|International Lutheran Council
|Gijsbertus van Hattem
|Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz
|Part of a series on
The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran denominations. Member bodies of the ILC hold "an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God." The member church bodies are not required to be in church-fellowship with one another, though many of them are.
The organization was constituted in 1993 at a council held in Antigua, Guatemala, although it traces its roots back to theological conferences held in various locations during the 1950s and 1960s. It is to be distinguished from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.
The council has 59 participating churches as of 2022. Among its larger members are the Malagasy Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, and the Lutheran Church—Canada. Altogether, approximately 7,150,000 adherents belong to ILC member churches.
The council's chairman is Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The executive secretary is Albert B. Collver III of the LCMS. Delegates to the ILC meet every two years.
The organization has not accepted the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, an agreement reached by the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation, in 1999. However, the ILC has been involved in dialogue with the PCPCU, with a final report released on 30 November 2021.
The origins of the ILC go back to a meeting at Uelzen, Germany, in July 1952 by Lutherans who were not happy with the theological course being taken by the Lutheran World Federation. Among the participants were delegates from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod who had been observers at the LWF assembly in Hannover. Other delegates were present from churches affiliated with the LCMS from Germany, Australia, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Two further meetings were held, in Oakland, California, in 1958 and in Cambridge, England, in August 1963. At the latter meeting it was decided to create a permanent organization, a "Continuation Committee", to act for the group in between meetings, which were now dubbed International Lutheran Theological Conferences. The committee was also tasked with publishing a theological journal and a committee bulletin, and with facilitating exchanges of pastors, theological professors, and students. However, the meeting explicitly disclaimed it was founding a group in opposition to the LWF.
Five more "theological conferences" were held until the name was shortened to International Lutheran Conference at the Eighth Conference in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Resolutions passed during this period described the ILC as a partnership, forum, or "group of independent Lutheran churches". At the Fifteenth Conference in Antigua, Guatemala, the group decided on creating a more formal structure as an association of churches and adopted a set of Guiding Principles that would serve as a constitution and theological point of reference. The "Continuation Committee" was replaced by an "Executive Council".
At the 2018 World Conference meeting, held in Antwerp, Belgium, on 25–26 September 2018, the ILC voted to admit 17 new church bodies, 11 as full members and 6 as associate members. This increased the church members of ILC to 54 and their faithful to 7.15 million members.
At the 2022 World Conference meeting, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia was accepted as a full member. It had already been accepted as an observer member in February 2022.
The World Conference of the International Lutheran Council is an official meeting ordinarily held every three years. They are hosted by a church body whose invitation is accepted in the previous conference.
At the 23rd conference, the association unanimously adopted the statement "Same-Gender Relationships and the Church", which defined the practice of homosexuality as a sin.
At the 26th conference, the association welcomed seventeen new church bodies into membership (eleven were received as full members and six as observer members) representing approximately 4.15 million Lutherans across the globe. Their addition more than doubles the number of Lutherans worldwide associated with the ILC, bringing the total to approximately 7.15 million members and bringing the total number of church bodies holding membership in the International Lutheran Council to 54.
By country in alphabetical order