ORDINATION OF THE PRIESTS
OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH

REMARKS BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP,
AND CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS OF KWAZULU NATAL

KWAMONDI, ESHOWE ; JULY 2, 2000

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the celebration of a very important moment in the lives of our communities. The ordination of new ministers of religion is one of those occasions which enrich our communities and strengthen our hopes for the future. The United Lutheran Church is a strong church which becomes stronger on each occasion in which new people respond to the call of the Lord to serve Him as they serve the Lord’s people. The new ministers now ordained in the United Lutheran Church are becoming part of a glorious African tradition which stands tall as an example of how we can achieve any undertaking confronting us.

The United Lutheran Church is a church built with courage, devotion and dedication. It carries a legacy of self-help and self-reliance which holds a lesson which is not only important for the future of this church but, indeed, for the whole of South Africa. I have a great deal of admiration for the United Lutheran Church which is a genuinely and proudly indigenous church of Africa. Its history might not be as long as the history of many of the churches of European instruction but it is equally rich in lessons, values and examples which signify Christian values at their best.

The current leader of the United Lutheran Church, the Reverend CS Ntuli, is a worthy representative of this tradition as was the Reverend Philip Mkhize before him. Rev. Mkhize was one of the founding leaders of the United Lutheran Church. I used to have close ties with the Rev. Philip Mkhize because I attended school with both of his children and with one of his sons I attended Adams College. He was later employed by the KwaZulu Government and later served His Majesty the King as his Private Secretary until his retirement from government service. Indeed, I have been very close to the family of the Rev. Mkhize, who has been an important figure in my own upbringing since the time I was growing up at KwaDlamahlahla Palace, because his place was not very far from there. Perhaps, in some subtle way, I received inspiration from the Rev. Philip Mkhize because my own personal and political philosophy has always been inspired by the notions of self-help and self-reliance which I have propagated for many decades, which are the same notions which have enabled the United Lutheran Church to grow and prosper.

The new ministers ordained into the United Lutheran Church have the benefit of this great leadership to inspire and guide them and undoubtedly the Rev. Ntuli is a worthy successor to the founders of this church. The leadership of this church expresses and inspires courage. Indeed, faith is courage and courage gives faith. It was the courage of faith which enabled this church to exist because it was very courageous for them at the time to establish a church as an independent church. At the time, many people had the perception that one can not do anything without white leadership, especially in matters of religion where it was deemed to be too important to be left in the hands of black people.

The creation of the United Lutheran Church was a genuine action of religious faith which gave testimony to the living Gospel. By virtue of its coming into existence, the United Lutheran Church testified to the equality of all children of God before the eyes of God. Christian missions originally came to Africa to bring the Gospel of the Lord and many of such missions adjusted to the culture and style of life of African people, finally recognising that we are indeed all equal children of the same God. However, the same perception did not reach the ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Throughout the history of Christianity it has often become necessary that our Christian faith and its religion be freed from the limitations of the established Church. My own church, the Anglican Church, was the product of a split away from the Roman Catholic Church. It takes courage and it takes faith to assert the word of God over the dictates of an established church and yet, this is what the United Lutheran Church did which is, indeed, what has ensured the survival of Christianity for almost 2,000 years. Therefore, the establishment of the United Lutheran Church was in line with Christian traditions at their best. Martin Luther himself took his courage in both hands to break away from the Roman Catholic Church.

I believe that it was the Will of God that the United Lutheran Church be established because only God could have given to it the strength and the inspiration to do that which seemed unthinkable. At the time, the perception was that white people had a monopoly not only on the line of authority which emanated from established churches, but also on the theology which supported and justified the establishment of such churches. It seemed unthinkable that black people could develop their own theology so that they could find their own path to walk with Christ in Africa as Africans. White people also had financial and logistical resources which seemed to be necessary for the establishment of a church which our people would never have been able to muster.

In spite of all this, the United Lutheran Church came into existence proving that the work of God does not need financial and logistical resources and that the greatest strength and greatest asset remains that of our faith and the courage of our convictions. I think that this is an important lesson for the new ministers now being ordained. The United Lutheran Church proves that we as African people can succeed with our faith even without the resources that other churches have available. In fact, I myself belong to the Anglican Church and my own church, like the Methodist Church and many of the other mainline churches, have for a long time relied on the financial support that they received from the countries where these churches were originally established. The same applies in respect of the theological leadership which remained tied to the theological developments in those countries.

