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



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


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


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


September 2016


DSC07594Dear friends,

Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.  We have just returned from 2 months in the US on Home Assignment. It was a fruitful time visiting sponsoring congregations and the opportunity to attend the Summer Missionary Conference in Chicago and see family and friends.

July is midwinter in Southern Africa.  It is the dry season but following the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons the current El Niño-induced drought is the worst in 35 years. The severe drought conditions have already taken a serious toll on lives, livestock and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not provided.

The devastating drought has affected an estimated 40 million people across region. More than 23 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

On July 26, 2016 the Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared a Regional Disaster and launched a Regional Appeal for Humanitarian and Recovery Support amounting to US$2.4 billion.

The Appeal is a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states. Five member states, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have already declared national drought emergencies. The Republic of South Africa has declared a drought emergency in 8 of the country’s 9 provinces. Mozambique has declared a 90-day institutional red alert for some southern and central areas. (Responding to the Appeal, the United States has pledged US $300 million, while the United Kingdom and the European Union pledged £72 million Pounds, and €60 million respectively, towards humanitarian assistance.)


Already in May last year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi led by Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe sent an emergency appeal to the ELCA for support to enable the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS) to deliver assistance and support to 22,000 people (4,000 households) in Phalombe and Chikwawa districts with the focus on drought recovery and capacity building activities. ELCA Global Mission was able to send US$50,000 in response to this urgent request.

See the recent related article in the Huffington Post written by Ryan P. Cumming Program Director for Hunger Education in the ELCA World Hunger office. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-p-cumming/end-hunger-the-single-mos_b_11136672.html

Thank you for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.  Thank you for your continuing prayers and support through the ELCA World Hunger and ELCA Global Church sponsorship programs.

Yours faithfully,

Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission

Regional Representative – Southern Africa


July 29, 2016



Dear friends,

Recently I was invited to facilitate several Christian education workshops in the Northern and Lake Tanganyika dioceses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). The ELCT is one of the largest and fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world with some 6 million members and 24 dioceses.

I was asked to share some of the Christian education resources and experiences emanating from companion churches in Southern Africa that belong to the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA). http://www.lucsa.org

The workshops were attended by teachers, parish pastors and chaplains for hospitals and schools who are involved in Christian education programs in their respective areas of service.

Each day started with devotions and a Bible study. There were also presentations on Lutheran identity, Mission in Context (based on the Lutheran World Federation {LWF} publication) and the accompaniment model for mission as well as strategies for Christian education programs for all ages.

Participants worked in groups on various assignments and reported back to the plenary group.    The groups were asked to discuss challenges they encounter in their church and communities regarding Sunday School, Confirmation, Youth and Adult ministries and what are current and proposed strategies to address these issues.

Bishop Peter Mwakyolile of the Konde Diocese explained the history of the church in the area and the context of the city of Mbeya as a major hub in the region linking Tanzania to Malawi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a crossroads not only for trade but also for different and competing religious views and churches.  The bishop explained that while the ELCT is strong in preaching and evangelism resulting in rapid growth in membership there is also a need for strengthening Christian education programs for pastors, evangelists and members.

A Bible study based on Luke 24:13-35 (The Road to Emmaus, back to Jerusalem and Beyond) emphasized that everyone has a story to tell…stories about what holds us together and stories that keep us apart.  In this Easter story we discovered how Jesus comes alongside us as the stranger…the third person…who listens to our stories and then weaves God’s story with our stories … transforming, reconciling and empowering us (and our stories) for life together in God’s Mission that all might have life in its fullness. (At one point participants were invited to go on an “Emmaus walk,” to listen and share personal and key Bible stories with each other.)

The LWF theme for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 is “Liberated by God’s Grace.” We are invited to also share this story woven with our stories reflecting together as companions on what we are freed from and what are we freed for.

Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo of the new Lake Tanganyika Diocese expressed appreciation for the north-south and south-south collaboration and accompaniment between the ELCT, the ELCA and LUCSA and hoped that these relationships will strengthen in the years to come.

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


April 2016


101_7986Dear friends,
Recently I was invited to attend the church assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) in Okahandja 70 km north of Windhoek. The area is looking green now however the country is still facing food shortages due to the ongoing drought and will need to import maize to boost food supplies.
The synod began with a worship service in the local parish church in Okahandja. The sermon was delivered by Pastor Elfriede Tsandis in Afrikaans and translated into Damara a local language known for its many click sounds. She referred to the Word as “a two edged sword that exposes and cuts out the cancer of sin and thus brings healing.” The synod had two related themes “Stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near” and “Joining hands and pulling together for a transforming and self-sustaining ELCRN.”
There were about 110 delegates in attendance including pastors and delegates from 55 parishes (with 350 000 members) and representatives of various church organizations. As one of the companion church guests I was privileged to bring greetings on behalf of the ELCA and the four ELCA companion synods relating to the Lutheran churches in Namibia.
ELCRN Bishop Ernst //Gamxamub’s report highlighted congregational life, Sunday School, youth, women’s and men’s ministries as well as theological education. There was also a comprehensive report on the successful emergency cash grant program of the United Church Council of the Namibian Evangelical Lutheran Churches (UCC-NELC) in collaboration with the LWF (which included ELCA support) and Action by Churches Together (ACT) in drought affected northern Namibia in 2013 and 2014.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church AIDS Program (ELCAP) continues to address HIV & AIDS issues with support from various donors. The LUCSA Infohut project (with ELCA support), which focuses on providing young people with computer and life skills, was started in July 2015 at the church center in the town of Rehoboth.
I also took the opportunity to meet with the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) Dr. VV Nambala in Oniipa in the north of Namibia. The ELCIN has about 700,000 members.
Bishop Nambala highlighted a number of new developments including the Malaria program, the Lutheran hospital which now has both private and public sections and the purchase of new equipment for the church’s printing press and the rehabilitation center which is the only institution in the country that produces material in Braille. For income generation purposes the church has received a commercial fishing license from the government and formed a company with four other partners. The consortium has purchased a large fishing boat and the church has opened a retail fish shop in Oniipa. The name of the fishing business is ICHTHUS.
I also met with the chairperson of the Local Assembly Planning Committee to hear about the preparations underway to host the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) 12th Assembly in Windhoek in May 2017.
This summer we will be back in the States on Home Assignment and look forward to visiting family, a number of sponsoring congregations and attending the Summer Missionary Conference in Chicago.
Thank you for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally and your prayers and support through the ELCA Global Church Missionary Sponsorship program.
Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Representative – Southern Africa