The Lutheran World Federation

A Step on the Way to Reconciliation

A Step on the Way to Reconciliation


Commemorative service marking the repatriation of mortal remains from former German Southwest Africa

(LWI) – On Wednesday, 29 August, Germany gave back to Namibia mortal remains that it had taken out of the country during the colonial period (1884 to 1919). To mark the occasion, a commemorative service was held by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Council of Churches in Namibia in Berlin’s Französische Friedrichstadtkirche.

Immediately after the service remains were handed over to the Namibian government representatives in an official act by the German Foreign Office and the Namibian embassy. On 31 August they are to be received at a state ceremony in Windhoek, Namibia.

Ernst //Gamxamûb, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia – a member church of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) – and head of the delegation of the Council of Churches in Namibia, gave a joint sermon with Petra Bosse-Huber, EKD bishop for ecumenical relations. In it, Gamxamûb recalled the history of Namibia and Germany, which had been “born of a very bad experience and reality.”

Learning from the past to write anew the future

Bishop Gamxamûb urged the congregation: “Let us therefore learn from our past to write anew our future, characterized by the following values: human dignity, respect, equality, good cohabitation, empowering one another to exercise peace and justice.” When visiting a UNHCR camp in Botswana in 1980, he said, he had had an unforgettable experience. He heard Namibian refugees singing a moving lamentation, which they did every evening: “When I die here, let my bones be returned home.”

“Let us therefore learn from our past to write anew our future, characterized by the following values: human dignity, respect, equality, good cohabitation, empowering one another to exercise peace and justice.”

— Bishop Ernst //Gamxamûb, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia

Bishop Bosse-Huber declared: “This day moves me greatly. We intend to do something today which should have been done many decades ago: namely, to give back mortal human remains of people who became the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century, to their rightful descendants.”

Keeping memory alive and overcoming wrong

At its Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia in May 2017, the LWF adopted a Public Statement on Reconciliation with respect to genocide in Namibia.

It says: “We are encouraged to know that the governments of Namibia and Germany have taken up this pain and are committed to a process of telling the truth and doing justice in view of what they both call today a genocide against the Herero, Nama, and other indigenous people. We are grateful for the role of churches and civil society groups that have promoted and continue supporting processes of reconciliation and healing of memories.”

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LWF Reformation 2017

LWF Reformation 2017

Reflect | Connect | Be Transformed

As we move towards the 2017 celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, LUCSA is reflecting on how Lutheranism has impacted Africans, connecting with the global community with LWF, and opening our hearts towards where God is calling us to continually transform ourselves. Join our communion in the celebration by reading through what it means to be liberated by God’s grace!

The following resources have been provided by Lutheran World Federation, and you can access them by clicking here.

Liberated by God’s Grace

God’s grace is liberating! With this free gift we are able to be free ourselves. The theme for the 500th celebration of the reformation is centered on this gift of freedom. Yet, this gift is not just about salvation.

Salvation – Not for Sale

The gift of salvation is free. We will not be able to purchase our salvation, and we will not be able to sell it away. We must remember that this gift is precious, and that this is the central message of the doctrine of justification.

Human beings – Not for Sale

We are encouraged through this celebration to not just reflect on the past, but also to see the changes we need to make today. Every person is a gift and made perfect through God’s eyes, therefore we must be fully respected in her/his dignity and integrity. We need to address the practices that create or increase poverty by our churches.

Creation – Not for Sale

Humans are not the only precious thing that God created. Our earth has been given as a gift from God and we must work to end exploitative human domination and resource abuse of this gift. We must fully respect and protect the earth as God’s good creation.

Goals of 2017 Celebration

Strengthen the LWF Communion

We want our member churches to recognize the mutuality of being part of the global Lutheran communion and to get involved in regional and global preparations for Reformation 2017.

Deepen understanding of what it means to be Lutheran

We want our member churches to think and talk about how to be Lutheran churches in ongoing reformation in their current contexts.

