From a few families to a worldwide mission

Guest and church leadership at the anniversary celebrations of MLC. Photo: LWF

Malagasy Lutheran Church celebrates 150 years

(LWI) “150 years of existence, or 150 years of proclamation of the Gospel inside and outside your country, is a blessing not only for others but especially for the Malagasy Lutheran Church, which has grown in number and in capacity,” said Rev Dr. Jeannette Ada Epse Maina, Africa Vice-President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). 
She was greeting the Malagasy Lutheran Church (MLC) as it celebrated its 150th anniversary at the end of last month. 

“Today Christianity in Africa grows and this is because of the commitment of everyone, men, women and youth,” Rev Epse Maina added. 

A year of celebration

About 25,000 participants including members of the MLC, ecumenical churches in Madagascar, partners of the church and LWF came together at a stadium in the Malagasy capital of Antananarivo. To enable a wide participation of church members across the country, the anniversary, which was also placed in the context of 500 years of the  Reformation, was marked with a jubilee year of celebrations in different locations which started in May last year.

Among the participants were the president of the Republic of Madagascar Mr. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, mayor of Antananarivo Mrs Lalao Ravalomanana and other government officials. 

The anniversary was preceded by a meeting of the MLC national executive council. The anniversary included lectures on mission and Lutheranism, and an exhibition about the history and work of the church. Choirs from different synods and church ministries participated in festivities and the Sunday worship.

Holistic ministry

The roots of the MLC lie with Lutheran missionaries from the Norwegian Missionary Society , who arrived in the country in 1866. The church focused its ministry holistically with an emphasis on evangelism and diakonia. Today, it runs 10 hospitals and several dispensaries across the island. The church also founded seven schools for people with visual, hearing or mental disabilities. This special education ministry has contributed significantly to reduce stigma for people with disabilities and to include them in society. The MLC is also well known for revival ministries.

Today, MLC has three million members and is one of the larger LWF member churches. In his greetings, president Rajaonarimampianina appreciated the collaboration of the church and the government in providing social services to people of Madagascar.

There are 25 synods in the country and one in Europe, with congregations in France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. The church, which started with a few families, now sends missionaries to Thailand, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea through its South to South program. Most work as pastors or in diaconal ministries, such as medical personnel.

Live by example

“We thank God, for our church that started small and very dependent [on] outside support has grown in both numbers and its capacity to sustain itself in most of its mission work,” church president Rev. Dr David Rakotonirina said. 

“Our church continues to plant new congregations and open new mission areas every year. There is also growth in the area of services that we provide, like health, education and integrated development. We will continue to grow in faith for proclamation of the gospel through evangelism and holistic mission,” the church president added.

LWF Vice-President Epse Maina in her speech reminded the church of its responsibility to unity and inclusion of “all the sons and daughters of the church as members of the body of Christ.” The MLC was now in a position to set an example in living the gospel worldwide. 

“Today, the churches of the north look to us southern churches for guidance in the future mission of the service they will render to God and their neighbor. The churches of Africa, the Malagasy Lutheran Church, we are all called to live the faith that Jesus our Lord taught us,” she said.

Rev Dr Elieshi Mungure, LWF Area Secretary for Africa, also conveyed greetings from the LWF communion. “The LWF continues to accompany the MLC. We hope the church will continue to grow in capacity, become more sustainable and share its gifts  in the communion.” She also advised the church to “open up for more participatory processes, to create a church where all children of God are embraced and their gifts are valued.”