Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Moshi, Stefano Reuben

Evangelical Lutheran Church

Tanzanian clergyman, elected first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) (ELCT), at its formation in 1963.

Born into a Christian family in Kotela, Mamba division of Moshi district, on 6 May 1906, he went to school at Gonja where his father was teaching. His family moved to Kotela where he continued his education until 1922.

That same year he began teaching in a local school, remaining there for four years. In 1927 he did a two-year course at the Marangu Training College. He later taught at the college while studying for the London University entrance examination. He obtained admittance but chose instead to enter the theological college in Lwandai in Tanga, Tanzania. He was ordained pastor on 26 December 1949. Between 1952 and 1953 he studied at the Lutheran Bible Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the United States. He returned to Tanzania and continued to work as a teacher, later becoming principal of the Marangu Teacher’s College.

In 1955 he left the teaching profession to concentrate on the work of the church. He was elected assistant, and later vice president of the Lutheran Church of Northern Tanganyika (which later became the Northern Diocese). He became president in 1958. In 1962, he was also elected president of the former Federation of Lutheran Churches of Tanganyika. When the various Lutheran Church groups in the country united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanganyika (ELCT) in 1963, Bishop Moshi was elected the first head of that body.

The membership of the ELCT is estimated at nearly 800,000 and, until 1970, the church managed several schools and hospitals before they were taken over by the state. As head of the ELCT, and also bishop of the Northern Diocese (having been consecrated in 1964), Bishop Moshi was a powerful force at home and abroad. He did not pretend to support the notion of “not mixing religion with politics” and often spoke against government injustices, as in a 1974 speech to church leaders in Dar-es-Salaam when he reiterated the church’s condemnation of atrocities perpetrated by big powers as seen in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique, South Africa, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere in the world.

A man of tremendous energy, Bishop Moshi joined and served in many organizations. He became a member of the Christian Council of Tanganyika (CCT) in 1960 and was elected its first African chairman in 1965. He also served as vice-president of the Commission of World Mission of the Lutheran World Federation and as president of the All-African Conference of Churches for many years. Between 1959 and 1961 he was a member of the Chagga Council and the Moshi Town Council. Bishop Moshi was instrumental in the historic meeting of East African churches representatives in Moshi. This was where the East Africa Venture Company, producers of the church organs Target and Lengo, was established.

In 1970, in recognition of his services, Gustavus Adolphus College and Concordia Seminary, both in America, each awarded him a doctorate of divinity.

Bishop Moshi was on church business in Germany in 1976 when he became ill. He was flown to Nairobi, Kenya, for treatment and died in a hospital there on 15 August 1976. He is buried in Kotela, his birthplace in Tanzania.

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This article was reprinted from Makers of Modern Africa, 2nd ed., edited by Ralph Ewechue (London: Africa Books, 1991).