— by The Rev. Steven Schumacher
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) is very thankful to Luther Academy; the Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett, executive director; the Rev. Dr. Detlev Schulz, this year’s presenter; and their faithful supporters who sponsor a yearly continuing education conference. The conferences provide the only time that all the ELCG pastors, church leaders, evangelists, seminarians and vicars gather in one place to study the Word of God and Lutheran doctrine. It is also a time to join in fellowship with each other.
For four days, Schultz presented and led discussions on the topic Church and Ministry. Each attendee received a copy of the Rev. Dr. Kurt E. Marquart’s book: Essays: Confessional and Doctrinal. A quote from his essay “The Contemporary Significance of the Formula of Concord” clearly states what this conference addressed: “Truth for the Formula of Concord is salvatory and churchly. This means that it is neither a matter of individual, virtuoso brilliance nor one of social accommodation, academic nicety or bureaucratic formality. The truth is God’s and the church is God’s, and He creates and cultivates His church by means of His truth. The church and the truth belong inseparably together.”
This truth of God brings together the Christian church so the Gospel may be preached with certainty and the Sacraments administered in accordance with God’s Word. This truth also divides because the opinions of the erring cannot be tolerated in the church of God, much less excused or defended. Discussion about church and ministry renewed the confidence of ELCG church workers.
Pastoral continuing education is vital in any church, but it is especially essential for the ELCG. The majority of Christian pastors and leaders in West Africa are of the mind-set of “works righteousness.” We see it on the billboards and hear it from loudspeakers throughout the country. Even faithful Lutheran clergy to fall into this trap sometimes. With the upsurge of Pentecostalism and its successful penetration into traditional churches, many clergymen eagerly embrace its raw emotionalism and its illusion of the Spirit’s power. Emotionalism becomes central and all-important. This shallow emotionalism becomes tragically mistaken for the true Gospel.
Meanwhile, the real instruments of the Spirit’s power, the Gospel and the Sacraments, are pushed into secondary positions. In some sense, we find ourselves in the same situation as the apostolic church. The same Lord who successfully sent out the apostles without any earthly resources continues to stand by His promise and commission today.
Luther Academy encouraged the ELCG church workers to continue joyfully and confidently teaching all nations about our Savior Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Steven Schumacher teaches at theology and serves as the dean of academics and students at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG). Photos by Cynthia Schumacher.