ODESSA, Ukraine - The synod of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine (DELKU) recently gave a positive evaluation of the church's first ten years of existence.
At its ninth meeting from October 15-18 in the recently dedicated St. Paul's Church House in Odessa, delegates from 32 registered and nine non-registered congregations noted that DELKU had evolved from an association of four congregations into a community of more than 40 Evangelical Lutheran congregations. They also emphasized that in the current phase of the church's development, it was necessary to strive for "financial and structural autonomy."
The synod members stressed that the church should be a place that welcomes all people. The governing body called for the strengthening of work among congregation members, and urged for the training of more church workers. Delegates expressed their wish for a financially autonomous church with transparent financial management. "We must get people used to no longer standing there with outstretched hands. The time has come to strive for financial autonomy," said Rev. Peter Sachi, from the St. Katharine's congregation in Kiev.
DELKU synod president, Vladimir Lesnoy, stressed that the time had come for the church to stand on "its own feet" and be less dependent on support from partners abroad. He noted that for the congregations to acieve structural and financial autonomy, they needed to work more effectively with the local people without creating closed communities of German tradition. "For people of different nationalities to feel at home in our church, we must use more Ukrainian and Russian and do so more actively; otherwise we shall remain an ethnic church which has no future because of emigration," Lesnoy said. It was also important to continue the cooperation within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) of which DELKU is a member. "We believe that ELCROS must develop into a church federation that focuses on cooperation in the fields of training and education, information exchange and representation in European and international organizations."
Bishop Edmund Ratz emphasized in his report to the synod how regrettable it was "that we are not yet able to celebrate the Lord's Supper together with all the Christians of the other churches. We are grateful that conversations are going on between the various Christian churches in order to achieve eucharistic fellowship." Among the most important tasks for the future, Bishop Ratz listed the returning of historical, Lutheran church buildings to the congregations and greater promotion of camps for children and young people.
The DELKU with headquarters in Odessa, is an autonomous regional church of ELCROS. The ELCROS has 250,000 members. It joined the Lutheran World Federation in 1989.
By Albert H. Lee