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.
SOUTH AFRICA – The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) held its General Synod in Wittenberg, South Africa from December 2-5, 2019, during which time the church reelected Bishop Modise Maragelo and Deputy Bishop Mandla Thwala to another five year term in office.
The General Synod was held under the theme “Acta non verba” (“Actions not words”), based on James 2:26b: “Faith apart from works is dead.” With this verse, the LCSA’s church council encouraged its members to remember that all decisions taken must be implemented for the wellbeing of the Church of Christ. The importance of good governance was stressed by Bishop Maragelo.
In the report of the church council, the Bishop highlighted several major events over the past few years, including: the appointment of a General Secretary and a Treasurer; the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the 50th anniversary of the LCSA in 2017; a joint pastors’ convention held with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) in 2018; and workshops organized for preachers, deaconesses, deans, and deputy deans.
Guests in attendance at the event included Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of FELSISA; Mission Director Roger Zieger from the Lutherische Kirchenmission, the Mission Society of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK); and Rev. Dr. Walter Winterle, rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria).
USA – The Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP) met for its fifth and sixth classes November 11-22, 2019 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW).
During the first week of classes, Rev. Dr. Christian Ekong, Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, taught a course entitled “Ecclesial and Organizational Leadership.” Archbishop Ekong challenged the students to resist the “leadership syndrome” in which church officials compete for a higher position in the church. Instead, he said, they must understand that church leadership is about service. “If a leader is elected because he has merited a leader’s position, he is in the position of leadership to be served,” he said. “But if a leader understands he is called by God, then that leader will know he is called to serve the church.”
To that end, Archbishop Ekong guided the class into a Scriptural study of ecclesial leadership. Participants expressed gratitude for the class, noting that Archbishop Ekong could speak directly to the challenges and opportunities of church leadership in an African context—challenges they face on a regular basis. The current class of students in the LLDP all come from Africa, with participants in November’s classes attending from Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
During the second week, Rev. Dr. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at CTSFW, taught a course on “Responding to Contemporary Issues and Neo-Pentecostalism.” The church faces new challenges in every era, and these call for a careful confessional Lutheran response. Dr. Pless provided timely assistance to the church leaders participating in the LLDP, providing resources, presenting the roots and manifestations of key contemporary spiritual and theological movements, and assisting participants in responding to issues facing their own churches.
The class discussed not only Neo-Pentecostalism but also contemporary theological issues related to the church growth movement, contextualization, women’s ordination, homosexuality, and Luther’s Two Kingdom doctrine, with particular emphasis on their relevance to the Global South. In addition, Dr. Pless introduced Herman Sasse’s writings as reliable theological contributions in answering contemporary issues.
New Resources from CPH
Students in November’s classes benefited from two texts recently published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH). The first book, Strengthening Integrity and Accountability in Church Leadership, is by Archbishop Ekong and served as a textbook for his course. “Church leaders are often exposed to temptations to profit because of their privileges,” notes a summary on CPH’s website. “When church leaders give in to these temptations to profit from the privileges of leadership, it gives reason to question their motives.” Instead, Dr. Ekong explains, church leaders are to emulate Jesus and the Apostles “who shepherded God’s people and protected them from the wolves.”
The second work is a reprint of Victor C. Pfitzner’s Led by the Spirit: How Charismatic is New Testament Christianity? When the book was first published by the Lutheran Church of Australia in 1976, “the Charismatic Movement was having a broad impact in denominations in North America, Europe, and Australia,” notes a summary on CPH’s website. Since then the movement has spread to other parts of the globe, making Pfitzner’s careful exegetical study of continued relevance. “This classic book on the subject has been reprinted to assist churches around the world in dealing with this challenge and in formulating a confessional Lutheran response.”
“CPH has been a most helpful partner to the International Lutheran Council and the work of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program,” noted Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, LLDP Director and a professor with CTSFW. “It’s a blessing to work with them to publish these solid Lutheran resources not only for students in the LLDP but also for use by the wider Lutheran community.”
“With the publication of these two works, we now have three books published by Concordia Publishing House that bear the LLDP logo,” noted Dr. Masaki. “The church leaders in our current LLDP class and I are deeply thankful that CPH keeps rendering such excellent work for the church around the globe.”
LLDP students also received copies of Hermann Sasse’s Letters to Lutheran Pastors during the November classes.
The Lutheran Leadership Development Program
The LLDP is a two-year certificate program of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The program aims to provide Lutheran church bodies around the world with the opportunity to develop leaders who are competent in both solid confessional Lutheran theology as well as practical skills in leadership and resource management.
“It remains my privilege and joy to spend time with these wonderful men of God and the leaders of various churches,” said Dr. Masaki. “May the Lord continue to use the LLDP for confessional fellowship and to foster mutual support and encouragement among those who serve as leaders in their respective Lutheran church bodies.”
Nine participants attended the November sessions of the LLDP at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana: Rev. John Donkoh, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG); Rev. Modise Maraglo, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA); Rev. Mandla Thwala, Deputy Bishop of the LCSA; Rev. Helmut Paul, Deputy Bishop of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Makala, Bishop of the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT-SELVD); Rev. Dr. Daniel Mono, District Pastor of the ELCT-SELVD; Rev. Teshome Amenu, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY); Mr. Tsegahun Assefa, Director of Youth and Children of the EECMY; and Rev. Dr. Bruk Ayele, President of Mekane Yesus Seminary of the EECMY. Dr. Ayele is a new participant of the LLDP beginning with the November 2019 classes.
Given that all current participants in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program hail from Africa, plans are underway to hold one of 2020’s LLDP two-week sessions in Africa.
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”
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).
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.
“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.
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.
SOUTH AFRICA – The Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) convened for its 61st Synodical Convention in Pretoria from September 15-17, 2018, at which time Rev. Dr. Dieter Reinstorf was reelected Bishop for another four year term. Elected as Deputy Bishop was Rev. Helmut Paul.
The theme for this year’s convention was: “Christ is my life: Constructive responses from the faith community to the present social and political challenges in South Africa,” based on Philippians 1:21. In recent years South Africa has been marked by political instability with the ruling party considering amending the constitution of the country to pave the way for land expropriation without compensation. If this bill should be passed, FELSISA would be directly affected in that most of its members still form part of the agricultural sector. On the other hand there are social inequalities in South Africa that can be traced back directly to the apartheid era that simply need to be addressed. As keynote speaker for the conference, Prof. Dr. Piet Meiring (a pastor and academic of the Dutch Reformed church, as well as a former member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission) was invited to give two presentations with group and plenary discussions. Dr. Meiring’s presentations drew in particular on Jeremiah 29 and Micah 4, and the FELSISA convention was deeply enriched through the presentations.
Among other business, the convention decided to review and expand on the church’s ecumenical guidelines document (Explanations and Guidelines for Ecumenical Encounters). This decision was taken in the hope of gaining greater clarity and uniformity of practice in ever changing contexts where a clear confession of Christ needs to be spoken.
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