CELC - Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference
President Gaylin Schmeling
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Mankato, MN 56001 Contact Via Email
Ukrainian Lutheran Church
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is not entirely an alien phenomenon brought about to Ukraine from foreign countries, or a phenomenon, which is indifferent to Ukraine's destiny and its future. It is neither a new sect or a religious trend in our country. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church has a substantial historic background in Ukraine as well as its devotees and martyrs, who put their lives for Ukrainian Christian work.
Having Christ and His holy Word for its solid underpinning, the ULC has every ground to be called an apostolic church. Its origins go back to the times of apostles and their faith, which is preached by the Church in the Nicene Creed. This church is alive following the example of the forefathers of an ancient church, which were preaching after the apostles and acknowledged the Nicene and Aphanasian Creeds.
Creation of a separate Lutheran church body took place only in the 16th century. At that time faithful priests and bishops stood against abuses of the then church clergy. Selling indulgencies, absolution for money, neglect of the teaching of the Word of God to laymen, and many other things were among those abuses. That action for a church renewal headed by professor Martin Luther in Germany grew into Reformation, which seized (engulfed) a better part of Europe, including Ukraine. Major slogans of the church renewal became salvation through faith in Christ with God's grace. The main principles of faith should rely only on the Holy Scripture (Sola fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura).
Due to Reformation the Word of God was translated into European languages, including Ukrainian (Peresop Gospel is based on Lutheran Bible translation; Presidents of Ukraine are attested on it ), the church preached pure Gospel turning into truly people's church, which cared about salvation of its faithful people. That church was called Evangelical Church of Augsburg confession. Universal Creeds and Augsburg confession, which explained the neccessity of reformation of certain aspects of the church life, served as an underpinning for the confession.
Many Lutheran congregations appeared in Ukraine in the 16th century. According to prominent Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Lutheran churches were numerous in Galicia, Pobuzhzhya, Volyn, Podillya, Bratslavschyna and Kyiv area (see M. Hryshevsky "On the History of Religious Thought in Ukraine", Winnipeg, Canada - Munich Germany - Detroit, USA 1962, pp. 63-67). Thanks to their influence, as it was noted by the scholar, the native language was picked up by the orthodox church. At that time there was vigorous discussion of a possibility (on the basis of the main articles of faith) of unity between orthodox Christians and protestants. One of the initiators of that reunification was Prince Kostyantyn Ostrozky. The church unification failed due to resistence of high prests. According to numerous leading historians, they later during growing Catholic reaction neglected interests of their people. Catholic movemen, which was supported by the then civil authorities, resulted not only in almost total disappearence of the Lutheranism in Ukraine, but also in considerable decline of spiritual life in this country. One can find testimonies of that in the works of M. Hrushevsky, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocepalous Orthodox Church in Canada Ilarion (secular name Ivan Ohiyenko) in the recently published book "Ukrainian Church" (Kyiv, Ukraine, 1993, pp. 102-145).
The second renaissance the Ukrainian Lutheranism experienced in the period between the 1st and 2nd world wars. There was a chance to openly preach Christ in the western regions of Ukraine, which were under Polish occupation. After the defeat of Ukrainian revolution and collapse of Ukrainian independent state many people were analyzing reasons of numerous misfortunes of Ukrainian people and their faith; they were pondering the neccessity to preach pure Gospel and have Ukrainian Evangelical Church. A group of orthodox and greek-catholic priests turned to ancient evangelical principles. They managed to unite a considerable number of fraithful into Ukrainian Evangelical Church of Augsburg confession, the direct ancestor of the present Lutheran church. This church managed to preserve and develop the eastern Ukrainian custom /worship/, which is based on the liturgy developed by John the Chrisosdom. While preaching the pure Evangelical theology, the church remains a national church of Ukrainian identity.
During short period of time its congregations sprang up all over the territories, which is now referred to as Galicia and Volyn. The main center was located in Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankivsk). Pastor Teodor Yarchuk was a Ukrainian spiritual guide. In 1931 in a periodical "See the Light!" ("Prozry!") he in particular wrote,"We are Ukrainian evangelists. We love our Ukrainian people and customs of our forefathers. Despite all kind of slander against us, we strive for spiritual renewal of Ukrainian people on the basis of truth of the divine Gospel. We look at Ukrainian men of genius Hryhoriy Skovoroda and Petro Kulish.
In a short run the church included thosands of faithful, which were at the same time patriots of Ukraine. There were congregations in Stanislav, Mykytyntsi, Krekhivtsi, Lutsk, Stari Bohorodchany, Kaminna, Zarvanytsya, Antonivka, Poberezhzhi and in many others towns and villages. Churches were built, Sunday school worked. The church also had a publishing house. One of the ULC leaders in the 1930s Yuhym Folushnyak wrote about the church,"Being native and inseparable part of Ukrainian soul... the church feels pains and troubles of the people and their needs... It can bring the Ukrainian nation great spiritual benefits, since people would then get rid of spiritual slavery and would reach considerable development and progress the way the other nations have reached" ("Styah" Banner, 1932 , issue #1, pp. 3,4).
The year 1939 turned out to be a tragedy for the church. Leaders of the ULC were arrested and killed by KGB, literature was confiscated, a lot of faithful died in prisons and concentration camps. Pastor Mykhailo Tymchuk managed to emigrate to the USA taking along a couple of confessional books. He had a dream to some day return to Ukraine and revive the Church. Unfortunately, he died in emigration. However, shortly before his death gave his blessing to representatives of the Thoughts of Faith mission society.
Since 1979 this mission society has started its activity to revive the Ukrainian Lutheran church, which was destroyed by the communist regime. At the same time TOF, just as its predecessors did, promoted the course of revival of Ukrainian independence.
Since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, the ULC congregations have been organized in Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Kremenets, Zaporizhzhya, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Mariupol, and other towns of Ukraine. They are preaching the Evangelical truth, following the example of pastor Teodor Yarchuk and other church fathers. In 1996 the ULC Episcopate was officially registered. The church continues ancient evangelical traditions of preaching and revival of Ukrainian spirituality. Young pastors, future preachers of the church receive their education at the Ukrainian Lutheran Theological Seminary of St. Sophia, which is located in Ternopil, Western Ukraine.
The church is not involved in political life of the country. However, through its educational, humanitarian activities, through revival of spiritual values, the ULC contributes to strengthening of the democratic Ukrainian state.
Church Body Statistics
Mission Congregations: 12
National Pastors: 18