LUCSA ECLF Paths to Peace Book Launch Nov 8 2019Dear friends,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18

In early November a five-day training of trainers (TOT) workshop in conflict resolution and peace building was held at the Lutheran Center in Johannesburg, South Africa. The workshop was a joint venture between the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) with 15 member churches in ten countries and expert trainers from the Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Forum (ECLF) based in Zimbabwe.

Member churches were invited to each send two representatives. Interactive sessions included demystifying conflict, tools for analysing the manifestations and root causes of conflict, active listening and effective communication skills, understanding power, dialogue, mediation, the importance of inner healing and the nexus between peace and development. Daily sessions opened and closed with devotions. The LUCSA / ECLF training manual Paths to Peace was officially launched on Friday Nov. 8.
Many participants indicated that the “healing” session was one of the most important and transforming experiences at the workshop and acknowledged that further training would be helpful for them to be effective trainers of trainers.

As the ELCA we are seeking to be a visible church deeply committed to working ecumenically and with other people of faith for justice, peace and reconciliation in our communities and around the world. (Goal Four of the ELCA’s Strategic Directions 2025 document CALLED FORWARD TOGETHER IN CHRIST).

ELCA – Global Mission through Diakonia/World Hunger Funding is therefore supporting the collaborative work of LUCSA and ECLF in providing training and the sharing of resources in the region and on the African continent to promote conflict resolution and peacebuilding programs.

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, November 18, 2019
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

20191103_102604 (2)20191103_085621 (3)Dear friends,

It was a privilege to attend the consecration of Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) Bishop Sageus /Keib and induction of Deputy-bishop Abraham //Kheibeb on November 3, 2019 in Okahandja, Namibia. The service was conducted in four languages: Khoikhoigobab, OshiHerero, Afrikaans and English.
Some 4000 ELCRN members, pastors, local dignatories and overseas partners together with over 100 brass band players gathered for the service under several large white tents. Retiring Bishop Ernst //Gamxamub was assisted by Bishop Shekutaamba Nambala – ELCIN, Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe – ELCM (Malawi) and Bishop Mothusi Letlhage – ELCB (Botswana).
The congregation and choirs burst into song, dance and ululation when Bishop /Keib was presented to the assembly. Bishop /Keib is the fifth bishop to be elected in the ELCRN. Bishops-emeriti Fredericks and Kameeta were also in attendance.
Bishop /Keib based his sermon on Genesis 8 and 9. After enduring many months on stormy flood waters Noah emerged from the ark with his family and the animals and built an altar in thanksgiving for God’s mercy. God made a new covenant and gave the rainbow as a sign. Bishop /Keib referred to South African Anglican Archbishop-emeritus Desmond Tutu’s image of a rainbow nation emerging after Apartheid and said that the ELCRN should be a ‘rainbow church’ of peace and unity, where everyone is cared for and valued as all are liberated and accepted by God’s grace.
Words of greeting and support were shared by ecumenical partners and representatives from Namibia, Malawi, Botswana, Germany and the USA. I was honored to read a letter signed by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Global Mission Director Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica-Padilla on behalf of the ELCA churchwide office and the four ELCA companion synods relating to Namibia: Southwestern Washington, Northeastern Iowa, New Jersey and Metropolitan Washington D.C.
After the service a meal was provided to everyone gathered there. In our meeting at the ELCRN office in Windhoek the following day the church leadership expressed appreciation for the companion relationship with the ELCA. The ELCRN is looking forward to the May 2020 consultation in South Africa and visit to Namibia by companion synod representatives.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, November 4, 2019
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

20191027_093931Dear friends,

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday. At St. Thomas Lutheran congregation in inner city Johannesburg twelve confirmands took turns answering questions put to them regarding Luther’s Small Catechism, the Bible and Christian faith. I think the parents were even more nervous than the confirmands. The confirmation teachers did well to calm their nerves and even had the confirmands ask questions of the congregation which brought laughter and smiles to everyone.

The preacher for the day, a member of the Women’s Prayer League, recounted the history of the Reformation starting with Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses in Wittenburg in 1517.

What does it mean to be Lutheran today? With this question in mind, representatives of member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) gathered recently for a consultation with the theme “We Believe in the Holy Spirit: Global Perspectives on Lutheran Identities.” The conference was hosted by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The gathering marks the start of a three-year study-process aimed at listening for creative ways in which we express our shared Lutheran heritage within the contemporary contexts of LWF member churches.

