ILC supports Theological Symposium in Tanzania

Participants in the ELCT-SELVD’s 2019 Theological Symposium.

TANZANIA – From December 4-7, 2019, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) together with Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW) sponsored a theological symposium at Agape Lutheran Church in Kahama, Tanzania. Agape is a congregation of the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT-SELVD).

ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala answers a question during the theological symposium.

In his opening sermon, ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala encouraged the 142 participants (pastors, deaconesses, members of the Executive committee, and local lay people) with a reflection on Philippians 1:27. “Joy is found in the concordia of doctrine alone, even under persecutions,” he said. “Paul and his church were surrounded by heretics, just like we are. We need to be the light of the world. Otherwise, we would become like other preachers.”

“Our symposium has only one purpose—that is, we want to be strengthened by the Word of God, growing together stronger in confession,” he continued. “We are not here for political interest, but for faith. Our diocese in its constitution declares that everything is to be measured by the Word of God. Bishop and pastors can make mistakes but not the Word of God. The Word is always right. We are also given the Book of Concord. Before you say anything of your own, consult with the Lutheran Confessions.”

“The Lutheran Confessions connect us with other Lutherans worldwide,” the bishop continued, “as well as with those who went before us, including Luther, Paul, and the Apostles.”

Theological Education in Tanzania

CTSFW has been assisting the diocese at the request of Bishop Makala in the areas of pastoral and diaconal formation as well as continuing education since 2013—the very beginning of the new diocese. Three cohorts of pastoral and deaconess students have already graduated, and the number of pastors has increased from 15 to about 80.

The annual theological symposium, which held its first conference in 2016, plays a significant role in the life of the diocese. As new pastors are ordained and others join the diocese from other areas in Tanzania and Kenya, it is important for the ministerium to foster a common confession. For laity and lay leaders, a symposium is a necessary place where questions and concerns about Christian faith and life are discussed and answered. The ILC’s sponsorship of the annual symposium directly contributes to the maturing of this young confessional Lutheran diocese in Tanzania. The South East of Lake Victoria Diocese was accepted as a Recognized Organization observer member of the International Lutheran Council in 2019.

Dr. Daniel Mono translates into Swahili as Dr. Naomichi Masaki lectures on the the Scriptural basis of the Lutheran Confessions, and contemporary issues like the prosperity Gospel and the ordination of women.

The presenter for the 2019 symposium was Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, professor of systematic theology of CTSFW and director of the ILC’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program. He was invited to speak on three topics important to the diocese: (1) The Authority of the Bible in the Eyes of the Book of Concord; (2) The Prosperity Gospel vs Theology of the Cross; and (3) The Ordination of Women?

Several participating pastors who were trained at other theological institutions expressed thankfulness for Dr. Masaki and CTSFW, saying they “have a lot to teach the world about the truth of the Word of God” and that they appropriately stress the authority of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, especially “when compared to other Lutheran churches.” One lay member of the Executive Committee shared that, as a result of the symposium, they now believe the ELCT had made a mistake in adopting women’s ordination.

Widespread interest in the presentations led the three-day symposium to be extended an extra half day for more question and answer sessions. At the close of the symposium, the chairman of the Executive Committee summarized the consensus of the participants, suggesting that the symposium be extended to meet twice a year and that it be extended to five days instead of three. Plans for future symposia hope to see two topics discussed at each event going forward: first, a study of the texts in the Book of Concord one by one, and second, a discussion of other biblical and contemporary issues.

Participants in the theological symposium engaged in lively dialogue—as well as a little fun!

Bishop Makala and the diocese expressed thanks to the ILC and CTSFW for sponsoring the theological symposium. “We had strong discussions among the participants, he wrote. “Lay people were excited and asked many questions, especially concerning women’s ordination. Participants expressed joy and eagerness to have more symposia and more time in each. Participants learned a lot from our facilitator Dr. Naomichi Masaki. We acknowledge that faith and knowledge have been enriched among the participants.”

“It is always such a great joy and privilege to serve in the SELVD, alongside Bishop Makala, Rev. Nzelu, and Dr. Mono,” said Dr. Masaki. “It is always nice to see my former students whenever I am back in Tanzania. But it is also rewarding to see how they have grown in their confession and matured in the ministry. Their ministry in SELVD is not easy. They daily face many challenges. Yet, they remain faithful to the Lord under the able leadership of Bishop Makala and his team.”

