GERMANY – On February 27, 2019, the International Lutheran Council (ILC)) welcomed the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD) as a Recognized Organization observer member. Their acceptance was formally declared in Wittenberg, Germany following a decision of the ILC’s Executive Committee.
“We are so joyful that we have been accepted as a member of the ILC in an observer status,” said ELCT-SELVD Bishop Emmanuel Makala. “Through our authorized decision-making Assemblies, we have found that the ILC is a safe place for encouragement and learning.”
The Pastors’ Committee of ELCT-SELVD voted unanimously to seek membership in the ILC on January 24, 2019.
“We understand that there is a big contradiction between the teachings and practices of African churches and much of world Lutheranism today,” Bishop Makala continued. “We pray for and witness to those who would change the church into a secular entity focused solely on human rights rather than on being the Church.” For that reason, he said, the ELCT-SELVD is grateful for the work of the International Lutheran Council. “The ILC remains faithful to the Scriptures and the Confessions. We remain also in that understanding and will not abuse our consciences.”
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC General Secretary, welcomed Bishop Makala and the ELCT-SELVD warmly. “It is a joy to welcome the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese into the ILC family,” said Dr. Collver. “Bishop Makala is a faithful leader of the church and we look forward to the ELCT-SELVD’s participation in the life and work of the International Lutheran Council.”
The decision to seek affiliation with the ILC has been a natural progression for the ELCT-SELVD, with Bishop Makala having been a regular guest at ILC world events over the past five years. Most recently, Bishop Makala and another member of the ELCT-SELVD are participating in the Lutheran Leadership Development Program.
“I congratulate Bishop Dr. Emmanuel Makala and his beloved diocese for joining the ILC,” said Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Associate Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and Director of the Lutheran Leadership Development Program. “It has been my highest privilege to know him very closely over the course of so many years. Bishop Makala has always been a faithful confessor of doctrine and in all its articles. All he has done as bishop has been motivated not by some personal gain but for the sake of his people.”
“I agree with many who consider him as a Luther for this age in Tanzania,” Dr. Masaki continued. “His people rejoice with him on this occasion because they know that they will continue to be cared for by their Savior through faithful administration of the pure Word of God and sacraments according to Christ’s institution. I join with all of the beloved saints in his diocese in praising the Lord for His faithfulness to them and all of us!”
The decision of the ELCT-SELVD to affiliate with the International Lutheran Council received praise from other African Lutherans as well. “I would like to express my sincere congratulations to Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Joseph Makala, Bishop of the ELCT-SELVD, because you have been accepted as a member of the International Lutheran Council,” said General Secretary Teshome Amenu of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. “This is a historic and special moment because this agreement was made in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses and called the church back to the authority of the Holy Scriptures five hundred years ago. Let us remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures and Lutherans Confessions!”
Rev. Dr. Daniel Mono, a District Pastor in the ELCT-SELVD, also expressed joy at their diocese’s welcome into the ILC. “It was such good news for all of us to be accepted as members of the International Lutheran Council,” he said. “We are looking forward to being active and faithful members; faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, administering sacraments as instituted and mandated to us by Jesus Christ.”
“With no doubt, God has heard the prayers of pastors and members of ELCT- South East of Lake Victoria Diocese,” he continued. “We all regard the ten documents in the Bok of Concord as true interpretations of the Bible. We are looking forward to cooperating in various ways.”
While the South East of Lake Victoria Dioceses is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, it is also an independently constituted legal entity, allowing it to affiliate with the International Lutheran Council. The diocese has approximately 23,000 members, 72 congregations, and 72 pastors. The diocese was established in 2012 and officially inaugurated in 2013 as a result of rapid growth in the region.
At its 2018 World Conference, the ILC announced new membership categories that allow for a wider variety of observer members. One of these classes—Recognized Organizations—allows “ecclesiastical organizations other than or at a different level than organized church bodies” to seek observer membership, allowing “councils, districts, dioceses, organized movements, and individual congregations” to affiliate with the ILC.
More information on the different membership categories in the International Lutheran Council, including how to apply, is available here.