MADAGASCAR – On 13 September 13, 2016, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy – FLM) elected Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina as the Presiding Bishop / President of the church body. Dr. Rakotonirina was elected on the fourth ballot receiving 242 votes, while Rev. Lotera Fabien, Dean of the Higher Institute of Lutheran Theology (SALT) in Fianarantsoa received 223 votes. The Malagasy Lutheran Church’s General Assembly began on 5 September 5, 2016 and concluded on September 14, 2016.
Prior to the election on, Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina served since 2012 as the bishop/president of the Antananarivo Synod in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Before that, from 2006-2010, Dr. Rakotonirina served as the director of Seminary Teolojikam-Paritany Luterana Atsimoniavoko. In February 2016, Dr. Rakotonirina received a Doctorate of Divinity (D.D.) from Niagara Lutheran Theological Institute (NLTI). Dr. Rakotonirina is also studying at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) where he expects to receive a doctorate upon the completion of his dissertation.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) has between 3-4 million members. It was founded by Norwegian Missionaries in 1866. The Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
On February 2, President Harrison and the LCMS delegation visited the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) to celebrate the dedication of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Greater Accra. President Harrison and ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn lead the ceremony together, with President Harrison giving the sermon. Approximately 650 people gathered for the dedication service.
The LCMS’ Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) assisted the ELCG in setting up and equipping their new seminary’s library through the Chemnitz Library Initiative—a joint project between Concordia Theological Seminary and the International Lutheran Council. Some funds for the seminary’s construction were provided by the LCMS’ Office of International Mission. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana was established in 1958 by missionaries from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Today its membership stands at approximately 29,000 members.
On February 5, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison was invited to address the opening of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonano Loterana Malagasy) synodical convention near Antsirabe, Madagascar. On February 6, the LCMS delegation then visited the Antsirabe school for the blind. The school was recently the recipient of an LCMS emergency grant after Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant, learned in October 2013 that the children were malnourished due to budget cuts from European partners.
During meetings between the Malagasy Lutheran Church’s leaders and LCMS representatives, 17 Malagasy bishops asked for LCMS assistance in helping their churches affording roofs. Many Malagasy churches can afford local building materials (like red bricks) to construct their buildings, but have difficulty obtaining tin roofs to keep members dry during the rainy season. The LCMS is currently awaiting a formal proposal from the Malagasy Lutheran Church to see how the LCMS might assist. The Malagasy Lutheran Church has approximately 4 million members and is a member of the Lutheran World Federation.