From May 22-24, I had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Alan Yung, President of the The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod. The Hong Kong Synod has roots back to the Missouri Synod’s mission work in China which began in 1915. A brief history of work in Hong Kong from the Hong Kong Synod’s website:
In 1915, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod sent missionaries to China. They preached the gospel along Changjiang in Hubei and Sichuan. The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod, HK & Macau Mission was established at that time. In 1949, the missionaries planned to return to the United States, but when they saw so many refugees in Hong Kong, they decided to stay. They started evangelical work in Hong Kong, and later established the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Hong Kong Mission.
In the beginning, the missionaries set up shelters for worship in Tiu Keng Leng. They also started a Bible School in order to train people for God’s service. Then they rented a place in Kowloon and established the first synodical congregation. At that time, services were conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese. Through evangelizing on the street, visiting patients in hospitals and organizing Bible classes, the church grew rapidly and more congregations were set up.
In 1953, the first synodical school was founded. The Synod started many secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens from the 1960s onwards. The schools also became bases of evangelical activities. Many churches and mission stations held their meetings in schools.
The Synod has been serving the public ever since giving assistance to the refugees in the 1950’s. In 1977, Lutheran Social Service was set up. The church gradually changed from a mission station to an independent local church and registered as Lutheran Church–Hong Kong Synod. It then became a“partner church”of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of the United States.
From then on, the Synod continued to develop in the areas of evangelism, education and social service. To date, there are congregations totalling over 8000; 34 churches, 8 mission stations; 40 schools with over 1000 staff and more than 22,000 students; 43 social service units.
President Alan Yung presents the Christian Divine Agenda for the Hong Kong Synod. Much of the liturgy is based upon Missouri Synod resources, however, some portions have been contextualized for Hong Kong. For instance, the Christian Divine Agenda has a rite for the removal of idols from a family’s home or from a place.
A special thanks to Dr. Steven Oliver, who translated and summarized the Idol Removal Ceremony as follows:
The Idol Removal Ceremony begins with instructions about making sure that approval for removing them is obtained from the legal owners, that nothing illegal be done, and that Christian symbols may be put in place of the idols as long as they are not regarded as idols or as divine objects with magical powers.
Confession of Sins (esp. against the First Commandment in regard to idol worship)
Luke 19:1-10 (emphasizing “Salvation has come to this his home”)
Hymn: “God Builds Up The City Walls of Protection for His People”
Responsive Reading of Psalm 117 (about the differences between idols of the Gentile and Yahweh)
Scripture Reading (many from which to choose, all of which mention idols)
Sermonette (from Scripture reading and directed to the particular situation)
Prayer – any and all evil spirits or power connected with the idol(s) are rebuked and cast out along with Satan in this prayer, and invocation to the Triune God to dwell in, save and protect the home is made.
Response to this Prayer: “Almighty God, protect us and use us. Amen.”
Removal: at this point, the Christians confidently remove all idols and accompanying objects, knowing that these are all powerless against you.
Prayers & Hymns of praise, salvation and thanks are offered
The next rite after the Idol Removal Ceremony is for an exorcism.
Until recently, those of us living in the United States have not had the consider the possibility that people joining our churches might literally have idols in their home that they worship. Yet in many Asian countries and even in Africa, it is not uncommon for a family home to have a family altar with idols. When a person becomes a Christian and is baptized, what to do with the idols in the home? So in these contexts, the church has a rite to remove the idols from the home. As the population of the United States continues to change, situations formerly encountered only on the mission field may become more common for our pastors.
A photo of Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.
— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Pictured Left to Right: Aline Koller, Vice President of Communications for the IELB; Rev. Tiago Albrecht, Director of IELB Radio; Mrs. Tania Kopereck; Rev. Egon Kopereck, President of the IELB. The group is standing in the “original” Concordia Seminary and site of the Altenburg Debates in Perry County, MO.
A delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil visited the Saint Louis region from May 11-18, 2015. The delegation, which previously in the week visited Concordia Seminary, the LCMS International Center, Lutheran Hour Ministries, and Concordia Publishing House, concluded its trip in Perry County, MO, located about 100 miles south of Saint Louis. President Kopereck said, “We need to see the birthplace of the Missouri Synod.”
Perry County, MO, is the location where the Saxons including C.F.W. Walther, originally settled after leaving Germany in the Fall of 1838. They arrived in New Orleans on January 21, 1839. Approximately, 700 settlers left Germany for Missouri under the leadership of Bishop Stephen.
After Bishop Stephen’s immoral lifestyle became known among the Saxons who settled in Missouri, he was expelled from the colony. Considering that the colony left Germany believing their were led by God to come to the United States, a number of them were thrown in to doubt. This led to the Altenburg debates, where C.F.W. Walther and Marbach debated. Walther argued that the group was still the church because they are believers who have been “called and sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the Word.”
