World Conference 2022: Theological Education and Liturgy in Culture

Archbishop Joseph Ochola Omolo of the ELCK preaches for the 2022 ILC World Conference during a visit to Neema Lutheran College.

KENYA – On the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2022, participants of the 2022 International Lutheran Council (ILC) World Conference took an excursion to Matongo to visit Neema Lutheran College, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) , the host church.

There they joined members of the seminary community for a matins service in Swahili. The service also included a Swahili anthem that conference attendees learned throughout the conference: “Yesu Wangu Simwachi.” A seminary student served as liturgist, while Archbishop ELCK Joseph Ochola Omolo preached on John 4, emphasizing what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. A Bible study on 1 Kings 8:22-30 followed, led by the Reverend Joseph Abuor, a PhD student from Kenya.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher (right), ILCAA Director of Accreditation and Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College.

Following this, the conference heard a report from the Rev. Dr. Steven Schumacher of the ILC International Accreditation Agency (ILCAA). The ILCAA is a new initiative of the ILC that “will strengthen Lutheran denominational theological education,” he explained. The program will ensure that participating seminaries and colleges all provide a strong theological education that is recognizable and transferable to other institutions for postgraduate study.

In addition to providing standards for an institution’s educational program, mission and integrity, the ILCAA will also provide standards for: governance, administration and finance; planning and review; faculty, education and personnel; student services; and resources.

Liturgy, theology and culture

Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo talks about theology, liturgy and culture.

The morning session continued with the third of four major presentations on the conference theme. Rev. Dr. Joseph Tom Omolo, Principal of Neema Lutheran College, gave a lecture titled “The Relationship Between Liturgy, Theology and Culture.”

Dr. Omolo argued that for Christian worship to be properly introduced into a given culture, it is necessary “to balance the local and universal natures of Christian liturgy, so that the primary meaning of liturgy is neither lost or communicated unintelligibly to the people. .” The key to finding this balance is careful fidelity to the doctrine underlying liturgical expression: “the content of worship”, he explained, must remain “consistent with the doctrine of the Church and the whole of the Christian narrative”.

“Meaningful worship is that in which Christ’s gift of life and salvation is offered to sinful man in clear and intelligible language so that people may experience this gift in a comprehensible way,” concluded Dr Omolo. But in pursuing such adaptation, he cautioned, “care must be taken that the liturgy remains Christian in heart and purpose, and continues to bear the hallmarks of the catholicity of the Church of Christ. To achieve this balance, inculturation must take seriously the complementary dynamic between liturgy and doctrine, so that the celebration of the liturgy in the different cultures takes place within the framework of the Christian language anchored in the biblical narrative.

ILC-Chile Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna (left) speaks about the new Spanish Lutheran hymn.

Following Principal Omolo’s presentation, Bishop Juan Pablo Lanterna of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile), also touched on the subject of liturgy and culture, giving a concrete example in the Spanish anthem recently published and produced in Latin America: Himnario Luterano. The anthem was first conceived by the Chilean Church 14 years ago, eventually becoming a joint project of ILC-Chile, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay (IELP) and the Church Evangelical Lutheran of Argentina (IELA).

The new anthem is “a contribution from mission field to mission field,” Bishop Lanterna said, “a contribution from Latin America to Latin America, and from confessional Lutherans to confessional Lutherans.”

Himnario Luterano.

Indeed, Bishop Lanterna continued, the new hymn can rightly be considered the third most important Lutheran denominational publication ever published in Spanish, preceded by the classic 1569 translation of the Bible by Casiodoro de Reina as well as the Spanish translation. of the Lutheran Confessions.

The hymn, which includes hundreds of classic and contemporary hymns as well as new services for Matins, Vespers and Compline, was greeted with joy by Spanish-speaking Lutherans. Asked about the impact the hymn will have, the missionaries who initiated the project were clear: “They responded unanimously,” Bishop Lanterna explained, that it will help Spanish-speaking Lutherans to “revalue and discover the theology Confessional Lutheran Liturgy”.

The morning session ended with lunch on the seminar grounds.

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Mathew Block is communications manager for the Lutheran Council International. He is also the editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine and previously served as Director of Communications for the Lutheran Church in Canada.

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