Malagasy Lutheran Church
|Malagasy Lutheran Church|
Logo of the FLM
|Leader||Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina|
|Associations||LWF, ILC, CCCM, AACC, WCC|
The Malagasy Lutheran Church (in Malagasy it is known as FLM: Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy) is one of the most important Christian churches in Madagascar, established in 1950 by the unification of 1,800 Lutheran congregations in central and southern Madagascar. The oldest of these congregations was founded in the early 19th Century with the arrival of missionaries from the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS).
With almost 3 million baptized members, it is the third largest church in Madagascar and is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world. The growth is due in part to an indigenous revival movement, known as Fifohazana, that has worked through the church since the early twentieth century. Most of the church leaders are members of the Fifohazana movement.
The FLM also boasts a health care program of nine hospitals and thirteen dispensaries. SALFA, as it is known, is a community-based primary health project with special initiatives that cover child survival, family planning, and HIV/AIDS prevention.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church is subdivided into 25 synods including the synod of Europe, each with a president elected by local congregation representatives. The governing body of the church is elected every four years by a national gathering of over 300 representatives from the 25 synods. The governing body consists of the offices of President, Secretary General, Vice President, Vice Secretary General, and Treasurer. The presiding Bishop is Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina.
The Fifohazana movement, started by a Christian convert called Dada Rainisoalambo in 1894, has been described as a revival movement focused on the Word of God. It trains laypersons, called mpiandry, to proseletyze and minister to non-Christians and Christians who continue to practice the traditional Malagasy religion. Throughout Madagascar, the movement has established compounds, called toby, where church activities, exorcism, counseling, and medical care are carried out.
Norwegian missionaries John Engh and Niels Nilsen, sent by the Norwegian Missionary Society, arrived first in Madagascar (Antananarivo) in 1866. The same year, they founded the first Lutheran church in Betafo in the south of the central region of the island. Then the American Lutheran mission began work in the south-west in 1888. The church became autonomous as one body in 1950 under the name Malagasy Lutheran Church (or FLM: Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy) and the first Malagasy pastor elected to preside to this unified church was the pastor Rakoto Andrianarijaona.
Among the first churches which have been founded in Madagascar by the first missionaries, there are:
- Betafo (1867)
- Masinandraina and Antsirabe (1869)
- Loharano, Soavina Ambohimasina and Manandona (1870)
- Antananarivo Ambatovinaky et Fisakana (1871)
- Ilaka, Ambatofinandrahana and Fihasinana (1875)
- Soatanana Fianarantsoa (1876)
- Masombahoaka Fianarantsoa (1878)
At its founding the Malagasy Lutheran Church had around 18,000 members; today it has approximately 3 million and is the 9th largest church in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). It was the first former "mission field" church to be accepted into the LWF.
Relations with other churches
The Malagasy Lutheran Church joined the World Council of Churches in 1966. It is also a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Malagasy Council of Christian Churches (FFKM), and the Malagasy Council of Protestant Churches (FFPM).
The church broke communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, due to that body's acceptance of non-celibate homosexuality. The Malagasy Lutheran Church established a relationship with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and also approved a vote on 25 May 2018 to "more fully realise our unity as Lutheran Christians", with the possibility of a future recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship between both churches. The church was admitted at the International Lutheran Council as a full member at their World Conference, held in Antwerp, Belgium, on 25–26 September 2018.
- "Malagasy Lutheran Church". lutheranworld.org. Lutheran World Federation. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Collver, Al (2016-09-14). "Malagasy Lutheran Church elects new Presiding Bishop". International Lutheran Council. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
- Austnaberg, Hans (2008). Shepherds and Demons: A Study of Exorcism as Practised and Understood by Shepherds in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 42.
- Bennett, Robert H. (2013). I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 6, 18.
- Bennett, Robert H. (2013). I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. p. 6.
- Daniel, Rakotojoelinandrasana (2008). "Holistic and Integrated Care for Spirit, Mind, and Body as Practiced by the Fifohazana". In Rich, Cynthia Holder. The Fifohazana: Madagascar's Indigenous Christian Movement. pp. 91–92.
- "Malagasy Lutherans to seek fellowship with the LCMS, International Lutheran Council". International Lutheran Council. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- ILC welcomes 17 new member churches representing 4,15 million Lutherans worldwide, International Lutheran Council Official Website, 26 September 2018