From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Russia: Partnerships with Churches Abroad, New Constitution

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Wed, 07 Apr 2004 10:34:00 -0500

Russia: Partnerships with Churches Abroad, New Constitution Focus of Regional
Bishop Springer: External Relations Important but Each Church Must Determine
Its Own Way

KALININGRAD, Russia/GENEVA, 7 April 2004 (LWI) * Partnerships with churches
abroad and the need for a new constitution for the Evangelical Lutheran
Church of European Russia (ELCER) formed the main discussions at the recent
synod of the church.

"We need partners. But just as we cannot tell our partners which way their
church should go, neither can our partners determine the way for our church,"
ELCER Bishop Siegfried Springer said in his report to the church's eleventh
synod. He spoke of the need to also adopt new structures for the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS), as its establishment in
1988 was within the territory of one unified state. The ELCER is an
autonomous regional member church of ELCROS.

Springer underlined the importance of partnerships but pointed out that each
church must determine its own way. Reiner Rinne, EKD theological secretary
for eastern and south eastern Europe, assured the ELCROS member churches of
continuing financial assistance, but noted subsidies could not be increased
because of the current economic situation in Germany. The February 3-5 synod
was attended by 126 delegates and representatives of partner churches and
agencies in Germany and the United States of America.

Eva Mader, representing the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, gave an account of the experiences gained in
partnership relations between American and Russian congregations. "We have
the same faith and similar weaknesses," she noted.

Alexander Pastor, president of the ELCROS general synod, spoke of the
missionary role of the church and its uniqueness in Russian society. "We are
a bridge linking Russia and Europe, thus the ELCROS should remain open to all
ecumenical contacts," he said.

Another focus in the discussions was the question of baptizing children whose
parents were not ELCER members. This issue reflects the special situation of
the Russian Lutheran church as a minority church. Around 80 percent of the
Russian population is Orthodox Christian.

The synod closing service, conducted jointly by Sailer, Springer and ELCROS
Archbishop Prof. D. Georg Kretschmar, was also an occasion to commemorate the
1924 general synod and the Stalinist persecution in the former Soviet Union.
During the persecution several church members and employees, including
pastors of Lutheran and other churches and religious groups, were sentenced
to lengthy imprisonment or executed. Some 200 Lutheran pastors alone died
because of their faith and ministry.

"The Calling to Ordained Ministry in the Lutheran Church," was the theme of a
pastors' conference prior to the synod. It dealt with questions of exegesis,
history of theology and practical theology. 

The ELCER has 175 congregations and parish groups that make up 12 districts.
Its headquarters are in Moscow, but one third of the members live and work in
Kaliningrad, its largest district with 42 congregations. Springer has been
head of the church since 1992. (492 words)

[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member
churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million of the almost 66 million
Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas
of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology,
humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service. 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
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(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
*    *	   *

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