–Adapted from a Report by Eurasia Regional Director, Rev. James Krikava
This Spring, LCMS Recognized Service Organization, Luther Academy (LA) sponsored and conducted the Klaipeda Conference in Palanga, Lithuania from April 14-15th. They also sponsored and conducted a Conference in Terchová, Slovakia, April 25-27, 2016. It was held at the Hotel Diery in Terchová, in the Low Tatra Mountains, just outside of Žilina, a Slovak University town. LCMS Eurasia Region missionaries participated in both conferences.
This conference has been held annually in the LCMS OIM Eurasia Region, more often in Palanga, LT, than in Klaipeda, the original venue, thus the name. It has been historically organized by former OIM missionary Rev. Dan Johnson.
When the original presenter for the Klaipeda and Slovakian conferences had to cancel due to family reasons, LCMS missionaries Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, Rev. James Krikava (Regional Director), Rev. Daniel Johnson (now with Church Relations), and Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson (now retired from the mission field), stepped in for Klaipeda with a variety of different topics.
Rev. James Krikava presented a two-part lecture entitled “The Sacraments in Practice: How and Why Medieval Sacramental Piety was Retained by the Lutheran Reformation and Considerations for its Contemporary Resurgence. Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman presented a paper on “The Role of the Church Musician.” Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson presented via Skype on the topic “Luther: Man between God and the Devil” (with reference to Heiko Oberman’s book with the same title). Rev. Dan Johnson’ s presentation was: “Exegesis: The Nunc Dimittis.” Finally, Lithuanian pastor Rev Dr. Darius Petkunas presented on “Persecution under the Prussian Union.” In addition to the major academic papers given, there were other presentations by Lithuanian pastors on Diaconal projects, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, and more.
The attendance at this conference was about 20+ pastors and 3-5 laymen. The papers were well-received and both Rev. Krikava and Dr. Ahlman were invited back to present at next year’s conference.
Terchová, Slovakia Conference
The theme of the Slovakian conference was “The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms – the Relationship of the Church and Secular Authority.” The decision for this theme came from a survey of potential participants from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Silesia, and Poland (those who attended LA conferences in previous years), who, over the past 2 years, have been seeing their respective countries changing over from the old State-Church model to a system more resembling the US model of a kind of separation between the Church and State. These churches are finding themselves “adrift” in what to do and how to adjust to these changes. Therefore, they felt it beneficial to address the subject from different angles from Luther to the present as a way of helping them in their respective context find a way forward with the changes in play.
Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown (LCMS), chief editor of the additional volumes of Luther’s Works and associate professor at Boston University in the area of historical theology, served as the main speaker for the event in Slovakia. Dr. Brown has been here before and is seen as something of a “rock star” due to his work on Johann Mathesius and Nicholas Hermann in Jachýmov (Joachimstal) in the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 16th and 17th centuries.
After the conference opened with an introduction from Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett, the head of Luther Academy, the first lecture was given by a native Czech. Dr. Jiří Lukeš, of the Hussite Faculty of Charles University lectured on: “The Apostle Paul on Public Authority and the Life of the Christian in the Roman Empire of the First Century.” Dr. Boyd Brown then gave the next three lectures centered on the theme which had been chosen: “The Two Kingdoms,” “The Three Estates,” and “Johann Mathesius on Resistance to Secular Authority.”
These were followed by lectures from native scholars including, Rev. Dr. Jerguš Olejár on “Reflections on Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in reaction to Finnish Lutheran Research of Luther,” Mr. Martin Damašek on “Kierkegaard’s Exhortation for the Relationship between Church and State,” Rev. Dr. Lucjan Klimsza on “Authority as a Political and Theological Value,” and Dr. Jósef Szymeczecek on “The Politics of the Communist Regime Toward Protestant Churches in the Czech Lands.”
The conferences incorporated native scholars from partner churches and churches with which the LCMS has working relationships, together with our LCMS guest lecturers and theological educators.
The attendance for the conference was the capacity of the Hotel Diery; 60 people, plus 5-10 from the area who attended but didn’t stay at the hotel. There were at least 5-10 people who had to be turned away due to the venue’s smaller size.
In addition to the conference, the History department of Charles University, headed by a member of the Czech Lutheran congregation in Prague, Dr. Petr Hlavaček, invited Dr. Brown to give a lecture for the Academy of Sciences of Charles University in Prague. He gave a paper recently presented at the Jan. 2016 Symposia at Ft. Wayne entitled, “Deus Ludens: God at play in Luther’s Theology.” Dr. Hlaváček did the translating and I took the Q & A portion of translating during the discussion. We had about 25-30 in attendance including members of our St. Michael’s Lutheran Church of Prague, the Czech Lutheran Congregation of Prague, numerous academics from Charles University and a few from the Czech Reformed church.
These conferences offer opportunities to build relationships with native scholars and church members, strengthen ties with partners and emerging partners, generate interest in the Lutheran Confessions and proclaim the Gospel.