In Africa, the church is at the center of society. With nearly 20 million members, Lutheran churches are growing rapidly, thanks to strong evangelism and outreach programs. The ELCA walks side by side with Lutheran churches in 24 African countries, divided into three regions that reflect the subdivisions of The Lutheran World Federation
. The ELCA supports the work of The Lutheran World Federation’s Department for World Service
in all three regions.
In Southern Africa, some countries are politically stable but face significant ethnic, racial and economic divisions. Others, like Zimbabwe and Swaziland, face serious challenges triggered by continuing socio-economic and political crises. The largest Lutheran church in the region is in Namibia, the only country outside Europe with a Lutheran majority. In newly independent South Sudan, Lutheran programs and activities are beginning to consolidate under the vision, “One South Sudan Lutheran Church.” Working through members of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa
, the ELCA’s engagement in this region includes malaria prevention and control, HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, a peace and reconciliation forum, health and hospital services, development and sustainable livelihood programs, and leadership development. Twelve companion synod relationships exist between ELCA synods and companion Lutheran churches in the Southern Africa region.
The ELCA’s engagement with members of the Lutheran Communion in Central and East Africa includes relationships with two of the oldest, largest Lutheran churches (in Tanzania and Madagascar) as well as relatively young, small churches in Kenya and Rwanda. The ELCA’s priorities in this region focus on church self-reliance, capacity building in health and hospital services, community-based development, and strengthening theological institutions. Engagement in East Africa is strengthened by the 26 ELCA synods relating to churches in this region, including 20 with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania
The ELCA accompanies a diverse group of churches and one seminary that comprise the Lutheran Communion of Central and Western Africa, where French is a prominent language. The ELCA supports this region’s emphasis on evangelism, social services, rural development, education, reconciliation during times of conflict, health ministry and Christian/Muslim relations. Lutherans were the first denomination to build a hospital in Liberia; the Lutheran Church in Liberia continues to operate Phebe and Curran Hospitals. In the midst of political instability, Central African Republic Lutherans develop leaders through a seminary that trains pastors, a Bible school that offers training in evangelism and agricultural activities, and a village-based program that educates children in 20 villages who have no other school access. Eight ELCA synods relate to churches in this region.
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