By Adriane Dorr
Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany was elected chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) during the council’s most recent meeting Sept. 16-21 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS director of Church Relations and assistant to the president, was elected as the ILC’s executive secretary.
Voigt had served as the ILC’s interim chairman since 2010, when then ILC President Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick was not re-elected as president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The ILC’s constitution requires the chairman to be the active head of a member church body, so Voigt, who was ILC vice-chairman at the time, succeeded Kieschnick as interim chairman.
The ILC was established in 1958 as an association of confessional Lutheran church bodies that support one another and study theological issues together.
Church leaders from around the world, including LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, attended the conference, which was built around the theme “What Does This Mean? How Do the Scriptures Speak to Crises Facing Confessional Lutherans Today?” The group brought one another up-to-date on the work of their respective churches and engaged in fraternal discussions regarding Lutheran doctrine and practice.
The Rev. Robert Bugbee, president of Lutheran Church–Canada, preached for the opening worship service, reflecting on the suffering inherent with church leadership.
“Christ the Servant sustains weary you,” Bugbee told attendees. “He knows the fear of exhaustion and of pain and of the temptation to despair — understands every shred of it — and cares deeply.”
But Bugbee also noted that, “We start with a hopeful spirit because of this: the Lord God helps us. Does that turn all your burdens into immediate success? And does it make the work of your office simple and easy? It does not. But having this Servant, we poor, miserable sinners have exactly what we need.”
The Rev. John Pless, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and director of Field Education at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., also attended the conference on behalf of the LCMS.
“Recognizing challenges to God’s Word on matters such as the ordination of women and homosexuality as well as the nature of the Gospel and mission itself, these leaders demonstrated a fraternal spirit as they reflected on how we might strengthen and extend our confessional legacy in the world,” Pless said.
“It was clear that our partner churches in the ILC recognize that this second decade of the 21st century is not a time for compromising or diluting our confession,” Pless added, “but making a bold witness of the truth of the Jesus Christ that we have come to know through the Reformation.”
Bugbee also commented, “Let me say what a deep honor it was for Lutheran Church–Canada to host the ILC World Conference for the very first time in Niagara Falls. It really was a family reunion. It’s a joy to hear reports from those corners of the confessional Lutheran family that are experiencing strong growth, and also an encouragement to learn of those doing faithful work under pressure and trouble.
“It’s clear to me that the ILC needs to expand its reach at this moment when the desire for a strong biblical Lutheran witness is growing in many parts of the world,” Bugbee also said. “I’m glad to know that Dr. Albert Collver of the Missouri Synod has accepted appointment to serve as ILC executive secretary for the coming term. God [will] use his work to advance the Gospel through the ILC and all its member churches.”
“I was deeply humbled to be selected as the ILC executive secretary,” said Collver. “The ILC can play a crucial role during this time when Lutheran churches around the world are looking for strong Lutheran leadership that is rooted in the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.
“As the mainstream Protestant churches and other Lutheran bodies have succumbed to the pressures of this age to capitulate on marriage and sexuality,” he noted, “faithful and scripturally-minded Lutherans are seeking other Lutherans who share their convictions. The ILC can be a tremendous help in that regard.”
“The voice of authentic Lutheranism is sorely needed in our chaotic world,” agreed Pless. “I was pleased to be part of this conference that was dedicated to vigorously making a genuine Lutheran witness in every corner of the world.”
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted Sept. 21, 2012 / Updated Sept. 25, 2012 / Updated Oct. 23, 2012