Every three years, pastors and leaders from around the world, representing two dozen Lutheran church bodies in fellowship with WELS, gather for a meeting of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the most recent convention was held in historic Grimma, Germany (near Leipzig and Wittenberg), from June 29 through July 2. The convention was hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) of Germany. Participants gathered in the Gymnasium St. Augustine, a school founded in a former monastery in 1550 to train scholars for the Lutheran church as well as for government service.
The participants heard essays highlighting the Lutheran Reformation, the Reformed Reformation, the Radical Reformation, and the Catholic Reformation, written by pastors Holger Weiss, Samuel Choi, Julio Ascarrunz, and Dr. Timothy Schmeling, respectively. Highlights of the convention included requests for membership from three additional church bodies in Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and east Asia.
The convention approved the “Ninety-five Theses for the Twenty-First Century,” a new document prepared to clearly state the basics of the Christian faith for use in congregations and for outreach. The convention also had the opportunity to view the new film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy.
A closing communion service was held in the Augustinian church next to the school. The walls of this famous structure, in which Martin Luther frequently preached during his travels, echoed with the sound of the congregation singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and many other Reformation-era hymns. Convention participants and guests, as well as many members of the ELFK, celebrated their bond of fellowship as they heard the Word of God preached and received the body and blood of their Savior in the Lord’s Supper. Following the service, the ELFK served a meal for everyone as participants slowly said farewell to each other.
Along with a number of other WELS representatives, I had the privilege of attending this meeting. One of the purposes of the meeting is to provide encouragement to smaller confessional churches around the world as they face unique challenges in their cultures. But, as always, it was the WELS representatives who came away encouraged. We marveled at the firm commitment and the faithful witness of our fellow Lutherans around the world, and we joined in thanking God for the continuing spread of his saving message.
The next CELC convention is scheduled for 2020 in Seoul, Korea. Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
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