By breaking the umbilical chord with European or American churches, the United Lutheran Church became self-reliant, both financially and theologically. This enabled the Church to take a fresh look at its mission in Africa, and its position amongst our communities. An important merging of our African traditions, spirituality and pathos has taken place with the Christian message, ensuring that indeed the Gospel becomes alive within the hearts, minds and souls of our African people. It was recognised that African spirituality has a contribution to give to the constant evolution of Christianity. The living Gospel of Jesus Christ does not exist in isolation, but is part and parcel of the pulsating heart of humanity. It is made up of all the souls of all the people who seek salvation. It is the experience of our spirituality and religion, which makes up the living body of each church. All churches contribute to the presence of God within the world and to bring forward the work of God in the destinies of mankind.

The establishment of the United Lutheran Church relied on the Lord Himself and on the faith of our religion. Each of the ministers now being ordained must follow the same example and know that at all times the Lord will walk with them, if they walk with the Lord. The United Lutheran Church also identified the importance of creating a new theology for Africa based on the service of the people. This church is completely dedicated to the people, because it belongs to the people and has not departed from the evangelic vocation. Jesus Christ Himself came amongst men to serve them. Redemption is to serve and to sacrifice one’s own interests for the benefit of others.

We must admire those who have chosen a life of service by becoming ministers of the United Lutheran Church. They have the greatest honour any man can achieve, which is the honour of serving the Lord and through Him serving our fellow men and women. The great wealth is that of giving and the great honour is that of serving. All those who serve in the ministry of religion have made a vow of poverty and service, even though some often belong to churches that are wealthy and opulent. The wealth of religion is in the hearts of the people and in the service and dedication of those who serve the people in the name of the Lord. The call of the Lord is stronger where the people suffer, where there is poverty and hunger. The Church is there to feed the people with the word of redemption and with the message of service.

I admire the United Lutheran Church because it stands for the proposition that the Church exists to help and assist the people and finally to serve their needs, and it is not the people who must serve the Church. Christ belongs to each of us, He is in our hearts, He is in our minds. Christ is in our brother and everywhere around us. To reach out for Christ, we need to reach out to our brothers and sisters, we need to reach out to the people in pain and to the people who suffer. The Kingdom of God is all around us and we can enter it by dedicating our efforts to helping others and reaching out to those who are in greater need. The strength of this exercise comes from God Himself who sent His own Son to reach out to the same suffering of pain, misery and hunger which now calls for the assistance of each of the churches. We as Africans form the largest segment of the poorest of the poor. Christ was often amongst the humblest people while He served the Lord's people on earth.

Throughout my life I have adopted the same culture of service and dedication and endured untold suffering and humiliations to do that which I knew was right for my people. I have always stood by my people, irrespective of the consequences, to bring about some change and improvement in their lives. Each of us in his own context can continue the work which Christ began when He came to earth. He brought a new word and a new gospel, which is a gospel of love and redemption. He told His disciple, Simon, then renamed Peter, he should feed His sheep. We remember in John 21 verses 15 to 18 when Jesus repeatedly asked the Apostle Simon Peter whether he loved Him. And each time Peter repeats that he does love the Lord. He instructs him: "Feed my lambs", varying this with "Take care of my sheep" and finally He says: "Feed my sheep." Each one of us is called to serve God's people.

However, the greatest part of this responsibility belongs to those who are ordained as priests and who have dedicated their entire lives to this mission. What many of us can only do on a few occasions, becomes their constant concern and dedication. We must help them to fulfil this mission and succeed in serving the people. I wish them all the strength they need to cope with the needs of our people and to persevere in spite of the intensity of the needs of those who suffer.

I know well how difficult it is because for many decades I walked the same road of service to God's people. At times one feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before us and the limited resources available to accomplish them. At times one feels that our strength is not sufficient and no matter how hard we work, so little progress is made. However, it is through the Lord that we find the strength to remain committed to our mission and to continue to work day in and day out, as hard as possible, to improve upon the lives of others. It is only in this fashion that we can walk with the Lord and bring all of us a little closer in our daily lives to the Kingdom of heaven. I shall be joining my prayers with those of the members of this congregation, and other members of this church, to ensure that the Holy Spirit gives and maintains strength to the new priests, and inspires them throughout their life’s journey.

Each one of us is on a pilgrimage, for we are all pilgrims. We are all here to pray with those who have been ordained today into the priesthood, for the Lord to give them every strength on their particular pilgrimage. May God bless them. We are all followers of Christ, which is why we call ourselves Christians. Christ served us by enduring suffering. We should therefore not be surprised if on this pilgrimage you also share the suffering. We have a good example of how the devil asked for God's permission to test John's faith by making him endure a lot of suffering. Jesus Himself tells us in the Gospel according to St Matthew, chapter 16, verse 24:

"Then Jesus said to His disciples. "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Then we get assurance in 1 Peter, chapter 4, verse 13:

"But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

And Paul in his letter to the Romans chapter 8, verse 17 was even more explicit:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

May the Lord bless you on your pilgrimage. May we as a Nation be blessed through you in His service.

 

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