We arrived in Mwanza, Tanzania, on 9 February 2013. Mwanza is on Lake Victoria and the second largest city in Tanzania. It is also the headquarters of the East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELVD) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). The Mid-South District of the LCMS had a partnership with the ELVD for more than a decade. In fact, Bob Allen of the Mid-South District is a name revered in the ELVD for his tireless work.
The East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELVD) has a unique history in the Evangelical Luther Church of Tanzania (ELCT). Unlike the other dioceses which were a product of the various European mission societies, beginning with the Leipzig Mission Society in the 1840s near Mount Kilimanjaro, the ELVD was created by the Tanzania church for the purpose of mission. Only 15% of the population in the region are Christians and most of the people hold to traditional religion.
The tilapia fish in the logo of the ELVD represents not the fish in Lake Victoria, but the deep hard to reach mission areas in Tanzania. This is one of the fastest growing areas in Tanzania in terms of mission outreach.
We visited the ELVD cathedral and headquarters.
The ELVD Cathedral holds about 2000 people with an average attendance of 900 people per service (1800 per Sunday).
The service and liturgy on Sunday is very similar to a Missouri Synod service from Lutheran Service Book (LSB). Both the ELCT and the LCMS drew their liturgy from the same source -- the Leipzig Agenda. The German missionaries brought the Leipzig Agenda to Tanzania and CFW Walther brought the Leipzig Agenda to America. The liturgy is nearly identical and many of the hymns are the same.
Like the Missouri Synod, the ELCT has a mixture of historic and more contemporary or modern music. In the ELCT, the liturgy is used strictly and every congregation uses the same order, even as songs both ancient and modern are interspersed. This seems like a good model that perhaps the LCMS could learn from. (FYI: Worship began at 7 am and lasted three hours. The service starts early so people can go to work if needed. There also were three offerings which roughly corresponded to Witness, Mercy, Life Together -- this is simply what the church does.)
Bishop Andrew Gulle with LCMS Pastor and Missionary Shauen Trump in Mwanza, Tanzania,waiting for the ferry across Lake Victoria. Pastor Trump is the only Swahili speaking LCMS missionary.
We took the ferry to cross Lake Victoria so we could reach the newly created diocese -- the South East if Lake Victoria Diocese (SELVD). Bishop Elect Emmanuel Makala, a doctoral student at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and supported by the LCMS Mid-South District, will be installed on 5 May 2013 as Bishop. Bishop Elect Makala was the assistant to Bishop Gulle before being elected to serve as Bishop.
The cathedral of the SELVD is being constructed now with the hope that it will be finished in time for the installation of Bishop Makala.
Children with the ELCT Hymnal memorizing the Small Catechism on Saturday Confirmation Class. When the children are admitted to Confirmation Class, the children's parents are invited to the front of the church to pledge that their child will learn the Small Catechism. The ELCT hymnal has a rite for the beginning of catechism class that is used for this service. We had the opportunity to witness this on Sunday morning.
The future headquarters of the SELVD. Not yet completed but hopefully soon.
Dr. Mike Rodewald, Bishop Andrew Gulle, Dr. Albert Collver, and Pastor Shauen Trump at the site of the Old Shinyanga Church, planted by Evangelist Andrew Gulle 20 years ago.
Pastor Shauen Trump receiving a gift at the site of the SELVD Cathedral.
Bishop Gulle indicated that the greatest assistance the LCMS can be is to walk along side of the Tanzania church and assist with theological education. He also indicated that the Tanzanian Church is carefully watching the decision made by the Evangelical Ethiopian Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to break fellowship with the ELCA and the Church of Sweden over the issue of same sex marriage and ordination. In 2010, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) issued the Dedoma Statement which affirms the Biblical teaching on marriage and commits that their church will affirm the Holy Scriptures rather than sociological doctrine from America and Europe.
Rainbow over Yerusalemu Lutheran Church on Transfiguration Sunday.
The future of Lutheranism may reside in Africa rather than either Europe or America. In Africa today, there are more than 20 million Lutherans (that is, people who attend church nearly every Sunday -- unlike Europe or America). The African Lutheran Churches are showing themselves willing to resist anti-Scriptural ideas imposed upon them by Europe and America. Of course, the African Lutheran Churches have many challenges as well. The day could come when Africa sends missionaries to pagan Europe and America. There would be a certain irony in this as Africa was one of the first places to adopt the Christian faith -- think of the great theologians Athanasius and Augustin, not to mention the Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts who took the Christian faith to Ethiopia.
... On way to Accra Ghana, Africa, for an African Theological Conference sponsored by the LCMS and the Luther Academy.
-- Posted the Monday after Transfiguration by Rev. Dr.
Albert Collver in flight over central Africa.
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