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Our beloved family… in Australia and around the world!

October 24, 2012 No Comment

President Robert Bugbee (left) poses with President Michael Semmler of the Lutheran Church of Australia at the ILC conference in Niagara Falls, September 2012.

by Robert Bugbee

It helps me to think of our synod as a family. It’s a long way from Dartmouth in the east to Port Alberni in the west, a long way from Kingsville in the south to places like LaRonge and the Peace River district in the north. That could easily make the old saying come true, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Most of us don’t see most of the rest of us very often. There are long stretches between conventions.

Even then, few of our people can come in person. So, just as parents stay close to a daughter or son who left for the military or moved halfway across the country, I try through my intercessory prayers to get my arms around our family and to hold you all close. I also know I’m not the only one in the synod who does this.

We have an extended family, too. Some of its wonderful members came to visit in September. For the first time ever, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held its World Conference in Canada. Most of the presidents (or bishops) of its 34 member churches came to Niagara Falls for that “family reunion.”

Like many extended families, our members appear in all shapes and sizes. There are big ones (like the Missouri Synod) and tiny ones (like our partners in Portugal); growing ones (as in Brazil), and those struggling in places very resistant to the Gospel (such as western Europe). Some endured terrible repression in years past (like the Ingrian Church of Russia); others spoke of earthquakes (Chile) and tsunamis (Japan) since the last family reunion three years ago. The dining hall in Niagara Falls echoed with conversations in English, Spanish, German, French, and Chinese.

This reunion did me good. It made clear that we Canadians have something to give our family members around the world. They also—even the small and modest ones—have something to offer us, too, treasures like patience, endurance, and the courage to be bold for Christ in a way that can make us want to grow in that area. Despite barriers of distance, language, and customs, the ILC is a heartwarming, loving family. It’s such a joy to see one another. It’s an emotional experience to say goodbye when the meetings come to an end.

After Niagara Falls, I jetted out to Surrey near Vancouver, because other loved ones were coming to call. National and district presidents from the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) spent a workweek meeting with our own Lutheran Church–Canada Council of Presidents. We have very unique and close ties with the Australians; in fact, LCC is the only church in the world that enjoys a formal confessional relationship with the LCA.

We have so much that draws us together: a relatively small membership spread over a vast land mass, societies that are “post-Christian” in that many people in both countries seem to have cast Christ’s Gospel aside, the challenge of trying to help aboriginal people, and a strong desire to do mission work among new ethnic groups within our own lands, as well as to expand our mission efforts abroad.

Family reunions always reveal that other family members don’t see everything precisely as I do. Perhaps they even display shortcomings, as I surely display some of mine for them to see. But we are family, not because we decided to create a touchy-feely connection to each other, but because Christ died and was raised as the Saviour of us all, and because Christ has united us in a shared confession rooted in the infallible Holy Scriptures, the Word of God written (Ephesians 2:11-22 and 1 Corinthians 1:10 would be good to ponder here).

My predecessors, Edwin Lehman and Ralph Mayan, worked very hard to deepen our ties, both to the ILC and to the Lutheran Church of Australia. Both served as chairmen of the ILC for many years; both traveled repeatedly to Australia to stay close to our extended family in that particular country. I am deeply committed to carrying forward what they started so well.

When you’re at home and in your local congregation, it’s very natural to pray for the issues that touch the families and friends you see in person, or the challenges faced by your congregation and its neighbourhood. Keep at it! But I ask you also to think sometimes about the faraway extended family we have, begging the Lord to meet their needs and helping our eyes to see when He is opening a door for us to be in touch with them or to encourage them in some way.

You can get to know these loved ones of ours online too, so I’m providing their website addresses in the hope you might do some “visiting” very soon!

Visit the International Lutheran Council at www.ilc-online.org. Visit the Lutheran Church of Australia at www.lca.org.au.


Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee is President of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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