From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Concern about New Lutheran Church in Siberia

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Mon, 03 Dec 2001 09:42:53 -0600

Differences Within Church Should Not Lead to Separation

OMSK, Russia/GENEVA, 2 December 2001 (LWI) - "Our churches are truly
threatened by conflict and lust for power, by doubt and unbelief, by
indifference and secularization," Bishop Volker E. Sailer of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East
said in his report to church's 10th synod in late October.

Sailer told the 80-member synod that the church's congregations were
faced with numerous problems including decreasing membership due to
emigration or death of individuals, a time of revival and new
beginnings. He admitted there were great differences within the
church, but urged an approach that avoids unnecessary separation from
one another.

Sailer expressed concern about the planned founding of another
Lutheran church in Siberia. The name foreseen for the new church,
"Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Urals, Siberia and the Far East"
entails a risk of confusing it with the already existing Evangelical
Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East. "Everyone
can attend the congregation and belong to the church of their choice,
but one mustn't confuse us and shouldn't discriminate against us,"
the bishop emphasized.

Another problem the church is faced with is finding staff. This
concerns not only pastors but also preachers and deacons.

On relations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other
States (ELCROS) to which his church belongs, Sailer emphasized that
ELCROS was not seen in a positive way everywhere but there are
efforts to improve the situation.

For Sailer, the foundation of a Bible college is decisive for the
ministry in church and society. "We need to train, prepare and
commission capable people as quickly as we can." On the one hand,
preachers, deacons, youth workers and evangelists are to be trained
in a full-time course. On the other, seminars and continuing
education classes are planned for the regions. It is clear, according
to Sailer, that not all congregations can expect to have a pastor.
Furthermore, he does not see a Bible college in contrast but rather
as complementary to ELCROS' theological training in Novosaratovka.

In his report on the overall situation of the church, ELCROS
Archbishop, Georg D. Kretschmar, reminded the synod that 2001 was a
year of remembrance and anniversaries. Sixty years ago, persecution
and deportation of Lutheran Christians began in the former Soviet
Union, and there have been congregations again in Moscow, Kaliningrad
and other places for ten years now. The archbishop stressed that his
church, with some 250,000 people, needs a vision for the future that
leaves space for very different developments.

In view of the disputes among the Lutheran churches in Siberia,
Kretschmar stated that before "the face of God" it "does not matter
in the least" if the members of the congregations belonged "to
ELCROS, to the Ingrian church or to the newly founded church in
Novosibirsk." "If you belong to the church of Jesus Christ as
believing and faithful Christians, then God considers his work
advancing. Then there will also be no conflict between the Lutheran
congregations and hopefully neither among Christians," he emphasized.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia, and the Far
East has its headquarters in Omsk, and consists of four regions and
some 200 congregations. It is a regional church of ELCROS, which has
been a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) since 1989.

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 133
member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5 million of the
64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its
member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical
relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights,
communication, and the various aspects of mission and development
work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted, material
presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of
its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the
notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with

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