We were surprised and outraged to learn that on July 30, 2023, at the convention of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, an agreement was signed on the altar and pulpit fellowship with the so-called “Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine”.

Our surprise was caused by the lack of clarity on the Church body the agreement had been signed with. In 2018, the Synod of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine expressed no confidence in Sergei Mashevsky, who was a bishop at the time, and elected Pavlo Shvarts to this position. Therefore, Sergei Mashevsky is not eligible to sign any documents on behalf of GELCU. Therefore, our Church is not related to this agreement.

A president of the LCMS Rev. Matthew Harrison with Serhei Mashevsky
Screenshot from LCMS official YouTube channel

Such Church body as the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine” is not registered in our country, and its creation has not been announced to the public. De facto, it is a group of five GELCU congregations that do not recognize the legally elected leadership of the Church and continue to see Sergei Mashevsky as their “bishop”. At the same time, these congregations are still among the founding members of the Church and do not take any steps to withdraw from their membership, at the same time continuing to use the real estate in the ownership of GELCU. Sergei Mashevsky himself continues making attempts to reinstall himself as a pastor of GELCU through court proceedings.

In any case, whether you consider Sergei Mashevsky as the head of GELCU in its entirety or that he signed the agreement on behalf of a group of congregations supporting him, such actions evoke outrage.

We would like to note that we are not interfering with the missionary activities of your Church on the territory of Ukraine and only welcome evangelization and creation of new Lutheran congregations where the Word of God is proclaimed, and the Sacraments are performed. But this case is not about the mission, not about the creation of new congregations, but about the legitimization of the schism. We regard this agreement as an unfriendly act on the part of the LCMS.

We are also saddened by the spread of misinformation about GELCU. In a video dated August 1, 2023, posted on the official Youtube channel of the LCMS, Director of Church Relations Rev. Jonathan Shaw called our Church the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine and said that the Evangelical Church in Germany was “turning” GELCU away from the Gospel towards “liberalism”. This is a distortion of reality.

The abbreviation GELCU stands for the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine. Since its foundation, the Church has been self-governing and has never been a branch of the Evangelical Church in Germany or any other German regional Church. The word “German” in the name emphasizes the ethnic origin of the people who stood at the origins of the revival of the Church after the Soviet era, during which they were the object of discrimination and persecution based on ethnicity, as well as its belonging to the German worship tradition. Relationships with friends and partners from Germany have always been based on dialogue, and no decision concerning doctrine and service could have been made without the consent of the congregations and ministers of the Church.

We also consider it noteworthy that GELCU does not practice the ordination of women and open homosexuals for pastoral ministry. In addition to that, the Church recognizes marriage as the union of a man and a woman, condemns any extramarital relationship, and supports family values. Although GELCU is not a strictly confessional Church, the basis of our faith and practice is the Holy Scripture, as well as the Three Ecumenical Creeds, the unaltered Augsburg Confession, and Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism as the correct explanation of the Bible. Other books of the Book of Concord are also authoritative and are actively used for educational purposes.

The main reason for the conflict between Sergei Mashevsky and GELCU is not theology nor ministry, but the abuse of the official position and finances of the Church acting as a bishop. The information provided by Jonathan Shaw largely repeats previous statements by Rev. James Krikava, former Director of the Eurasia Region of the LCMS Office of International Mission, and is a manipulative distortion of reality. A deliberate distortion for that matter, since Rev. Shaw requested the position of the GELCU on the current situation and received a detailed letter from the bishop and the president of the Synod.

We want to emphasize that Sergei Mashevsky was not eligible to sign any agreements on the altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS on behalf of the GELCU. Our Church is not related to this agreement.

As far as we are concerned, the signing of an agreement between the LCMS and the “ELCU” is a gross interference in the internal affairs of the GELCU and the legitimization of the schism. The decision to sign such an agreement with a non-existent Church body is hasty and unadvisable. Therefore, we express our outrage at the fact of its signing and the information manipulations that have come along with it.