African church leaders gather in Kenya for Pre-Assembly

4 May 2023

During the 8 to 13 May meeting, delegates from across the continent will be discussing challenges including poverty, climate change, gender justice, theological education, and religious freedom

Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Photo: LWF/A. Hillert

Nairobi meeting gathers delegates to reflect on regional contexts and prepare together for the Assembly

(LWI) - Economic justice, climate change and religious freedom will be among the key concerns discussed by delegates from churches across the African continent who are gathering in Nairobi, Kenya, next week to prepare for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly in Poland in September.

The 8 to 13 May African Pre-Assembly will be hosted by both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), based principally in the north and west of the country, and by the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC), located largely in the south and eastern region, close to the border with Tanzania.

With many of the delegates preparing to attend their first ever LWF Assembly in Krakow, Regional Secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Dawai says he hopes the Kenya meeting will enable participants “to gain a good understanding of the Assembly themes and procedures, as well as the particular challenges related to the Africa region.”

Climate crisis, economic justice, religious freedom

Dawai, from the Church of the Lutheran Brethren in Cameroon, attended the previous Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, as an LWF Council member. From his Yaoundé office, he has been working to coordinate the Pre-Assembly which brings together some 160 participants from the 31 African member churches.

Delegates will gather at the Nairobi headquarters of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) which represents over 140 million Christians across the continent. The meeting will be preceded by encounters of both youth and women delegates to discuss the particular challenges many of them face in their churches and societies and the hopes they have for the future.

Key issues which will be under the spotlight are the role of the churches in combating the climate crisis and in promoting economic justice, gender justice, as well as the challenge of religious freedom in a context of rising insecurity and terrorism. LWF President Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria will speak about the plight of people in his country and in other parts of Africa where Christians are forced to flee from persecution or attacks on their lives and livelihoods.

Misleading theologies and the prosperity gospel are also an important issue in our context.

LWF Regional Secretary for Africa Rev. Dr Samuel Dawai

“Misleading theologies and the prosperity gospel are also an important issue in our context, affecting many churches,” Dawai says. “Sound theological education and formation remains a key priority for the churches locally and regionally,” he adds.

“As Lutherans from across the continent, we hope to listen and learn from each other, to wrestle and discern which are the challenges in our context that we want to push to the global arena,” says Rev. Luke Mwololo, Secretary General of both KELK and the Lutheran Communion in Central and East Africa (LUCCEA).

The Pre-Assembly will also offer the host churches an opportunity to showcase their activities, including the work of the Pangani Lutheran Church Centre, an outreach ministry of KELK which offers a holistic education and hope to hundreds of young girls previously living on the streets of Nairobi.

Hopes for closer cooperation and concrete actions

ELCK Archbishop Joseph Omolo says the Nairobi gathering will also be an important opportunity for him to learn more about LWF’s work. “It is an honor to be co-hosting this meeting,” he says, adding that he hopes it may also lead to closer cooperation with KELC. “I know their new bishop and I think we could collaborate more on social issues,” he reflects.

KELC Secretary General Mwololo says he hopes the Pre-Assembly will “strengthen the prophetic voice of Africa’s Lutheran churches,” inspiring “concrete actions and strategies”, as well as enlarging the space for women and youth leadership in the church.

Last, but not least, he says, “I hope the delegates will be able “to enjoy the best of Kenyan hospitality and culture”, from the delicious food and coffee to the local languages they can hear during the hymns of the opening worship service

LWF/P. Hitchen