Strengthening communion, promoting exchange
(LWI) – Church leaders, Council members and Council advisors from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in the Africa Region met for an online meeting on 11 January 2024. It was the first event bringing them together since the Thirteenth Assembly in Krakow, Poland, last year and aimed to strengthen fellowship, exchange, and communion among them.
LWF’s Regional Secretary for Africa, Rev. Dr. Samuel Dawai, reminded participants of the significance of the past Assembly and that a Men’s Pre-Assembly had taken place for the first time. He especially welcomed the new LWF Vice-President for the Africa Region, Rev. Dr. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), and Rev. Dr. Jeanette Ada Epse Maina from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon who will chair the LWF Council Committee for Communion Relations for the current term.
It is the church’s task to comfort people and remind them of Christs legacy.
Bishop Evalister Mugabo, Lutheran Church in Rwanda
Bishop Evalister Mugabo from the Lutheran Church in Rwanda (LCR) led the devotion on John 14:27, saying that peace was a condition free from persecution and where people’s fundamental needs were met. He said Christ’s legacy was his peace, and “it is the church’s task to comfort people and remind them of this legacy.”
Impact of churches’ holistic mission
Addressing the meeting participants, LWF Vice-President Dibisa said that starting the new year with a new meeting format encouraged and promoted joint engagement of African Lutheran churches. Looking back at 2023, Dibisa pointed out the socio-economic and political turmoil across the continent and numerous natural disasters that had struck – among others – Tanzania in the last months. However, he also reminded the leaders of joy and gladness, such as the impact churches made on society through their holistic mission. “Christ challenges us to strengthen our communion,” he said, citing John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Updates were shared from the three subregions:
The Lutheran Communion in Central and West Africa (LUCCWA) has had its first gathering in Senegal after a pause of two years from 27-29 December. It took place under the leadership of the new leader, National Bishop Jean Baiguélé of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon. It was an opportunity to reflect on prospects and to welcome three young emerging Lutheran churches from Gambia, Togo, and Guinea.
The Lutheran Communion in Central and East Africa (LUCCEA) has concluded a restructuring process. This year, it will present a new constitution and four-year strategic plan to its General Assembly. LUCCEA representatives participated in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) conference with LWF for the second time. That proves to be a valuable meeting point between churches and politicians. Efforts for reconciliation and to resolve the leadership crisis in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (ELCO) are ongoing.
The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) will kick off 2024 with a staff development session. In October 2023, the Secretariat Office was strengthened by appointing a gender justice and women’s empowerment program coordinator. Two major gatherings in 2024 will be the LUCSA Council meeting in April and a partnership conference jointly organized with the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM), Germany.
Reflecting on the first experience with the new meeting format, which allows for short gatherings of the region’s leaders on a more regular basis, Dawai said: “I am delighted that we could hold the meeting and that the majority of those invited attended. At the start of the year, that created a space for exchange and praying together, even online. That is also living communion.”