(Originally from: http://blogs.lcms.org/2015/new-work-in-an-ancient-land)
Ethiopia is a country with an ancient history and rich culture dating back to the Old Testament period. Some Bible versions translate Cush in Ezek. 29:10 as “Ethiopia,” and the Oromo, the largest of Ethiopia’s many tribes, is known as “Southern Cushite.”
Christianity has been in Ethiopia for nearly 2,000 years. It became the state religion in 330 A.D. when Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria sent a bishop to Ethiopia, resulting in the birth of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and it remains the predominant religion to this day.
Lutherans are relative latecomers to this African nation—and the LCMS later still.
Lutheran contact with Ethiopia began in the 17th century with the arrival of Dr. Peter Heyling, a young missionary from Lübeck, Germany. Heyling practiced medicine while teaching Lutheran theology to the Ethiopian clergy. Echoing Luther’s work, he translated the Gospel of John and the liturgy into Amharic, the language of the people.
When Islam demanded his conversion, Heyling refused and was martyred. His teachings, however, survived in the Ethiopian desert for nearly 200 years. Once discovered, they laid a foundation for the work of Lutheran missionaries who came to Ethiopia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The missionaries — who were sent by Lutheran mission societies in Sweden, Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the United States — planted a patchwork of independent churches that merged over 50 years ago to form the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY).
Mekane Yesus means “the dwelling place of Jesus.” It aptly describes this rapidly growing church body that is focused on ministering to the whole person with Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.
The LCMS began regular contact with the EECMY in 2000, though informal connections occurred through individual students and professors of the EECMY in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The EECMY, with its zeal for missions and revitalization of congregations, has grown significantly from a church of 20,000 members in 1959. Its membership will soon surpass 7 million.
Such rapid growth creates a tremendous need for pastors and provides a challenge for this young church body with a goal of training 10,000 pastors and evangelists in five years.
Because the LCMS has an international reputation for excellence in theological education and pastoral formation, the EECMY has asked the Missouri Synod to assist in helping train future professors who will teach at its central seminary, five regional seminaries and 40 Bible schools.
The Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa, the EECMY general secretary, says that the EECMY needs a strong Lutheran identity to remain faithful in light of the many challenges the church faces — challenges ranging from Islam to Pentecostalism to liberalism. This is a conviction shared by EECMY President Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa.
In November, an LCMS delegation led by the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS Director of Church Relations and Regional Operations, met with EECMY leaders to discuss and sign a revised working–partnership agreement. The agreement includes provision for theological education and support for Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa.
“Though differences remain,” said Collver, “the EECMY has a great respect for the LCMS’ commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions. At the same time, the LCMS can learn from the EECMY’s zeal for mission and revitalization of congregations.”
“The EECMY has a strong desire for confessional Lutheran Theology taught to the highest standards,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, provost at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “By strengthening their graduate programs, pastors and professors of the EECMY will be built up in the Scriptures and Confessions … We are pleased to have several pastors from the EECMY already studying for advanced degrees here through the Global Seminary Initiative. They will return to Ethiopia to strengthen theological education there for the next generation.”
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., expanded on this, stating: “Students from the EECMY have benefited from educational opportunities at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne for more than a decade now. At the same time, faculty from CTS have built deep and lasting relationships with Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa. Through this mutual interaction, we see God at work building and strengthening His church for a robust future.”
“There are great opportunities ahead for the LCMS and the EECMY as this relationship develops,” Collver said. “Thanks be to God for opening this door. LCMS ministry leaders look forward to continuing this work together.”
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations, and Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is associate executive director for LCMS Communications, contributed to this story.
Pictured, from left: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Belgium); President Egon Kopereck (Brazil); Archbishop Christian Ekong (Nigeria); ILC Executive Secretary Dr. Albert Collver (USA); Chairman Jon Ehlers (Great Britain); Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Germany); President Antonio Reyes (Philippines).
