Posts tagged ILC
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
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 ILC World Seminary Conference is held every three years. Participants at this years conference are from six continents and represent confessing Lutheran church bodies large and small.
Lutheran church and seminary leaders from around the world descended upon Lithuania over the course of the past 24 hours, traveling from every corner of the globe. They are here to consider the conference theme: Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom as Marks of the Church, a theme many of these confessing Lutherans know much about from personal experience. The conference is organized by the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a worldwide association of Confessional Lutheran Churches.
Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, a member church of the Lutheran World Federation greeted the group assembled at the Palanga Lutheran Church. In his remarks he noted that for Christians in Lithuania, persecution, in one form or another, has been nearly constant during the past 400 years.
Welcoming the group on behalf of the ILC was Dr. Albert Collver III, Executive Secretary.
“In the Book of Revelation, “those who had been slain” cried out with a loud voice to the Lord, “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Rev. 6:10) The word used to describe the martyrs who cried out to the Lord from the altar in heaven is from the greek verb sphazo,the very same word used to describe Jesus as the “the Lamb who had been slain.” The martyrs had been slain like their Lord, Jesus. Like the blood of Abel, the blood of the martyrs calls out to the Lord for justice and the vengeance of the Lord upon the wicked. In a similar way the Lord’s church on earth cries out to be a witness to the work, and for deliverance from all evil. Ironically, the more the church prays to be a witness to the world, the more likely the church is to experience the cross and suffering, which in itself becomes a witness.”
Collver noted that the theme of suffering, persecution and martyrdom has been a topic of theological reflection since the Book of Acts. “At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, the church has passed through a century where more Christians, numerically, have been persecuted and martyred than at any other time in history. “At the same time, Islam is spreading among peoples and through lands where the Gospel once held sway. If the external threats of secular humanism and Islam were not enough, the church is under attack from within,” said Collver.
“Through the crosses, that is, the sufferings in our lives predestined for us before the foundation of the world, The Lord conforms us into the image of His Son. What sort of Lord predestines the Holy Cross? The sort of Lord who in His divine foreknowledge ensured that no suffering, cross, or martyrdom would wrest you from His loving hand. This is the sort of Lord who has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. This is the sort of Lord who in the words of the Augsburg Confession said the church perpetual mansura, that is, will endure forever. Be assured that suffering, persecution and martyrdom as evil as it is, will turn into blessing by The Lord.”
Martyrdom and the Cross
The keynote presenter Dr. William Weinrich, Professor of Church History at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Ind. provided a historical view of martyrdom and the cross walking participants through the accounts of the early church martyrs.
Underscoring the relevance of the topic for our time, Weinrich noted that credible research has reached the estimate that more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith each year, others are either displaced,see the destruction of their houses of worship, experience rape or the abduction of their leaders. In Western countries where the church has historically been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that increasingly marginalizes and restricts the ability of the faith community to bear mercy in the world.
“Today, being a Christian in the world is contested and is facing serious challenge, in some places with murderous consequences.”
Weinrich noted that, “To commune with the Body and Blood of Christ was to be bound with Him who was Himself the “faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5) and received the crown of life: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” “Luke 23:46) Union with Christ’s Body and Blood unites the faithful to the goal and destiny of Christian faith, namely, to that perfection whereby the confession of the mouth in instantiated by the sacrifice of ones’ life for the true confession. The death of the martyr was itself “witness” and “demonstration” that in Christ God had overcome death by the new creation of the resurrection.
As we think about the present circumstances of our Lutheran churches in the world and about how best to prepare our people fro further suffering, we should not forget the great resource we have in the Sacrament of the Altar. For it is not merely that which “strengths” faith but is itself the reality of life over death: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (John 6:54)”
Suffering, Persecution, Martyrdom as a Mark of the Church
In the afternoon, the Rev. Dr. Darius Petkunas pastor of the Palanga Lutheran Church, walked the group through the persecutions which took place under the Marxist-Lenninist regimes of the 20th Century.