One of the presenters at the consultation, Rev. Kenneth Mtata from Zimbabwe, made the following observation:
“When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg in 1517, he would not have
anticipated that 500 years later, a movement bearing his name and its offshoots would
have spread around the whole world and indeed across Africa. Martin Luther would never have
dreamt that by 2017, the largest and the fastest growing Lutheran church would not
be in Germany or Europe but in Africa: the Ethiopian Evangelical Church
Mekane Yesus (EECMY) with a membership of 8.6 million compared to 25,000
in 1959!”
We live in challenging times and places. As ELCA Global Mission regional representative it is a great privilege to be able to hear and learn from the voices, testimonies, questions and faith perspectives of young people, women and men in companion churches and companion synods as we accompany one another in God’s mission in Southern Africa and around the world.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, October 28, 2019
My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

ELCZa Church CouncilDear friends,
This past month I had the opportunity to attend the church council meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia (ELCZa) in the capital city Lusaka together with Rev. Kassahun (ELCA Global Mission Program Director for East and Southern Africa) as well as ELCA pastor Rev. D. Troester who is based in Lusaka and serves as church leadership development facilitator.
The church council received and discussed the annual report presented by the Senior Pastor and a comprehensive and challenging paper outlining strategies for evangelism, church growth and sustainability. There are currently 17 pastors and 46 congregations and preaching places in the ELCZa.
One of the pastors led morning devotions and chose to read and reflect on Jeremiah 17:7-8:
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
On arrival in Zambia we were told to expect electricity blackouts. Zambia depends almost entirely on hydroelectric power generation from the Kariba Dam which, due to erratic rainfall the past two years, is down to only 20% of useable water storage.
In his report the senior pastor made an appeal to regional and global partners to help mitigate the impact of climate change, drought, hunger and poverty in affected communities.
ELCA Global Mission and the Upstate New York Synod are ELCZa companions and support the church’s ministries through scholarships and in mission outreach and diakonia.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, September 20, 2019

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/ Please note the link to my online giving page on http://www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica

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South African Council of Churches  (SACC)

STATEMENT ON THE SPREADING VIOLENCE

The violent acts, burning and looting of business premises in the city centres and townships in Gauteng, have left the country in a state of shock, that things can degenerate to a point of such violence without us attending to the various underlying and causal issues.

The issues of competition for scarce employment opportunities, and the belief that foreign Africans in particular, are part of the problem, is at the core of these protests. There should be no room for criminal acts of violence against people and properties. Such acts must be condemned everywhere without equivocation. And law enforcement agencies must act swiftly to deal with criminality. People are warned that the social media messages that incite violence will not be there with you when you alone face the consequences of your violence. The book of Proverbs says: “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” (Proverbs 4:6)

We have become aware that of the communications circulating in social media, calling on South Africans to block Africans from other countries from entering their homes and work places. We also have become aware of the urgent communication that trucks must be halted and no deliveries as a protest against the employment of non-South Africans in the trucking industry. We have heard also of the planned retaliatory blockage of South African truck drivers delivering goods in other African countries bordering South Africa. South Africans will be attacked wherever they go in whatever capacity. South African churches like the Zion Christian Church, the Methodist Church and others, have no borders, they are in all neighbouring countries. South African church members will be bussed to other countries for their conventions. Are we ready for a trans-border conflict? We think not!! That, is a no-win conflict.

There is no question that the fundamental issues and concerns must be attended in a rational manner by all role players. The South African Council of Churches appeals to all communities to desist from the violence which will land them in acts of criminality. And as we restore calm in our communities, the SACC commits to some specific acts:

1. The SACC is setting up, as a matter of urgency, a task team of religious leaders to work
together to find solutions to these challenges. To that end, the Task Team will engage key role players – organisations like organisation of South African truck drivers; the national taxi association – SANTACO; the Sisonke People’s Forum Hlanganani Makhosi Ohlanga; the organisations of foreign nationals and foreign traders; the law enforcement authorities and various relevant government departments. These meetings will be initiated this week, and, to allow for these processes, we call for calm in all communities.
2. On Wednesday September 4, there will be a noontime prayers service at the SACC Chapel at Khotso House, the House of Peace, active peace of solutions,. The peace we seek is not passive peace, but active peace that deals with the challenges as experienced by all.
3. Recognising that South Africans and non-South African nationals worship together in our churches, the SACC calls on churches in all communities to, beginning this week, provide space for listening to perceptions of the problems, and for creative solutions.
4. This Sunday September 8, the national leadership of the SACC will join a Johannesburg Inner City church, the Central Methodist Church, Pritchard Street, at the 14:00 afternoon service, to pray for successful solutions and to provide space for listening. All who can are invited to join this service.