Strengthen our ecumenical commitment

We want to explore with other Christian World Communions our calling in the world today and how we can respond together.

Reaffirm our commitment to justice and peace

We want our member churches to become a part of a joint diaconal and advocacy efforts to work actively for justice and peace

Global Youth Reformers Network

The Global Young Reformers Network is a group of young LWF members who are working to connect youth globally with what it means to be Lutheran, and the coming events of the reformation celebration.

Their current focus is to create dialogue between informed, inquisitive young reformers about what it means to be Lutheran through their personal stories.

Want to get involved? Join the network by clicking here.

Important Reformation Events



Launch of the official Reformation 2017 website


Release of study materials written by authors from all LWF regions to explore Reformation 2017 theme


LWF interfaith conference presentations to include Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions


24-29th, Marangu 60th anniversary of the first meeting of all African Lutheran church leaders


Results of the LWF Task Force on  Mennonite reconciliation action in 2010


Global Young Reformers Network conference in Wittenburg


Theology after the Reformation conference



Launch of the Lutheran theology course taught by Lutheran professors from all seven LWF regions, to run through December


Joint Roman Catholic-Lutheran liturgical materials released

All Year

Women on the Move from Wittenberg to Windhoek: Ongoing Reformation project



13-16th LWF hermeneutics workshop


16-21st LWF Council 2016 in Wittenberg


Reformation Day 2016

Women on the Move publication to be released


Anglican-Lutheran study materials released



10-17th LWF Twelfth Assembly


Reformation day liturgical celebration

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Marangu Conference 2015

Marangu Conference 2015

The Lutheran leaders receive the youth and the banners they had carried over Mt. Kilimanjaro. The four-day climb focused on care for God’s creation. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu.

Dawson Chonjo poses next to the Africa Lutheran communion banner at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s highest peak on 22 May 2015.
Photo: Private

Harold Minja poses next to the Africa Lutheran communion banner at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s highest peak on 22 May 2015.
Photo: Private

LWF Council member Ms. Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu.
Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu

Ms. Blessing Shava and LWF Vice-President Bishop Dr. Alex G. Malasusa plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu.
Photo: LWF/Allison Westerhoff

The Lutheran leaders inaugurated the monument commemorating the first all-Africa Lutheran conference in 1955 at Marangu Teachers College.
Photo: LWF/ Nengida Lairumbe

A traditional performance at the Marangu celebration. Photo: LWF/Allison Westerhoff

Participants who were born, baptized or present at the Marangu conference in 1955 shake hands with the Lutheran leaders after a blessing. Photo: LWF/Allison Westerhoff

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson of the ELCA is a native South African who was born and baptized in May 1955. Photo: LWF/ Allison Westerhoff

A soloist performs at the Marangu anniversary eucharistic service.
Photo: LWF/Allison Westerhoff

Rev. Joyceline Njama administers Holy Communion. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu

Holy Communion is distributed at the closing worship. Photo: LWF/ Tsion Alemayehu

Rev. Elfriede Katjizumo and Southern African delegates receive the “Marangu Banner”, symbolizing the journey to the 2017 Assembly in Windheok, Namibia.
Photo: LWF/Allison Westerhoff

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ELCSA Celebration of Luther Decade

October 26, 2014
Polokwane, Limpopo Province, South Africa
ELCSA churchwide celebration of the Luther Decade on Reformation Sunday

Over 2000 women, men, youth and children together with the pastors and bishops of the seven dioceses of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa gathered to celebrate the Luther Decade on Reformation Sunday 2014 in Polokwane, Limpopo Province under the banner “Towards 500 years of Lutheran Witnessing 1517 – 2017.”

A day-long seminar on the Luther Decade theme for 2014 “Reformation and Politics” was held on the previous day at the Pietersburg Lodge.  Presentations on the topic were given by Bishop emeritus Dr. Musa Biyela (LTI), Rev. Ruth Xaba (ELCSA SED) and Dean NM Myaka (ELCSA SED).  Responses to the papers were offered by Rev. M. Shabele (Principal of the Lutheran Theological Institute LTI), Dr. Mathole Motshekga (Former Premier of Gauteng Province and current ANC member of parliament) and Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson (ELCA Global Mission).

