Archives for category: Global Mission




Bishop E. Sinalo (IELM) greeting members of a congregation. Mozambique 2017

Dear friends,
Christmas is all about mission. The story of the incarnation, the unique entrance of God into our world in the humble birth of Jesus in a marginalized village called Bethlehem, is central to the story of God’s way of doing mission for the sake of the world. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-8, [Jesus], “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
Anthony J. Gittins asks in Ministry at the Margins: Strategy and Spirituality for Mission (Orbis, 2002:152) “How close are we to the powerless, the weak, the exploited, the homeless, the poverty-stricken or those without status? … To accept to be marginal and a stranger [even in our own culture] is to place oneself at the disposal of the God who calls… Jesus the marginal missionary calls, co-missions and sends us too.”
Thank you for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally. Thank you for your prayers and support this past year for our family and for our companion churches across Southern Africa.
“Come, let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made know to us” Luke 2:15b
Peace and blessings.
Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, November 29, 2017
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Dear friends,
From October 20-22 I attended the commemoration events of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Durban hosted by Bishop PP Buthelezi and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – South Eastern Diocese (ELCSA – SED).

A joint service was held at the Emmanuel Catholic Cathedral in downtown Durban. Wilfrid Fox Napier OFM Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and archbishop of Durban welcomed Catholics, Lutherans and other denominations to the joint event. Bishop Munib Younan (Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former President of the Lutheran World Federation), invited as special guest speaker, emphasized how Lutherans and Catholics have come closer together through the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, the 2017 document From Conflict to Communion and the historic joint service in Lund, Sweden in October 2016 together with Pope Francis.

On the Saturday a cultural program was presented which included children, youth and adult choirs from across the diocese, traditional dance groups and a drama about the Reformation.

Bishop Younan delivered the Luther Lecture with the theme: “Working towards Peace and Reconciliation amongst the people of the Middle East” (With particular reference to the conflict in Palestine and Israel). Bishop Younan passionately called for prayers for peace and action with justice by all governments and people of faith leading to a two-state solution.
Professor Farid Esack of the University of Johannesburg gave a response from a Muslim perspective. He emphasized that discrimination, extremism and violence in the name of any religion was unacceptable and needed to be condemned.

On Sunday October 22 an open-air worship service with Holy Communion was held at the Growthpoint stadium with over 10 000 worshippers in attendance including a number of church leaders, King Goodwill Zwelithini and the President of South Africa Mr. Jacob Zuma.
Bishop Buthelezi delivered the sermon based on John 8:31-36 emphasising that Jesus Christ is the Truth who alone can set us free and that because of Christ “Change can happen!” for all people in bondage including the people of occupied Palestine as happened with the ending of apartheid in South Africa.
Bishop Younan delivered a powerful address highlighting the LWF theme “Liberated by God’s Grace” and the three sub-themes “Salvation not for sale!”, “Humans not for sale!” and “Creation not for sale!”. He called for bold responses to counter the “prosperity” gospel, human trafficking and the effects of climate change.
It was a great privilege to be invited to attend these events and bring fraternal greetings as regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – Global Mission.

Thank you for your prayers and support.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, October 23, 2017
My blog page address is:
Please note the link to my online giving page on

Greeting congregation Chimoio Mozambique Sept 2017Dear friends,
Recently I travelled to Chimoio in central Mozambique with six members of Our Saviours Lutheran Church (Naperville, IL) to visit congregations and projects of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (ELCM). ELCM Bishop Eduardo Sinalo, General Secretary Abel Macuacua and Mr. Mishek Ruwa coordinator for the Vida Humana project were our hosts and guides.
Vida Humana is a project of the ELCM which was started in Chimoio in 2005 to assist people in the community living with HIV & AIDS. Thirteen volunteer activists or advocates who are also members of the Lutheran congregation in Chimoio do regular home visits to encourage and assist those who are on Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, organize transportation to the hospital when needed and oversee distribution of e-pap, a concentrated nutritious food supplement. The advocates invited us to walk along with them on visits to some of the homes.
During our stay we also travelled in a small bus to visit the Martin Luther Clinic in the rural community of Munene and then to the nearby town of Catandica 140 km north of Chimoio.
We were taken on a short tour of the clinic, the house for expectant mothers and the nurses’ house. The district health officer reported that the number of patients visiting the clinic has increased substantially over the years and the clinic is playing a vital role in providing essential health services in the district. The clinic was built with the support of ELCA World Hunger funds. The government provides for two nurses and medicine.
After the visit to the clinic members of the local Lutheran congregation at Munene welcomed the visitors with singing and dancing and served a meal in the church building.
On Sunday we attended a worship service with Holy Communion at the Lutheran church in Chimoio. Bishop Sinalo preached a mission sermon based on the story of Jonah. After a lively service the whole congregation joined in a community meal.
At the end of our stay we met with the church leadership and the activists of the Vida Humana project to hear about successes and challenges and to talk about the vision for the future and how we can continue to walk faithfully together through mutual support, accountability and transparency.
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, September 29, 2017
My blog page address is:
Please note the new link to my online giving page on

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

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

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.

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

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

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  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