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Leonard Auala
1908 to 1983
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN)
Namibia

As the first indigenous bishop in the history of the church in Namibia, Dr. Leonard Nangolo Auala has a permanent position in any publication on Namibian church history. Dr. Auala was born in 1908 in a Christian home. After a period of contract labour at the diamond mines, he was trained as a teacher at Oniipa (1931-32). He worked for two years as a teacher, before he furthered his teacher's training at Augustineum (1934). He then taught for six years at the training institute of Oniipa.

In 1941, he was trained at Paulinum as an evangelist and was ordained in 1942. He ministered to the congregation of Oniipa, while at the same time teaching at the training institute. By 1949, he was trained as a pastor and became church board secretary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) in 1951. In 1958, he was appointed supervisor of the Ondonga section of the ELCIN. He later continued his theology studies in South Africa. He soon started to attend international church meetings in Africa and Europe.

In 1960, Dr. Auala was elected moderator of the ELCIN synod and, in 1963, he became the first bishop in the history of the ELCIN. In this capacity, he became a member of the executive council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In 1967, the University of Helsinki awarded him an honorary doctorate in theology (Shejavali 1970:206-109, Kritzinger 1972:56-59). In 1971, Bishop Auala was the author of the well-known "Open Letter" to the South African prime minister, compiled jointly with Pastor Gowaseb of the ELCRN.

In 1979, Bishop Auala retired and was succeeded by Pastor Kleopas Dumeni, who was the youth work leader in the ELCIN. Pastor Dumeni became the second bishop of the ELCIN. Bishop Auala died on December 4, 1983.

Bishop Auala was honoured by all indigenous churches and by the Ovambo people in general as a father of the people and an outstanding national leader (Immanuel Jan. 1984:9, Kritzinger 1972: 295-296). His "father figure" role must be understood against the background of the ELCIN, which was always a homogenous peoples' church, forming a united cultural and social community. Since the previous century, the membership of the ELCIN had originated almost one hundred percent from the Ovambo speaking peoples in northern Namibia. The homogenous character of the Ovambo tribes was always fully reflected in the ELCIN membership. The Ovambo area was never really disrupted by external political events such as the two World Wars. As bishop of this denomination, which was the only spiritual "mother" of the Ovambo tribes, Bishop Auala was a spiritual father figure, a leader of his people. His leadership was established at a time when many traditional tribal authorities (chiefs or kings) cooperated with colonial governments and were not fully trusted by the people. This was the time when political parties became the new "voice of the people."

Bishop Auala often had deliberations with the South African government, representing his people from 1963 on. In 1963, after the Odendaal Plan, implementing the apartheid system, was announced, Bishop Auala issued two memoranda to the South African government, one in 1964 and one in 1967. He often had discussions with the commissioner generals on social issues like contract labour and other community problems. As the "conscience of the rulers," Bishop Auala often travelled to Pretoria to warn against the consequences of apartheid (cf. the declaration to the prime minister of South Africa on August 18, 1971, Hellberg 1979:176, Buys 1983:304-307).

Bishop Auala was trusted by his people, and saw his own position as that of a "shepherd of the people,"--one who had to tend to their spiritual and material well-being. He described his office to the South African prime minister as that of "a Sentry over the House of Israel" (Ezek. 33), who had to warn the government that his people were suffering injustice.

Dr. Auala was a leader with great personal charisma. He was a prophet who witnessed with great sensitivity, prudence, and love for the truth. He was buried with the fitting honours on December 10, 1983 at Oniipa. An ecumenical homage service, attended by thousands, was held on February 4, 1984 in the ELCIN church, Katutura, Windhoek (Immanuel Jan-Mar.1984:9). [1]

Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala


Notes:

1. This story is taken from Buys & Nambala p.230-231.


Bibliography:

Main source

Buys, G. L. & Nambala, S. V. V. 2003. History of the Church in Namibia 1805 - 1990, an Introduction. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan.
Namibia Research Institute (www.nets.iway.na/research)

Unpublished & Published References

1994 Field Directory: SDA in Namibia. Unpublished church data-sheet of the Namibian field, supplied by Rev. Coombs, SDA Field President of the Central Region.

Beris, A. P. J. 1996. From Mission to Local Church: One hundred years of mission by the Catholic Church in Namibia, with special reference to the development of the Archdiocese of Windhoek and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rundu. Windhoek: John Meinert.

Buys, G. L. 1983. Die holistiese sendingbenadering in die ekumeniese diskussie met besondere verwysing na die Kerk en Sending in Suidwes-Afrika/Namibië. Unpublished D.Th. thesis, University of Stellenbosch.

Christians, N. C. 1957. Afrikaanse Metodisme, 'n Kort oorsig: Richard Allen, vader van die Afrikaanse Metodisme in Suidwes-Afrika. Keetmanshoop: Unpublished manuscript.

