LWF Member Churches in Africa Look Forward to the 2015 Marangu Jubilee Celebrations

Bishops Malasusa and Kameeta and Ms Colleen Cunningham at the Marangu meeting. Photo: ELCT/Elizabeth Lobulu
Bishops Malasusa and Kameeta and Ms Colleen Cunningham at the Marangu meeting. Photo: ELCT/Elizabeth Lobulu

Marangu conference is key to unity, dignity and integrity

(LWI) – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) welcomes jubilee celebrations next year to commemorate the Reformation and the spirit of unity initiated at a historic 1955 conference, when leaders of African Lutheran churches met in Marangu (then Tanganyika) in northern Tanzania for the first time.

Sixty years ago, only two churches—the Malagasy Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in Northern Tanganyika—were Lutheran World Federation (LWF) members.

“The Marangu conference is key to our unity, dignity, integrity, self-autonomy, self-government, and the self-sustainment of churches in Africa,” said Bishop Dr Alex Malasusa, LWF Vice President and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, at a committee session in March planning the 2015 anniversary meeting to be held in Moshi, Northern Tanzania.

The 60th anniversary gathering in May 2015 also “gives Africa an opportunity to articulate its agenda to be put forward before the LWF Assembly, which will take place in Windhoek, Namibia in 2017,” he added, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The committee expects 130 participants at the meeting and is also planning a church service in Marangu as a climax to the jubilee. The celebrations are expected to bring Lutheran member churches from around the world together.

The theme of the Marangu jubilee is "From Marangu to Wittenberg: Theological Education and Leadership Formation and the Renewal of the Lutheran Church in Africa.” Events leading up to the Reformation anniversary will also focus on strengthening Lutheran identity in the African region.

“In 1955, people travelled to Marangu when their hearts were heavily laden as countries were still under colonial rule. There was a yearning for the liberation of Africa as a whole,” said Bishop Emeritus Dr Zephania Kameeta, who chaired the planning meeting. Therefore, “Marangu is a place African leaders came together on the eve of independence when the struggle for independence had already started. But now churches in Africa are going to Wittenberg, Germany in 2017 in their own right.”

“We are getting together to talk about the renewal of the church in Africa, including Reformation. Martin Luther in 1570 said the Reformation of the church continues. Therefore, our spirit goes on beyond 2017,” Kameeta added.

The Marangu anniversary will also highlight the current social and economic situation in Africa and address problems facing the continent.

“We cannot be celebrating without looking at growing poverty; issues of corruption in our society and countries, and climate change. All these issues need our attention,” said Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure, LWF area secretary for Africa.

The issue of sustainability “is of utmost importance, even in the context of my church in Tanzania, because without sustainability we cannot plan for the future,” Mungure said.

Bishop Dr P. Filibus Musa, of the Mayo Belwa Diocese in the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, described Marangu as “not only a place or a landmark on the journey towards Wittenberg. Marangu is where everything started; the spirit was ignited and went out to share the Good News. The anniversary will enable churches to articulate the harvest and map out the way forward. The gathering for the 60th anniversary should be a moment of coming together rather than a moment of departure.”