Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran
World Federation, sees diversity as the most significant change in LWF
membership since the organization’s founding in Lund, Sweden, in 1947.
Thirty-five percent of LWF members now come from Africa, Asia,
Australia, Latin America, Central America, South America and the
Noko said the change in the face of Lutheranism is a challenge for Lutheran ministry worldwide, for which Europe and North America have traditionally provided most financial support. Now churches in the south are challenged to provide more financial support and “consciously engage in [ecumenism] that forms leaders who focus on the needs of the [global] church,” he said.
Growth in Africa and Asia
“Last year [in our region, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania] baptized 1,394 children and 527 adults,” said Herb Hafermann, an ELCA pastor and missionary who teaches at the Lutheran Junior Seminary, Morogoro, Tanzania. Lutherans are now “the largest Christian group among the Maasai in our region,” he added. “Many not-yet-baptized traditionalists count [us] as their church and say they’ll soon be baptized.”
Seven Maasai evangelists recently began a two-year pastors’ course, Hafermann said.
Evangelism and the Spirit are the primary reasons given for growth. In Africa’s largest church, the Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus, which grew by 3.5 percent to more than 4.3 million, ELCA missionary Andrew Hinderlie said members explain their witness in one simple word: “Love.”
“[We] send out missionaries to so many villages [with congregations] paying their stipend,” said Benjamin J. Fuduta, a pastor of the 1.3-million member Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria. “We reach out to communities through social work and they come to Christ. They decide to become Lutherans ... because of what we believe and practice. We are a church that is for the neighborhood, wherever we are.”
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