Meanwhile, we have some pertinent truths that must be taken account of:
• The reality of poverty and unemployment for black South Africans is a stark reality, and it can result in some of the most inhuman acts. Poverty and unemployment should be no excuse to engage in criminal acts. We need solution-driven engagements.
• The same reality of poverty gnaws away at citizens of neighbouring countries, whose
citizens have for generations been contract workers building the now shrinking South
African economy.
• There is a special negative focus on African foreign nationals, which is a problematic
categorisation amounting to the black on black violence of old, when we attacked each
other on our tribal identities in apartheid days.
• A very great number of foreign nationals are in this country legally, as students, as traders or business people, as refugees from political persecution – something South Africans know well; as expatriate employees of South African and global companies, and even for the African Union and the United Nations. This is a fact and reality in all countries. To promote attacks and blockade of movement of all these people because they are not South African is to shoot ourselves and our international relations in the foot. In fact it may lead to retaliation against the South African economy; and we may end up with even greater stress on our capacity to sustain jobs!

The SACC supports all efforts to get to the bottom of these problems and to save the lives of affected people. But violence will not solve these problems; it will create new and even more difficult challenges for our communities and the country. You will likely be attacking someone you’ve greeted before, or someone you’ve never even met, whom you do not know. As the Bible says: “Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm. Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways.” (Proverbs 3:29-31)

Bishop Mpumlwana is General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches
(SACC)

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Dear friends,
This past month I have had the opportunity to travel across Southern Africa together with Rev. Kevin Jacobson (ELCA Global Mission Manager for Relationships in East and Southern Africa) visiting several companion churches, dioceses and ELCA supported sustainable development projects.
As companions we attended the 10th biennial Assembly of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa held in Gaborone the capitol city of Botswana. “Listening Leadership” was the theme. 15 member churches from 10 countries in the region were represented by their bishops as well as women and youth delegates.
In Lilongwe, Malawi we visited the head office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi and then travelled to Mangochi at the southern tip of Lake Malawi. We stopped at a health post and then at a local congregation where project members proudly displayed fresh produce they had grown for income generation and have a small bakery. Of course we had to purchase and taste some of the freshly-baked buns. The ELCM is a companion church to the East Central Synod of Wisconsin.
In Mbabane, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) we attended the Sunday morning worship service at the diocesan center of the ELCSA Eastern Diocese, a companion to the ELCA Caribbean Synod. Bishop Absalom Mnisi preached the sermon and presided at Holy Communion. We visited the rural area of Lugedzeni to meet several Home-based Care givers and beneficiaries who have participated in the HIV & AIDS prevention program which is supported by ELCA Global Mission.
Our last stop was in Kimberley, South Africa at the diocesan office to meet Bishop Motsamai Manong of the ELCSA Cape Orange Diocese. The COD is a companion to the ELCA Montana Synod.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, August 29, 2019

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/ Please note the link to my online giving page on http://www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica

ELCSA Almanacs and LUCSA Sunday School Resource Books 1-3Dear friends,
Around this time of year, as editor of the ELCSA Almanac, I receive numerous emails, phone calls and text messages asking when the 2020 edition will be available.
The ELCSA Almanac contains daily Bible readings, provided by the Moravian Church (the tradition of daily watchwords was started by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany in 1728), and the Sunday readings or pericopes which follow the ecumenically prepared Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).
The Republic of South Africa recognizes eleven official languages in the country. Currently the ELCSA Almanac is published annually in nine languages namely: English, Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Setswana, Sepedi, Sesotho, Tshivenda, isiXhosa and Siswati.
In the past this meant that ELCSA coworkers fluent in each language had to do a lot of cutting and pasting of verses. But now, through a companion synod contact in the ELCA, a new computer program has been developed which does in minutes what took many weeks before.
The ELCSA Almanac is printed in November each year and distributed from the churchwide office in Johannesburg to the seven dioceses of ELCSA which are located in the Republic of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. Several other smaller Lutheran churches in the region also make use of the Almanac which includes a calendar and a church directory.
Each year the color of the Almanac cover matches the color of the LUCSA Sunday School Teachers’ Resource books which follow the three-year A,B,C cycle of the Revised Common lectionary (RCL).
Pastor Verrah Rapoo serves as the Executive Secretary for the ELCSA Western Diocese. According to Rev. Rapoo people in her area can hardly wait for the arrival of the new Almanacs. In early January they are already sold out.
Individuals begin the day by reading the daily texts at their bedsides. The Women’s Prayer League and the Men’s League also read the daily texts at the beginning of their weekly meetings and when they go out to visit and pray with the elderly and the sick in their homes and in hospitals.
The ELCSA Almanac is valued as an essential worship and devotional resource for thousands of congregations, families and individuals and serves as a unifying symbol across the region.
Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa, Johannesburg, July 30, 2019

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/ Please note the link to my online giving page on http://www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica