2017 is a special year for Lutherans around the world. 500 years ago Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. As part of the celebration, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), which consists of confessional Lutheran churches from around the world, met in Grimma, Germany, for its convention. Each church attending was represented by two voting representatives. They came from Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America.
Since its founding in 1993 (when it met in Oberwesel, Germany), the CELC has gathered every three years in countries such as Japan, Peru, and Sweden. Over those years, the conference has grown to 22 full member churches and 7 additional associate member churches, with a combined total of 450,000 members.
One of the highlights at this convention was three applications for associate membership. The convention welcomed these church bodies into the CELC: East Asia Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, and Southeast Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission.
Another highlight was the adoption of a confession entitled, “Ninety-Five Theses for the 21st Century.” The previous convention in Peru assigned Prof. Tom Nass (WELS) and Pres. John Moldstad (Evangelical Lutheran Synod) to draft of the new confession. After the confession was adopted at the conference, representatives of some of the churches were invited to read selected theses for a video presentation. This video, created by Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., will be available for viewing on Oct. 31, 2017. Portions were shared with the WELS convention this year.
Pastor Daniel Koelpin, outgoing CELC president, spoke of the importance of the group: “Lutheran churches are struggling around the world to keep their confession. Sometimes they think they are all alone in this struggle, and it is so essential for them to know that they are part of something that is far bigger than their respective churches. They leave their own country and meet with others who are going through the same struggles. They always go back edified and strengthened in their own struggles.”
The focus of the essays this year was our Reformation heritage as confessional Lutherans and its importance for us in the 21st century. The essays were supplemented by a showing of the Luther film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy. Delegates and visitors also had time to visit Wittenberg for a day and spend an afternoon where Katie von Bora was a nun before marrying Martin Luther.
The conference elected Prof. Gaylin Schmeling (ELS) as its new president. The next convention is scheduled for Seoul, Korea, in 2020. With gratitude, delegates enjoyed the hospitality of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany and look forward to the next convention.
John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.
Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.
An international connection
The women of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa decided to celebrate the Reformation by making chitenges (skirts) with a Reformation logo. Pastor Davison Mutenami from the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia arrived early to the CELC convention in Germany for preliminary meetings. He stayed with Pastor Andreas Drechsler and his family and brought Hanna Drechsler the Reformation 500 chitenge from Zambia, which she wore on the excursion to the Grimma convent ruins.
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Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017
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