Lutherans in Sudan, East Africa, voted to change the name of their church body — from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan/South Sudan (ELCS/SS) — and elected a new leader: the Rev. Wilson Noah Rule Noah.
Both actions were taken during the church’s Oct. 11-14 convention in Yambio, South Sudan.
The addition of “South Sudan” to the church body’s name reflects the country’s split into two separate countries — Sudan and South Sudan — on July 9. Sudan remains mostly Muslim, while those in South Sudan follow traditional religions or Christianity.
According to the Rev. Dr. Robert L. Rahn, founding executive director of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, Macomb, Mich., who attended the convention in South Sudan, “ELCS pastors felt that the ELCS would refer to Sudan — a nation now of the north. But the ELCS is a church that serves the South Sudan nation, as well. So the designation ELCS/SS makes it a church for both nations.”
Noah is the second bishop to lead the Sudanese church body. He succeeds the Rev. Andrew Elisa, who founded the denomination in 1993 and, for a while, was its sole pastor. Elisa died of cancer on Dec. 31, 2009 — the day before his 43rd birthday.
Prior to his election on the first ballot as bishop of the ELCS/SS, Noah served as dean of the East and Central Equatoria Deanery in Juba, Sudan, one of seven deaneries with a total of 100-plus Lutheran congregations.
Noah’s Service of Induction was performed by the Rev. Christian Ekong, archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, during an Oct. 16 worship service in Yambio. Hundreds attended the service, including the acting governor of Western Equatorial State South Sudan, seven ministers of the state, the deputy of the state Parliament, and two bishops and many pastors from other denominations.
The acting governor of the state thanked Ekong for his service and requested prayers for peace in the state.
Ekong used the visit to encourage the ELCS/SS to submit an application for membership in the International Lutheran Council. He also addressed leadership issues in the church, encouraging ELCS/SS leaders and members to work toward reconciliation of their differences so that they may offer their new bishop an atmosphere of peace and unity as they serve together as Christ’s church.
Rahn preached the sermon, based on 2 Tim. 1:6-13, saying the occasion was one of mixed emotions. “We remember the past, but we look to the future,” he said. “For those of us who had a close relationship with the late bishop [Elisa], it is time to move forward into the new era” with Bishop Wilson Noah Rule Noah.
Rahn advised Noah to heed the words of Paul to the young pastor, Timothy: “Kindle afresh the flame of faith in you. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. Retain and hold fast the standard of the Word. Guard the Treasure entrusted to you.”
Speaking to guests after his installation, Noah promised to humble himself to be led by the Lord Jesus Christ for a fulfilled ministry within the church and society. He pleaded with members and ministers of the church body to enter the “Ark of Noah” and be saved, urging them not to jump out.
In an interview with Rahn, Noah said his biggest challenge as bishop will be “how to bring people to faith. Evangelism is most important and it is important to start with the children and [teach] them the Lutheran faith.”
In another interview, with LCMS missionary Rev. Jacob Gillard, Noah described the strength of the ELCS/SS as “the unity of the members working as a team in Jesus’ name.”
His goal for the church, he said, is “to educate all the pastors and the staff of the ELCS/SS to enable efficient evangelical works and quality services.”
Noah said he believes “God has indeed prepared me with courage and zeal to lead his people in our country because, with God, nothing is impossible.”
Posted Dec. 28, 2011/Updated Dec. 29, 2011