LITHUANIA – From August 8-11, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its World Seminary Conference at Palanga Lutheran Church in Palanga, Lithuania.
While not a member of the International Lutheran Council, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania (ELCL—a Lutheran World Federation church) had volunteered to host the ILC conference. More than 80 participants gathered for the conference, to discuss the theme “Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom as a Mark of the Church.” Lithuania was a fitting location for the event, said ELCL Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, given that Christians in Lithuania have faced frequent persecution over the past 400 years.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Rev. Dr. William Weinrich, Professor of Church History at Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne, Indiana). Dr. Weinrich focused on the stories of early church martyrs. He further noted that credible research estimates more than 100,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year, while others are displaced, have their houses of worship destroyed, are raped, or see their leaders abducted. In Western nations where the Church has historically been an integral part of society, a trend is emerging that increasingly marginalizes and restricts the ability of the faith community to bear mercy in the world.
Other speakers included Rev. Dr. Darius Petkunas who spoke on the persecution of Lithuanian Christians under the Marxist-Lenninist regimes of the 20th century; Rev. Bustamante who provided an exegetical reflection on the Cross as a Mark of the Church; Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. who provided a confessional dogmatic view of martyrdom and the cross; and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ochola Omolo who provided a practical perspective on how martyrdom affects theological education.
Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) representatives at the World Seminary Conference included President Tom Winger (Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary—CLTS—in St. Catharines, Ontario), Rev. Dr. Norm Threinen (Interim President, Concordia Lutheran Seminary—CLS—in Edmonton), Professor Jonathan Kraemer (CLS) and Professor John Stephenson (CLTS). Dr. Stephenson also served as a responder to Friday morning’s presentations by Dr. Weinrich and Dr. Petkunas, providing a reflection on the existential nature of suffering for the sake of Christ.
LCC President Robert Bugbee serves as Vice-Chairman of the ILC and was also present at the conference, as the Executive Committee met in session.
This was the ILC’s fifth triennial World Seminary Conference since they began in 2001. Previous conferences have been held in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, and the United States of America. The Executive Committee of the ILC has announced that Wittenberg, Germany will be the location for the 2016 World Seminaries Conference.
Compiled with reference to reports by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III, Executive Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. Dr. Collver’s full reports from the World Seminary Conference appeared at Witness, Mercy, Life Together (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).