LWF mourns South Africa Bishop Buthelezi

Bishop (Emeritus) Manas Buthelezi. Photo: LWF Archives
Bishop (Emeritus) Manas Buthelezi. Photo: LWF Archives

A prophetic voice with a passion for justice, peace and reconciliation

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has hailed South African Bishop (Emeritus) Manas Buthelezi, a former LWF vice-president who died on 20 April, aged 81, as a great African theologian of the 20th century.

In a letter to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, where Buthelezi served as bishop of the Central Diocese for 20 years ending in 1997, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge offered condolences to Buthelezi’s family, Lutherans in South Africa and the whole nation on behalf of the worldwide communion. Junge called Buthelezi’s contribution to the worldwide Lutheran communion remarkable.

“His deep and visionary theological analysis, his prophetic voice, his charismatic leadership and commitment to ecumenism and global Lutheranism have marked the lives of many people around the globe,” Junge said.

The African church leader helped open ways for Lutherans to continue reading biblical texts through the eyes of the oppressed based on the Lutheran teaching: Scripture alone, faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone.

Buthelezi’s deep and visionary theological analysis, his prophetic voice, his charismatic leadership and commitment to ecumenism and global Lutheranism have marked the lives of many people around the globe.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge

Bishop Buthelezi’s eloquent passion for justice, peace and reconciliation continue to inspire the global Lutheran communion, and his pastoral concern for the suffering has left a legacy with LWF’s Executive Committee and Council, which he served from 1993 to 1997. He participated in the LWF Assembly in Dar es Salaam in 1977 where he offered a seminar on the unity of the church entitled “In Christ – One community in the Spirit”. In this seminar he demonstrated how apartheid had distorted true Christian unity by instituting segregation based on race. Buthelezi was a keynote speaker at the LWF assembly in Curitiba in 1990. He was appointed to the Standing Committee on International Affairs and Human Rights in 1993.

Educated at Umphumulo Theological College in South Africa and Yale University in the United States, Buthelezi taught for a time at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. A leading exponent of Black Theology and advocate for voiceless South Africans during the apartheid regime, he played a major role in the South African Council of Churches, the All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

In 2000 he retired to his birthplace, Mahlabathini.

“Our brother Manas has departed from us: we give thanks for his life and may we continue to be encouraged by his work. With tears in our eyes but with hearts filled with hope we are strengthened in the certain promise of the resurrection,” Junge concludes in his letter.