Ghana’s Lutherans celebrate 60 years

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana. (Photo: ELCG social media)

GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) celebrated its 60th anniversary during a national convention September 1-2, 2019 in Madina.

ELCG President John Donkoh during anniversary celebrations in Madina. (Photo: ELCG social media)

During the anniversary service on Sunday, ELCG President John Donkoh, elected in 2018, noted that “If you don’t know where you are from, it becomes very difficult to know where you are going.” Speaking on the history of the Ghanaian church, President Donkoh remarked, “It is said that a man got to know about Lutheranism, and he wanted a church in Ghana. He was referred to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The Missouri Synod said, ‘You have a sister church in Africa.’ And so, missionaries from Nigeria were sent to Ghana. And that is how the Lutheran church began.”

That Nigerian mission work in cooperation with the LCMS would bear great fruit. The ELCG formally registered with the Ghanaian government in 1964. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana has approximately 35,000 members in 50 congregations and 600 preaching stations throughout the country. The church has also been active in international missions: the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) and the Lutheran Church in Africa – Benin Synod (ELA-SBe) are two church bodies founded through the mission work of the Ghanaian church, with the ELCG also having been active in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.

Celebrating the ELCG’s 60th anniversary. (Photo: ELCG social media)
LCN Bishop S.O. Willie preaches during the anniversary service. (Photo: Screenshot).

To honour the work of Nigerians in helping found their church, the ELCG invited the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) to celebrate the special anniversary with them. Present as guest preacher for the anniversary service was the Right Rev. S.O. Willie, a provincial Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. A number of other international church partners were also present for the celebrations.

The ELCG and the LCMS, LCN, LCU, and ELA-SBe are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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Second Round of Classes for Lutheran Leadership Development Program

LLDP participants and their instructors at CTSFW (l-r): FELSISA Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul, LCSA Bishop Modise Maragelo, EECMY General Secretary Teshome Amenu, ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala, LCSA Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala, CTSFW President Lawrence Rast, CTSFW Academic Dean Charles Gieschen, ELCG President John Donkoh, EECMY Director of Children and Youth Tsegahun Assefa, ELCT-SELVD District Pastor Daniel Mono, and LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki.

USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) held its second round of classes July 8-19, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).

“It was a joy to be reunited here at CTSFW with our colleagues and brothers in the office from countries throughout Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “We pray that their studies in this program will bear much fruit in their home church bodies”

CTSFW President Lawrence Rast teaches Lutheran history.

The first week featured a course on the History of the Lutheran Church taught by CTSFW President Lawrence Rast. This course focused on giving participants a deeper appreciation of the rich heritage of the Lutheran Church, and the tools to evaluate their own Lutheran tradition in light of the history of the Reformation. Participants also considered present day Lutheranism in the context of our changing world, both within and without the church.

The second week of classes featured Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, CTSFW’s Academic Dean, teaching a course on Lutheran Hermeneutics. The course provided instruction for students on how to read and understand Scripture faithfully, while also addressing the dangers of the higher-critical method and reader-oriented hermeneutics of biblical interpretation common in some parts of world Lutheranism. Among other resources, students read the book How to Read the Bible with Understanding, a publication from Concordia Publishing House (CPH).

Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen teaches on Lutheran hermeneutics.

The students were also joined outside of class by Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Lutheran Leadership Development Program is a certificate program of the ILC.

Darin Storkson, Interim General Secretary of ILC, speaks with LLDP participants.

“One of the recurring requests we hear from Lutheran Churches around the world is the need for solid theological training,” said General Secretary Storkson. “The International Lutheran Council is proud to offer the Lutheran Leadership Development Program as a way of helping Lutherans around the world meet their theological education and leadership-training needs.”

In addition to classes, participants enjoyed plenty of time for food and fellowship, as well as visiting local Lutheran sites. The group also participated in the regular daily chapel services of CTSFW, where four of the LLDP participants were invited to preach. The intensive two-week period ended with a banquet featuring Lutheran choral music.

“The reaction of the participant in the LLDP remains overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Masaki. “They express gratitude and joy in hearing lectures that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and in receiving the Lord’s gifts in daily chapel and Sunday divine services. It’s wonderful to see the growing confessional fellowship and networking among participants and their churches.”

“To many, this program has been an eye-opening experience which they do not want to keep to themselves,” Dr. Masaki continued. “They request an expansion of the program. They also request that the lectures would be made available in book form as well, so that they may be more easily shared with others in in their home countries—something we are exploring with Concordia Publishing House.”