By Mathew Block
Originally Posted on http://www.ilc-online.org/2015/01/21/ilc-executive-meets-in-england-plans-for-2015-world-conference/
ENGLAND – The Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met January 15-16, 2015 at the St. Cuthman’s Retreat Centre in Coolham, West Sussex, just south of London, England. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, presided over the sessions.
The committee’s primary task was to make preparations for the ILC’s 25th World Conference, set for September 2015, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bishops and presidents of all 34 full and associate member churches are being invited. The chosen overarching theological theme for the gathering is Bringing the Reformation to the World. In addition, delegates to the conference will choose a chairman and other executive officers for the coming three-year term.
Chairman Voigt expressed his joy over the fact that five Lutheran church bodies from various continents have made inquiries about taking up membership in the ILC. The Executive Committee also spent time examining the financial status of this global organization, which needs to be further developed.
Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA), facilitated intensive planning sessions for the Executive Committee as they strategized for the future and analyzed both strengths and weaknesses of the Council’s existing form and function.
Summing up at the close of the meetings, Chairman Voigt commented, “At various times in history, the Church has been especially strong when in the midst of its limitations it focused on the primary thing—that is, the proclamation of the Gospel.” Bringing the Gospel to people is the Church’s main responsibility, he added.
19 January 2015
For Immediate Release
Representatives from the Istanbul Lutheran Church (ILK) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) met in Istanbul on 17-19 January 2015 to discuss the creation of a working agreement between the church bodies.
Representing the ILK, Leading Pastor, Rev. Ville Typpö, together with Rev. Mikko Tiira, met with church leaders from the LCMS, including Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS Eurasia Regional Director, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne and Chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
The agreement states that the goal is “to work together to make Christ known primarily among the Turkish speaking people and to strengthen the Lutheran witness by word and deed in the church and community.” The two churches also agreed to respect each other’s founding documents and conscience, to have regular contact between leaders, to share plans with one another, and to share theological and education resources.
Leading Pastor Ville Typpö rejoices in the agreement, stating, “It was the intention of Martin Luther himself to send able men among Turkish speaking people to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not possible during his times, but is possible in our times. Now we, as churches sharing the same confession and the same goal, are invited to take steps toward working together for this purpose.”
Dr. Albert Collver expressed, “We are very glad to be able to sign this working agreement with the ILK. Their commitment to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, along with their experience in both Turkish culture and language, are invaluable to carry forth a witness in the region.”
The two churches intend to hold additional conversations towards future work.
About the Istanbul Lutheran Church
Istanbul Lutheran Church (ILK) is a Turkish speaking Confessional Lutheran Church officially established in 2004, nowadays consisting of four congregations located in Turkey and Bulgaria. The ILK carries the tradition of the first Lutheran congregation established in Constantinople at 1709. Learn more at http://www.luteryenkilisesi.org.
About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a biblical, confessional, witness-oriented Christian denomination with 2.2 million members — 600,000 households — in 6,200 congregations. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church makes known the love of Jesus Christ worldwide. Learn more at lcms.org.
Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) speaks about the Old Latin School recently being renovated and finished for its dedication on 3 May 2015 in Wittenberg Germany. The Old Latin School was built in 1564 across from St. Mary’s ( Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien zu Wittenberg) where Dr. Martin Luther preached the majority of his sermons during this tenure in Wittenberg. Throughout its life the Old Latin School prepare young men for further study, was seen by Peter the Great, and served as a hospital when Napoleon marched through. More recently, under the communist it served as a printing office and a garment factory until it laid vacant for 40 plus years. Under the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), a partnership of the Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), and our partner church the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK).
The Old Latin School will serve as a Gospel outreach to the Wittenberg Community, with the establishment of an Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) congregation inside the building. It also will serve as a conference center with boarding for classes on Lutheran studies and confessional studies, as well as a place for tour groups from around the world to stay when they visit Luther sites and learn more about the Reformation.
After many years the Old Latin School is almost completely renovated. Below are some photos showing the progress. Additional information can be found at the Wittenberg Project Site.
