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versión On-line ISSN 2312-878X
versión impresa ISSN 0256-9507

Missionalia (Online) vol.42 no.1-2 Pretoria abr./ago. 2014 



The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in South Africa: an introduction to its archival resources held at the Lutheran Theological Institute (LTI) Library, and the challenges facing this archive (Part One)



Francis Garaba1; Annalise Zarvedinos2




This article consists of two parts, the first dealing with the contents of the Lutheran Theological Institute Archive in the context of the history of the Lutheran church in South Africa, the second covering the practicalities of the management of this archive. This part (Part One) provides an account of the manuscript collections in the custody of the LTI library, situated in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The article attempts to alert the reader to the primary material that is available for developing a deeper understanding of the history of the Lutheran church in Southern Africa and it thereby serves as an indirect public outreach campaign to unlock and publicise the contents of the archive. It should be noted here that only about half of the archival papers held at the LTI have thus far been processed. This is an ongoing project which, it is hoped, will be completed in 2016. Where pertinent, the holdings of the LTI Archive as well as the as-yet unsorted papers are indicated below in italics, in order to give readers an indication of the nature and extent of the collection.

Keywords: Lutheran church; Church history - South Africa; theological education; Church archives



The Lutheran Church in South Africa and the LTI archive


Historical background

Lutheranism in South Africa developed from two main sources. Firstly, from the work of Lutheran missionaries that ultimately led to the establishment of indigenous Lutheran churches and, secondly, from Lutheran settler congregations of German and Scandinavian background that also became independent Lutheran churches (Wittenberg 2011; Florin 1967:93). The LTI Archive has material from both of these sources, but only that of the former has been processed thus far, while that of the latter should be completed by 2016. In this brief historical survey, the two main sources of Lutheranism in South Africa will initially be treated separately. Then a short survey of the attempts to bring these different church bodies together will be provided, together with the resultant establishment of the various Lutheran churches in South Africa. Finally, an overview of the history of Lutheran theological training will be given which ultimately led to the establishment of the Lutheran Theological Training Institute that houses the archive under discussion in this paper.


The work of Lutheran Mission Societies

Mission work by the Moravian church in South Africa started in 1736 in the Western Cape. Although the Moravian church traces its origin to the Bohemian Brethren, the followers of Jan Hus in 15th century Bohemia, its renewal came about through the work of Count Zinzendorf in Lutheran Saxony. As a consequence, the Moravians, although they have kept their identity, have always considered themselves as part of the Lutheran family. They were members of the federated Lutheran bodies, and they joined both the Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (FELCSA) and the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) (see below). In 1829 Moravian mission work started in the Eastern Cape. The two Moravian churches that are the result of this mission work train their theological students at a seminary in Cape Town (Wittenberg 2011). Archival material relating to the work of the Moravian Mission is not kept at the LTI archive, aside from one box of Moravian papers.

Evangelical Lutheranism in Southern Africa has a long history that is punctuated by fragmentation (Scriba 1997:4). A total of ten different "Lutheran" mission societies engaged in mission work in Southern Africa. Five were from Germany, four from Scandinavia and one from America (Scriba 1997:175). Among the Lutheran mission societies that started work in the nineteenth century were the following (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba 1997; Winkler 1989; Oschadleus 1992):

The Rhenish Mission Society (RMS) began its work in 1829 in the Cape Colony and later expanded to the German colony of South West Africa. During the 1930s the mission stations in the Cape were handed over to the Dutch Reformed Church, with the exception of the first mission station, Wupperthal, that was handed over to the Moravians in the early sixties. In South West Africa (later Namibia) the Rhenish Mission conducted its work among the central and southern Nama and Herero. The Rhenish Mission became independent in 1957 as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South-West Africa (Rhenish Mission), in 1990 renamed as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRIN). This church joined the Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa and later the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa. The LTI Archive holds only one box of material pertaining to the RMS.

The Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) started work in 1844 in Zululand, splitting off into the Schreuder Mission in 1873 which was in turn taken over by the American Lutheran Mission (ALM) of the American Lutheran Church in 1927. It was the NMS that founded the Umpumulo Mission Station - the future location of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, the precursor of the LTI - in 1850, when it was awarded the land by the Natal colonial government, as a glebe (a gift of land to the church). Two boxes of papers related to the NMS and the ALM are housed at the LTI Archive, together with a large number of as-yet unsorted papers in Norwegian.

