Meet the World’s Confessional Lutherans

Meet the World’s Confessional Lutherans November 9, 2021

A long-time reader of this blog, Roger James, a pastor and missionary whome I met in person some years ago, wrote me recently saying that he now serves with the International Lutheran Council (ILC).  He is the Assistant to the Secretary General, an office held by Dr. Timothy Quill, whom some of you will know as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Roger noted some of my references to global Lutheranism and the ILC and said that he has been surprised that his organization and its work are not better known among American Lutherans.

One current project is sponsoring a lecture tour by Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, whom I have blogged about (here and here and here) for his being criminally charged for teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality.  Here is the schedule of his American appearances:

  • November 10, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Washington, D.C at the office of the Alliance Defending Freedom
  • November 13, 2021 (9:30 a.m.) in Fort Wayne, Indiana at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • November 16, 2021 (10:00 a.m.) in Boston, Massachusetts at First Lutheran Church

Note that his lecture in Washington, D.C., is tomorrow.  If you are in the neighborhood, I urge you to attend.  Because space is limited, those who would like to attend are asked to register here.  (At that site you can also find more information, including the address and a description of the lecture.)

The Fort Wayne lecture will be live-streamed and available for later viewing here.  then be available at our website for view (

The ILC describes itself like this:

The International Lutheran Council is a growing worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God.

The by-laws state the doctrinal commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the “inspired and infallible Word of God” and “the source and norm of doctrine and practice,” and that the confessions of faith in the Book of Concord “are true statements that accord with the Word of God.”  The ILC also gets specific about the moral issues that are in contention today, as well as issues of ministry such as the ordination of women:

D. Other Matters of Doctrine and Practice. The Holy Scriptures not only guide doctrine but the life and morals of the Church. The Holy Scriptures and the Decalogue are binding upon the life of the Christian. As a result, the following matters are here explicitly defined as true and binding:

1. Ethics and Morality

a. Human Life. The command not to murder applies to any type of deliberate harming of innocent human life, including abortion and euthanasia.

b. Marriage and Sexuality. Marriage was created by God as the life-long union of a man and a woman for their mutual help and joy and for the procreation and nurturing of children. A man and a woman enter into marriage by the public promise to live faithfully together until death. Conjugal relations are intended only for marriage.

2. Church Fellowship and Ministry

a. Fellowship, Unionism, and Syncretism. [Saying that while all Christians should work together when possible, altar and pulpit fellowship must be based on a common confession.  (Rev. James told me that the various member churches are not necessarily in fellowship with each other.)

b. Office of the Ministry. Though all Christians—men and women—are redeemed and able to serve the Church in many ways, Holy Scripture requires that only men who are spiritually qualified in life and doctrine are to be called and ordained as pastors to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.

The ILC consists of sixty church bodies that affirm these commitments, with over 7 million members.  These include 22 in Africa (including Nigeria, Kenya, Madagascar, and Tanzania); 10 in Asia (including India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Taiwan); 12 in Europe (including England, Scandinavia, the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Germany, and two historic church bodies in Russia, one associated with the Ingrian ethnic group and one in Siberia, where ethnic Germans were exiled by Stalin); 11 in Latin America (including Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil); and 5 in North America (including Haiti, the Lutheran Church of Canada, and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).

Recently the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia voted nearly unanimously to join the ILC.  The largest church body in that Baltic republic, with over 700,000 members, experienced a dramatic revival–despite decades of persecution during the Soviet occupation–and has moved decisively to Lutheran orthodoxy, to the point of reversing its former practice of ordaining women.

The ILC is not the only global association of conservative Lutherans.  There is also the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), which consists of 34 church bodies aligned with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, with their stricter fellowship rules.

American confessional Lutherans may feel beleaguered at times, but they should realize that they have Biblically-faithful counterparts all around the world.


Photo:  LCMS president Matthew Harrison praying before preaching at the 2018 ILC Conference in Antwerp, Belgium.  Used by permission of the ILC.

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