20170816_100537Dear friends,
I recently made a return trip to Zimbabwe to attend a week-long training workshop in conflict prevention, management, resolution and peace building presented by the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF).
I was invited by ELCA Global Mission to join up with six delegates from the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) Upper Nile Internal Province who also participated in the workshop. (South Sudan is the newest independent country in Africa and has been affected by internal conflict and large-scale displacement of its inhabitants.) Some 40 church leaders from various ministers’ fraternals across the country of Zimbabwe came for training.
The program included sessions in demystifying conflict, tools for conflict analysis, effective listening and communication, managing perceptions, power dynamics, healing, reconciliation and strategic peace building.
The week ended with a field visit to meet with two Local Peace Committees (LPCs). Both groups testified how the training in conflict management and peace building by the ECLF team had changed their lives and communities. Both communities had decided that their priority was to build a clinic and had laid the foundations using only local labor, local materials and contributions from each household in the ward. We learned at both sites how training by the ECLF had helped them to management conflicts and work together despite being from different political parties, churches and ethnic groups. All agreed that peace brings development.
The delegation from South Sudan is already planning with the ECLF team from Zimbabwe and the ELCA Global mission on how to share experiences and undergo training in peace building in South Sudan.
Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, August 20, 2017
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Stone bridge ZimbabweDear friends,
Zimbabwe achieved its independence in 1980. Violence during the struggle for liberation and post-independence conflicts left many communities and individuals traumatized. Following the 2008 elections and economic crisis church leaders formed the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) in 2009 with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe Bishop-emeritus Dr. Ambrose Moyo as executive director.
Initially the ECLF focused on working with member churches but this soon extended to local communities and the adoption of the slogan “church and community walking together for peace.”
The ECLF peace-building program includes training in mediation, communication, conflict resolution and prevention, healing and reconciliation. The ECLF reports that through this program individuals, families, members of different political parties and communities have been reconciled and are now working together on community development and livelihood projects.
The ECLF has introduced its program into all ten provinces and several districts and wards training some 300 local peace facilitators.
Earlier this month the ECLF in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted a stakeholders’ forum with the theme “Consolidating and Deepening of Community Building Processes” near Masvingo in central Zimbabwe. I was privileged to attend the meeting on behalf of the ELCA Global Mission.
The program included field visits to meet with several Local Peace Committees (LPCs). Participants travelled together to Zaka District and started the visit with a courtesy call to the local government office.
In Zaka District poverty, political intolerance and religious differences had resulted in conflicts and tensions in homes and communities. In 2015 a series of ECLF peacebuilding workshops were held in the area. Local leaders and community members who completed the training formed Local Peace Committees in each village. As a result of the training, members of one community began to work together to build a stone bridge over a stream that flooded often after heavy rains. One woman showed the blisters on her hands and said “these are wounds of peace.” Other LPC members said: It does not matter that we belong to different political parties or churches, peace brings development. This bridge connects us and is for our children and grandchildren. ECLF peace training brought reconciliation and removed negative perceptions, grudges and conflicts. We could not see each other as brothers and sisters. When we found peace, we started to work together. We were transformed. There are other projects we hope to accomplish together now as well.
There is so much that we can learn from the work of the ECLF in Zimbabwe. One important lesson is that churches and communities need to work together if the call for peace, healing, justice and reconciliation is to be credible and effective.
Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, June 12, 2017
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Africa LWF Pre-Assembly 2017

Africa LWF Pre-Assembly delegates – Johannesburg, South Africa                                                   (Photo: LUCSA Communications)

Dear friends,

In the month of May some 1200 delegates from 145 member churches representing 74 million Christians in 98 countries will gather in Windhoek, Namibia for the Twelfth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation.

The Assembly will gather around the central theme, Liberated by God’s Grace and structure its work around three sub-themes:  Salvation – Not for sale, Human beings – Not for sale and Creation – Not for sale.

The three host churches for the assembly are the German Evangelical Lutheran Church (GELC) with some 5000 members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) with 772,400 members – about a third of the Namibian population – and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) with 420,000 members.

The seven-day program for the assembly includes daily devotions, Bible studies, reports, thematic presentations, regional meetings and elections.  The Oshiwambo word for marketplace is “Omatala.” A large tent next to the conference center will be used as a gathering space for facilitating knowledge-sharing, interaction and telling stories.

The global commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be held in the Sam Nujoma Stadium on May 14th where assembly delegates and local Lutheran congregations will take part.