Location of the Old Latin School is adjacent to St. Mary’s where Martin Luther preached the Reformation Gospel.
Bishop Voigt and Dr. Collver standing on Jüdenstraße outside of the Old Latin School.
The Plaque on the outside of the Old Latin School.
This is the renovated space inside the Old Latin School where the chapel and SELK congregation will meet on Sunday mornings.
This space is where the bookstore will be located in the Old Latin School. CPH is providing the initial supply of books.
Office space on the upper level in the Old Latin School.
View from the Office Window.
A portion of the Old Latin School Director’s Apartment
The outer door from the inside.
Above the door on the outside.
The Old Latin School from Jüdenstraße.
The Old Latin School at night with St. Mary’s in the background.
The Old Latin school at night from the St. Mary’s Entrance.
— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
On Sunday, 11 January 2015, The Baptism of the Lord, we visited Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berlin, Germany. Trinity is a SELK congregation (in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Missouri Synod) and a “satellite” congregation of St. Mary’s in the Zehlendorf district of Berlin. Pastor Gottfried Martens serves as the senior pastor. The majority of the people who attended Trinity were Persians who had come to Germany from Iran. Most of the attendees were formerly Muslim. The worship attendance was approximately 300.
There are a growing number of Iranians coming to Germany, both due to the brain drain of professionals from Iran and due to persecution. Germany has the largest population of Iranians (around 150,000) in Western Europe. Pastor Gottfried Matins, in a Christianity Today article, noted the irony of Persians converting from Islam to Christianity in Eastern Europe, which is one of the most atheistic and godless regions of the Western world.
The service follows the regular order of service found in the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) hymnal; however, the congregation provides two supplements, 1. A German-English supplement and 2. A German-Farsi (Persian) supplement to assist congregation member and visitor alike.
The service began with a “Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution.” The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) has a similar service. At Trinity in Berlin, the Service of Confession begins 30 minutes before the main service. After a corporate confession of sins (“I, a poor, miserable sinner confess to all my sins …”), the penitent are invited to come forward and kneel at the communion rail to receive absolution (forgiveness of sins). Although fewer people attended the Confession service than the main service, it was still well attended with perhaps half the number of the divine service. After hearing the pastor speak, “Dir sind deine Sünden vergeben (Your sins are forgiven)” 200 hundred or so times to each individual who came forward, it is hard to walk away unclear what Jesus has done for you. The effect of hearing your sins are forgiven must be even more profound for a person coming from a Muslim background which does not teach forgives or grace.
The German-Farsi supplement has the Lord’s Prayer in Farsi (Persian) with how to pronounce the words on the left. During the service, the Lord’s Prayer was said in Farsi. Now if an English speaking person looks at the Lord’s Prayer in Farsi (Persian), he can recognize a few of the words (pedare, name, et al). For instance, the familial words in English such as “father,” “mother,” “daughter,” and “brother,” all originally came from Persian. Likewise, the English word “name,” originally came from Persian. As an Indo-European language, Persian (Farsi) influenced the development of several European languages including English. Another Persian word every English speaker would recognize is “paradise.”
A number of the Persian attendees were catechumens (those who had not been baptized but were receiving instruction in the Christian faith). Those awaiting baptism received a blessing at the communion rail commending them to the day of their baptism. No doubt those who have completed the Christian instruction will be baptized at the Easter Vigil service. Pastor Martins has people study the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Small Catechism of Martin Luther, and the liturgy before baptism.
The Jesus of the Bible not the Jesus found in the Qu’ran must be preached. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, through the preaching and the teaching of Jesus. Pastor Martins preached on the baptism of Jesus, especially relevant for those Persian catechumens who will receive Holy Baptism in a few months.
Pictured: Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, Rev. David Bueltmann, Deaconess Pamela Nielsen, Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martins, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Rev. David Mahsman, Mr. Rick Steenboch.
After the service, the congregation invited us to eat lunch with them before we departed for Wittenberg.
To read more please see:
— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.,
Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations