SOUTH AFRICA – Bishop Mandla John Khumalo of the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa (CLCSA) passed away on March 1, 2021 after a brief illness. He was sixty years old.
A funeral service for Bishop Khumalo was held on March 6, conducted by Bishop Emeritus David Tswaedi of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.
“At some point, we will depart this world,” Bishop Khumalo wrote in a reflection on Facebook a few months ago. “I pray that, when I depart from this world, I should do so having served my God, my people to the best of my ability.”
“We are saddened to hear about the loss of Pastor Mandla yet find comfort in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council, in a letter of condolence. “The CLCSA will miss the remarkable leadership of Bishop Mandla, yet we give thanks to God for the blessings our Lord has bestowed on so many through his faithful witness.”
Prior to becoming a pastor, Bishop Khumalo was a rebel in South Africa against apartheid. “When the police were looking to arrest those people, I was one of those people they were looking for,” Bishop Khumalo explained in an interview with the Michigan District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. While attempting to flee the country, he and his companions sheltered in a church. “The pastor one night invited us to a revival crusade,” he explained. “We really did not want to go. But as a courtesy to this pastor, we decided we would attend this service.”
The proclamation of Law and Gospel that night led to Bishop Khumalo’s conversion. He returned to his hometown of Middleburg and presented himself to police, explaining that his faith in Christ had led him to turn himself in. The authorities instead let him go free.
Bishop Khumalo began sharing the Gospel in his home community, which led eventually to the establishment of a congregation. He graduated from the South African School of Theology in 1981.
Over time, Bishop Khumalo made connections with members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), through whom he came into contact with Lutheran theology. He eventually was accepted into Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he began studies in 1988. The congregation back in Middleburg subsequently also became Lutheran.
Today the church body which grew out of Bishop Khumalo’s missionary work now counts more than 22,000 members throughout South Africa.
In 2018, Bishop Khumalo led the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa into observer membership in the International Lutheran Council (ILC). He further represented his church in recent unity talks between the CLCSA and the ILC’s two other member churches in South Africa: the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) and the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA).