Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Swede for Latvia!

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) consecrated a priest barred from ordination in Sweden to be bishop.  The Reverend Hans Jönsson, 48, was consecrated Saturday (August 6) at the cathedral in Riga to serve as bishop of Liepaja Diocese in southwestern Latvia. Bishop Jönsson graduated from Lund University in Sweden but was denied ordination in the Church of Sweden. He was, however, certified as qualified for ordination by the Church Coalition for The Bible and Confessions, an umbrella organization encompassing several Swedish Confessional Lutheran movements that was founded in 1958 at the initiative of Bishop Bo Giertz to defend traditional Lutheran faith in the Church of Sweden. The Coalition was originally formed by those who rejected women’s ordination as contradicting Scripture and tradition.
Since the founding of the Swedish Mission Province in 2003, approximately 40 men have been ordained in Sweden and in the Mission Dioceses in Finland and Norway who would otherwise have been excluded because they believe the Holy Scriptures limit the pastoral office to men.  The ELCL has a close historical relationship to the Church of Sweden. Unlike the Church of Sweden, however, the Latvian church has remained faithful to Confessional Lutheran theology.  Rev. Jönsson was elected June 3 to replace the retiring Bishop of Liepaja. The diocese consists of 124 congregations served by 40 pastors.

Archbishop Janis Vanags conducted the consecration, which was broadcast in its entirety by Latvian national television. Abp Vanags was assisted by Latvia’s bishops as well as Bishop Tiits Salumäe of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), who is Chairman of the International Lutheran Council. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was represented by Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President. Provisional Bishop Torkild Masvie of The Lutheran Church in Norway also participated in the service. Representatives also attended from the Nordic Mission Dioceses, as well as the Swedish Luther Foundation and other Confessional Lutheran movements.

With nearly 300 congregations, the ELCL is the nation’s largest church. It is in fellowship with the LCMS and also has close ties to the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany. In June, the ELCL amended its constitution to reverse a policy imposed during the Soviet domination that opened ordained ministry to women (although no women had been ordained since shortly after Latvia’s liberation).

My Comments:

Missouri has enjoyed a very close relationship with the Lutheran Church in Latvia and it has been a catalyst for the confessional Lutherans in the entire region who seek to be faithful to Scripture and the Confessions in the face of changing culture and churches that merely reflect back wherever culture goes and whatever it values.  We should commend all involved and in particular rejoice with them at this consecration.  Further, it proves again that the key to confessional identity lies not in some democratized church structure nor in an episcopal structure alone but where the faithful remain steadfast and immovable in their confession.  I am hopeful, however, that occasions such as this will wear down Missouri's instinctive resistance to anything episcopal -- be it office or function -- and remember that Lutherans were not always so opposed to bishops as they have been in Missouri's history.  The stand of the Lutherans in Latvia was certainly enhanced by the ability of the episcopal structure there and a good man in the form of Archbishop Vanags.


Chris said...

THe LCMS will never welcome back an episcopacy because they are mired in the filth that is democracy. And look what that has wrought. Confessionalism may be making a comeback now but that is not BECAUSE of the democratic structure but rather in spite of it. Bishops are people too and flawed and sinners, but when you give the masses the right to decide what should be the Church's doctrine and praxis, you reap what you sow.

Carl Vehse said...

Carl Mundinger (Government of the Missouri Synod, CPH, 1947) spends most of Chapter 7 refuting the fairy tale notion, apparently foisted on many Lutherans and still being hawked, ignorantly or deceitfully, on Lutheran blogs today, that American political democracy influenced Missouri Synod polity. Mundinger states:

“Any democratic political theories which the founders of the Missouri Synod might have entertained, they did not get from America, but from the same source from which they derived their theory and church polity, viz., from the writings of Martin Luther. Walther’s political democracy was not that of John Locke nor of Jean Jacques Rousseau.”

Even C.F.W. Walther had to contend against such attacks, as when Wilhelm Loehe in 1849 described the new Synod’s polity as “American mob rule” ("amerikanische Poebelherrschaft"). Walther quotes (The Congregation’s Right to Choose a Pastor, Fred Kramer, trans., Concordia Seminary Publications, 1997, pp. 57-8) from the Evangelienharmonie of Chemnitz, Leyser, and Gerhard describing a congregational polity in which the congregation calls a pastor. Walther then notes:

"If we had been the first to write this, our opponents would cry murder against us. They would exclaim: There you see how the Missourians introduce their American democratic ideas into the church’s doctrine. However it is well known that neither Chemnitz, nor Leyser, nor Gerhard were Americans or democrats."

The Loeheist-style denigration of and false teaching about Missouri Synod polity, even in its seminaries, bears some culpability for the lackadaisical behavior of pastors in teaching their congregations about Lutheran doctrine of church and ministry. As a result, we get from the graduates of one LCMS seminary a push for CGM-everyone-is-a-minister polity, and of the other seminary, a continuing thrill-running-up-the-leg longing for a Papish-Stephanite episcopist polity.

Kirk Skeptic said...

Who said what when is irrelevant, unless we're willing to say that the only popes and councils which can't err are ours. The bottom line is that we have Amrican mob rule in our synod while episcopacy has done no good for xxxA. Since the early church was presbyterial in polity - as even some papists have begun to concede - there remains for us a third alternative. Then again, it does the PCUSA no good; then again, anyone hwo thinks that polity will halt the effects fo the Fall is smoking dope.

Ted Badje said...

The Fall notwithstanding, I believe there should be some cooperation between presidents, pastors, and congregations. I am not thrilled with the RC model where the bishops say you have to say the Creed another way, and tough if you want to say it the old way.

Carl Vehse said...

Kirk Skeptic: "The bottom line is that we have Amrican mob rule in our synod"

It's the irony, if not hypocrisy, that stands out.

For the past 15 years, the LCMS has been in A&P fellowship with a church body whose official position, until June 3, allowed pastrixes.

In 2014 the LCMS President declared A&P fellowship with a church body that both sides admit holds only a qualified subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580.

In 2016, the LCMS convention delegates approved that declaration at the same time they approved a CTCR document which states: "Lutheran mission is defined by an unqualified (quia) subscription to The Book of Concord as the correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures."

Kirk Skeptic said...

@TB: cooperation needs more than mere moral suasion or old school ties, but higher (vs our broader) courts with real authority. Whatever the originators of our polity thought, I have a hard time believing that they had our status quo in mind...oh, that law of unintended consequences...

William Tighe said...

"For the past 15 years, the LCMS has been in A&P fellowship with a church body (1) whose official position, until June 3, allowed pastrixes."

Why not also say, "For the past 15 years, the LCMS has been in A&P fellowship with a church body (2) which is a full member church of the 'Porvoo Communion,' although unline any other constituent member of that so-called 'communion' it does nor allow pastrices (3)."?


1. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.

2. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania.

2. "Pastrix," neo-Latin, plural "pstrices."