The European Lutheran Conference came and went just over three weeks ago.
What is the European Lutheran Conference? Here is the material in the Brief History given out at each meeting. (The emphases are in the original.)
After the Second World War, the confessional Evangelical Lutheran Churches begun to meet regularly as what they called “Mission Conferences”. In 1986 they took the title “European Lutheran Conference”. In 1988 they gave worked out a first formal structure, structure which soon appeared as not being satisfying. So they adopted in 1999 the present “Guiding Principles”. The purpose of these conferences is described as following: “The European Lutheran Conference (ELC) is the association of Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Europe which are in church fellowship.” (Preamble) “The member churches hold the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the infallible word of God and recognise the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, as contained in The Book of Concord of 1580 as the correct and binding exposition of these Scriptures.” (Article 1: Confession). “The European Lutheran Conference promotes unity, fellowship and co-operation between the member churches. It does this through sharing in detailed studies in the areas of theology and evangelism. It also supports the efforts of church members to establish church fellowship with those European Lutheran churches which are not yet members. Declaration of church fellowship is the responsibility of individual churches.” (Article 2: Aims and Duties)
Essentially it is a gathering of churches – members of the ELC and guests to the ELC – who talk about a topic and try and find practical points to learn from each other to help us in our mission. The members are currently the ELCE – which has participated from the beginning as the first meeting was in Ruislip and the first president was Dr E George Pearce – Germany (SELK), Belgium (ELKB), France (EELSF), Denmark (ELKKiDk), and Portugal (IELP). At this recent conference the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese in Norway was accepted as a member. Guests at this year’s conference came from Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia, and Ethiopia (via Scotland … and that’s another story!).
Thus year’s theme was ‘Good News in a Fake News World’ where we heard and discussed three presentations and visited the British Museum for a Bible history tour. There is so much to cover and we did talk a lot about … the historicity of the resurrection and the Bible; how to read the ‘last’ books of the New Testament (Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 & 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) in terms of persevering in the faith particularly in the face of opposition; and how we might share the Good News in a world saturated with all sorts of news – and maybe even tired of so much news.
I like this Conference particularly because we get to hear how other churches – many are smaller (yes!) than the ELCE – live the Gospel in their contexts. There is so much to learn. A statement from the Conference to the Churches will be available soon. There will be an article in The British Lutheran. And if you have an opportunity to be the ELCE Lay Delegate by all means say ‘yes’ (the next ELC is probably in Denmark, 2020) … you’ll have an interesting, worthwhile and yes, even fun(!) time. GS