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President Bugbee attends German National Pastors’ Conference

July 29, 2013 No Comment
President Robert Bugbee addresses SELK's Gernal Pastoral Conference.

President Robert Bugbee addresses SELK’s Gernal Pastoral Conference.

BERLIN, Germany – The General Pastoral Conference of the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) of Germany met June 17-21, 2013, at St. John’s Institute Retreat Centre in the Berlin borough of Spandau. President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada was among the international guests who attended.

“The SELK’s pastoral conferences function somewhat differently from the ones we have in Canada,” President Bugbee explained. “Because of Germany’s small land area compared to ours, they are able to have this national conference every four years, whereas we can only do it very infrequently. Their synod is on a four-year convention cycle, and this national gathering of all pastors happens midway between the synod conventions.”

President Bugbee continued: “The pastors react to the kinds of specific proposals which may end up on the convention agenda. Their church convention would not take up major theological changes without 2/3 approval from this pastoral conference. From what I could observe, the pastors spend much more time in biblical and theological discussion than we customarily do in Canada as they grapple with ‘hot topics’ (among others) and wrestle toward consensus.”

The question of the ordination of women has been a disputed one in the SELK for a number of years. Any move to introduce women’s ordination would require strong agreement from within the pastoral conference. In recent years, some proponents of the change suggested that this is not really a doctrinal question so much as it would be a structural shift; a mere bylaw change would not require the usual high level of consensus from the clergy of the church. However, the Berlin conference in June affirmed that such a change would amount to a doctrinal question, so that the 2/3 threshold would have to be achieved within the current ministerium for any proposal to be considered by their synod convention.

Bugbee-Schoene

President Bugbee greets Dr. Jobst Schöne.

President Bugbee addressed the gathering with a word of greeting, and took the opportunity to sketch out the development of LCC, its structure, international mission program, and ministry challenges in modern-day Canada. “Berlin’s hot weather during that conference—36 Celsius temperatures!—was matched by the warm, brotherly reception I got from our partner church,” he noted. “On a personal level, I re-connected with a great many of my old fellow students from seminary days.” (President Bugbee attended the SELK’s Oberursel Seminary for a year in 1978-79.) The president also conveyed to the pastors his excitement that SELK’s retired Bishop, Dr. Jobst Schöne of Berlin, will travel to Calgary in late October to serve as primary presenter for LCC’s own upcoming national pastors’ and deacons’ conference.

The conference received encouraging news from pastors reporting progress in outreach to Muslims, especially in Leipzig, Braunschweig, and Berlin-Zehlendorf. Numerous Iranians have embraced the Gospel in those communities, despite the personal difficulties it causes them with relatives and longtime friends.

Following the conference, President Bugbee spent several days with SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt and his family near the synod’s headquarters in Hannover. The president preached at the morning service the following Sunday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church there before returning to Canada.

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