Malasusa: Challenges in Africa need special attention from Lutherans

Bishop Malasusa, centre, with members of the LWF Council
Bishop Malasusa, centre, with members of the LWF Council

Hundreds attend Marangu anniversary opening worship

(LWI) - Tanzania’s Presiding Bishop Dr Alex G. Malasusa inaugurated African Lutheran anniversary celebrations with a call for greater unity among the churches.

Malasusa urged The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches on the continent to revitalize the Reformation spirit in anticipation of the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017 and beyond.

“As Lutheran churches in Africa, we need to reach people rather than people reaching us. We need to have a strong base of diaconal activities at the grassroots level,” said Malasusa, who is LWF Vice-President for the African region.

Over 200 delegates from the 31 LWF member churches are meeting 20-24 May, in Moshi, to mark the first gathering of African Lutherans in Marangu, in 1955. The ELCT is hosting the event which is also attended by global LWF leaders and representatives of mission partners.

The ELCT presiding bishop delivered the keynote address at the conference opening worship at the Moshi Lutheran Cathedral. Malasusa called on African Lutheran churches to actively engage people in civic rights “so that our Christians can actively participate in bringing about transformative leadership and good governance in church and society.”

He expressed the joy of African churches in hosting the LWF Twelfth Assembly and the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia. The current Marangu anniversary meeting symbolizes “African happiness that the most known Reformation anniversary will be taking place on the soil of Africa,” he added.

The LWF vice-president said there are signs that Africa is changing, and encouraged churches to honor and acknowledge such progress. He cited pioneer Africans like NKwame Nkurumah (Ghana) who ignited the vision of uniting Africa. South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was an outstanding role model, who lived Jesus’ teaching of “loving our enemies and praying for our prosecutors,” the ELCT bishop added.

There are many other reasons to celebrate, he continued. “We congratulate President Jonathan Goodluck, the outgoing President of the Republic of Nigeria, for showing maturity in politics and conceding defeat when it happened.’’

Still, Malasusa said, there are major challenges facing Lutherans in Africa as a growing church. The themes that will be discussed in the conference: ‘creation is not for sale’, ‘human beings are not for sale’ and ‘salvation is not for sale’ need special attention.

He asked the conference participants to discuss one of the major concerns for the church in Africa—commercialization of religious services. “They are no longer a free gift, and not as God’s providence by grace.”

The LWF vice-president asked the church in Africa to make itself available, not only by preaching the Word of God but also by “offering itself as the voice for the most vulnerable of our society, especially women and children.”

Bishop Dr Fredrick Shoo of the ELCT Northern Diocese presided at the opening worship, which was attended by around 400 people. Retired ELCT Northern Diocese Bishop Dr Martin F. Shao delivered the sermon, reminding Christians that they are called to be servants and not masters.

Invited guests included the Catholic Bishop of Kilimanjaro region, Dr Isaac Amani Massawe, who emphasized Christian unity as “we all claim one Jesus Christ and one Holy Spirit.”

 

ELCT communicator Nengida Lairumbe contributed this report for LWI

 

 

Read the report Journeying Together: LWF communion in Africa 1955-2015 detailing 60 years of Lutheran work in Africa
 

Find out more about Marangu 2015