By Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnas
“Ten years ago the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod entered into full pulpit and altar fellowship and this fellowship has already proved very fruitful in many areas of our church life,” stated Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis in a Vilnius meeting with Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, director of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) church relations and assistant to LCMS President Matthew Harrison who officially visited the Lithuanian church on behalf of President Harrison. Included also in the visit on December 3, 2011 was a seminar with Lithuanian and Belarusian pastors.
Bishop Sabutis put special emphasis on the important relationship of the Lithuania Church with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belarus. He noted that in the centuries immediately following the Reformation the Lutheran Church in Belarus was a part the Lithuanian Lutheran Church. The situation changed after the Russian Revolution when Lithuania became an independent nation and Belarus was swallowed up by the Soviet Union. During this period the Belarusian Church suffered greatly and only those congregations in Polish territory were able to survive until 1939, when western Belarus also fell under soviet domination. In 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union Belarusian congregations were reorganized and were administered by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS). For doctrinal reasons the Belarusian congregations found this arrangement to be unsatisfactory. They wanted an independent church with a strong commitment to the Lutheran confessions. They formed an independent Lutheran Church in Belarus. At the 2011 synod of the Lithuanian Church the Belarusian Church signed an agreement of collaboration with the Lithuanian Lutheran Church and put itself under the pastoral leadership of Bishop Sabutis, although by law the Belarusian Church must remain administratively independent.
Presentations at the seminar were given by Dr. Collver, who spoke on the trials and hardships faced by the Christian church through the ages and down to the present time, using 1 Corinthians as his model. Pastor Daniel Johnson of Marshalltown, Iowa spoke on the liturgy and its relation to catechesis in Lutheran congregations. Also participating were Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, newly appointed Director of Theological Education for LCMS International Mission and Dr. Charles Evanson, newly appointed LCMS Theological Education Advisor in the Baltic States. Dr. Evanson is already well acquainted with church life in the Baltic Churches. He has held numerous pastoral seminars in both Lithuania and Latvia and for several years served on the Faculty for Evangelical Theology at the University of Klaipeda, Lithuania, and at the Luther Academy in Riga, Latvia.
Pastor Wladimir Meyerson of Bobruijsk, acting bishop of the Belarusian Lutheran Church, and Pastor Sergej Heil of Lida spoke of the current situation in the Belarusian parishes and the church’s theological education needs. Pastor Meyerson noted that although the Belarusian Church has only 11 congregations and 3,000 members, it is a vibrant and growing church, anxious to remain firm in its scriptural and confessional commitment. He stated that the Belarusian Lutheran Church has been officially recognized by the Belarusian government, and that the state recognizes the historic role of Lutheranism in Belarus and is supportive of the church’s work. Pastor Heil spoke about the educational needs of the clergy and congregations and the need for the adoption of a common liturgy based upon the old liturgical tradition as found in the 1897 St. Petersburg Agenda. Linguistic and other necessary corrections are currently under consideration in preparation for the publication of a new worship book, he stated.
After the seminar Bishop Sabutis and Lithuanian and Belarusian pastors met together with Dr. Collver to discuss the needs and concerns of the churches and the implementation of assistance programs. Dr. Collver assured both churches of the commitment of the LCMS to provide educational and other support for their ongoing ministries.
- Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations using BlogPress from my iPhone