On October 13 at noon in the Riga Dom the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) will consecrate two new bishops, Einārs Alpe and Pāvils Brūvers, who will begin their service in the newly created dioceses of Daugavpils and Liepāja. The largest of the dioceses, Rīgas archdiocese, will be under the supervision of the ELCL archbishop, Jānis Vanags, who will also continue to be the Church’s overseeing bishop.
Rīga’s archbishop Jānis Vanags will lead the consecration service. ELCL archbishop emeritus Ēriks Mesters along with bishops from ELCL partner churches will participate in the consecration.
Until now the ELCL has only had one bishop – the archbishop, but the need for more dioceses and bishops was seen by archbishop Teodors Grīnbergs (1933–1944) already in the first Republic of Latvia. This idea was not realized at that time due to the start of the Second World War followed by the Soviet Occupation. With the renewal of Latvian independence the ELCL returned to the plans for the creation of several dioceses and selection of bishops.
In accordance with the ELCL Constitution "the diocese bishop is the spiritual director of the diocese, who, in apostolic succession with the laying on of hands in compliance with ELCL procedure, has received the task and commission to symbolize, guard and keep the faith of the apostolic succession and ELEC unity, as well as to provide for the continuation of the church’s mission and the continual transmission of the office of reconciliation." The bishop cares for the unity of the Church, the purity of teaching and the spiritual care of pastors and congregations.
"That, which a bishop must do is that, which up until now has been difficult – a bishop must be the closest colleague to his pastor not only his superior, but like an older brother, a friend, counselor and supporter. This is because, quite often our pastors with their heavy workload, small salary and many problems are close to the so called burn-out stage and quite often they need guidance and support. If the Church has only one bishop with many international, interchurch, Church and State and other responsibilities, then it is not possible to regularly and intensively meet with all the pastors and talk with them and help establish pastors’ fellowship within a smaller setting that could be realized within a diocese," explains archbishop Jānis Vanags about the necessity of bishops.
It is equally important for the bishop to help congregations in their spiritual development and life. The creation of dioceses makes it possible that bishops will be more accessible to congregations. "Wherewith congregations could see their bishop more often and expect visitations not only once in a while, as happens now when the bishop arrives on feasts or anniversaries," clarifies archbishop Jānis Vanags.
The archbishop will continue to represent the ELCL and its unity at special assignments, lead the Council of Bishops, consecrate bishops, represent the ELCL in her relations at the state, ecumenical and international level, as well as express the standpoint of the ELCL.
The ELCL is apportioned into 16 deaneries, whose territorial congregations and pastors are overseen by a dean. The archdiocese of Rīga encompasses 7 deaneries around Rīga and Vidzeme, the diocese of Liepāja has 6 deaneries in western regions of Kurzeme and Zemgale, while the diocese of Daugavpils comprises 3 deaneries in the southern regions of Latgale and Sēlija.
The resolution to apportion the ELCL into 3 dioceses and to select two new bishops was made at the 22nd interim Synod held in the Fall of 2006. The election of bishops has held at the 23rd Synod this June.
Translation: Kārlis Zikmanis