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World | Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean re-elected leader of world's Lutherans

LWF leader Ishmael Noko:
To head 62.3 million Lutherans worldwide.

© afrol News / LWF / C. Alt
afrol News, 1 September
- Zimbabwean theologian Ishmael Noko has been elected to serve a second seven-year term as General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). 60-year-old Mr Noko is the first African to lead the Lutheran church community, which represents 62 million Lutherans worldwide.

The 49-member Council of the LWF elected the Zimbabwean theologian in a closed session at Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva, where the LWF governing body is meeting. Mr Noko was first appointed as General Secretary in June 1994 and assumed office on 1 November the same year, becoming the first African to hold this position in the LWF.

Born in 1943 in what was then Rhodesia, Mr Noko received his primary and high school education locally. He pursued his theological studies at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, and at the University of Zululand. After his ordination in 1972, he studied in Canada and lectured at the University of Botswana.

As General Secretary, Mr Noko is the Chief Executive Officer of the entire organisation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with a staff of 70 persons from 20 different nations. There are also over 60 expatriate staff persons from 24 nations working alongside some 5,800 national staff in LWF field programmes.

In addition to administrative responsibilities, he is the LWF's chief ecumenical officer, relating to Christian world communions and communities of other religious traditions. He led the process that resulted in the October 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr Noko is also responsible for international affairs in contact with governments and political leaders. In recent years, he has had audiences with numerous heads of state and government.

The worldwide Lutheran church is one of Christianity's leading communities. Originating in 16th century Germany, the Lutheran church is dominant in northern Europe. Mission has spread the Lutheran doctrine to North America, Asia and Africa.

The LWF under Mr Noko's leadership is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 136 member churches in 76 countries, representing 62.3 million of the estimated 66 million Lutherans worldwide.

In Africa, the LWF has 29 member churches, totalling 12.98 million members. This makes Africa the second largest Lutheran region after Scandinavia, which counts on more than 20 million Lutherans. In Zimbabwe, however, Lutherans are a relatively small group and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe has about 110,000 members.

Before Mr Noko's appointment, the LWF had mostly been led by Europeans. Mr Noko was reported to have "expressed deep appreciation to the Council on his re-election." With regard to his term, the 60-year-old expressed the hope that he would attend the next LWF Assembly scheduled between 2009 and 2010 "as a guest."

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