Relationships don’t idle in neutral. Either they get stronger, or they grow weaker. With the blessing of God, our relationships with our sister churches in Europe are growing stronger.
Our oldest European relationship is with our sister church in Germany, the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK), which dates back to 1876. For years the Commission on Inter-Church Relations (CICR) has been representing WELS at the ELFK conventions. In addition, for over 40 years ELFK families have been sending children to one of our WELS prep schools. Some of their pastors have also studied at our seminary. Generous WELS members provided support as the ELFK established a grade school, and one of their first teachers was a WELS member. ELFK pastors read our Forward in Christ and Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly magazines, and sometimes translate articles into German for their church publications. One of their pastors also translates books by WELS authors into German. It’s a strong relationship that, as we’ll hear below, is now growing even stronger.
That’s not our only strong relationship in Europe though. Nearly every year, the Commission on Inter-Church Relations has visited sister congregations and brother pastors in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, often providing a doctrinal paper at one of their conventions. It has also maintained relationships with our sister churches in Ukraine and Latvia.
Recently the Commission on Inter-Church Relations shifted the work of maintaining these relationships to our World Mission One Teams. The result in Europe is strong relationships growing even stronger. The Europe mission team now has stateside representatives who support and encourage our other sister churches in Europe, too—Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Albania, and Russia.
In addition, the Europe mission team is moving Missionary Luke Wolfgramm and his wife Jennifer to Leipzig, Germany. From here, Missionary Wolfgramm will be able to support and encourage all of our sister churches in Europe.
One of the ways he will do that is by partnering with the ELFK and its 100-year old seminary in Leipzig to provide seminary training throughout Europe. Missionary Wolfgramm will also partner with Sweden’s seminary to provide pastors with continuing education.
Ukraine provides another example of strong relationships growing stronger. Since war broke out, our stateside Europe team representative has been in almost daily contact with the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). In October, members of the ULC and ELFK came together to reach out to Ukrainian refugees.
Relationships have been growing stronger in other places as well. When the Wolfgramms were forced to leave Russia, they headed for Albania where Missionary Wolfgramm has been providing pastoral support and encouragement as well as seminary training. At the same time, he has been doing all he can to let our brothers and sisters in Russia know that we will support and encourage them in any way we can.
In Bulgaria, Pastoral Studies Institute professor Allen Sorum stays in regular contact with Pastor Iliyan Itsov as he reaches out to the Roma. He also joined Missionary Wolfgramm and ELFK seminary president Holger Weiss on a recent visit to our sister church in Latvia, where the three taught and encouraged the Latvian pastors and seminary students. Missionary Ben Foxen maintains contact with Pastor Petr Krakora in the Czech Republic, letting him know of our desire to support the Czech Ev. Lutheran Church and its Martin Luther School in their gospel work.
Then there is our brand-new London mission. We are excited to see how God will bless the gospel proclamation of Missionaries Michael Hartman and Conifer Berg as they bring the good news of Jesus Christ to this international city.
Working in partnership with our brothers and sisters in Christ across Europe, we pray for God’s blessing on each of our sister churches there and on our growing relationship with them.
Written by Rev. James Danell, Commission on Inter-Church Relations representative to the Europe mission team & Europe mission team representative to the ELFK
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