Who We Are
The FELSISA is a church which in its preaching and pursuits is bound by the Holy Scripture as the indisputable word of God and by the doctrine and confessions of the Lutheran church.
The congregations of the FELSISA are situated in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The Church is constituted as a synod and is headed by the synodical council which is chaired by the Bishop.
What We Believe
In fellowship with Christians through the ages we confess:
We believe in the triune God: in God the Father, who created us; in God the Son, who redeemed us; in God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us - our one and only God.
The Salvation of Jesus Christ
Because we are sinful beings, we can perceive God only, when we come to believe in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, who with His suffering, His death and resurrection has made atonement for our transgressions and freed us from the slavery of sin, so that we will rise to eternal life.
We cannot by our own strength believe in Jesus Christ. God the Holy Spirit gives us his true faith through the Word and the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
The Christian Church
People become believers where the Gospel is preached purely and where the sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution. This communion of believers is the Christian church.
Our life in the Church
Believers who have accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour, are united in fellowship in the congregation. Jesus Christ is head of the body, the church, and the believers are members of His body.
The Christian Congregation lives by participating in the church services. It needs the Word and the sacraments to strengthen and preserve its bond with Jesus Christ, its savior. The congregation also wishes to offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
It follows that the FELSISA strives to abide by Jesus Christ and the Gospel as the focal centre of the confessions of the church and life in the church. In our church services emphasis is placed on preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments, as well as teaching the Scriptures as part of the services and also in the Sunday school.
Taking part in the activiteis of the congregation during the week is encouraged. These are Bible study sessions, choir practices, both vocal and instrumental (brass instruments), meetings of the young people and of the woman's groups, and especially scripture teaching and confirmation classes for school-going children.
Our Church Festivals
Besides the traditional festivals in the ecclesiastical calender, our congregations organize additional parish services, and synodical gatherings.
An old tradition sets aside one Sunday a year for making the congregations aware of the work done in the mission field and to encourage the sharing of responsibility. Reports are given, intercessions and contributions made.
Highlights each year are the synodical brass choir festival, the choir festival, and the day of the youth. While the members of these specific groups take an active part in the programme, many other members of the congregations attend, making these festivals special occasions for spreading the Gospel. At the same time they are occasions for meeting one another and for strengthening the bonds that exist between the congregations in the cities and those in the country. They also serve to motivate members to offer assistance and to take responsibility for the work done in the church and in the mission field.
Our Historical Background
The FELSISA was founded in 1892.The descendants of the German missionaries that were designated to spread the Gospel among the Zulu and the Tswana, were the nucleus of the first congregations.
Farmers and craftsmen were sent out from Germany together with the missionaries. As they became independent of the mission, they founded their own German-speaking congregations. They felt strongly about Jesus Christ being the focal centre of their lives and therefore built churches and designated Lutheran pastors.
These congregations erected their own schools in the vicinity of the churches, so that the Christian heritage should be preserved for their children. Besides the usual school subjects, Bible stories and the Lutheran Cathecism were taught daily.
Developments and Changes
In the aftermath of World War 2 many industrial developments and changes lured members of the congregations from the country to the cities in ever increasing numbers. So as not to lose these members, the church had to make provision for ministering to them. Marriage to a partner speaking one of the official languages often resulted in this language becoming the home language. Therefore the FELSISA has not only built churches in the cities, but has increasingly ministered in English and Afiikaans. Today most congregations have a Sunday service not only in German but also in one of the official languages. In some congregations the main language is English or Afrikaans.
The Training of Pastors
In the past the FELSISA usually called it's pastors from Germany. In view of circumstances in South Africa and recent developments in this country it has become desirable to train pastors here. The FELSISA cannot and may not remain a "German island". The training of pastors in co-operation with universities in this country is conducive to enabling the pastors to understand the situations in their congregations better and to serve them according to their needs. Students complete a BA (languages) degree at Pretoria University and then go to either the Luthersische Teologische Hochschule Oberursel (Lutheran Theological Highschool in Oberursel - Germany) or to one of two seminaries of our sister church in America, the Missouri Synod.
The FELSISA strives to be a church with a living faith. The mission is not only the responsibility of and the calling for pastors and missionaries, but also for every member of the church of Jesus Christ. All members are therefore called to share the responsibility for the mission, be it by intercession, active assistance or contributions.
FELSISA and the Mission
Since its inception our church has been very closely associated with the mission. In fact the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) emerged through the preaching of missionaries among the Tswana and the Zulu. Not only are both churches bound by fellowship in Holy Communion, but also by mutual co-operation in other fields. Both churches are still planning a coordinated seminary. However, due to the cultural differences some difficulties still need to be overcome. Both churches also strive to overcome problems which stand in the way of mutual understanding and cooperation by their shared beliefs and confessions.
Mission in Neighbouring Countries
Since the early days mission work was carried on in neighbouring Swaziland and Botswana, where the LCSA has congregations. The LCSA preaches the Gospel amongst Indians in South Afiica as well.
The Standpoint of the FELSISA
On His way to the cross, Jesus prayed for His disciples (John 17), asking the Father that "they may all be one" (v.21). Consequently the FELSISA strives for the unity of the church and is distressed by discord and conflict existing in the church of Jesus Christ.
Disunity and separation may be caused by false doctrine only. Misconceptions destroy the unity of the church. Jesus Christ and the apostles continually warned against false doctrine. The Bible also repeatedly calls for dissociation from such.
Therefore the FELSISA strives to remain committed to preaching the true Word of God and to minister the sacraments according to the Gospel. Consequently the FELSISA distances itself from those churches whose preaching and practices deviate from the Word of God as recorded in the Bible.
Bonds of Fellowship - the plight of separation
Even in the early days of Christendom false doctrine was spread and already then the church had to take a strong stand in defence of the Word of God.
It is a well-known fact that during the sixteenth century Martin Luther and the movement of the reformation were separated from the Catholic church and later from the Reformed church as well. During the nineteenth century those Lutheran churches that were unequivocally bound by the Lutheran confessions, saw themselves ousted from the union of Evangelical churches in Germany.
The FELSISA came into being as a result of disputes with unitarian attempts to water down many fundamental principles of Biblical doctrine, especially pertaining to Holy Communion, thereby letting pluralistic viewpoints prevail and causing doubt and uncertainty amongst believers.
In unity with the true apostles' church the FELSISA clearly and unambiguously stands by the Word of God and is bound by the confessions of the Lutheran church. Furthermore the FELSISA accepts without compromise the standpoint of the reformers and the decisions taken by the fathers of the Free Evangelical-Lutheran church.
Fellowship with Other Churches
The FELSISA admits to fellowship with all churches that accept the Word of God as recorded in the Holy Scriptures and that are bound by the Lutheran confessions. Consequently the FELSISA is not in fellowship with churches, that do not teach the Holy Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and who tolerate false doctrine - and also those, that are in fellowship with churches that do so. While separation exists between Lutheran churches in this country, the FELSISA will always strive to reach agreement on the compatibility of doctrine.
The Ecumenical Outreach of our church
Although the membership of the FELSISA in South Africa is relatively small, the synod is part of a worldwide family of churches which are bound by the Lutheran confessions. They are situated in Germany, France-Belgium, England, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, India, Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa itself.
Most of the churches belong to the so-called International Lutheran Council, the members of which all accept the Lutheran confessions as binding and strive to preserve them in the face of international organisations which do not do so. The FELSISA is grateful to belong to this true ecumenical Lutheran church family.
It is our duty and obligation to be steadfast in our belief in the Word and the confessions - and to live up to the beliefs of our church. Hereby we wish to contribute to the true unity of the church in Southern Africa.