International confessional Lutherans mark continued relationship
In early June the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) celebrated
the 15th anniversary of its formation at an international meeting in Kiev,
Ukraine. In the United States, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)
and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) are members of CELC.
The CELC is comprised of 20 Lutheran church bodies that “enjoy a special bond
of fellowship, united in their doctrine and in their commitment to the Scriptures
and the Lutheran Confessions,” says Mark Shroeder, president of WELS. “The
meeting of the CELC, which takes place every three years, is intended to
strengthen those bonds of Christian fellowship and to provide mutual
encouragement to member churches.”
According to Shroeder, the CELC is comprised of church bodies that have varied
histories and origins. Those in Sweden, Norway, and Finland were formed as
confessional Lutherans departed from liberal state churches. The churches in
Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Latvia came into being as confessional
Lutherans struggled to hold on to their faith during decades of Communist
oppression. Still other church bodies, such as those in Africa, Asia, South
America, Central America, and the Caribbean, were formed as WELS and ELS
missions became mature and independent church bodies.
Although these church bodies are all relatively small in size, and many struggle
in the face of local opposition and a scarcity of resources, “they are vitally
important because…they are reminders that we are part of a worldwide
community of people who are faithful to the Scriptures,” Shroeder says.
First founded in 1993 with 13 confessional Lutheran national churches, the
Conference has grown to 20 churches. The CELC is the successor to the
Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, with a change in
scope to include bodies outside of North America. It holds plenary sessions
internationally every three years.