The Reformation Sunday Luther Decade launch rally began with the arrival of ELCSA Presiding bishop NP Phaswana and Mmabishop Phaswana at the sports center in Seshego in a motor cavalcade.  Bishops and clergy entered the venue in a procession accompanied by singing led by a brass band.

The sermon was delivered by the presiding bishop based on the Gospel reading John 8:31-36 “The truth shall set you free.” The bishop began by greeting the congregation in more than 11 languages. Reflecting on numerous challenges in Christian and Lutheran history he asked what it means to be Christian, Lutheran and ecumenical in Africa today in the face of fear, selfishness, poverty and oppression? What stories do we tell our children and neighbors?  How do we witness?  Do we tell them that salvation, people and creation are not for sale, and that the greatest miracle of all is God’s gift of grace through Christ which frees us to love and serve others with God’s gifts?

A member of the youth Ms. Nobuhle Nxumalo (ELCSA SED) recited a poem she had written entitled: “I am a Lutheran.” In an address to launch the Luther Decade in ELCSA Bishop emeritus Dr. Biyela reflected on the Reformation themes of Grace alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone and exhorted the congregation to show the overflowing love of God in service to their neighbors when they return to their homes.

After the offering and service of Holy Communion greetings were delivered by ELCSA partners.  The rally ended with a meal.

Submitted by: 
Philip J. Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Representative – Southern Africa

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
Bread for the World Consultation

Bread for the World Consultation

Steffen Wiese (BftW), Beatrice Moyo (LUCSA) receive a tour from the garden manager, Thabo Motsokolo. Thabo works with the other manager, James, seven days a week to ensure that the produce is well taken care of.

Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) Office in Johannesburg had the pleasure of hosting Steffen Wiese from Bread for the World, based in Berlin, Germany. Steffen had a partner’s meeting with Rev. Dr. D. Tswaedi (Executive Director), Mrs V. Mzezewa (HIV and AIDS Desk Coordinator) and Mr. L. Xhakaza (Finance Officer) to familiarise himself with the work of LUCSA on HIV and AIDS and to discuss specific projects and related information for future cooperations. At the end of the meeting, Steffen had an exposure visit to observe two projects of two LUCSA member churches namely ELCSA-EC and ELCSA-NT.

The first stop was at “Diakonia AIDS Ministry” or DAM, a community intervention ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) Central Diocese located in Jabavu, Soweto. The Programme Director, Rev. SS Mugivhi, welcomed everyone and dove into how DAM is closely working with the needs of the community and how the support of partners and donors is vital to the health of their ministry.

“The need is there, and the funding is why we are walking, not crawling,” Rev. Mugivhi explained.

DAM recently had a fundraising event which brought children from the area to play games and enjoy a delicious lunch. Families could join and purchase a meal ticket as well. The fundraising event was a success for DAM and although their resources for fundraising are limited, DAM is working with its surrounding community to build up the four part ministry.

DAM has a very large after school program that runs Tuesday through Thursday, giving children a healthy meal including vegetables from their garden and from the soup kitchen. The volunteers help with the children’s’ homework and school projects, and often take them on educational field trips. There are also HIV and AIDS support groups that meet to help with the work in the garden and group members can receive support through their contributions to the DAM ministry. DAM also works to educate the after school children and support groups of PLHIV with general health information including HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. The last part of the ministry is their communications department that releases a quarterly newsletter, “Lobone.”

Rev. Mugivhi and the garden manager, Thabo Motsokolo, gave a brief tour of their produce and future plans for the garden. They have started a small compost, and are growing mainly vegetables such as beet root, lettuce, corn, chard, and spinach.