The choice of Namibia as the venue for the Twelfth Assembly has great significance.  The story of the relationship between the LWF and the Lutheran churches in Namibia is closely intertwined with the national struggle against apartheid so that justice, freedom and dignity could be achieved for all Namibians. With Lutherans comprising half the population, Namibia exemplifies the way in which the Lutheran movement has been embraced and has effectively taken root in other lands outside of Europe. https://www.lwfassembly.org/en/twelfth-assembly

Earlier this year in February I was privileged to join 120 Lutheran delegates from 31 member churches in 27 African countries who gathered for the Africa pre-Assembly here in Johannesburg.  The meeting provided delegates the opportunity to reflect on the theme and sub-themes for the Twelfth Assembly and to share perspectives from the continent.  The pre-Assembly issued a joint statement highlighting a number of important issues including: care for creation, mission, refugees, theological education, the ordination of women, youth involvement, ecumenism, peace, justice and reconciliation.

As a member of the LWF the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be sending an official delegation to the Assembly including ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.  A number of observers from ELCA Companion Synods linked to Lutheran churches in Namibia will also be in attendance.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, April 20, 2017

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20170126_105548Dear friends,

HIV & AIDS was first identified almost four decades ago in the 1980’s.  Research shows that South Africa still has the highest incidence of the disease in the world, with an estimated 7 million people living with HIV in 2015.  South Africa also has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme globally. However, HIV prevalence remains high (19.2%) among the general population, and at almost 40% in some areas. See http://www.avert.org

The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) with 15 member churches across 10 countries is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation in Southern Africa www.lucsa.org.  In January 2017 the LUCSA AIDS ACTION PROGRAMME published a new book entitled LUCSA Resource for Lutheran Leagues and Ministries.  Recently, the writers along with pastors and lay leaders representing LUCSA member churches gathered in Johannesburg for a training of trainers’ workshop and book launch.  The four units and 48 lessons in the book provide a structured curriculum for study of the Bible, Lutheran doctrine, mission and diakonia with a special emphasis on the mainstreaming of HIV & AIDS into the policies, programmes, thinking and life of the church. Mainstreaming is a process that addresses both the direct and indirect factors that increase the risks of HIV infection and worsen the impact of AIDS including stigma.

At the workshop Pastor NM Myaka gave a presentation based on Martin Luther’s open letter from 1527, “WHETHER ONE MAY FLEE FROM A DEADLY PLAGUE.” The Bubonic plague killed one-fourth of the population of Europe from the 14th to the 16th centuries. In 1527, fearing for the safety of Luther and the other professors at the university, Elector John, ordered the university to be moved to Jena. However, Luther and his wife Katie, along with his pastor Bugenhagen, stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.

Luther wrote:  Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God, as St. John states in his epistles, “Whoever does not love his brother is a murderer,” and again, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need [yet closes his heart against him], how does God’s love abide in him?” [I John 3:15, 17].

In his presentation Pastor Myaka noted: “My main concern is with the church’s failure to translate its good theological writings into corresponding action. I wish to conclude by applauding LUCSA in general, the LUCSA HIV AND AIDS DESK team in particular, the project coordinators, contributors, editorial team and everyone involved in this project for working diligently and tenaciously towards putting together this resource material. I know that by challenging the leagues [for women, men and youth] and ministries of the church, LUCSA has struck a necessary chord.”  3000 copies of the book are being printed for distribution among the LUCSA member churches in Southern Africa.

ELCA World Hunger is one of the main supporters of the LUCSA HIV & AIDS Programme. I was privileged to be part of the editorial team for this new resource book.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

February 1, 2017

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20161120_082959Newsletter December 2016

In a book entitled Waiting for Gospel (Cascade Books: Eugene, Oregan 2012:xxvii)  Douglas John Hall reflects on the many crises in church and society and the temptation to become dispirited.  Hall writes: “Whatever folly and vice Christendom may have caused in two millennia of history…the church, in a variety of shapes and sizes and guises has been for many a bearer of a message of grace, truth and hope in a world that is often bleak. … Only gospel could do that.  Only the faith that “comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17) told in the continuity of the biblical texts … because it touches my story and gives me a past and a future that my story, by itself, could never produce.”

Not only during Advent but at all times we wait for gospel, for us and for the world, to be “liberated by God’s grace” to use the words of the theme chosen by the Lutheran World Federation for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Recently I was invited to represent the ELCA Global Mission at the 8th General Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Angola (IELA) which was held in southern Angola near the border with Namibia.

On the way to the assembly we passed the camp of a de-mining team as they are still clearing land mines in the area from the time of the struggles for liberation and independence.

The opening Sunday service was attended by over 600 people including local members and synod delegates. The local Roman Catholic bishop was present as well as the governor of the Province.

A highlight of the service was the induction of eight new deacons and deaconesses who were trained at the church’s Bible school.

As it was the last Sunday in the church year IELA Bishop Tomas Ndawanapo preached a sermon based on Matthew 25:31-46 saying, “It is never easy to talk about judgment but Jesus came to save and not to condemn.  Christ meets us in each and every person, even those we do not like or know.”

