Tanzania: Presiding Bishop calls for leadership values that foster unity

ELCT Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Onael Shoo. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay
ELCT Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Onael Shoo. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay

ELCT retreat on a sustainable church

(LWI) - Church unity, sustainability, and a vibrant church were key topics at a recent retreat of bishops, management team, youth and women leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT).

In his opening address to the 41 delegates at the 19 – 23 February meeting, ELCT Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Onael Shoo said, “If the unity of the church is destabilized, the church will no longer be able to carry out God’s mission of being the light and salt to the world.”

If the unity of the church is destabilized, the church will no longer be able to carry out God’s mission of being the light and salt to the world.
ELCT Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Onael Shoo

Diocesan bishops and other leaders from ELCT’s 26 dioceses and the national office attended the event in the northern town of Karatu, Arusha Region. It included workshops on leadership values that address power dynamics, cultural norms and other factors that hinder inclusive participation, church growth and unity, as well as responsible stewardship of resources.

Shoo, who heads the 7.5-million-member church, emphasized that “unity should not be confined to units such as dioceses and the national church, rather, the focus should be the global communion as well.” He reminded all those who hold ELCT leadership positions of the need “to be led by the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the duty of feeding and taking care of the sheep that God has entrusted” to them.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge was one of the keynote speakers at the meeting.

Inclusive participation and gender equality

In her presentation on the priesthood of all believers, Rev. Dr Muke Nagaju, deputy executive director for Africa at the United Evangelical Mission (UEM), urged ELCT leaders “to embrace gender equality in carrying out God’s mission in all ministries and at all levels.”

She noted men and women are equally called to participate in God’s mission but “the social construction of gender creates the perception that men are expected to be powerful and women to be powerless, hence they are denied position in both church and society.”

The General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata led a session on how to improve the church’s governance system, promote the participation of men and women in its mission, and be a strong voice in the public space. He commended the ELCT for its important process of capacity development, saying it enables the leaders “to work together in an inclusive way and contribute to the internal unity of the church so that the church is a true powerful witness to the world.”

LWF General Secretary Junge thanked the ELCT for inviting him to listen and share with the gathering, as the church engages in its process of leadership development. “It was a great moment to reflect together that unity is a gift entrusted into our hands, and we are called to be stewards of this precious gift from God.” In his presentation, he offered some perspectives on what it is to be the church in mission and communion relationships.

LWF Strategy in Swahili launched

The Swahili version of the LWF Strategy 2019 – 2024, of which translation was coordinated by the ELCT, was launched during the retreat. The publication will be distributed to churches in Tanzania, neighboring Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to promote engagement in the LWF processes and journey toward communion building.

The ELCT has been a member church of the LWF since 1964. It is the world’s second largest Lutheran church, and it is recognized in East Africa and beyond for its education and health delivery institutions that serve the whole community without discrimination on gender or religion. It owns the Tumaini University Makumira with four constituent colleges, Lutheran seminaries, numerous secondary schools, institutes of technical education, and special schools for the deaf and blind. It also runs 24 hospitals, 145 health centers and several dispensaries.


LWF Strategy 2019 – 2024

Communion building


By Elizabeth Lobulu, ELCT Communications coordinator, and LWF Communications