Lutherans Consecrate Roland Gustafsson
As Mission Bishop for Sweden and Finland

Confessional Lutheran leaders from eight countries lay hands on newly consecrated Bishop Roland Gustafsson. Clockwise from top left are Archbishop Walter Obare of Kenya, Bishop Lars Artman of Sweden, Pr. Pekka Heikkinen of Sweden, Bishop Göran Beijer of Sweden, Pr. Jakob Okkels from Denmark, Dr. Bengt Birgersson of Sweden, President Dawit Tufa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, Bishop emeritus Ulf Asp of Norway (DELK), Bishop Matti Väisänen of Finland, Bishop emeritus Jobst Schöne of Germany (SELK), and retiring Bishop Arne Olsson.

Lutheran leaders from across Scandinavia and around the world gathered in Gothenburg Saturday (March 27) to consecrate a veteran missionary as Bishop of the Mission Province in Sweden and Finland. Lutheran bishops from Sweden, Finland, Kenya, Norway and Germany and the President of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Ethiopia laid hands on Roland Gustafsson in a service led by the retiring Bishop Arne Olsson. Hundreds attended the festive, nearly three hour celebration in Gothenburg’s Schillerska High School Auditorium.

The Mission Province was formed in 2003 to provide a path to ordination and oversight for men who hold a traditional Lutheran view of the authority of Scripture. Since 1993 such men have been denied ordination by the bishops of the nominally Lutheran, but highly politicized former state churches of Sweden and Finland. Those churches have explicitly rejected Scriptural authority in recent decisions such as the Church of Sweden’s approval in October 2009 of same-sex weddings in the Church.

The Lutheran Confessions hold, among other things, that “… when regular bishops become enemies of the Gospel and are unwilling to administer ordination, the churches retain the right to ordain for themselves.” [Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 1537.] Thus the Mission Province considers itself a “non-territorial diocese” within the Church of Sweden and the Church of Finland, a claim disputed by those churches.

Pastor Gunnar Andersson bears the bishop’s vestments.

The Mission Province argues, however, that because it has retained the historic teachings and practice that the politically selected church structure has abandoned, it is a believing remnant of those churches.

A week earlier, the Mission Province consecrated a Finnish auxiliary bishop, Matti Väisänen, to provide oversight for its rapidly growing Finnish congregations. Recently the Mission Province has also developed formal relationships with Confessional Lutheran groups in Norway, and shows signs of developing into a pan-Scandinavian Confessional Lutheran movement. Two Norwegian Confessional groups were represented. Ulf Asp, the former bishop of The Evangelical-Lutheran Church (DELK), participated in the laying on of hands; and Pastor Thor-Henrik With of For Bible and Confessions (FBB), gave a short homily at the evening prayer at the end of the day. Pastor Olaf Fogh brought greetings from the Danish Confessional organization, Ecclesial Gathering around Bible and Confessions (KSBB).

North American Confessional Lutherans were also represented. Dr. William Weinrich, Rector of the Luther Academy in Riga, Latvia, read a greeting from President Dean Wenthe of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, a seminary of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Dr. William Torgerson, a Canadian now serving in Wittenberg, Germany, brought official greetings from Dr. Robert Bugbee, president of the Lutheran Church in Canada.

From Left: Pr. Jakob Okkels, Assistant to the Mission Bishop; Pr. Erik Okkels, serving in Norway; Pr. Jakob Appell, STM, Director of Admissions for the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg and Chairman of the Lutheran youth movement Corpus Christi; Bishop-elect Roland Gustafsson; Pr. Esko Murto, STM, Theological Secretary of Luther Foundation Finland (Mission Province in Finland). Pastors Appell and Murto were residents of Scandinavia House Fort Wayne during their graduate studies at Concordia Theological Seminary.

The 57-year old Gustafsson has served thirty years in the Swedish Lutheran Mission (ELM–BV), first in Kenya as an instructor at Matongo Lutheran Seminary, then as Missions Secretary and now as Missions Director. The leaders of two of the African church bodies he helped build journeyed to Gothenburg to take part in his consecration. Gustafsson is also currently an instructor in missiology at the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg (FFG).

