Eucharistic worship, prayers for peace, inaugurate regional church leadership consultation
(LWI) – A wonderful opportunity to gather in one place, time to break and share bread together, exchange prayers for peace and greetings of solidarity. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) communion in Africa kicked off its first in-person regional gathering in three years with a celebration of Eucharist during the opening worship at the Chapel of the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 28 June.
More than 80 representatives of the 31 LWF member churches in the region are gathered in the Ethiopian capital for the Africa Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation (ALCLC), which last convened in-person in May 2019. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon (EELC) and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) are jointly hosting the 27 June-1 July event.
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68)” is the theme of the ALCLC which brings together heads of churches, women and youth leaders, coordinators of networks of theologians, member church communicators and diaconal actors, as well as LWF’s partners in mission and staff from the Communion Office.
In his sermon based on the theme, EELC Bishop Dr Jean Baiguele reflected on the struggle for Christians to live according to the law of scripture and to remain grounded in the faith. Like Simon Peter, Baiguele said, human beings understand God according to their own limitations, yet the dimensions of God’s love have always been a mystery. “Jesus is aware how his words are misunderstood, thus he is looking for a good piece of land where his seeds will develop. It is Jesus who possesses the words of eternal life, and his teachings about eternal life are visible on earth.”
Participants in the ALCLC opening worship, held at the Mekane Yesus Seminary chapel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Unity in the Lutheran communion
The LWF Vice-President for Africa Rev. Dr Jeannette Ada Maina presides over the regional church leadership consultations. In her opening address, she expressed joy over the opportunity to meet together again, describing the ALCLC as “very important for the consolidation of our communion.” The platform gives churches “the opportunity to share our experiences, our frustrations and our testimonies of the grace of God in our lives for mutual support,” she added.
The consultation’s venue was shifted from Yaoundé, Cameroon, in the Lutheran Communion in Central and Western Africa (LUCCWA) sub-region to Ethiopia in the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA). Welcoming participants on behalf of LUCCEA, Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Shoo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) emphasized the importance of unity among LWF’s churches on the continent.
“The pulse of Africa lies in unity, in meeting together and sharing in communion; in celebrating our ubuntu (humanness), and also our faith in the One Lord Jesus Christ whose name we proclaim,” Shoo said. The LUCCEA president invited participants “to reflect on our journey together in Africa and the way we are going to strengthen our unity.”
From left: Presiding Bishop Dr Frederick Shoo (Tanzania); LWF Vice-President for Africa Rev. Dr Jeannette Ada Maina (Cameroon), and LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa (Nigeria), during the opening worship of the ALCLC in the Mekane Yesus Seminary chapel.
Hope to move forward
Meeting at the MYS was an opportunity to see ongoing reconstruction of the EECMY seminary and resumption of academic activities following the deadly flooding at the campus in August 2021. MYS President Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale expressed gratitude to the global Christian community for “your caring, prayers, support, thoughts and encouraging words in various ways,” following the tragedy in which eight people died, and several buildings were destroyed.
Greeting the consultation’s participants, LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt said it was “truly an honor to be back in the continent” following her recent visit to East Africa, “where I had the privilege to witness” the work of the ELCT around Moshi, and LWF’s World Service humanitarian and development work in Uganda.
Burghardt’s gratitude to EECMY for hosting the event included a special gesture to the seminary. She presented the MYS president with a replica of the Lund Cross, which the LWF produced in the context of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, as a symbolic representation of the communion’ commitment to the ecumenical journey toward the unity of the global church. “We are grateful for this cross” which represents the hope we have in Jesus Christ “to move forward after the disaster,” Bruk said.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt (left) presents a replica of the Lund Cross to Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale, President of the Mekane Yesus Seminary.
LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa, who is head of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria also greeted participants. The consultation’s agenda includes a keynote address on misleading theologies in Africa, and a presentation by General Secretary Burghardt on the shared witness of churches in the Lutheran communion.
By LWF/P. Mumia. All photos LWF/ALCINET, Refilwe Mofulatsi, Erick Adolph and MYS
The Africa Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation (ALCLC) brings together delegates representing all leadership levels of LWF’s member churches in Africa. The objective of the bi-annual meeting is to support churches in deepening relationships, building a shared theological understanding and reflecting together on being a resilient church in times of challenges. The 27 June -1 July ALCLC is jointly hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, in Addis Ababa.