South African convention
South Africa

It was a warm, late summer evening in South Africa – February 10, 2004. Bishop Louis Mphahlele of the United Lutheran Church (ULC) in South Africa leaned toward his computer screen as he searched to find doctrinal statements of various Lutheran churches. Suddenly the name “Apostolic Lutheran Church” popped up on the screen. He was floored. How could a church be “apostolic” and Lutheran at the same time? In South Africa the name “Apostolic” represents various indigenous churches that have even included elements of witchcraft and ancestor worship in their rather ambiguous doctrine. Out of curiosity he opened the website and found what he had been searching for over a long period of time – a pure and simple doctrine with strict adherence to the Word. He downloaded all the information available, printed it, and studied it in depth.

After reading through the information, he contacted Pastor Bob Maki, chairman of the Foreign Mission Board. And so began the cooperation of our two churches, which has included visits by pastors and youth, including several longer term stays by Dennis Hilman and Leona Matson.

The United Lutheran Church in South Africa (ULCSA) was founded in 1997 with one congregation in Randfontein, a suburb of Johannesburg. By the following year, the number of congregations had grown to three, and Mphahlele was consecrated as the Bishop of the church by the Bishop of the ELC of Botswana. He had earlier belonged to the ELC in South Africa (ELCSA), but found, along with many other people, that he needed something more than the rigid traditionalism of that church.

Today the ULCSA is comprised of 26 congregations spread over the Guateng and Northwest provinces. Most of these congregations are small, with up to 30 active members each, but some are larger. These congregations are served by 11 ordained pastors along with 4 pastor candidates, 7 evangelists (trainees in church service), deacons and deaconesses, and Sunday school teachers. This is a church that was created in a kind of vacuum left by the rigid worship of the dominant ELCSA organization, “which often did not allow the Spirit of God to work in people.” It is not an anti-ELCSA church, however. It is a PRO Word of God one.

Much work is still needed in South Africa. Many congregations do not have pastors. Sunday schools are struggling to find qualified teachers and materials. Outreach into the communities is vital, especially outreach to the youth. Many of the youth in South Africa are dragged down by addictions, lack or work, and poor education. God is working, however, and we humbly ask for your prayers for the United Lutheran Church of South Africa!

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