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Lutheran Beginnings around Mt. Kilimanjaro

Lutheran Beginnings around Mt. Kilimanjaro

The history was written when the Lutheran Mission celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1936
Fleisch, Paul

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Subtitle: The first 40 Years
Author: Paul Fleisch
Editor: Ernst Jaeschke
Publisher: Erlanger Verlag für Mission und Ökumene
Soft-cover, 13x20 cm, 208 pages


When the reports on the rediscovery of Mt. Kilimanjaro by the German missionary Johannes Rebmann and the notable diaries of David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, reached the Christians in Europe, a keen desire was aroused, especially among the Lutherans in Germany, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to a largely unknown people in Africa.

The Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1936. For this occasion the history of this organization was written and published by a renowned Lutheran from Hannover, D. Paul Fleisch. One of his scholars, Prof. D. Hans-Werner Gensichen, Heidelberg, writes about him and his book:

Paul Fleisch (1878-1962), a native of Hamburg, became a distinguished Lutheran churchman in Hanover. He was specially concerned with the old Protestant monastery of Loccum, which served as a preordination training institute for future ministers in the regional church of Hanover. In 1933, under the pressure of the Nazi authorities, he was forced to resign from his church post. Dr. D. Carl Ihmels, director of the Leipzig Mission, made use of the opportunity to ask Fleisch to write a History of the Leipzig Mission on the occasion of the forthcoming centenary in 1936. Fleisch agreed immediately, worked for some time in the mission archives at Leipzig and produced a book which has become a classic of its kind - a remarkable sample of a churchman without any previous missionary experience becoming a first rate mission historian.

After his unjustified dismissal and his rehabilitation in 1937, Paul Fleisch became one of the conventuals and in 1950 the prior of the monastery at Loccum. Already in 1936 he had been elected to a seat in the newly formed "Lutheran Council" together with Bishop D. Meiser from Munich, D. Hans Lilje, the bishop of Hanover, and Dr. Breit, member of the High Consistory at Munich. Thus, he was one of the top-ranking Lutherans in Germany during his time.

We felt that this extraordinary book on the history of the Lutheran Mission, which he wrote, should become known to the African theologians, because it is a meticulously compiled indepth resource as the first chapter of a future history textbook of the Lutheran Church in Northern Tanzania. The subsequent chapters - the African side -are, as far as we know, in the process of being written by the Africans themselves. In order to assist, Fleisch's book will be an invaluable treasure in their pursuit to find their own identity as a church.

Furthermore we are convinced that the present generation of young African students of theology deserves to have a clear knowledge of the basic thoughts of the period, when the colonial powers entered and occupied their country, and the events which helped to shape them. At about the same time the European churches came into Africa and mission work was started, increasing in strength ever since. Undoubtedly colonialistic thinking was blended with religious intentions to proclaim the gospel. However, the fact has to be stressed that the Lutheran Churches - especially the Leipzig Mission - made it clear from the beginning, not to work in the name of the German Empire, but that its sole purpose was to serve the kingdom of God among the people. This Statement was made to counter the many false allegations that the Lutheran Mission identified itself with the colonial aim of exploiting the people.

In order to understand the Spiritual development of the African countries from the early stage, when the population lived in tightly-knit communities to the modern developing country of today, it is indispensable to obtain a clear picture of the historical process and the genuine intentions of the Christians. We feel that this historical account is a very valuable resource in understanding in what kind of spirit those events took place.

Just in this context we take a little pride to note that Fleisch was also able to report on one of the most remarkable German missionaries of the Leipzig Mission in East Africa, Dr. D. Bruno Gutmann. He had been one of the Initiators of the widely discussed and accepted theology of inculturation.

Actually this book describes the historical role which the former Hersbruck Mission Society and the Leipzig Mission played. Influenced by the two World Wars and the rapid changes that followed, the Lutheran Mission underwent a thorough reassessment. As in other parts of the world the term "mission field" was abolished among the sending agencies. During the war the nations were compelled to join ranks and work side by side in harmony giving assistance wherever necessary. This resulted in the constitution of the Lutheran Coordination Service (LCS) in Tanzania after the war, which operates under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation.

This book now carries the title "Lutheran Beginnings Around Kilimanjaro" for good reasons because the original history of the Leipzig Lutheran Mission had become the early history of all the Lutheran Missionary organizations working in Northern Tanzania.

We Europeans and American Christians and friends of Africa hope that our African brothers will take up the challenge and complete not only the documentation process of the history of the Lutheran Church in Northern Tanzania, but also that, by the grace of God, they may be blessed to continue to build a flourishing Church in Jesus name.

We feel obliged to all those friends whose donations made it possible to have this book printed. In our thanks we have to include Martin Jaeschke, who took on the challenge of translating this sometimes difficult text and Mrs. Doris Prenzler-Weigel and others for their support and advice. Furthermore, we would like to thank all those whose supplementary financial contributions made the printing of this book possible. Gratefully we accept the assistance of Rev. Christoph Jahn and the Publishing House of the Lutheran Mission at Erlangen, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Leipzig and the Northelbian Center for Missions at Hamburg.

From Chapter I:

Taking the First Steps In 1881-1882 the question was put to the Leipzig Mission board whether a new evangelistic drive into East Africa should be started. East and Central Africa were just in the process of being made accessible. Trade and colonial policy were tied up in an international competition trying to penetrate these countries. Should the Lutheran Mission leave the field to those forces? If the Germans were to be a part in this competition did not the German Lutheran Mission also have a task to fulfill? Especially since the prominent Chancellor, Bismarck, of the newly established German Reich (empire) was taking cautious steps to implement his colonial policies, the question, as to whether the German Christians were under Obligation to become involved in the missionary outreach in the German colonies, became all the more urgent.

Was it not the duty of German Christians to carry out mission work in German colonies? Was it not a real "calling" in the Lutheran sense? German missionaries, who were serving with the British Mission Societies, had penetrated deep into East Africa. They had been the first Europeans to discover the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with its shining glaciers. Had not the time now come for the German missionaries to continue the work started by Krapf and Rebmann when they served with the Church Missionary Society (CMS)? The latter had been commissioned by the CMS to work in East Africa.

In Bavaria the founding of the new mission Station among the Gallas in East Africa had been recommended as early as 1881/82. J. Hardeland, the mission director of the Leipzig Mission, answered tentatively: "There are no divine instructions to do so and funding is not available at this time", whereas conditions seemed more favourable for an expansion of the work in India. The Mission Home Board and the General Assembly both agreed. The expansion of the work into Maisur was considered. When the Bavarian proposal was brought up for discussion again in 1885, the home board preferred to pursue the proposed Maisur project.

However, it was ready to give serious consideration to Africa. In the meantime, the idea of establishing a Kanaresen mission project in India had to be given up. If they really wanted to start a new mission, then preference should be given to East Africa. The missionaries working in India regarded it as their duty to impress upon "the home board to take every precaution not to neglect our current work in the Tamul province nor jeopardize the process".

In the meantime the Bavarians had taken charge of the matter and on 8 February, 1886 notified the Leipzig Mission that they had founded their own mission society for East Africa. [...]