Walking Together Around the World
Learn about the five church bodies that will be brought before the Synod in convention in 2023.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is in altar and pulpit fellowship with nearly 40 church bodies around the world. At the 2023 LCMS convention, delegates will be asked to recognize or endorse fellowship with five more.
The decision to recommend fellowship is not made lightly. Before making this recommendation, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) works with the Office of the Synod President, including Church Relations — and in some situations the LCMS Board for International Mission — to ensure unity in confession, worship and the daily life of the potential partner church.
Read on to learn more about the five church bodies that will be brought before the Synod in convention.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU)
The Rev. Serge Maschewski of the Ukrainian Lutheran church was introduced to confessional Lutheran theology through the Russian Project at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, in the 1990s. When his church split in 2015, Maschewski and a group of confessional Lutherans formed a new church body that would eventually be known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, LCMS missionaries began offering theological seminars to the ELCU, and an LCMS missionary pastor was called to work in Ukraine — both of which were disrupted first by COVID-19 and then by the Russian war. After a careful review, the CTCR has recommended entering into fellowship with the ELCU. The Synod will consider this recommendation at the 2023 convention.
Congregations: 14, each with several preaching stations
Members: 2,100 — 70% of which have been scattered by the war
Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF)
In 1999, individuals in the national church of Finland established the Luther Foundation to support those pastors and congregations that remained faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions amid changes in the culture and church. Eventually, in 2013, this group formed the ELMDF as an independent church body. Representatives of the ELMDF and the LCMS began discussing the possibility of entering into fellowship in 2017. Upon the recommendation of the CTCR per the process set forth in Bylaw 188.8.131.52.2 (c), LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison declared recognition of fellowship with the ELMDF in October 2020. The 2023 Synod convention will be asked to endorse this action.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Sudan/Sudan (ELCSS/S)
The ELCSS/S was established in Juba, Sudan, in 1993 by Andrew Mbugo Elisa, a layman who learned about Lutheranism from resources provided by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation. In 1999, Elisa was ordained as the church body’s first pastor, and the LCMS began working with the ELCSS/S to help plant churches in war-torn areas of South Sudan. Later, the LCMS assisted with theological education at the church’s seminary. Upon the recommendation of the CTCR per the process set forth in Bylaw 184.108.40.206.2 (c), LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison declared recognition of fellowship with the ELCSS/S in August 2022. The 2023 Synod convention will be asked to endorse this action.
Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU)
In 1993, five laypeople in Jinja town, Uganda, began trying to start a Lutheran church in their area. They contacted the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, a partner church of the LCMS, which sent two missionaries to Uganda in 1994. The following year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana invited the LCMS to join the mission effort in Uganda. In 2015, the mission officially became a self-governing church body. After a careful review, the CTCR has recommended entering into fellowship with the LCU. The Synod will consider this recommendation at the 2023 convention.
Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC)
The LCMS began work in Sri Lanka in 1927 as a natural outgrowth of its mission work in India. Eventually, the mission grew into the Lanka Lutheran Church, which previously was in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS. In recent years, the church reorganized and formed the CELC, dedicating itself to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Per Bylaw 220.127.116.11.2 (d), the LCMS Board for International Mission has requested and received approval from the CTCR to ask the Synod in convention to recognize the CELC as a self-governing partner church.
Megan K. Mertz
Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.