KENYA – 27e (12e) The International Lutheran Council (ILC) World Conference took place September 13-16, 2022 in Kisumu, Kenya, during which the council elected a new president: Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Diocese of Finland (ELMDF ).
A new president for the ILC
Bishop Pohjola was acclaimed as the new president of the ILC without opposition. Bishop Pohjola was catapulted into global media attention in 2021 after the Attorney General of Finland accused him and a Finnish MP, Dr Päivi Räsänen, of hate crimes for publishing in 2004 of a pamphlet that articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. While both men were later acquitted in early 2022, Finland’s Attorney General has since appealed, meaning the case is not yet over.
President Pohjola succeeds Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany. Bishop Voigt, who announced earlier at the World Conference that he would not stand again, served as ILC President for twelve years from 2010 to 2022. Previously, he served the ILC as Vice President and Europe Region Representative, for a total of 15 years of continuous service on the Board.
Bishop John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ghana was elected ILC Secretary at the 2022 World Conference. Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya) for Africa was acclaimed for serve as a representative of the Global Region; President Antonio del Rio Reyes (Lutheran Church in the Philippines) for Asia; President George Samiec (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England) for Europe; President Alceu Alton Figur (Lutheran Church of Paraguay) for Latin America; and President Timothy Teuscher (Lutheran Church – Canada) for North America.
The ILC Board of Directors also includes two other members appointed according to other criteria. Past President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church in Canada and President Matthew Harrison of the Synod of the Lutheran Church in Missouri (LCMS) remain on the board in that capacity.
ILC welcomes new members
The conference brought together church leaders representing 55 church bodies from around the world, including members and guests. Reflecting the continued growth of the ILC, the 2022 World Conference voted to accept two church bodies as full members and one as an associate member. The conference also officially welcomed ten new observer members accepted into the ILC since the last global conference.
The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (previously accepted as an associate member in 2001) was welcomed as a full member. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (accepted as an observer in early 2022) has also been accepted as a full member. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama, meanwhile, was newly accepted as an associate member.
Observer membership in the ILC can be granted by the Governing Board without having to wait for a World Conference. In total, the board has accepted ten new observer members, all from Africa, since the last World Conference in 2018: Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burundi; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Congo; the Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium of Kenya; the Lutheran Church in Africa – Ivory Coast; the Confessional Lutheran Church – Synod of Malawi; the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Rwanda; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan and Sudan.
Liturgy and Ecumenical Relations
The theme for the 2022 ILC World Conference was “Liturgy and Culture: How Worship Shapes Our Life Together and Why We Do What We Do”. The essayists were Bishop Juhana Pohjola of Finland; Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki (Fort Wayne, USA); and Reverend Dr. Alexey Streltsov (Novosibirsk, Russia), with additional presentation by Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna of Chile.
Based on these presentations and the ensuing discussions, the conference eventually adopted a summary statement on liturgy and culture. He further decided unanimously to issue a statement rejecting virtual communion.
Among other matters, the World Conference also received a report on the results of the ILC’s recent ecumenical discussions with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) of the Roman Catholic Church. The final report on these discussions was published in 2021 and found significant convergences between the two traditions in a number of areas.
In light of this report, and taking into account the written recommendation of Cardinal Kurt Koch of the PCPCU and ILC President Hans-Jörg Voigt, the ILC World Conference adopted a resolution calling for the continuation of ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church in the run-up to the 500e anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 2030.
Additional news on the 2022 ILC Global Conference can be found here.
Mathew Block is communications manager for the Lutheran Council International. He is also the editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine and previously served as Director of Communications for the Lutheran Church in Canada.