Friesen, R. H. 1994. "Origins of the Spiritual Healing Church in Botswana" in Oosthuizen, Kitshoff, Dube (Ed). Afro-Christianity at the Grassroots, Its Dynamics and Strategies. New York: E. J. Brill, p.37-50.

Hellberg, C.-J. 1979. A Voice of the Voiceless - The Involvement of the Lutheran World Federation in Southern Africa 1947-1977. Lund: Skeab Verbum.

Hoeflich, K. F. 1961. "In und nach dem Zweiten Weltkriege: 20 Jahre kirchliche Arbeit," in Afrikanischer Heimatkalender, pp. 82-85.

Hunke, N. 1996. Church and State: 100 years of Catholic Mission in Namibia. Windhoek: RCC, John Meinert Printers.

Kamburona, A. C. 1975. Church Order of Oruuano. Unpublished manuscript.

Kandovazu, E. 1968. Die Oruuano-Beweging. Karibib, ELK Boekdepot.

Kritzinger, J. J. 1972, Sending en Kerk in Suidwes-Afrika - Band I & II. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria. (references to pages in the first volume are indicated by normal page numbers, while pages from the second volume are indicated by adding 'b' in front of the particular page numbers).

Lau, B. (Ed.). 1995b. An Investigation of the Shooting at the Old Location on 10 December 1959. Windhoek: DISCOURSE/MSORP Publications.

Nieuwoudt, M. M. 1979a. Die Nedertduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in Suidwes-Afrika. Woordbediening in pioniersomstandighede op weg na 'n selfstandige sinode, 'n kerkhistoriese studie. Unpublished D.Th. thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Oosthuizen, H. Z. M. 1995. Eerwaarde E.J. Leonard: Pionier van die Boere-gemeenskap. Unpublished M.Th. dissertation at the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein.

Pakenham, T. 1979. The Boer War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson. (or the Afrikaans version 1981. Die Boere Oorlog. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.)

Pöllitzer 1978: Die eigene Kerze anzünden! Untersuching zu Entstehung, Lehre, Leitung und Leben in der Oruuano. (The Protestant Unity Church of South West Africa). Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria.

Robson, N. and A. Luff. 1999a. A short history of the Anglican Church in northern Namibia, 1924-1999. Unpublished bound manuscript.

Robson, N. and A. Luff. 1999b. A history of the Anglican Church. (The longer edition). Unpublished manuscript.

Shejavali, A. 1970b. The Ovambo-Kavango Church.(Ongerki Yomowambokavango). Helsinki: Kauppakirjapaino Oy, pp. 24-32 (this title is often referred to simply as OKC).

Strassberger, E. 1969. The Rhenish Mission Society in South Africa, 1830-1950. Cape Town: C. Struik.

Sundermeier, T. 1973. Wir aber suchten Gemeinschaft, Kirchwerdung und Kirchentrennung in Südwestafrika. Erlangen, Luther Verlag.

Voipio, R. 1972a. History of the Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo Kavango Church. Oniipa: ELOK (the English translation of the 1968 Afrikaans edition).


Church periodicals

Immanuel, monthly journal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN).

CCN Information, monthly journal of the Council of Churches in Namibia, during the nineteen-eighties.


Interviews & questionnaires

Christians, N. C. 2002. Unpublished notes forwarded on request to Buys, on 22 May 2002. Rev. Nicholas Christians was the pastor of the Trinity AME Church in Keetmanshoop for an uninterrupted period of 43 years (1953 - 1997). In 1998, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Wilberforce Institute of the AMEC in USA.

Mubonenwa, L. 1997. Response of Pastor Mubonenwa on the Questionnaire forwarded by Buys, dated 25 September 1997. Pastor Mubonenwa is the present Field President of the North East Namibia Field of the SDA Church.

Tjijombo, P. 2002. Interview of Buys with Bishop Petrus Tjijombo on 18 January 2002 at his house. Bishop Tjijombo was the founder and still active leader of the St. John's AFM in Namibia when this interview took place, after a ministry which started in 1953. The photo of his ministry starting in that year in the "old location" was unfortunately too bad to use in this publication.

Witbooi, H. 2002. Interview of Buys with the honourable Dr. Hendrik Witbooi, in Windhoek, on the history of Evangelists Petrus Jod and Marcus Witbooi. Dr. Witbooi is the son of Pastor Marcus Witbooi, who was a founder member of the AMEC in Namibia. At the time of the interview, Dr. Witbooi was Deputy Prime Minister in the Namibian government and leader of the AMEC (African Methodist Episcopal Church) in Namibia.



This article is reproduced, with permission, from History of the Church in Namibia, an Introduction - 1805-1990, Gamsberg Macmillan, Windhoek, Namibia, copyright © November 2003 by Dr. Gerhard Buys and Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala. All rights reserved.