Keynote Address on Assembly Theme by Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko
(LWI) – Citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is rooted in God’s forgiveness, but it is our responsibility to forgive one another, said Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, former General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to 120 delegates at the Africa Pre-Assembly in his keynote address on the LWF Twelfth Assembly theme “Liberated by God’s Grace”.
The Africa Pre-Assembly took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 6 to 10 February in preparation for the Twelfth Assembly which will be held in Windhoek, Namibia, in May. This will be the second Assembly to be held in Africa, he first having taken place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1977.
Noko began his address by pointing out that in the 5th century North Africa was a hub of theological discourse. One example of this was the dispute between the African Bishop Augustine of Hippo – in present Algeria – and the British-Irish monk Pelagius. Noko explained that whilst Pelagius rejected salvation by grace and affirmed the power of humans to live without sin, it was Augustine who emphasized salvation through God’s grace.
Embracing a life of sacrifice
On the topic of discipleship Noko went on to say that being the body of Christ includes embracing a life of sacrifice. This includes care for creation. “Being church implies unequivocal witness to the presence of God in all creation and the responsibility of the human race as stewards of all of God’s created order. Caring for creation is as much a responsibility of the church as is evangelism.”
Being church implies unequivocal witness to the presence of God in all creation.
Ecumenical opportunities and challenges
Commenting the role of the LWF in ecumenical collaboration, Noko stated that member churches have taken concrete and practical initiatives at regional levels, as well.
He encouraged the Lutheran Council in Africa (LUCA) to activate a pan-African structure “to enable the reception of international agreements and achievements” such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the commitments made during the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation, held in Lund and Malmö last October.
“Our theological schools and Lutheran universities in Africa could be asked to provide capacity in drafting documents for consideration by LUCA.”
In the wake of the Commemoration of the Reformation and looking to the future, Noko encouraged member churches to “prioritize and commit themselves” to four issues: concluding intra-Lutheran agreements on recognizing each other’s ministry and confirmation of pulpit and altar fellowship, the inclusion of women in the ordained ministry, guidelines to regulate the exchange of pastors and others within the church and reaching out to other mainline churches to sign agreements on the sacrament of baptism to avoid re-baptism of the already baptized.