This article was written for us by Rev. Daniel Johnson, who serves as a Catechist for Russia and the Baltics, and a Special Liason to partner church body, The Siberian Evangleical Lutheran Church (SELC). Rev. Johnson reports here on the Synod meeting of partner church body The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania (ELCL).
*An earlier draft mistakenly listed the date of the synod as June 12. It has been corrected to read July 12. We apologize for the oversight.
On July 12, 2014 the 12th synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania (ELCL) was held in in Taurage. The important matter to come before the Synod was the question of whether Bishop Sabutis should be retained or a new election should be held. The bishop was elected in 2004; it was for a 9-year term. Since there was no synod held in 2013, the matter came up at this triennial synod. Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson writes in his report:
The question of election or retention was brought before the synod. It could choose to retain the bishop (for another 9 year term), or it could call for an election – this would require a search for suitable candidates to stand against Bishop Sabutis in an election to be held in an extraordinary synod, called for that purpose next summer. Only one delegate chose to vote in favor of holding a search and special election – all other delegates voted in favor of retaining Bishop Sabutis. It is clear that the clergy and congregations approve of his conduct of the episcopacy and are solidly behind him.
The divine service held during the opening of the Synod was presided over by the Bishop who also preached. A highlight of the liturgy was the ordination of Deacon Valdas Miliauskas, younger brother of Pastor Liudas Miliauskas. Pastor Liudas Miliauskas is the pastor at St. James Lutheran Church a church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania located in Western Springs, Illinois. He was born and raised in Lithuania and returns to Lithuania every summer to host a youth camp.
Every active pastor of the Lithuanian Church was present and participated in the ordination and synod except for one. Pastor Algimantas Žilinskas of Toronto, Canada was unable to attend. Reverend Dr. Charles Evanson also participated in the ordination as an honorary member of the Lithuanian clergy roster. Miliauskas had been examined and approved for ordination by the consistory on Wednesday, July 3, in Taurage, with the theological assistance of Charles Evanson.
Many special guests attended. Greetings were brought to the Synod by Archbishop Andres Põder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia and Archbishop Janis Vanags of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Evanson writes in his report:
Archbishop Vanags recalled how he had been asked ten years ago to consecrate Mindaugas Sabutis, who at that time was not well known. Many wondered at that time what was ahead for the Lithuanians, he said. He went on to say that all questions have now been answered, and Sabutis has shown himself to be a bold and forthright defender of the truth of the Scriptures and the faith of the Church. He said that the Lithuanians should never again think of themselves as a “small church,” for under the leadership of its bishop it has shown itself to be a church which has held the line against the advance of the liberal theology of the western European churches. He stated that the Lithuanians are an important and salutary influence on his own Latvian Church!
Rev. Daniel S. Johnson, LCMS OIM catechist to the Baltics and Siberia, brought greetings from the LCMS and read a letter written by President Matthew Harrison.
The 2014 Synod proved to be a testimony of the unity and confessional character of a church standing boldly and unwavering in her commitment, to the Holy Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, in both orthodox confession and practice.