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

101_6860Dear friends in Christ,
Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Recently I attended a conference with the theme: African Futures. It was a festival of interdisciplinary activities imagining what various African futures might look like. One session focused on the question of knowledge production asking: Who generates knowledge about Africa? Whose voices are heard or repressed? How are young Africans telling their own stories of the past and present and imagining that story’s future? Can fiction be a more accurate vehicle for telling the truth than news reports? http://www.goethe.de/ins/za/en/joh/ver.cfm?fuseaction=events.detail&event_id=20607503
Professor Achille Mbembe of the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) reflected on the theme in light of the current #feesmustfall campaign at universities across South Africa where students are calling for free access to tertiary education as a right not just a privilege. Mbembe observed that many local problems are in fact global problems and that everything about the past, present and future is being contested. Mbembe challenged the dominant “language” of identity and difference and called for the production of “insurrectionary knowledges” from writers, musicians, artists, religious communities and ordinary people on the margins that will affirm our shared human identity and overcome the boundaries that divide.
For me the stories of Advent and Christmas, including the prophetic call to repentance by John the Baptist, Jesus‘ birth in Bethlehem in a stable and his having to flee with Mary and Joseph at night to Egypt as refugees, are stories from the margins and part of a theology of the Cross which challenge exclusionary boundaries and declare the transforming and reconciling power of God’s grace in Christ for all people and all creation.
The Global Young Reformers Network is a program of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) created by youth and for youth. They are also looking to the past and to the future. Convinced that the church must keep reforming, even 500 years after the movement that Martin Luther started, young Lutherans are learning about Lutheran identity, working to counter unemployment, training as leaders and working for environmental justice.
The Global Young Reformers have initiated Living Reformation projects to help churches interpret the theme “Liberated by God’s Grace” of both the 500th commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 and the LWF Twelfth Assembly that will be held in Windhoek, Namibia. Young reformers want to demonstrate how the sub-themes: Salvation – not for sale, Creation – not for sale, and Human beings – not for sale, relate to critical issues in their countries and resonate with concerns in other LWF regions. https://youngreformers.lutheranworld.org/
A special focus for me this year has been working with member churches of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) through their Christian Education Desk to compile a resource book with and for youth and young adults. http://www.lucsa.org
Thank you for your prayers and continuing support through the ELCA Global Church sponsorship program. Thank you for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
May God’s kingdom of grace, justice and peace come to us all.
Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa
November 6, 2015

Namina Mozambique

Namina Mozambique

Dear friends in Christ,
During August I had the opportunity to visit the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (IELM).
Mozambique stretches for 1,535 miles (2,470 km) along Africa’s southeast coast. It is nearly twice the size of California with a population of over 26 million people.
The IELM was formally established in Mozambique in 1989 with initial support from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) and through contacts with LWF refugee and relief work. The IELM is an active member of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) and through its Joint Mission Board has partnership links with Lutheran churches in the region as well as with the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil.
The IELM is divided into 3 districts (North, Central and South) and has over 13, 000 members, 14 parishes, 80 congregations and preaching places served by 10 pastors and several evangelists. Rev. J. Mabasso was consecrated as the first bishop of the IELM in March 2011.
The visit started with meetings in the capital city Maputo with IELM churchwide and project staff. I also met with one of the pastors who is currently enrolled in a three year Bachelor of Divinity course at Iringa University in Tanzania made possible with scholarship support from the ELCA International Leaders’ Program.
We then travelled to the town of Chimoio in central Mozambique and were met at the church by the local pastor, the IELM Malaria Field Officer and several members of the congregation. Although it was school vacation we were welcomed at the church by some 50 children and 2 volunteer teachers who are assisting with the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program. One of the volunteer teachers in the program said she feels proud that she can teach the children. “I am teaching and learning at the same time.”
We also visited the rural community of Munene and were taken on a tour of the clinic completed in 2011 as well as the newly built house for expecting mothers which was officially opened in July 2015. Both structures were built with financial assistance from the ELCA. The government health department provides medicine for the clinic and salaries for the two nurses.
The following stop was the mining town of Nampula in the northern part of the country. We attended the Sunday worship service in the neighboring town of Namina. I was invited to preach the sermon which was translated into Makuwa the main language in that area.
We also visited the rural clinic near Moma which was recently repainted and repaired due to storm damage. The clinic uses a solar powered fridge for medicine and a solar water pump and storage tank obtained with support from the ELCA World Hunger program.
We met with members of the Clinic Management Committee including the local pastor and 5 IELM Malaria Program field activists. Two of the activists came on their malaria program bicycles which they use to make house to house visits in the district. The clinic nurse said the ambulance provided by the ELCA and the work of the Lutheran malaria activists in the community make a big difference.
There are many opportunities and challenges facing the country and people of Mozambique. It is a privilege to be able to accompany our brothers and sisters in the IELM in God’s Mission.
Thank you for your continuing prayers and support.
Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa

