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Southeast Asian Lutheran church recognized

Establishment of new church body next step

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Future Lutheran pastors study in Cambodia

The government of Cambodia granted official recognition to the Cambodian Lutheran Church Association on January 15. The government approval allows the 32 congregations and 17 pastors to begin working towards creating a constitutional framework and a founding convention. Currently, Lutheran Church–Canada is assisting Luther (LCC), in cooperation with Lutheran Institute Southeast Asia to provide (LISA) and with funding assistance from Concordia Lutheran Mission Society, is providing theological training for the church’s pastors, deacons and deaconesses. LCC missionary Rev. Dr. Leonard Harms, who serves as executive director of LISA, explained that the desire for establishing a Lutheran Church body in Cambodia came from the pastors and their congregations. The government approval allows the church complete freedom for worship, evangelizing, teaching and undertaking social ministry. In addition, the governor of the city of Phnom Penh granted registration to work in the city of Phnom Penh.

Over the past decade, the Cambodian office of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) has undertaken media-oriented outreach alongside the work of Lutheran Heritage Foundation and missionaries from The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. “As we have seen before, as the Holy Spirit brought people to faith, they gathered and formed worshipping communities,” explained Dr. Harms. “As the people of God recognized those with the gifts and talents for the pastoral office and the diaconate, LISA with the support of professors and teachers from Lutheran Churches in North America, Germany and Brazil, responded by providing theological education.”

Most of the teachers and professors have come from Lutheran Church–Canada and included seminary professors as well as parish pastors with expertise in specific areas.

“What were witnessing in Cambodia follows a similar track to our experience in Nicaragua,” observed Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan, LCC’s interim mission executive, “But with Cambodia, it seemed like it was fast-tracked.”

Lutheran Church–Canada’s involvement with this group of Christians in Cambodia began only three years ago when Dr. Harms, then LCC’s mission executive, visited the country and met with church lay leaders. As discussions continued, the leaders expressed the need for theological training. In 2005 Dr. Norman Threinen and Dr. Duane Peters traveled to Phnom Penh, met with the church leaders and laid before them the basics of the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith. Thirsty for God’s Word, the leaders asked for more training. “This is a country that suffered a genocide under Pol Pot and the Christian message of hope found a place in their hearts,” said Dr. Harms. “What we are witnessing is the power of the Gospel.”

The eleventh seminary session for the churches in Southeast Asia begins in early March when Dr. Norman Threinen, a professor emeritus at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton, will teach Pastoral Theology and Church Polity.

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