The preacher at the Communion Service led by the newly consecrated bishop was Archbishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, who had been Gustafsson’s student at Matongo nearly 30 years ago. Obare noted that Saint Paul wrote that he was obligated, or “in debt,” to preach the Gospel to all people.

“First the Gospel to all nations was preached to the Jews, to the Roman world,” Obare noted, “later it was preached to the Scandinavian countries … then those who were saved by God’s Grace, by the Gospel of Christ’s fulfilled Redemption work, were ‘in debt.’ They were obligated to preach the Gospel to other countries, to Africa and to Kenya…. ”

“In Kenya we got missionaries from all Scandinavian nations, and so through them I and many of my countrymen have received the Gospel and salvation. On behalf of our church body, I am here in turn to pay our debt and so preach the Gospel, God’s power of salvation, to you.”

Archbishop Obare places the pectoral cross on the new bishop.

Archbishop Obare rebuked liberal, Western churches, saying, “We are living at a time of new-paganism, even in the churches of Christ. All the old pagan lifestyle has been re-introduced. For example, homosexual (Baal worship) behavior is back in the church … Let’s note what it is in the Episcopal Church of America, the Church of Sweden, the largest Lutheran Church in Canada, the Anglican Church, etc. ELCA [The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] is even dropping one of the Lutheran ‘Solas’: ‘Scripture alone’ from their doctrinal position.”

“But to you, my brother Roland,” the Archbishop continued, “and to all of you listening to me here and now, clergy and laity, men and women, young and old, remember that you are called to the Priesthood of all Believers to teach and preach faithfully the WORD of God, the Law of God which kills all sinners, and the pure Gospel which raises up the dead in sin and gives new life for sinners in Christ the King.”

Newly consecrated Bishop Gustafsson led a Communion Service. Here he serves qes Dawit Tufa, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, a church Gustafsson has long assisted as Missions Director of the Swedish Lutheran Mission.

Retiring Bishop Arne Olsson based his consecration address on the Martyr Stephen’s statement, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

“In the early church,” Olsson said, “they said that a person who is consecrated bishop is consecrated to suffering for the sake of Christ. Moreover they said that a bishop is consecrated a martyr. To be a martyr is to be a witness of Christ.”

“… our time is an unparalleled time of persecution,” Olsson continued, “We are aware of this in many ways also here in the Nordic countries. Jesus, as he stands out in the Scriptures and in the Sacraments, is set aside, scorned and despised. The same thing happens to them who believe in and confess him. ”

“The Church of Christ confesses alongside Stephen the faith in Jesus and in the Bible as the Word of God — even if it means scorn, contempt and even if she is expelled from human fellowship, yes even if it means to lose one’s life. Jesus takes care of everyone who has this faith and confession.”

Confessional leaders from Ethiopia, Finland, Norway and Germany were among the participants.

“Roland, today you are consecrated bishop in the Church of Christ, which has the faith in him and the confession to him as the LORD of the Church. You are consecrated a martyr. You shall be a witness of Jesus, true God and true man and the only Savior of the world. You shall be a witness of the saving and blessing faith in Jesus Christ. You shall confess Jesus no matter what people say about you, and whatever they do with your life. Then Christ will use you as shepherd for his beloved flock and as spiritual leader for the Mission Province.”

“We give thanks,” Olsson continued, “to the LORD for — in spite of apostatized leaders — parishes in our Nordic churches where it is possible to worship in Spirit and in Truth, and where Jesus is believed and confessed. But in many parishes there is no preaching about Jesus according to the Word of God. People can’t meet him as the LORD and the Savior. In place of faith and confession there are unbelief and denying. The people are there as sheep without a shepherd. The bishops are responsible for this. When they lack responsibility, others must take it. Because of this the Mission Province exists. Because of this you, Roland, are consecrated Mission Bishop today. We give thanks to God for giving you assurance that he wanted you as bishop and that you did not withdraw.”

Nothing is really quite finalized for a Lutheran, especially a Swedish Lutheran, without a cup of coffee.

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