The Altenburg Debate happened inside the “original” Concordia Seminary pictured above. The seminary was not originally located in its current location but was moved some years later.
This photo shows the seminary being moved using rollers and horses in the late 19th century.
Dr. Fred Baue, whose family is from Altenburg / Frohna et al, helped arrange the tour. A special thanks to Pastor Steven Dressler who welcomed us and his wife who prepared lunch for us, and all the folks at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum.
Pictured Left to Right: President Kopereck, Rev. Tiago Albrecht, and Pastor Steven Dressler
President Kopereck brings greetings in English, German, and Portuguese to Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
After leaving Altenberg, we shopped at the Saxon Lutheran Memorial, operated by the Concordia Historical Institute (CHI).
The Missouri Synod purchased the first 11 acres (today the site is 30 acres) of the Saxon Lutheran Memorial in 1961. The site is the homestead of Wilhelm & Christian Bergt, original settlers of the 1839 expedition to Perry County.
Rolling hills and meadows at the Saxon Lutheran Memorial.
To some in the United States, it may seem odd that people would travel all the way from Brazil to see a few small towns in rural Missouri. Yet the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil is a daughter church of the Missouri Synod. Some of the first missionaries to Brazil in the mid-1890s came from this region of Missouri. During the Brazilian delegation’s visit to the International Center, they were able to see some of these connections first hand.
Mr. Mark Hofman, LCMS Executive Director of Mission Advancement, shows the Brazilian delegation family photographs from his grandfather’s time as a missionary in Brazil.
Martin Hofman, grandfather to Mark Hofman pictured above, received a call to Brazil in 1935. He visited congregation members and preaching stations on his mule named “Duke.” Pastor Martin Hofman lived in a rural area, between Domingosz Martins (west/southwest of Vitoria) and Santa Maria de Jetibá.
The Brazilian Delegation meeting with President Matthew Harrison
After seeing how the Missouri Synod remembers her history, President Kopereck said that he needs to bring this back to Brazil to help his church recall its history. He said that it is important for church members to remember where they came from and that they have a connect to God’s people from the past who handed down the faith.
Concordia Publishing House (CPH) recently released the electronic edition of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). The electronic edition of LSB is available in both Kindle and Apple iBook formats for $19.99. The entire contents of the print edition is included in the electronic edition. The electronic edition of LSB is easy to use and convenient for travelers and others who routinely have a tablet with them. It allows a person to take the hymnal with them all the time.
This is the purchase screen from Apple iBooks for the electronic edition of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB).
The electronic edition of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) has clickable links to jump through sections of the hymnal. Page numbers also can be jumped to directly. Having used the electronic edition in a worship service, I found it easy to use.
The text and music look identical to the print edition of the hymnal.
It is easy to navigate to sections of hymns in the electronic edition.
The electronic edition of LSB is a must have for tablet users.
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.
• 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 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.
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.
The theme of the second International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century. The conference comes on the tails of the dedication of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany. The first ICCL conference was held in November 2012 when more than 120 Lutheran leaders gathered around the world (see this WMLTBlog post). The theme for the second conference looks towards the celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Reformation. The theme of the conference (described more in a future post) is titled, “Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing,” which comes from a sermon by Matthias Hoe von Hoenegg, the Electoral Saxony Court preacher in Dresden. In his sermon he described how to celebrate a Reformation celebration:
“First as a ‘remembrance festival,’ at which we remember a great historical event; second, as a ‘praise and thanksgiving festival,’ third, as a ‘miracle festival’ concerning God’s miracles; fourth, a ‘prayer festival’ at which we ‘desire to pray for the preservation of the divine Word” and fifth, as a ‘festival of repentance,’ at which we pray for the forgiveness of our sins in the despising of the Word of God,’ and that we should begin and strive for a new life with greater zeal for and devotion to his preached Word as doers of the same.’ Then the festival becomes a ‘festival of rejoicing and jubilation in heaven.'” (Luke 15:10)
The theme of the ICCL2 draws from this sermon and emphasizes “Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing” as a way to celebrate the Reformation in this ecumenical age.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President of the LCMS, and Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) introduce and bring greetings to the conference. President Harrison introduced the theme Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing and how every Reformation of the Church begins with repentance.
Bishop Voigt referenced the newly dedicated altar at the Old Latin School. If you look closely at the altar, you can see that the table is bowed. It is bent, being pressed down because of the weight of the gifts of God. Bishop Voigt’s prayer is that this conference bends the table with the weight of the gifts the presenters bring to the table.
Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary and Chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), bring greetings, thanked the staff of the CTCR, and introduced the theme of the conference. We need to remember the Lord’s deliverance of his people, repent of our sins, and rejoice in forgiveness.
Worship took place each day in St. Mary’s Church, where Dr. Martin Luther preached over 2500 sermons.
The program for the conference is provided below.