The Rev. Dr. Wilbert Kreiss, former president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church–Synod of France and Belgium, died in his sleep Oct. 24 in Moshi, Tanzania, East Africa.
A funeral service was held Nov. 5 at the Protestant State Church in Woerth, France.
For the past 35 years Kreiss, 74, was “very much involved in Africa, primarily as theological trainer of Congolese pastors,” according to the Rev. Jean Thiébaut Haessig, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church–Synod of France.
Kreiss also wrote the French seminary courses used by LCMS missionaries to train pastors in French-speaking African countries and occasionally taught at African seminaries.
“So the Lord has chosen to call him back from that continent which he was always willing to serve, even to his end,” said Haessig. “We give thanks to the Lord for the many blessings that He has granted His Church through the ministry of Pastor Kreiss.”
The Rev. James E. May Jr., director of Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF) — Africa and director of Lutherans in Africa, a ministry based in Parma, Ohio, was with Kreiss in Tanzania, where they were taking part in the dedication of the Book of Concord in Kiswahili.
Kreiss wrote the introduction for the new LHF translation and had “preached the Gospel twice” on the day he died, according to May. He was “faithful to the end,” May said.
Although he had visited Africa some three dozen times, Kreiss had not been on a safari until the day before he died, where he “got to see elephants, giraffes, zebras and was so happy to see lions out on the plains,” said May. “He was really happy.”
Kreiss “was a loving father in the faith” and “was so supportive of the work of educating Lutherans and pastors so that they may know the faith,” May said. Kreiss translated or wrote at least 50 books, he added.
Kreiss served as president of the France-Belgium church body from 1992 to 2000. Prior to that, he had served as the church’s vice-president since 1974. He also served as director and professor at the Centre d’Etudes Théologiques seminary in Châtenay-Malabry, France, for more than 20 years, until 1997.
He earned a doctor of theology degree at the Université de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, and received honorary doctorates from both LCMS seminaries.
Early in his career he served as pastor of congregations in Châtenay-Malabry and Alsace, France.
Survivors include his wife, Marguerite, four married daughters — Hélène (Olivier) Brillaux; Nathalie (Gérard) Penin; Cathy (Pierre) Steuer; and Idelette (Valdo) Besson — and 10 grandchildren.
Posted Oct. 24, 2011/Updated Nov. 1, 2011/Updated Nov. 10, 2011