutherans worldwide have converged at the very cradle of the Reformation not long before 2017, when Lutherans will celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. Under the theme: Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing, discussions are ranging from the challenges of spreading the Gospel in Western countries to its rapid growth in places like Africa, South America, the Far East and many others.

“We have representatives here from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Cameroon, Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Papua New Guinea … all over the world,” said the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III, executive secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “And yet, now the work begins for us, as we hope to reach others amid the challenges presented by post-modernity and a rise in paganism.”

Collver said the mission field in the West is a major challenge for confessional Lutherans amid a decline of Christianity in Europe and the U.S.

“As someone coming to Wittenberg for first time, it is a pleasure for me to see how it is important for our churches to be together, to make our confession known to all, particularly as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” said the Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. “This gathering of church leaders is a sign for us to go onto the next 500 years of the Reformation. The Reformation’s message to the world is that, according to the context we are in now, we need to be faithful to the Word of God as we serve God’s people.”

The collaborative event was a coordinated effort by the ILC, the Selbständige Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche (SELK) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with representatives from the North American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also participating.

“This conference is a huge sign of the catholicity of the Lutheran church,” said SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, who also is the ILC’s chairman. “A central theme of this conference is that we confessional Lutherans remember, repent and celebrate the Reformation, and I’m very thankful to be a part of that.”

The ILC is an association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God.

The ILC executive committee meets this week in Wittenberg to discuss locating the organization’s headquarters at the recently dedicated International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School here.

For more information, go to:
http://www.ilc-online.org/ , www.selk.de, www.lcms.org and http://thewittenbergproject.org

For further inquiries within the U.S., please call the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod press officer, David Yow, 314 996-1236 or e-mail David.Yow@lcms.org.

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Lutheraner aus der ganzen Welt versammeln sich zur Konferenz in Wittenberg

WITTENBERG, Deutschland – Leitende Geistliche lutherischer Konfessionskirchen aus allen Kontinenten diskutierten im Rahmen einer internationalen Leitungskonferenz vom 5. bis 7. Mai 2015 über wachsende Kirchen im Süden und Osten der Welt, sowie über Fragen des Mitgliederrückgangs in westlichen Ländern.

Delegiert aus 41 Ländern, die 23 Millionen lutherische Christen weltweit vertreten, versammelten sich in Vorbereitung des 500. Reformationsjubiläums im Jahr 2017an der Wiege der Reformation in Wittenberg. Unter dem Motto: „Die Reformation angemessen feiern: Erinnerung, Umkehr und Buße, Freude“, werden Gespräche über Herausforderungen der Ausbreitung des christlichen Glaubens in der westlichen Welt, in Afrika, Südamerika, in Fernost und in vielen anderen Regionen geführt.

„Wir haben hier in Wittenberg Delegierte aus Äthiopien, Madagaskar, Tansania, Kamerun, Kambodscha, Malaysia, Peru, Papua Neuguinea… aus der ganzen Welt. Unsere Arbeit steht noch am Anfang. Wir hoffen viele Menschen inmitten der Probleme postmoderner und postchristlicher Gesellschaften mit dem Evangelium zu erreichen“, sagte Pfarrer Dr. Albert Collver III., Sekretär des Internationalen Lutherischen Rats (ILC).

Collver erläuterte, dass die Ausbreitung des Christlichen Glaubens in der westlichen Welt, wo das Christentum sich ständig verringert, eine große Herausforderung für konfessionelle Lutheraner sei.

„Als einer, der zum ersten Mal in Wittenberg sein darf, ist es für mich eine wahre Freude, zu sehen, wie wichtig es unseren Kirchen ist, zusammen zu sein, unser gemeinsames Bekenntnis allen zu verkünden, besonders jetzt, wo wir uns dem 500. Jubiläum der Reformation nähern,“ sagte Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, Präsident der Äthiopischen Evangelischen Mekane Yesus Kirche. „Diese Versammlung von Leitern verschiedener Kirchen ist für uns ein Ansporn für die nächsten 500 Jahre der Reformation. Die Botschaft der Reformation an die Welt ist, dass wir auch im heutigen Kontext dem Wort Gottes treu bleiben müssen während wir Gottes Volk dienen“.

Dieses Ereignis wurde vom ILC, der Selbständigen Lutherischen Kirche (SELK) und der Lurtherische Kirche-Missouri Synode (LCMS) organisiert, in der auch Vertreter der Nord Amerikanischen Lutherischen Kirche (NALC) und der Evangelisch Lutherischen Kirche in Amerika (ELCA) teilnahmen.

„Diese Konferenz ist ein Zeichen der Katholizität der Lutherischen Kirche“, sagte SELK Bischof Hans-Jörg Voigt, D.D., der zurzeit Vorsitzender des ILC ist. Es sei für ihn wichtig, internationale Kontakte zu pflegen.

Die ILC ist ein Verband etablierter lutherischer Konfessionskirchen, die das Evangelium von Jesus Christus „auf der Basis eines vorbehaltlosen Bekenntnisses zur heiligen Schrift als dem inspirierten und unfehlbaren Wort Gottes, und des Lutherischen Bekenntnisses, zusammengefasst im Konkordienbuch, als treue Auslegung des Wortes Gottes angenommen haben“.

Das Exekutiv-Komitee des ILC trifft sich diese Woche in Wittenberg, um unter anderem die Präsenz des weltweiten Verbundes lutherischer Kirchen in Wittenberg in der kürzlich eingeweihten Alten Lateinschule zu beraten.

http://www.ilc-online.org/ , www.selk.de, www.lcms.org and http://thewittenbergproject.org

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Lutheran church leaders from around the world gather Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at the Town and Parish Church of St. Mary's for morning Matins during the International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century in Wittenberg, Germany. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Lutheran church leaders from around the world gather Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at the Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s for morning Matins during the International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century in Wittenberg, Germany. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford