Monday, December 14, 2009

The Lutheran Church of Sudan

Father Beane's discussion of LC-MS ecumenical relations brought to mind a nagging question I have had. Why is the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod not in fellowship with the Lutheran Church of Sudan? "These things take time," some will say. Really? Precisely what is the hold up?

I myself had the honor of befriending Bishop Andrew Elisa before the Lord took him from the cares of this world. He was a faithful Lutheran bishop, and a good Christian man, and his church, the church he founded, is a small but growing Lutheran Church, which if anything is more true to the Lutheran Confession than the LCMS can claim to be. Elisa courageously chose to leave the prestige of the Anglican world, and the WCC, and in his studies was converted to the Catholic faith of the Lutheran confession. His spiritual journey, and with it the birth of his church, incidentally, was aided not by the offices of the LC-MS, but by his contact with Robert Preus, of blessed memory, who agreed to send him a Book of Concord and a few copies of the Small Catechism. For this we should rejoice. No one in the Synod, however, will deny that the Lutheran Church of Sudan is faithful to the holy Catholic faith and the Lutheran Symbols.

I must say, also, that the Missouri Synod's web page on that church, oddly, seems to give the impression that the Lutheran church in Sudan owes its genesis, not to Elisa, but to the "ministry of Rev. John and Kathy Duitsman," a pastor and wife missionary team out of western Iowa, who responded to a call for missionary work by refugees from Sudan. I am sure that the work the Duitsmans have done is faithful and crucial, but the way the history is written on that page undercuts the central role Elisa played in the founding of his own country's Church. Also, it would be proper if that web page were to reflect the fact that Elisa has now fallen asleep in Christ, instead of implying that he is still the bishop.

I am not familiar with who Elisa's successor is as bishop of Sudan, if there is one yet. I do know that the Lutheran Church of Sudan could use our material help, and volunteers for its seminary. She also deserves the official recognition of church fellowship, instead of the promise of more red tape.


Jon Townsend said...

I don't think a successor has been chosen yet.
It is almost like his feast day is coming up at the end of the month.
I have a room of icons, and sometimes I think of putting his picture up there too.
Last year when he died, Fr. Neuhaus died at the same time and one of things that galled me to no end was that more type was wasted on Neuhaus in Lutheran circles than was spent in praise of Bishop Elisa. I admired Neuhaus from a social perspective, but as a Lutheran, Andrew was a modern hero of the faith.
I remember sitting in the basement of Prof. Nuffer's house with him with my wife and boys and he was telling us about his family and showing my oldest pictures that termites are a delicacy.
I feel for his kids and wife and also for the church he founded. I hope I can go there one day.
I still have his cell phone number on mine and although it no longer works, I don't think I'll ever delete it.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...


I feel the same way you do about the Bishop. Let it console us to think that we share with Andrew a closer communion than we ever did before, especially when we are at the altar.