The Life of the Church has been marked from the beginning by the presence of the cross, that particular form of suffering borne by those who confess the name of Christ. … In the both century Marxist-Lenninist communism clearly stated that for communism to succeed, the Church and its superstitions must be destroyed, and that the very idea of God must be erased from man’s heart and soul. It was at first thought that scientific-atheistic propaganda could accomplish this, for the Christian faith was thought to be nothing more or less than ignorant superstition which could be easily combated and overcome by reason and education. History shows that it was soon found necessary to employ more direct means to destroy the Church. Thousands of priests and bishops of all the traditional Christian confessions in the Soviet Union were sent to the gulags and for many of them it was a death sentence. By the mid 1930’s the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Soviet Russia had disappeared from the scene.
His address led participants through the following points:
1. Luther on the Seventh Mark of the Church
“Luther elaborates on the seventh sign by stating that Christians “…must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil…” In this way they are conformed to their head not by their own action and decision, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. They are punished not because they have done wrong or because “… they are adulterers, murderers, thieves, or rogues, but because they want to have none but Christ, and no other God. Wherever you see or hear this, you may know the Holy Christian Church is there…”
2. The Shape of “the World” and its relation to the Church
What Luther referred to as the seventh sign or mark of the CHurch is called into play when temporal, secular authority oversteps its omits and intrudes into spiritual affairs where God’s Word and will should reign supreme. When this happens Christians are to follow the example of St. Peter who when he was told by the Jewis authorities that he must not proclaim the person and work of Christ, responded that in such matters one must follow “God rather than men.”
3. The Seventh Sign in Historical Perspective
This seventh sign of the Church manifested itself most evidently when and where the faithfulness of the Church was put to the test by a strong state or government hostile to the Gospel. In the 16th century Lutherans most often found themselves in the minority in many territories. They were ready and willing to affirm by word and action the faith which they confessed. Indeed the CHurch and Christians who are determined to be faithful regardless the cost who are most likely to find themselves at the receiving en of trials and tribulations. … The example of the Prussian Church shows what happens when the CHurch either sees no need to make a clear confession of the truth of God’s Word or has allowed itself to be rendered incapable of articulating such a confession. If the CHurch has nothing for which it is willing to suffer it will not suffer, and it will not reeve the blessing which hardship brings with it. Here as Luther had correctly stated, the willingness to endure what a clear confession brings with it and the unwillingness to allow the secular realm to interfere in Church affairs together with the determination to make a bold and clear confession and bear the cross is a clear mark of the church.
4. The Situation Today: Some Observations
The seventh sign has always been regarded as a secondary mark of the Church. Its absence at a particular time and at particular place does not necessarily mean that the CHurch is no longer the true Church. However, it often happens that where the Church is unwilling to bear the pain of the cross, other marks and signs of the Church, including the pure proclamation of the Gospel, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the proper ordering of the Holy Ministry disappears as well.
Luther would insist that one must move beyond a simple consideration of the empirical evidence to a recognition that behind it stands the ancient consolation of “the Devil, the World, and the sinful flesh.” The Church and her people contend with forces which are not merely empirical and material, they are instead higher and stronger powers in heavily places. (Eph. 6:12) They must be combated by the power of God whom the Church confesses and proclaims.
Rev. Alexey Streltsov, Rector of LUtheran Theological Seminnary, Novosibirsk, Siberia, was one of the responders to the morning presentations and reflected on the nature and shape of suffering:
How much suffering does there have to be to call it suffering? Sometimes people who have some mild inconveniences call it suffering. But what we talk about here is a really an existential experience, when one is faced with such suffering the Holy Spirit is there to give counsel and aid.
In the culture I come from there has been much reflection on the theme of suffering and death. Not many [here] have gone through such experiences. But we have to realize that some in this room or our family and friends will face this in the future.
In the book 1984, George Orwell discusses how early Christian martyrs knew that when they would go to death they would be remembered by the church and this would bring them some glory. However, to think that when people are confronted with martyrdom today you likely will not be remembered. Whether this is the case or not, we should praise God for those Christians who no one remembers.
In secular culture, suffering is viewed as something to get over and then to have a winsome and positive attitude. No, when suffering comes it is not something to get over, it may never go away, it may only increase. Around us [today] it doesn’t look like things will get better. This history of the martyrs will help prepare us for what is to come.
Rev. Dr. John Stephenson, Concordia Seminary, Ontario, Canada, responded by reflecting on the existential nature of suffering for the sake of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana spoke about the situation in Africa and the rapid growth of the Church. The need for more pastors and resources is large. He encouraged the group to be boldly and faithfully Lutheran because we have the truth of the Gospel.