Pictured (Left to Right): Dr. Collver, Rev. Nathaniel Bol, Rev. Russell Shewmaker
On 30 July 2015, Rev. Nathaniel Bol, the leader of the SSELC, visited the International Center to present his request for fellowship with the LCMS. The South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC) was formed on June 12, 2011 in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.
Prior to June 2011, Rev. Nathaniel Bol was an Anglican priest and theological educator for 27 years in the the Episcopal Church of Sudan. He and 16 other ordained Anglican priests left the Anglican church to form this emerging Lutheran church body. The group did not attempt to take their congregations with them, but rather formed a small congregation consisting of 21 people at the church’s founding. Rev. Nathaniel Bol and the 16 other ordained pastors left the Anglican church over matters of Biblical interpretation, particularly the sexuality decisions made by the Anglican church. Rev. Nathaniel Bol also found the ecumenicalism of the Anglican church, particularly, worshiping with Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, to be unionistic and syncretistic. The reason this group departed the Anglican church according to them was for doctrinal reasons and no other reasons. Rev. Nathaniel Bol indicated that prior to departing the Anglican church, they studied what church body might hold a similar view of Scripture and an understanding of doctrine as they did. As a result, they found the Lutheran church, the mother of the Reformation, Eventually, over the internet they located the Missouri Synod. Today, the church has about 3,000 members.
In December 2014, there was a conflict in Bol, South Sudan. many of the church members had to flee from the rebel fighters. The church members scattered to places in South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya.
It was good to meet the leader of an emerging church in South Sudan. The fellowship request goes to the CTCR for further discussion in September.
— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) held their 63rd biannual convention at the Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, MI, from 27-30 July 2015. The Convention theme was “One in Christ.” The Wisconsin Synod invited LCMS observers to attend. The WELS convention is reminisce of how the Missouri Synod used to conduct their conventions. For instance, nominations for the president happened from the convention floor and elections were conducted with paper ballots. The convention by all accounts has been peaceful with the delegates enjoying visiting with one another.
Opening worship was held at St. Paul’s in Saginaw. The service was completely packed with standing room only in the narthex of the church and in the basement of the church. President Mark Schroeder served as the presiding minister, while Prof. Paul Koelpin of Martin Luther College served as the preacher. The sermon text was based off of the Easter propers in particular 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Pastor Paul Koelpin is an excellent preacher. A particular poignant line from his sermon was, “The greatest irony of Jesus’ life is the more Jesus loved, the more Jesus forgave, the more he was hated.” Pastor Koelpin not only divided Law and Gospel in his sermon but he captured the theology of the cross, and the victory of Christ’s resurrection.
The convention proper began the next day with the “Presentation of the Flags” by the Lutheran Woman’s Missionary Society. The WELS LWMS is similar to the LCMS’ LWML group. The “Presentation of the Flags” highlights the states and the countries where the Wisconsin Synod is active in Mission. As each flag is presented, the women relay the story of how the flag relates to mission work. It is a very nice ceremony and a good way to remind delegates of the mission work of their church.
The Wisconsin Synod has been active in worldwide mission work for over 100 years. Back in the days of the Synodical Conference, the LCMS and WELS did cooperative and joint mission work. The Wisconsin Synod has engaged in missionary work in places where the LCMS currently does not have a mission outpost such as Pakistan, Nepal, and Ukraine.
During the convention, I had the opportunity to meet Bishop V’yacheslav Horpynchuk from the Ukraine. Over the years I have had the opportunity to correspond with Bishop Horpynchuk about developments in Lutheranism in the Ukraine and regarding the struggles of the Lutheran church in Ukraine. Many in the Missouri Synod know of Bishop Horpynchuk due to the decade long “Russia Project” at Concordia Theological Seminary. It was a pleasure to see Bishop Horpynchuk face to face, with the hope of visiting in the Ukraine in the future.
Other good news from the Wisconsin Synod convention was the reelection of President Mark Schroeder. President Schroeder has severed as the WELS President for the past 8 years. He has been instrumental in beginning the informal decisions between the LCMS-WELS-ELS over the past four years.
President Schroeder and the WELS CICR (the equivalent of the LCMS’ CTCR) presented to the convention the informal discussions between the Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Wisconsin Synod.
During the report about the information conversations between the former synodical conference members, the photo from the third meeting was displayed with the comment, “Our conversations are informal and so is the dress.” The Wisconsin Synod expressed how much it appreciated contact with the Missouri Synod.
