Fighting for Hearts And Minds
African Church Information Service (/publishers.html?passed_name=African%20Church%20Information%20Service&passed_location=Nairobi)
July 22, 2002
Posted to the web July 22, 2002
Tanzanian church leaders have observed that despite a century of Christian evangelisation and decades of political autonomy, Africa remains “a battleground for all kinds of ideologies, creeds and experiments.” And, that the fight to win hearts and minds is the fiercest of all.
Bishop Dr. Erasto Kweka, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) Northern Diocese, noted that the battle for the African mind and heart found fertile ground in poverty, disease and ignorance which have become ingredients for “the confusion that has engulfed the continent with endless mushrooming of denominations and cults,” he told participants in the June 9-12 Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Consultation on Renewal Movements in Lutheran Churches in North and South, held in Moshi, Tanzania.
Kweka cited the ELCT’s gains from the renewal movement during the last 40 years. “In 1963, there were only 500,000 Lutherans in the country. We are nearly 3 million Tanzanian Lutherans today,” he told the 40 participants-theologians, lay people, church leaders and administrators-from 20 countries worldwide.
Most Lutheran preachers in Tanzania were suspicious of the revival movement in the early 1960s. The arrival of “half-baked preachers and teachers and their cheap, but popular, recipes for salvation,” has challenged the ELCT to guide its members to understand the concerns that the new movements “claimed to monopolize,” Kweka said. These issues include baptism, anointing, salvation, faith healing, speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. The ELCT organizes open-air rallies, community-based Bible study and prayer sessions, and house-to-house campaigns. Worship houses are full several times every Sunday.
The consultation coordinator, Rev. Dr. Péri Rasolondraibe, Director of the LWF Department for Mission and Development, noted that the Lutheran church is a child of the Reformation thus reformation and renewal are constitutive of its life.
Bishop emeritus Dr. Manas Buthelezi, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Central Diocese, made an attempt to distinguish traditionalism from renewal by classifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit into four categories-proclamation (prophecy, teaching, words of knowledge and wisdom), service (leadership roles, diaconic acts of mercy and celibacy), special power (faith healing, exorcism and miracles) and prayer (praying in the spirit and interpretation). As to the understanding of healing, Buthelezi explained: “It is cooperation between drugs, medical doctors and God; but in the final analysis, it is God who actually heals a person.”
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