Representatives of the Nordic confessional Lutheran dioceses and of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 20 January 2016 to discuss future opportunities for co-operation.
The Nordic dioceses were represented by Bishops Risto Soramies (The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland), Roland Gustafsson, Göran Beijer and Lars Artman (The Mission Province in Sweden) and Thor Henrik With (The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway), together with Dean Juhana Pohjola (Mission Diocese), General Secretary Bengt Birgersson and Bishop’s Assistant Jakob Okkels (Mission Province).
The sister dioceses were holding their biannual bishops’ meeting in Gothenburg 19–21 January. Simultaneously, the executive committee of the ILC were meeting in Gothenburg, and a joint negotiation between the two groups was arranged.
The ILC brings together confessional Lutheran churches around the Globe. Its member churches confess the biblical Lutheran faith without reservations and they are thus often minorities amongst secularised churches. The ILC encourages its members to stay true to the confession. Many of its members are young and small churches that have been born as the fruit of mission. The biggest member church, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, has 2.1 million members. Altogether the ILC member churches comprise ca. 3.5 million people on six continents.
Bishop Risto Soramies of the Mission Diocese views the increasingly close contact between the Nordic sister dioceses and the ILC as natural.
– The ILC and the Nordic dioceses have already been in contact for quite some time, and it has gradually started to look meaningful for the dioceses to apply for ILC membership, Bishop Soramies states.
– The diocese are self-determining and ultimately independent of each other but have been born under similar circumstances and in many ways in contact with each other. We therefore found it useful to negotiate ILC membership together. Each Diocese will of course decide to proceed according to their own statutes and procedures, but our intention is to become members simultaneously, Soramies summarises.
The negotiations in Gothenburg clarified the situation on both sides. The Nordic mission dioceses have been born on old Lutheran territory and represent a long Lutheran tradition, whereas most of the other member churches in the ILC are new beginnings of Lutheranism in the world.
– The Nordic dioceses got a clear idea of the character and activity of the ILC and what it requires of its members. The ILC executive committee understood many things about our dioceses, Bishop Soramies reports.
‘Mission’ is written in the very name of the Mission Diocese. Domestic and foreign mission cannot be separated from each other. By applying for ILC membership, the Mission Diocese seeks to become part of a community that reaches people all around the world with the pure Word and with the Sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution.
– Christendom and the whole world need biblical preaching and teaching. The Means of Grace given by God must be taken to all peoples, just as Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” Bishop Soramies concludes.
The article was first published in Finnish in the Pyhäkön Lamppu magazine 1/2016 of the Luther Foundation Finland, a supporting organisation of the Mission Diocese.
The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland is an independent confessional Lutheran body founded in 2013 that comprises 32 congregations with ca. 1,800 members nationwide (February 2016), in addition to many more non-members in attendance. You may read more about the identity and confession of the Mission Diocese in English here and access our news archive here.