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LCC active this fall in Ukraine; Canadians involved at Convention and Seminary

December 19, 2017 No Comment

Delegates to the recent SELCU Convention in the chapel of Concordia Seminary, Usatovo. Dr. Wilhelm Torgerson is pictured in the front row, right; beside him stands SELCU Bishop Alexander Yurchenko.

ODESSA, Ukraine – The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) has once again welcomed the active involvement of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) this fall, both at its Convention and in the ongoing teaching ministry of its seminary.

The annual Synod convention met November 21-22, 2017 at Concordia Seminary in Usatovo, a northwest suburb of Odessa. Because of the illness of Bishop Alexander “Sasha” Yurchenko, the Synodical vice-president, Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko, preached at the opening service and presided over business sessions.

In addition to customary reports from the Bishop, Treasurer, and Theological Commission, representatives of each congregation reported in detail about local activities in the past year. The Convention also finalized a 2018 Synodical calendar, listing events and outreach projects they hope to carry out in the coming year. A number of these proposals were forwarded to the LCC mission office in the hope that Canadian mission partners are moved to support them.

One challenging issue is the plight of SELCU’s member congregations on the Crimean peninsula, a region forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014. Some of them experience difficulty being registered as religious organizations recognized by Russian government authorities because of their ties to a church body in Ukraine. In addition, the Convention grappled with supplying preaching stations near the city of Nikolayev, where there is openness to the Gospel but currently no SELCU pastor available to be sent.

Another pressing concern was the lack of suitable worship space for congregations in Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa. The Dnepropetrovsk congregation was able to locate a place to purchase, but the situation in Odessa is more challenging since the SELCU congregation last summer was made to leave its former rented space in the parish house of St. Paul’s Cathedral (DELKU) downtown. Currently the SELCU congregation meets in an apartment in central Odessa, which is too cramped to accommodate its worshiping congregation on Sundays.

LCC President Robert Bugbee sent greetings to the Convention through Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Torgerson, who participated on his behalf. Dr. Torgerson’s attendance coincided with the upcoming courses he was preparing to teach at Concordia Seminary, which will run almost to Christmas. Dr. Torgerson had reported to the Convention his challenges in finding LCC pastors able to travel to Ukraine and teach the various courses needed. In recent years, occasional help came from LCMS pastors and also from the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), with which LCC recently declared full fellowship. In a few cases, qualified SELCU clergy have assisted with the teaching. There have, however, been occasions over the past two academic years when teaching was temporarily suspended until the next contingent of instructors was available.

The Convention concluded with a Reformation-season teaching seminar provided by its former Bishop, Dr. Viktor Gräfenstein, under the theme, “We should fear and love God…”

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