The next stop was St. Peters by the Lake in Park View, Johannesburg, to meet Stephanie Press who runs the “Special Foster Care Project.” The focus of the project is to give orphaned and vulnerable children a safe and stable home to live in while receiving education and proper treatment for their health needs. Currently the program serves seven households each with one Foster mother and four to five children. Each of the homes are divided by the children’s age groups, and the foster mothers are provided with training and support for their positions in each house. The purpose of having a house mother is to provide supervision as well as a strong role model who encourages the children to become responsible and so that there can be a feeling of stability and family.

Stephanie has been working with St. Peters for less than a year but already has hosted a successful fundraising event through a golf tournament.  She has plans to expand their fundraising events. She has a drive and vision for St. Peters that is going to help the program flourish.

Steffen will continue on his tour of South Africa to learn and monitor projects funded by Bread for the World and attend a Partner Consultation with various partners in South Africa. LUCSA was blessed and appreciates the visit from  their long standing partner, Bread for the World.

Posted by in Diakonia Desk
Ebola Response and Resources

Ebola Response and Resources

The Ebola virus in West Africa has become a destructive force in the communities and lives of our brothers and sisters. The Lutheran World Federation is calling for action through prayers, donations, and direct response for volunteers and health care providers. The faith communities from around the world are pushing to support these communities as much as possible but the virus is proving to be a crisis, and no longer just an outbreak.

What is Ebola?
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus is spread through human to human contact from directly touching blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, as well  as surfaces and materials contaminated with the fluid. A person infected can start showing symptoms as early as two days, and as late as 21 days. The symptoms include fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. From there, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function. Bleeding from the mouth and in stools is known to occur in some cases.

These symptoms are hard to distinguish if the patient is infected with Ebola or malaria, typhoid fever, or meningitis. It is extremely important for the health care providers to test the patients who exhibit these symptoms under quarantined testing to ensure the safety of both the providers and patients. But this also means that there are a lot of patients who are not receiving the care they need because so many of the doctors, nurses, and staff are working to contain the virus.

How can we help?
The LWF reported after the UNHR Council meeting on September 22nd that, “faith based organizations and churches are essential for an effective response to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa.” The Lutheran churches in the infected areas are working to not only respond to the health care needed, but the needs of the community as well. The donations of time, prayer, and money are all important tools in helping to contain and treat the virus. One of the largest concerns is that people may be ignoring the warnings of the virus being spread through human contact and are touching dead bodies, or turning to different methods of treatment to try and cure the virus when in reality it may be spreading the disease more.

As a church community in Southern Africa we may be far from the virus, but we need to be closer to the infected communities. We are all one in Christ  and in these moments where our brothers and sisters are so heavily suffering, we need to respond. LUCSA is asking that you continue to pray for these communities and inform yourself on the current state of West Africa, and support financially in any way that you can.

Donate Directly to Lutheran Disaster Response

By clicking here you can go directly to the ELCA website to donate money to their cause. The money is going to help in responding to the outbreak with food distributions, shipment of personal protective equipment, training health workers, outreach through education about prevention, and construction of an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Liberia.
Your gift designated for the Ebola Outbreak Response will be used in full (100%) to assist those who are suffering and living with the threat of this virus.

Other Ways To Give
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELCA Gift Processing Center
P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield, VA  22116-8009
Write “Ebola Outbreak Response” on your check’s memo line.

Credit card by phone: 800-638-3522

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Professor Gunther Hermann Wittenberg 5th April 1935

Professor Gunther Hermann Wittenberg 5th April 1935

Born to missionary parents in what was then Tanganyika, Gunther Wittenberg grew up within the postcolonial struggles of Southern Africa. He was to make these struggles his own, identifying with and working with those on the margins.

Gunther Wittenberg’s many contributions to the struggle for liberation in South Africa were all shaped by his deep commitment to prophetic Christianity. From his undergraduate studies in Pietermaritzburg, to his postgraduate studies in Germany, to his first parish ministry in Belville in the Cape, to his involvement in the Christian Institute, and the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), prophetic Christianity provided the parameters for what he did and how he did it.

