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 By: Central Church Office of ELCROS – 13.02.2006

[Russia] St. Petersburg: Workshop of the Spiritual Leaders of ELCROS and ELCIR

Astonishment about the Plan of the Estonian Archbishop regarding the Bishop’s Consecration of Rev. Lytkin in Novosibirsk in May 2006 – Exchange of Ideas regarding the Blessing of Same-Sex Civil Unions in the Swedish Church

On January 17th, the first workshop between the spiritual leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS), Archbishop Dr. Edmund Ratz, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR), Bishop Arre Kugappi, took place. Likewise, the head of the ELCROS Central Church Office, Hans Schwahn, the secretary for theology of the archbishop, Rev. Dietrich von Sternbeck, as well as the general secretary of the ELCIR, Rev. Alexander Prilutzki, participated in the meeting.

There were important issues on the agenda concerning the interests of both churches. One of the two main topics was the consecration of Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin to a Lutheran bishop by the Archbishop of Tallinn, Andres Poder, assisted by the Archbishop of Riga, Janis Vanags, and the Lithuanian bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, scheduled on Ascension Day, May 25th, 2006. The second topic dealt with the stance of the ELCROS and ELCIR to the introduction of the liturgical act of blessing same-sex civil unions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden.

“Lutheran Identity”

Archbishop Ratz and Bishop Kugappi expressed their mutual astonishment about the plan of the Estonian archbishop. After the sudden death of the Estonian archbishop emeritus, Dr. Jaan Kiivit, on August 31st, 2005 in St. Petersburg, the ELCROS, ELCIR, the group of Lutheran congregations in Siberia gathered by Rev. Lytkin as well as the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) had agreed to hold a common dialogue and first to decide at the end, in which way the group gathered by Rev. Lytkin could be included in the family of Lutheran parishes in Russia. After the parties involved had met in informal talks at the ELCROS general synod in April 2005 for the first time, the first discussion about the topic “Lutheran Identity” took already place on October 24th, 2005 in St. Petersburg upon the invitation of the ELROS. Here, the Estonian Church was represented by the consistory assessor, Dean Tiit Salumä. Ratz and Kugappi feared that the new position of the EELC could now stop the discussions that had started well. This way, the consecration of Rev. Lytkin to bishop, which was not agreed upon conjointly, would not integrate, but isolate him. Negative phenomena in the church life of the Lutheran congregations in Siberia were bound to happen this way. Concerning church law, this step was also questionable, because, as bishop, Lytkin would only be in charge of a structure registered as “Siberian Mission” that officially consists of three parishes at the ministry of justice. ELCROS and ELCIR want to again express their doubts to the Baltic bishops as well as the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in the next couple of days. The corporate agreement between the three Baltic churches and the ELCROS as well as the ELCIR in front of the LWF general secretary, Dr. Ishmael Noko, in 2001, in which ordinations and consecrations by pastors of the Baltic churches in the church territory of the ELCROS and ELCIR are only permitted after consultation, has to be pointed out especially. The inductions of Josef Baronas by the Archbishop emeritus of Riga, Erik Meesters, in St. Petersburg in 1991 and of Leonid Zwicky in Witebsk in 2001, which were not agreed upon, and the unfortunate ending of both of these Lutheran movements should be testimonial and warning.

Regarding the issue of the introduction of the liturgical act of blessing same-sex civil unions, Bishop Kugappi referred to the position of the ELCIR, which was defined in the synod declaration regarding the Christian family from 2003. In addition, Archbishop Ratz referred to the position of the ELCROS, which his predecessor in office, Archbishop D. Georg Kretschmar, had phrased in an essay “Male and Female Facing God” in the ELCROS journal “Der Bote” 2/2002. The positions of ELCROS and ELCIR regarding this issue were in line with the wording of the Holy Scripture and were congruent this way. The ecumenical partners were informed about this as well. In the discussion, which lasted several hours, they continued to confer about single questions to the problems and made conjoint appointments.

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