The Assembly received and discussed the church report and strategic plan which addressed challenges and needs facing the church and society including: strengthening Lutheran identity and Christian spirituality through Christian education, issues of early pregnancies and child marriages, alcoholism, transfers of church workers, salary scales, provision of vehicles and housing for pastors, building of permanent church buildings, seminars and continuing education for church workers and various other issues and projects.  The assembly voted to divide the church into two dioceses and elected a second bishop to lead the new Western Diocese.

The ELCA has supported the IELA Malaria program in Angola for the past five years as well as integrated sustainable development projects through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) World Service program in Lunda Sul province.  The church is now developing strategies to address the devastating effects of the four-year-long drought which is affecting many parts of the country.

It is a privilege to walk together with sisters and brothers in Angola as we “wait for gospel” and seek opportunities to participate together in God’s mission of transformation, reconciliation and empowerment.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

December 2, 2016

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20161009_144235Consecration Service IELM Bishop Eduardo Sinalo

Maputo, Mozambique Oct. 9, 2016

The consecration service for Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (IELM) Bishop-elect Eduardo Sinalo was held at the Martin Luther Church in Sommerschield, Maputo on Sunday October 9, 2016.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) Presiding Bishop MM Ditlhale officiated at the consecration assisted by IELM retiring Bishop J. Mabasso and Bishop Emeritus Dr. D. Tswaedi Executive Director of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA).

The service began with a procession into the church led by acolytes followed by evangelists, pastors and bishops.

After the consecration liturgy Bishop Sinalo delivered the sermon based on the Gospel for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Luke 17:11-19.  “Jews and Samaritans avoided each other and often the sick, such as lepers, were discriminated against and separated from the community.  Jesus came to bring peace and reconciliation.  The lepers were healed by God’s grace. We are called to love and help those in need and to find ways to live together no matter what the situation is.  We need to give thanks and acknowledge the gift of God’s grace and not take it for granted.”

Bishop Sinalo then inducted Rev. A. Macuacua as the new IELM General Secretary with a prayer.

After the offering and Holy Communion invited guests brought fraternal greetings and well wishes from the Council of Churches in Mozambique, The Bible Society, the United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. E. Mungure (LWF Secretary for Africa) on behalf of the LWF Communion Office, Rev. Dr. P. J. Knutson on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – Global Mission and Dr. D. Tswaedi on behalf of LUCSA.

After the service the congregation gathered for a celebration meal and the cutting of the cake by Bishop E. Sinalo, Mrs. J. Sinalo and Dr. Mungure.

Report compiled by:

Rev. Dr. P. J. Knutson

ELCA Global Mission: Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg

October 11, 2016

lucsa-book-5-launch-2016Dear friends,

Several years ago the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA  www.lucsa.org ) approved the writing of 6 books as Christian education resources by and for LUCSA member churches. LUCSA, with 15 member churches across 10 countries, is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Southern Africa.  Books 1 to 3 are for Sunday School teachers, Book 4 is for Confirmation, Book 5 is for Youth and Young Adult ministry and Book 6 is an adult education resource for lay leaders and clergy.  I have been privileged to work on this project as one of the coordinators.

2016 saw the launch of book 5 for youth and young adults. An initial writers’ workshop was held in November 2014.  Youth contributors from several member churches including South Africa, Malawi, Botswana and Namibia were then given different sections to work on.  Topics included Lutheran identity, relationships, culture, spiritual growth, healthy living, communication, vocation, stewardship of creation and advocacy for peace and justice.

A second workshop was held in May 2015 with the same participants.  Following the second workshop a rough draft of the book was circulated among the contributors for input. After approval by the LUCSA Council 300 copies of book 5 were printed in January 2016 at a cost of R85 (about $6) per copy.

Each of the 15 member churches of LUCSA were then invited to send two active youth representatives to participate in the launch and training workshop for book 5 in Johannesburg in May 2016.  A total of 28 people including youth, youth pastors and presenters participated in the workshop.

At the conclusion of the workshop each participant undertook to share the book and the learning with the leadership of their respective churches and members of the youth and young adult organizations at national and local level.

LUCSA member churches and organizations are now encouraged to use the complete set of LUCSA Christian education resource books which form part of the LUCSA Christian education strategy for life-long learning and teaching for disciples of all ages.

LUCSA encourages translation of the books into local languages where possible and the sharing of best practices and resources between member churches.

The LUCSA resource books can also be used by member churches and others as they prepare for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 and in the ensuing years as they seek to strengthen disciples of all ages to participate in God’s mission of transformation, reconciliation and empowerment for the sake of the world.

The work of the LUCSA Christian Education Desk has received support from the ELCA and Lutheran partners in Germany.

Thank you for your participation in God’s mission and for your continued prayers and support.

Yours faithfully,

Pastor Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission, Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Johannesburg

September 2016

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