Through Christ you can do all things

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge presents a cross painted by El Salvadoran artist Christian Chavarría. Photo: LWF/Gracia Rubango

LWF General secretary joins 50th jubilee of ELCCo

(LWI) - “Unity is a gift of God, given to us at the price of Christ’s blood at the cross. Therefore, unity is for free, yet it is very costly,” the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge has told the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (ELCCo) as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

At a special jubilee Sunday service in Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rev. Dr Junge joined ecumenical guests to give thanks for the presence and witness of ELCCo.

The visit was to celebrate 50 years of ELCCo, to express gratitude that the church is growing and to lift up its diakonia in a country longing for peace and reconciliation.

“We are saved because of who God is and what God does through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit,” Rev. Dr Junge said in a message. “This is the message we share globally as a Lutheran communion, and locally as you gather for worship in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo. We are united because we all recognize how dependent we are on God’s grace.”

“Your day of joy and thanksgiving here in the DRC is a day of joy and thanksgiving for all of us in the LWF,” he said. In addition to thanking the founders of ELCCo, he acknowledged all those who had made it was is was today. “We often don’t know their names, but we know what they did: the generations of local leaders, women and men, youth and elderly, lay and ordained.”

He also acknowledged the churches and partners that had shown commitment to ELCCo throughout the years, supporting its establishment and growth in the midst of adversity and challenge.

The unity into which God calls us

Rev. Dr Junge said that for those who had heard the good news of Jesus Christ, distinguishing between people on the basis of “nationalism, racism and tribalism is an outdated thing. It stands in the way of the gospel. Hence, on the day of your anniversary celebrations I want to invite you to continue living into a unity that places Christ at the center and includes all people while becoming the one people of God.”

He urged the church to keep “unambiguously addressing” gender-based violence. The world is full of stories of unacceptable physical violence against women in society, in homes and in the church. “All these stories are totally incompatible with the one story of Jesus Christ which we know, who has come so that all, all – women and men – find life in abundance.”

He thanked the many women who had spoken up and invited more women and men to “make that choir” much louder. “There can’t be any doubt: churches say no to violence against women.”

Rev. Dr Junge concluded with a word of encouragement from the apostle Paul: We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

“Sisters and brothers, know that we will be praying for your onward journey. Know that as a member church of the Lutheran World Federation, we will continue walking with you in relationships of mutuality, solidarity and accompaniment.”

In addition to the jubilee celebration on Sunday, ELCCo held exhibitions on its work on women and youth, HIV, projects, medical work, the work of the dioceses, agricultural work and on the LWF World Service program. The LWF general secretary visited ELCCo’s theological training institute, its women’s training center and an agro-pastoral project. In addition to church leaders, he met the deputy governor of the province of Haut Katanga, Jean Kalenga Mambepa.

The ELCCo was set up in 1968, the initiative of a local citizen who wished to become a disciple of Martin Luther. From 1969 to 1980, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania sent a number of missionaries to the Congo to support the young church. Likewise, many of ELCCo’s pastors and evangelists studied theology in Tanzania. The first trained ELCCo pastor, Rev. Ngoy Kasukuti, was ordained in 1975. The church is administered by eight dioceses and seven area missions throughout the DRC. It has 123,000 members. The church joined the LWF in 1986.