Bishop Shoo speaking at the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Bishop Shoo speaking at the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Environmentally-conscious presiding bishop Dr Fredrick Shoo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) says it was a special honour to host the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) in his country that is often called the “cradle of humanity”.

“It has been a moment of reflection for the church as one body of disciples of Christ and on how we witness about Christ in the global context,” said Shoo, known for his tree-planting activities, in an interview.

Shoo was in 2015 elected to lead ELCT, one of the biggest churches in the Lutheran communion, with 6.5 million members which he says is “a communion of people rejoicing in love and peace; blessed spiritually and physically, hoping to inherit eternal life through Jesus Christ.”

The 8-13 March conference was hosted for the second time in Africa under the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship,” where the spirit of Africa set the stage for the outcome with a unique African perspective.

Many of the 1,000 participants, led by the Holy Spirit, said they had been enlightened on their pilgrimage to transform to a world of justice and peace and a commitment to renewal in Christ.

The ecumenical conference was attended by more than 1,000 representatives from Protestant, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and African-instituted churches.

Spirit of Africa

From “warshas,” or workshops, to the “sokoni,” or marketplace, the event was wrapped in the spirit of African rhythms, music, and art.

Shoo was asked what he sees as unique in Tanzania.

“Tanzania is the cradle of humanity and has natural beauties, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, national parks, lakes and rivers, which all refer to the beauty of God’s creation and our role in keeping it.

“Seeing the whole world coming to this very place is very symbolic to us,” he said.

The care of creation holds a special place for ELCT and the presiding bishop has earned a reputation for tree-planting with his congregations before his election to head the Tanzanian communion.

He said that now he travels more frequently. “This gives me the opportunity to meet many church and community leaders with whom I can share the message. Moreover, whenever I meet the youth at a national level, I also encourage them about caring about God’s creation.”

Shoo added, “Anytime I attend an event, I always request for at least a tree to be prepared for me for planting, even before I attend to the main agenda for which I am there.”

‘Holistic gospel’

ELCT focuses on propagating the "holistic" gospel serving man through spiritual, social, economic and environmental programmes and interventions.

The Lutheran bishop was asked how people react to his tree-planting.

“It helps them understand how important the preservation of the environment is to me,” said Shoo.

“I usually request two young people – generally from confirmation classes – to tend to the new plants and show them to me when I come back. And most of the time, they spontaneously draw my attention to them, whenever I visit again.”

Bishop Shoo sees himself as a “servant leader to the people and the communities” who should “stand for justice and equity and make sure that everybody’s human dignity is respected”.

“We need to pull our efforts together to serve and lead the country. As church leaders, we need to ‘walk the talk’, through self-reflection and auto-critique to have moral authority,” he said.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT)

Conference on World Mission and Evangelism