“I cherish the time I am able to spend with these men and women, both pastors and deaconesses, as well as lay people and lay leaders,” Dr. Masaki continued. “It was also a delight to meet new pastors whom I had not met before. The fruit of the Gospel here is so obvious. Indeed, the SELVD is a light in world Lutheranism. It’s a joy to help each other as brothers and sisters, and to rejoice together as Lutherans!”

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ILC welcomes Tanzanian Lutheran diocese into membership

Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala, Rev. Dr. Daniel Mono, and ILC General Secretary Albert Collver.

GERMANY – On February 27, 2019, the International Lutheran Council (ILC)) welcomed the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD) as a Recognized Organization observer member. Their acceptance was formally declared in Wittenberg, Germany following a decision of the ILC’s Executive Committee.

“We are so joyful that we have been accepted as a member of the ILC in an observer status,” said ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala. “Through our authorized decision-making Assemblies, we have found that the ILC is a safe place for encouragement and learning.”

The Pastor’s Committee of ELCT-SELVD voted to seek ILC membership in January 2019.

The Pastors’ Committee of ELCT-SELVD voted unanimously to seek membership in the ILC on January 24, 2019.

“We understand that there is a big contradiction between the teachings and practices of African churches and much of world Lutheranism today,” Bishop Makala continued. “We pray for and witness to those who would change the church into a secular entity focused solely on human rights rather than on being the Church.” For that reason, he said, the ELCT-SELVD is grateful for the work of the International Lutheran Council. “The ILC remains faithful to the Scriptures and the Confessions. We remain also in that understanding and will not abuse our consciences.”

ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala and ILC General Secretary Albert Collver

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC General Secretary, welcomed Bishop Makala and the ELCT-SELVD warmly. “It is a joy to welcome the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese into the ILC family,” said Dr. Collver. “Bishop Makala is a faithful leader of the church and we look forward to the ELCT-SELVD’s participation in the life and work of the International Lutheran Council.”

The decision to seek affiliation with the ILC has been a natural progression for the ELCT-SELVD, with Bishop Makala having been a regular guest at ILC world events over the past five years. Most recently, Bishop Makala and another member of the ELCT-SELVD are participating in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program.

“I congratulate Bishop Dr. Emmanuel Makala and his beloved diocese for joining the ILC,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Associate Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and Director of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program. “It has been my highest privilege to know him very closely over the course of so many years. Bishop Makala has always been a faithful confessor of doctrine and in all its articles. All he has done as bishop has been motivated not by some personal gain but for the sake of his people.”

“I agree with many who consider him as a Luther for this age in Tanzania,” Dr. Masaki continued. “His people rejoice with him on this occasion because they know that they will continue to be cared for by their Savior through faithful administration of the pure Word of God and sacraments according to Christ’s institution. I join with all of the beloved saints in his diocese in praising the Lord for His faithfulness to them and all of us!”

The decision of the ELCT-SELVD to affiliate with the International Lutheran Council received praise from other African Lutherans as well. “I would like to express my sincere congratulations to Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Joseph Makala, Bishop of the ELCT-SELVD, because you have been accepted as a member of the International Lutheran Council,” said General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. “This is a historic and special moment because this agreement was made in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses and called the church back to the authority of the Holy Scriptures five hundred years ago. Let us remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures and Lutherans Confessions!”

Rev. Dr. Daniel Mono, a District Pastor in the ELCT-SELVD, also expressed joy at their diocese’s welcome into the ILC. “It was such good news for all of us to be accepted as members of the International Lutheran Council,” he said. “We are looking forward to being active and faithful members; faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, administering sacraments as instituted and mandated to us by Jesus Christ.”

“With no doubt, God has heard the prayers of pastors and members of ELCT- South East of Lake Victoria Diocese,” he continued. “We all regard the ten documents in the Bok of Concord as true interpretations of the Bible. We are looking forward to cooperating in various ways.”

While the South East of Lake Victoria Dioceses is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, it is also an independently constituted legal entity, allowing it to affiliate with the International Lutheran Council. The diocese has approximately 23,000 members, 72 congregations, and 72 pastors. The diocese was established in 2012 and officially inaugurated in 2013 as a result of rapid growth in the region.

At its 2018 World Conference, the ILC announced new membership categories that allow for a wider variety of observer members. One of these classes—Recognized Organizations—allows “ecclesiastical organizations other than or at a different level than organized church bodies” to seek observer membership, allowing “councils, districts, dioceses, organized movements, and individual congregations” to affiliate with the ILC.

More information on the different membership categories in the International Lutheran Council, including how to apply, is available here.

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