By Mathew Block
FINLAND — On Nov. 14, 2020, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) unanimously declared altar and pulpit fellowship with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The decision came during the ELMDF’s annual Diocesan Assembly, held online this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
ELMDF Bishop Risto Soramies, who led the church’s dialogue with the LCMS, said, “Now our parishioners can commune with each other, and our pastors can preach at each other’s services.” He also looked forward to closer cooperation on theological education and mission. “It is encouraging for us to see how the Mission Diocese is recognized as a church and our work is valued,” he continued.
In a letter to the Diocesan Assembly, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison wrote, “Your hospitality, service to Christ and commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in the face of opposition remain an example and encouragement to me and to our entire church. It is with special joy and thanksgiving that I write on behalf of [the LCMS] humbly to extend our hand of fellowship to the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland.”
Fellowship discussions between the LCMS and the ELMDF began in 2017. As a result of those discussions, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations voted unanimously to recognize fellowship with the ELMDF, leading Harrison to declare fellowship on behalf of the LCMS in his letter. Delegates to the next LCMS convention will have the opportunity to endorse the decision.
After the vote, Soramies wrote to Harrison, expressing his joy over the declaration of fellowship. “The Missouri Synod has been a strong partner for many other confessional churches around the world,” he noted. “We are deeply thankful for this fellowship which is, and will certainly continue to be, a blessing for God’s people.”
The ELMDF and LCMS are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
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