By Stacey Egger
On Sept. 17 and 18, representatives from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) gathered in Kisumu, Kenya, with representatives from 34 of the Synod’s partner churches to discuss the work of the confessional Lutheran church around the world. One of these church bodies, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Sudan/Sudan (ELCSS/S), became an LCMS partner church at the conference with the celebration of altar and pulpit fellowship during the conference’s concluding Divine Service.
The LCMS currently has relationships of varying degrees with 98 Lutheran church bodies in 76 countries. These relationships can involve theological conversation, theological education and mercy work. However, of these, only 40 are partner churches of the LCMS.
A “partner church” is a church body with whom the LCMS has full altar and pulpit fellowship. Formal recognition of such a partnership is taken up by the Synod in convention every three years. The LCMS has also given authority to the LCMS president to recognize fellowship with a church body — especially one that is small and emerging — between conventions, with the approval of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). The CTCR granted such approval regarding the ELCSS/S prior to the conference. This summer in Milwaukee, the Synod in convention will be asked to officially endorse this partnership with the Sudanese Lutherans.
‘A tremendous event’
In Kisumu, participants joined together in devotion and prayer, listened to presentations and panel discussions, and enjoyed meals and fellowship together.
“It was a tremendous event. COVID had prevented international interaction, and all of our friends were delighted to be with each other. We are enjoying profound unity and purpose in confessing Christ,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
Harrison spoke to the group on oversight and visitation. The Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) presented on recruiting and training pastors. The Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland and newly declared chairman of the International Lutheran Council, discussed the threats that various contemporary ideologies pose to Christian teaching on ordination, fellowship, ethics and more. A panel on church planting was held among leaders from South Africa, Kenya, India, Canada, Argentina, Norway and Iceland.
“What a joyous occasion to meet with our sister church body representatives at Kisumu,” said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, director of LCMS Church Relations. “Engagement was robust and positive on all of these topics.”
On Sunday morning, conference participants gathered to receive that which is at the heart of their fellowship: God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. Harrison led the Divine Service, preaching on the account of Christ’s healing of the 10 lepers in Luke 17.
“We see the Gospel abiding in Finland, in Norway, in Portugal, in Canada,” said Harrison in his sermon. “We see the church growing in Africa. We thank God for you, brothers in South Sudan. …
“As we say in the liturgy, ‘It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who on this day overcame death and the grave and by His glorious resurrection opened to us the way of everlasting life. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You.’ ”
Posted Dec. 5, 2022