The missionaries of the Hermannsburg Mission Society (HMS) were generally from farming and fairly poor backgrounds and the HMS put its focus on rural areas. It began working in Natal among the Zulu in 1854 and expanded its operations among the Tswana in the Transvaal Boer Republic in 1857. The HMS faced considerable resistance in its work among the Zulu but, by 1867, 11 additional HMS stations had been established in Zululand. There however grew among the black church members a feeling that the HMS was reluctant for them to progress in terms of both their education and their position in the church hierarchy. In Natal, the Hermannsburg Mission Society rapidly also formed German congregations and missionaries were often employed as pastors for these congregations (see below). The two branches of mission work (the one for the Zulu and Tswana and the other for the Germans), moved off in separate directions. In 1911 a separate German synod was formed and in 1963 an independent black church was established in Natal (see below). Given the extent and scope of the work of this organization, while only one box of material concerning the HMS has thus far been sorted out, there is at the LTI a significant body of papers of the HMS and the individual white congregations which grew from it, as well as their successors (the Hermannsburg Synod, the Hermannsburg Church, and the ELCSA-Natal Transvaal Church), still to be processed.

The first missionaries of the Berlin Mission Society (BMS) arrived in 1834 and established a mission station in Bethany in Orange River Sovereignty. With the expansion of the British Cape Colony to the east and the establishment of the Colony of Natal, mission work was started among the Tswana, the Xhosa and the Zulu peoples. The first mission station in Natal was established at Emmaus in 1847 and another in Christianenburg in 1854. In 1860 the BMS started conducting mission work in the then "South African Republic" (Transvaal) which became the main mission field for the BMS, centered at Botshabelo. The BMS missionaries came from a more urban background and were often better-educated than those of the HMS. The BMS German congregations did not grow as quickly as those of the HMS, but it ministered to black congregants at over 73 mission stations by 1955. The LTI Archive contains one box of papers concerning the BMS although there are a number of documents yet to be processed.

The Finnish Mission Society (FMS) started in 1854 among the Ovambo and Kavango in northern South-West Africa (Namibia). This resulted in the birth of the Evangelical Lutheran Ovambokavango Church (ELOC) in 1954, since 1984 known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN). This Church joined FELCSA and now belongs to LUCSA. Records from the Lutheran Mission Churches in Namibia are not kept at the LTI library, but there are two boxes of papers pertaining to the FMS and ELOC respectively.

The Church of Sweden Mission (CSM) started its operations in 1876 among the Zulu in Natal. It was the CSM that established the mission station at Oscarsberg, Rorke's Drift - the initial location of the Lutheran Theological Seminary prior to its move to Umpumulo - in 1878. Already in 1901, the CSM's indigenous worker, Joseph Zulu, had been trained in Sweden and begun work in Natal as an evangelist and teacher. In 1902, the CSM started to work among the Zulu employed on the mines in Johannesburg. Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was also a mission field for the CSM. The LTI Archive houses one box of material on the CSM, one box of documents related to the work of the CSM in Southern Rhodesia, as well as a large body of papers in Swedish still awaiting processing.

Co-operation among the various Lutheran mission societies began in Natal where work among the Zulu-speaking peoples made such co-operation feasible. The Co-operating Lutheran Mission (CLM) was the body formed in 1910 to undertake joint efforts in the Lutheran mission field, especially in the area of education (see below). Part of the work of the CLM involved mission to the Indian people of Natal, conducted via the Indian Committee from the 1960s onward (Florin 1967:93-94). The CLM also founded the Lutheran Publishing House to produce Zulu-language catechisms and hymnbooks, and a common liturgy in 1949. In 1928 it launched the magazine Isithunywa which included a directory of CLM missionaries and black pastors and from 1954 the CLM published Credo, a bi-lingual Lutheran journal (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:180). The LTI Archive holds 16 boxes of material on the work of the CLM as well as issues of Isithunywa from 1906 to 1977 and of Credo from 1955 to 1970.

It is pertinent to mention here the work in the field of medical mission undertaken by the Lutherans in Natal. The Lutherans operated ten mission-run hospitals by the 1950s, growing to 14 in the 1960s (only one of which remains operational today). The work of the various missions (medical work, staff supply and training, administrative tasks and the provision of pastoral care) was coordinated by a number of bodies, beginning from 1959. This led to the formation of the Committee of Lutheran Mission of Hospitals in Natal, representing the CSM, BMS, ALM and NMS. In 1961 this body became the Lutheran Medical Committee (LMC) and the HMS joined also. A Hospital Evangelism Committee was formed to undertake pastoral work in the hospital setting among patients and staff. Soon thereafter, from 1964 onward, the relationship between the newly formed regional black Lutheran church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church-South East Region (see below) on the one hand, and the mission hospitals on the other hand, was to be enhanced and coordinated by the Medical Advisory Board (MAB). In 1968 the Lutheran Medical Foundation (LMF) was established to take over the tasks of the LMC and the MAB. The LMF Subcommittee on the Ministry of Healing was also formed, tasked with, firstly, the incorporation of training for hospital chaplains into the syllabus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (this led to the establishment of the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programme) and, secondly, the inauguration of refresher programmes for hospital chaplains which began in 1968 (Lutheran Medical Foundation 1968). The LTI Archive contains 4 boxes of material related to Lutheran mission bodies' work in the medical field, while there are 2 boxes of documents concerning the CPE and the refresher programmes.