Namina Mozambique


Dear friends,
From May 20-25 I was privileged to attend the Lutheran World Federation’s All Africa Lutheran Leadership consultation held in Moshi, Tanzania. 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the first all-Africa Lutheran consultation held at Marangu in 1955, in what was then Tanganika. At that time only five African nations (of 54 today) were independent and only two Lutheran churches from Africa were members of the Lutheran World Federation. There are now 31 churches from 23 countries in Africa that are members of the LWF. The ELCA relates to Lutheran churches in 24 African countries, divided into three regions that reflect the subdivisions of the LWF. 46 companion synod relationships exist between ELCA synods and companion Lutheran churches in Africa. See https://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Mission/Africa
The gathering of over 200 delegates from the African continent included representatives of global partners from among LWF member churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was represented by ELCA Global Mission Executive Director Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla and Area Program Director for East and Southern Africa Rev. Benyam Kassahun. As ELCA regional representative for Southern Africa I was invited to prepare a short paper for the conference booklet on the topic of partnership in God’s Mission.
See page 41: https://www.lutheranworld.org/content/resource-journeying-together-lwf-communion-africa-1955-2015
The conference culiminated on Pentecost Sunday with a celebratory worship service and reception attended by over 2000 people held on the grounds of Marangu Teachers’ Training College at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. LWF president Bishop Mounib Younan in his sermon called for reconciliation and transformation and highlighted the theme for the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation to be commemorated at the 12th LWF Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia in 2017: “Liberated by God’s Grace: Salvation not for sale, Human beings not for sale, Creation not for sale.”
One of the most moving events for me was when the procession of bishops and church members met up with the two Tanzanian Lutheran youth Harold Minja and Dawson Chonjo who had just returned from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about climate change. For me the presence of the youth at the conference was a reminder that this meeting was not just about reflecting on the past and present but also about our future vision as companions walking together in God’s mission.
Thank you for your prayers and continuing support through the ELCA Global Church sponsorship program, ELCA World Hunger, the Malaria Program and the Campaign for the ELCA.
Thank you for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Philip J. Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Program Assistant – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa

June 11, 2015


The Lutheran World Federation – Africa Regional Expression

Message from the 60th Anniversary of the Marangu Conference


We, the Lutheran Communion in Africa (LUCA), at our biannual conference held at the Lutheran Uhuru Hotel Conference Center, Moshi, Tanzania, from 20-24 May 2015 to commemorate and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Marangu Conference of 1955, as we journey forward towards the 500 years of Reformation celebration in 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia.

Participants including delegates representing all member churches in Africa—men, women and youth met under the theme: “Marangu to Wittenberg: Being a Reforming Church in a Changing Africa Context”, also reflecting on the LWF 2017 theme: “Liberated by God’s grace: salvation not for sale, human beings not for sale, and creation not for sale”. We acknowledge and appreciate the presence of the LWF President, Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, and LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge and all partners.

In the course of the journey of the past sixty years, we acknowledge the many gains, contributions and trials of our forebears in the faith, with cognizance of the issues that the Church needs to deal with in our time.
In the spirit of Pentecost we reflected on the following issues:

Theological Training and Education
We identified the urgent need for the renewal of the spiritual life of the churches, theological education and formation in order to respond to the needs of our churches today.

Church Sustainability
We reflected on the urgent need to take concrete steps towards ensuring the sustainability of the church and its ministries.
Leadership and Good Governance
There is a need for transforming and developing servanthood leadership model and good governance in the church.

Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations
We recognize the presence of other Christians and faith traditions, and thus the need to relate with them more constructively.

Mission and Diakonia
We acknowledge the centrality of prophetic and holistic mission and diakonia as initiated by God. These constitute the life, witness and vocation of the church today.

Justice, Peace and Reconciliation
Acknowledging the various issues of injustice, violent conflicts, poverty, and human rights abuses, we are thus reminded of the importance of our prophetic responsibility as churches, to engage with such issues in a creative way.
We, therefore, in the spirit of renewal, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit ourselves to:
• Enhance and strengthen our theological education and pastoral formation to address the contextual realities of our times.
• Generate strategies towards resource mobilization locally and beyond for self-sustaining, self-reliance and self-propagating.
• Entrench service oriented leadership that is accountable, transparent, and includes active gender and intergenerational participation.
• Empower our congregation and various church sectors to actively engage in mission and diaconal activities.
• Collaborate and cooperate with other Christians and people of other faiths for the common good of humanity.
• Engage intentionally in creative ways the forces that cause and perpetuate injustices such as: climate change, poverty, human trafficking, exploitation, diseases, extremism, xenophobia, racism, attacks against albinos, human rights abuses, constitutional abuses both in the church and state, gender injustices, bribery and corruption, land grabbing and illegal mining, negative tribalism, harmful traditions, etc.

We, therefore, mandate that the Lutheran Council in Africa establishes a commission to reflect, consult and make concrete proposals on the future direction of the Lutheran Communion in Africa in accordance with the terms of reference as will be defined by the Council.

We call upon the Africa Union, regional communities (ECOWAS, COMESA, EAC, SADC), and their member states to rise to their constitutional responsibilities of protecting human life and property, and to guarantee peace and security on the continent, which are indispensable for political stability and social development.
Moshi, Tanzania