Eight students from across Africa were present for the latest round of classes, including General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of the Department of Children and Youth in the EECMY; President John Donkoh of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Bishop Modise Maragelo the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (LCSA); Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala of LCSA; Bishop Emmanuel Makala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD); and District Pastor Daniel Mono of ELCT-SELVD.

LLDP Director Naomichi Masaki (bottom) and ILC Interim General Secretary Darin Storkson (third row, right) pose with LLDP participants in front of a mosaic in the library at CTSFW. This section of the mosaic shows Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses and Martin Chemnitz holding the completed Book of Concord. “How fitting it is that we all stand here together as heirs of this common and rich Reformation heritage!” said Dr. Masaki, noting that those in the picture come from many different nations (South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Japan, and the United States) but are united in the same Lutheran faith.

Three additional LLDP participants from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) and the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) were unable to attend the current round of classes in Fort Wayne.

The LLDPis a two-year certificate program which aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world an opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management. Students in the LLDP meet three times a year over two years for a total of twelve courses. Additional course work, writings, and examinations take place at a distance. More information on the LLDP is available here.

The first round of LLDP classes took place February 18-March 1, 2019 in Wittenberg, Germany. The next set of classes will take place November 18-29, 2019 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

You can support the LLDP by making a donation online. You can also make a donation by cheque to:

International Lutheran Council
P.O. Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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ILC and CPH partner together to provide 17,000 catechisms to churches around the world

CPH President Bruce G. Kintz poses with boxes of Small Catechisms ready to ship around the world.

WORLD – In November 2018, Concordia Publishing House shipped thousands of copies of Luther’s Small Catechism to church bodies around the world as part of the publisher’s partnered work with the International Lutheran Council.

In total, 17,000 copies of the visual edition of the Small Catechism (with Explanation) were shipped to Lutheran church bodies around the world, including to churches in Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

“For 150 years, God has blessed CPH with the ability to help equip churches around the world with the resources they need to support theological formation and strengthen Lutheran identity,” said Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, President of Concordia Publishing House. “It’s a joy to partner with the International Lutheran Council in this important work. To God be the glory!” CPH is the world’s largest, continually-operating publisher of confessional Lutheran materials.

In addition to working together on the distribution of Lutheran resources internationally, the ILC and CPH also partner together on the Lutheran Leadership Development Program, a global initiative to train leaders for Lutheran churches around the world.

You can support the joint work of the ILC and CPH through online giving. Simply designate your gift for the Lutheran Leadership Development Program or another program of your choice.

You can also make donations by mail to the following address:

International Lutheran Council
PO Box 18775
St. Louis, MO 63118

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Ghana’s Lutherans prepare to welcome new president

GHANA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) is preparing to welcome their new president, Rev. John Shadrack Donkoh, who will be installed during a special service in Accra on July 1, 2018. The theme for the service will be “One Body, One Lord, One Mission,” drawing on Ephesians 4:4-6.

President Donkoh was elected president with 82% of the vote during a convention on March 17, 2018 in Kumasi. He succeeds Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, who had led the church for the past 40 years.

Prior to his election, President Donkoh was pastor of All Saints Lutheran in Anyaa and a part-time lecturer at the ELCG’s seminary in Sasaabi. He was ordained in 1991, and subsequently served and planted churches throughout Ghana. From 1994-2002, he served as a missionary to Uganda, and further served as Manager of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) in that country from 1995-2003. He later served as Country Director for LHM in Ghana from 2003-2011. President Donkoh formerly served the ELCG as secretary of the Ministerial Council (2003-2008), as Vice Chairman of its Restructuring Committee (2006), and as Secretary of the Disaster Committee (2007-2011).

President Donkoh’s election followed two years of work as the ELCG developed a new system of governance for the church. A convention in January 2018 saw the church adopt a new constitution, which precipitated the March elections. Elected to serve with President Donkoh were Rev. Dr Ebenezer Boafo (First Vice President), Alex Lanbon  (Second Vice President) and Kwame Poku-Boah (Third Vice President).

The elections are for a three-year term.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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LCMS visits Ghana and Madagascar

ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn speaks at the dedication service of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Ghana).
ELCG Bishop Paul Kofi Fynn speaks at the dedication service of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Ghana).

GHANA and MADAGASCAR – Following visits with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) President Matthew C. Harrison continued his international tour in early February with visits to Ghana and Madagascar.

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.

LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison addresses the Malagasy convention while Bishop David Rakotonirina translates.
LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison addresses the Malagasy convention while Bishop David Rakotonirina translates.

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.

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