Of course, every convention has business and reports. A significant report was on the financial condition of the Wisconsin Synod, which over all is good. The report noted how the “Ministry Financial Plan” formerly was “resource” driven but now is “ministry” driven. Given the size of the Wisconsin Synod, approximately 400,000 members, the church gives about $10 million for international mission and about $9 million for domestic mission each year. This is a tremendous stewardship commitment. The WELS also faces challenges similar to the Missouri Synod such as declining demographics and flat offering plate giving. WELS and Missouri face the same social pressures and potential restrictions in religious freedoms as well. All of these items were discussed at the convention.
Another highlight of the convention was the Convention Essay, “One in Christ” based on the book of Ephesians by Rev. James Huebner. Pastor Huebner has been a part of the group having informal discussions with the MIssouri Synod. He has a vibrant intercity ministry in Milwaukee and is an excellent preacher and speaker. The WELS press described his essay as follows:
The essay focused on the book of Ephesians. “In my work as a parish pastor, I have taught Ephesians often enough, and that book is really about being one in Christ,” says Huebner. “As diverse as that congregation in Ephesus was, we are also diverse. And yet the apostle wrote that you are one—thanks to Jesus—with your God and in faith and in purpose.”
Huebner says he decided to design the essay to be more like a sermon than a formal scholarly essay. For that reason he memorized his hour-long presentation. “From my heart to yours, this is what God has to say for you to think about,” he says.
It truly was an inspirational and excellent essay.
The WELS convention “One in Christ” was a pleasure to attend. The Wisconsin Synod folks showed great hospitality to the Missouri Synod observers. The convention also featured “branded” water bottles for the delegates. May the Lord bless WELS.
LCMS individuals meet with the Mekane Yesus Fellowship board
and LCMS pastors who originally came from the EECMY.
The Ethiopian LCMS Annual Pastors’ Conference and the Mekane Yesus Fellowship Board meet at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Retreat Center in Newhark, Ohio, from July 22-26, 2015. Approximately, 150 people attended the conference mostly consisting of LCMS Ethiopian pastors and their families. Four delegates represented the EECMY from Ethiopia also attended.
Attendees at the conference engaged in worship, fellowship, and discussion. Ethiopia is the second largest African nation by population after Nigeria and is expected to become one of the most populous nations in the next 50-100 years. Unlike some African nations, the Ethiopian diaspora is well organized in the United States and in other parts of the world. Ethiopians constitute the second largest African immigration group in the United States after Nigerians. As both the white and african american population declines demographically, the Ethiopian population increases in the United States (See article “As Black Population Declines, Little Ethiopia Increases.”) The large number of Ethiopian immigrants makes it an important focus for the LCMS national mission as well as a potentially significant population group for Christianity in the West.
Dr. Yared Speaking About the Importance of LCMS Support for the EECMY
The group had the goals of exchanging ministry experiences, organizing the diaspora community, and to strengthen the LCMS-EECMY relationship. Items discussed the working relationship between the EECMY and the LCMS, the EECMY’s Diaspora Mission Awareness and Opportunities strategic conversation, Raising awareness and support in the diaspora community, and confessional and theological discussions toward the future. LCMS representatives included (in alphabetical order): Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations; President Terry Cripe, Ohio District President; Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of the Office of National Mission; Rev. Roosevelt Gray, Director of Black Ministry for the Office of National Mission; Dr. Detlev Schulz, Director of Graduate Studies Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne; Dr. Brent Smith, Representative from the South East District; Rev. Mark Wood, Director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry.
Pastor Wondimu Mathewos, Dr. Albert Collver, and Dr. Tilahun Mekonnen Meet before Conference
Pastor Wondimu Mathewos is the Director of the International Mission Society (IMS) for the EECMY in Ethiopia. The EECMY is best known for its domestic mission which has taken the EECMY from about 25,000 members in 1959 to about 7.2 million members in 2015. Until recently, the EECMY had been focused on domestic proclamation of the gospel. The formation of the EECMY International Mission Society mark the Mekane Yesus’ church’s effort to proclaim the gospel internationally.
Dr. Detlev Schulz listened to the needs to train EECMY pastors both at the B.TH and Masters level in Ethiopia. Dr. Schulz spoke about his experience teaching in Ethiopia and about the Ethiopian students who are attending LCMS seminaries in the United States.
President Abraham Mengesha
Pastor Abraham Mengesha, President of the Central Ethiopian Synod, presented a paper at the LCMS’ mission summit in November 2014 on the “Factors That Contributed to the Growth of the EECMY in General and the Central Ethiopian Synod in Particular.” The paper may be helpful to those in the LCMS desiring to understand some of the history and background to the Mekane Yesus Church, the largest Lutheran church in the world. The EECMY report 7.2 million members. The paper was published in the Journal of Lutheran Mission (JOLM). The paper was published in the June 2015 issue found here. A copy of the paper is provided below:
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.