Walking Side by Side in Christ

At a recent convention, the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil celebrated their shared history and solidified plans for future collaboration.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6–7).

Every day, the Rev. Alexandre Manoel da Costa shares the Good News on Perfect Love Street in Bauru, São Paolo, Brazil. Da Costa, who has been a pastor for 27 years in the Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, or IELB), preaches, teaches and gives God’s flock His gifts. He thanks The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) for sending missionaries to his country in 1900 — leading to the eventual formation of the IELB. Thanks to this work, he was able to hear about Jesus from a pastor evangelizing his indigenous tribe decades later.

“There are so many things to say,” Da Costa said on why he loves being a pastor, “but I will say only this: I want to [work] with the people who don’t know Jesus, like I did not know Him, that they come to know Jesus. … This church has given me Jesus, a wife, a family and a vocation.”

Da Costa was one of 528 pastors and 443 laypeople at the IELB’s 63rd National Convention, held in June in the coastal city of Gaurapari, in the state of Espírito Santo.

When he was merely 4 years old, the Rev. Airton Scheunemann Schroeder, IELB vice-president for mercy ministry, told his parents that he wanted to be a pastor when he grew up. He fondly remembers how pastors visited his grandmother when she was bedridden. He watched while they cared for her and showed her the love of Christ.

Schroeder helped lead the IELB’s convention, which looked familiar to anyone who has attended an LCMS convention. There were bylaws and discussion, presentations and elections. There was an opening service with a processional and a closing service with a recessional. The Word of God was preached, and sins were forgiven. Pastors gathered and reconnected years after their time together in seminary. Children played near their parents, who were seated for the proceedings. Days grew long as the shadows from the winter sun moved methodically through the convention hall between morning and night. When the convention ended on Sunday, the pastors returned to their congregations and cared for their flocks through Word and Sacrament, much like the pastors who served Schroeder’s grandmother.

A Step Forward

At this convention, the IELB and the LCMS signed two important documents. The first, signed by LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson and IELB President Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler, established working criteria for the IELB’s alliance missionaries who are serving alongside the LCMS. In close coordination with the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM), the Alliance Missionary project will provide called and ordained pastors from LCMS partner churches such as the IELB to support mission efforts under the supervision of the OIM. These men receive calls from their own church body and are sent as missionaries to another country, where they often serve alongside LCMS missionaries.

The brothers and sisters of the IELB and the LCMS are living in Christ. The spoken language may differ, but the two church bodies walk side by side in the same confession of faith in Christ. Both have resources to carry out the proclamation of the Gospel, and the unity in the faith is reflected in the mutual sharing of resources and gifts for the sake of the Gospel.

“No individual mission society can do what we holistically and creatively do as Synod — a sending agency with the capacity for such extensive planning, support and coordination,” said Robson. “The LCMS and her partners are uniquely positioned to carry out a complex program like this with a wide range of resources, all made possible by generous contributors who prayerfully want to see the church grow. What a great blessing to see the Alliance Missionary project blossom into reality, with the pure Gospel of Christ at its very foundation and center.”

The other document, signed between Schüler and Director of LCMS Church Relations Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, set forth detailed protocol for the exchange of pastors and seminary professors between church bodies. Shaw spoke on the significance of the document in an address to the convention. “I [sign] this very humbly with thanks to God for Christ’s sake,” he said. The two shook hands afterward and later exchanged gifts, reflecting the fellowship and ongoing partnership of the LCMS and the IELB.

“Just as the LCMS began to send pastors to Brazil as missionaries over 100 years ago,” Shaw said, “this working agreement will help IELB pastors come to the U.S., where they will especially serve [those of the] Portuguese-speaking diaspora from Brazil and around the world.”

‘Let Me Go Live with Jesus’

Schüler, who was re-elected as president at the convention, remembers when his dear father passed away in 2017 after 87 years of life, “and the last phrase he said in this world was ‘let me go live with Jesus.’ My father said this phrase which is an expression and confession of faith, and it is because confessional Lutheranism reached him. … Just as my father, hundreds and hundreds of people have fallen asleep in peace … because the LCMS was an instrument of God to bring this sweetness of the Gospel to Brazil.”

“Today, we are over 240,000 confessional Lutherans in Brazil who enjoy the peace and the comfort that our fathers have enjoyed,” Schüler continued. “And in addition to enjoying this peace, we can share it with our sons, grandsons and all our generations to come. In today’s partnership with the LCMS and the other churches in the world, we have the privilege to take the Gospel to people of other nationalities around the world, so that in other countries more people may rest in peace with the confidence that Jesus will be welcoming people into eternal life at the end just as it happened to my father.”

The recent convention was another opportunity to give thanks for the Synod’s brothers and sisters in Brazil, who are rooted in Christ and who walk together with the LCMS in the one confession of Christ. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1).

Hear greetings from IELB President Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler.

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Pray with Us

Eternal Father, You call people from every nation into the one mystical body of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We thank You for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and ask You to keep us with them in the confession of the one true faith. Be with all missionaries, that they might proclaim the saving Gospel and many might hear and believe by the power of Your Spirit. Guide President Rev. Geraldo Walmir Schüler and all those who lead the IELB, that they might know and do Your gracious will. Keep Your church in safety and peace until the day of resurrection. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Erik M. Lunsford 

Managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.

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