Because Gunther Wittenberg recognised the ambiguous role of Christianity in apartheid South Africa, he was committed to forms of theological education that would nurture what the Kairos Document (1985) referred to as ‘prophetic’ forms of Christianity. He set about this project, what was to become the central project of his life, with careful consideration and planning. He spent three years preparing himself in Germany, and then returned to what was then the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1973 with a vision to establish the first theological education programme in prophetic contextual theology at a university.

Slowly, under his leadership, what was to become the School of Theology (now part of the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics) emerged in 1985, a nationally and internationally recognized pioneer in the area of prophetic contextual theology. And some years later, Gunther Wittenberg’s vision for a truly ecumenical theological education project was realised when the Pietermaritzburg Cluster of Theological Education was established in 1990, bringing together the many theological seminaries in the area, including the newly formed Lutheran Theological Institute.

But Gunther Wittenberg was not content with a form of theological education that remained restricted to educated elites. And so he began work on a related community engagement project, one that would forge an interface between socially engaged biblical and theological scholars and ordinary Christians in poor and marginalised communities. Having visited the base-community projects of Brasil in the mid-1980s, Gunther Wittenberg established a South African equivalent, the Institute for the Study of the Bible (what is now the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research), in 1989. The Ujamaa Centre worked (and continues to work) with local communities, using scholarly biblical and theological resources for social transformation. The Ujamaa Centre remains an internationally recognised model of university-based community engagement and research.

Scholarship was central to Gunther Wittenberg’s vocation. Recognising that the Bible was a significant text in our South African (and African) context, Gunther.

Wittenberg sought to harness the considerable resources of academic biblical scholarship to show how the Bible could be a potential resource for liberation rather than a source of oppression. In taking up this task he combined careful and responsible biblical scholarship with a socially engaged and accountable immersion in context, becoming one of the pioneers of ‘contextual biblical hermeneutics’.

He was nationally and internationally recognised as one of South Africa’s leading biblical scholars, as familiar with the scholarship of Europe and the United States as he was with the contextual contours of South African life. He was a regular participant in the scholarly societies of his discipline, particularly the Old Testament Society of South Africa. He published regularly and widely, constructing an impressive and coherent body of work over more than thirty years. As an Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Associate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, he was still publishing academic work in the final years of his life.

Gunther Wittenberg mentored many, nurturing another generation of socially engaged scholars who continue to walk and work in the trajectory he charted. Everything he did he did with a gentleness of spirit, serving others with care and a deep commitment to justice. He died surrounded by his family, his wife, Monika, his children, Martin, Inge, Gertrud, and Reinhild, and many grandchildren. We mourn his passing, and we celebrate his life. Hamba kahle, baba.

Issued by
Prof JA Smit
Dean and Head of School: Religion, Philosophy and Classics 

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
Memorial Service

Memorial Service

Gunther Hermann Wittenberg

Unser leiber Mann< Vater, GroBvater ist heimgegangen zu dem, auf den er sich gegründet hat. Die Trauerfeier findet am 4. April um Uhr in der Kreuzkirche, Hayfields statt.

Our beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather has gone home to the one on whom his life was founded. The memorial service will take place on 4 April at 10am in the Church of the Cross, Hayfields. Veiwing as from 9am

Not many people in the Lutheran family on the African continent and across the world would have been so unfortunate not to have met Professor Dr Gunther Wittenberg. Whoever came across him would be influenced one way or the other.

Having been salted by the abundant grace of his Redeemer Jesus Christ, he salted so many in the church and outside of it, from the lowest to the highest in power or education.

Indeed his contribution to better understand and use the message of Scripture from the lecture, pulpit, schools and house to the streets has been documented and has salted many more still.

On behalf of the LUCSA and its member churches listed below, we convey to his dear family and church the consolation coming from the Oculi epistle reading,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”., 2 Cor 1:3-4.

Rev. Dr. DP Tswaedi
Executive Director

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