South African Lutheran bishop passes on to glory

CLCSA Bishop Mandla Khumalo

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.”

Bishop Mandla Khumalo

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).

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Unity talks begin between South African Lutherans

LCSA Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala, FELSISA Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul, FELSISA Bishop Dieter Reinstorf, the CLCSA’s Rev. Geoffrey Skosana, the LCSA’s Rev. John Nkambule, CLCSA Bishop Mandla Khumalo, and LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo.

SOUTH AFRICA – On January 14, 2020 representatives of the three confessional Lutheran church bodies in South Africa met for a first round of unity talks in Pretoria.

The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) was represented by Bishop Modise Maragelo, Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala and Rev. John Nkambule; the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) by Bishop Dr. Dieter Reinstorf and Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul; and the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa (CLCSA) by Bishop Mandla Khumalo and Rev. Geoffrey Skosana.

These initial talks in Pretoria focused on establishing church fellowship between the LCSA and the FELSISA (who are already in declared church fellowship with one another) and the more recently established CLCSA. The foundational articles of the respective churches as well as the central doctrines of the Lutheran Church as contained in the Book of Concord were extensively discussed. The three churches will now provide feedback to their respective church councils in the hope that church fellowship will be formalized in upcoming church conventions.

These unity talks were largely prompted by discussions held at a meeting of the Africa Region of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) held in Pretoria from September 17-20, 2019. At this meeting gratitude was expressed for the number of newly established confessional Lutheran churches in Africa, while also raising concern that many of these Lutheran Churches work independently without establishing formal relationships with other regional churches—something which creates a formal expression of unity in doctrine. As a result, the regional meeting adopted a motion to encourage confessional Lutheran Churches, especially those within the same country, to make every effort to keep the unity of the church. Part of this process is to formally establish church fellowship where there is agreement in doctrine and to consider amalgamation or the establishment of a federation of confessional churches.

The Lutheran Church in South Africa, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, and the Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa are all members of the International Lutheran Council.

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