Newsletter 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 millenia 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