Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA and the South Andhra Lutheran Church of India
In March 2015, Bishop Tom Aitken, Vice-President Brenda Wagner, and Rev. Brenda Wicklund traveled to Chicago for a summit of all the India Lutheran churches and their ELCA Companion Synods. They met with a four-person delegation from SALC, including Bishop Michael Benhur Oppathati. After the summit, the SALC delegation visited NE Minnesota and the baby steps of renewing the relationship began. In November 2015, SALC celebrated their 150th Anniversary. NE Minnesota was invited to send representatives to the celebration, along with ELCA Global Mission personnel and German Lutheran representatives. Rev. Mark Wagner and Vice-President Brenda Wagner traveled to South Andhra to bring greetings from the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.
The relationship grew further when another four-person delegation from SALC visited Northeastern Minnesota in May 2017 where they were special visitors at the 2017 synod assembly. During their time in NE Minnesota, they traveled to many area congregations and saw many of the ministries occurring in our synod. They even experienced snow for the first time with an early May snowfall!
As the relationship between NE Minnesota and SALC has continued to grow, shared ministries have also emerged. In 2017 with a generous gift from Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa, an India Seminary Scholarship fund was started for seminary students from South Andhra attending Lutheran seminaries in India. Seven seminary students received scholarships in 2017 resulting in over 30% of their annual fees – a huge help - and we hope that fund will continue to grow. Female students receive a double portion to encourage more women to enter the ordained ministry. Many of the Lutherans in South Andhra come from the poorer communities. There is increasing pressure and animosity towards minority religions from the Hindu majority. These funds are already making a difference – Gurukul Lutheran Theological Collage and Research Institute in Chennai has reported that the number of SALC students has nearly doubled for this coming school year. If congregations or individuals wish to contribute to this fund, donations can be made to NE Minnesota Synod with the memo “India Scholarship Fund” and sent to 1105 East Superior St., Upper Suite, Duluth, MN 55802.
Our Mission and Relationship
The relationship continued to grow during a January 2019 synod-sponsored trip to India. The ten-person delegation from NE Minnesota, including Bishop Tom Aitken, visited congregations and ministry sites, learned about Dalit theology, met with SALC leaders, toured Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, and was received with warm and enthusiastic hospitality – including singing, dancing, and amazing worship. The two bishops also signed an official Companion Synod agreement as a step in the continued growth of the partnership.
Click here to view the Official Companion Synod Agreement!
In the Past...
A little over 150 years ago, a German missionary named Rev. August Mylius traveled to the southern part of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and began sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Telegu-speaking people of that area. The word of God took root in the communities of Sullurupet and Nayudupet and the South Andhra Lutheran Church was born out of these roots. SALC now has over 50 parishes with over 50,000 baptized members and is led by Bishop Michael Benhur Oppathati.
When the ELCA was formed by the merger of its predecessor church bodies, the concept of Companion Synods became an integral part of the mission and ministry of the new church body. Companion synod relationships of the ELCA connect Lutheran churches throughout the world with ELCA synods and congregations. These relationships are concrete expressions of the communion and fellowship with the more than 140 Lutheran member churches of The Lutheran World Federation. Each of the 65 synods has at least one international church companion and many have additional relationships, resulting in more than 120 companion synod relationships.
These relationships are rooted in “accompaniment,” which promotes the values of mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment and sustainability. Through the program, companion churches and ELCA synods nurture and strengthen one another for life and ministry through prayer, study, communication, exchange of visitors and sharing of resources.
The Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA and the South Andhra Lutheran Church have been Companion Synods for many years, although there was a period of several years' dormancy in the relationship. The relationship is now experiencing resurrection and new life!
For more Information:
If you would like more information about Lutheranism in India, the SALC, the SALC/NE MN Companion Synod Committee, or the accompaniment vision of mission, please feel free to contact Rev. Mark Wagner and/or Brenda Wagner at email@example.com. Speakers are available to come to your congregation, WELCA group, youth group, or Sunday School for presentations.
As part of Northeastern Minnesota Synod's companion relationship with South Andhra Lutheran Church of India (SALC), we are hoping to provide theological books for the library at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College where many SALC pastors receive their BDiv degree.
The faculty there has provided a list of books they would like to acquire for their library. Click the button below to see their list of books.
If you are interested in donating any of these books please contact Loren Anderson-Bauer firstname.lastname@example.org who is coordinating this project.
At this time we are unable to take any books beyond those on this list.