In addition, the Lutheran Missionary Societies were involved in establishing schools in Natal, and it is noteworthy that, currently, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa runs 78 church schools and 38 creches (World Council of Churches 2011). Thus, for example, the CLM opened the Umpumulo Institution in 1912 at the above-mentioned Norwegian Mission Society-owned site that would later house the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The Umpumulo Institution consisted of the following: a "normal school"; a teacher training college; an industrial training school; a high school; and a "practicing school" (Umpumulo Institution (UI 1) 1933=1938). The LTI Archive contains material from 1938 to 1962 pertaining to the Umpumulo Institution, as well as most of the published copies of the Inkanyezimagazine, which documented the life and times at the Institution.

Mirroring both the socio-political realities of colonial society and the wish to preserve the German culture and language on foreign soil, there thus developed, out of the work of the Lutheran missionaries, two sets of congregations, one black and one white (Winkler 1989:13). The former have been outlined above; the latter will be discussed in the next section of this article.


B. Lutheran Settler Congregations from German and Scandinavian Descent

Lutheran settler congregations in the Cape

After Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652, an increasing number of German Lutherans came to settle in the colony, where they were given permission to participate in the services of the Dutch Reformed Church but not to establish their own Lutheran churches. Only at the end of the eighteenth century were German Lutherans, under the leadership of Martin Melck, able to obtain the right to independent worship. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Strand Street was founded in 1780 and other places of worship followed, such as at Stellenbosch and Wynberg (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba 1997).

The language of the Strand Street congregation was Dutch, but at the end of the nineteenth century the British colonial administration brought in many new German settlers to farm on the sandy Cape flats. Due to quarrels about German as the language of worship, a split occurred in the Strand Street congregation and a new Lutheran church was formed in Cape Town in 1853. The church was officially inaugurated in 1861 as the Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Gemeinde St. Martini. Other German Lutheran congregations were soon established in the Western Cape (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba and Lislerud 1997:174).

During the Crimean War in 1854, Britain had made use of German legionnaires. These men needed to be supported once the war had ended. Because the eastern frontier of the Eastern Cape was about to erupt in another conflagration between the British and the Xhosa, the British War Office suggested to Sir George Grey, the Governor of the Cape Colony, that the German legionnaires should be settled in British Kaffraria. In 1857 2000 German soldiers under Baron von Stutterheim settled in the region and, in time, Lutheran congregations were established in Keiskammahoek (1858), King Williamstown (1866) and East London (1872) (Wittenberg 2011).

The German Lutheran congregations in the Western and in the Eastern Cape joined in 1895 to form a single German Lutheran Synod (Cape Synod). Individual German Lutheran congregations, such as Kimberley which started due to the diamond rush in the 1860s, and Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, also joined the synod. Lutheran pastors were sent to the Western and Eastern Cape congregations from the Hanoverian Lutheran Church in Germany, until the independent Cape Church was established (Wittenberg 2011). The LTI Archive holds the papers of Rev. Hesse (the "Strand Street Collection") pertaining to these early Lutheran settler congregations in the Cape area.

Lutheran Settler Congregations in Natal and Transvaal

Congregations linked with the Berlin Mission

In 1848, soon after the British established the Colony of Natal, 35 German settlers arrived and began farming in what is today New Germany. With the help of Berlin missionaries they established a German Lutheran congregation. The Berlin Mission also assisted other German Lutheran congregations established during the early 20th century such as those at Winterton and Pietermaritzburg. When gold was discovered at the Witwatersrand in the old Transvaal Republic, many Germans came to seek their fortunes. Only two years after Johannesburg was established, in 1888, the German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (Friedenskirche) was founded. Other congregations in the Transvaal followed. Again the Berlin Mission supplied these congregations with pastors. The BMS-supported German Lutheran congregations, (both in Natal and the Transvaal), formed the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod (Berlin Mission) (Wittenberg 2011). The LTI Archive holds very little material on this period.

Congregations linked with the Hermannsburg Mission

There was a very close connection between German settlers and the missionaries of the Hermannsburg Mission. Louis Harms, the founder of the Mission, wanted missionaries and farmers to work hand in hand in the field of mission work. Of the first 16 missionaries, sent out by Harms on the sailing vessel Candace, 8 were artisans and farmers. The first mission station, Hermannsburg, established in 1854, became therefore also the first German Lutheran congregation. Already in 1856 the German school in Hermannsburg was founded to cater for the children of the settlers. Other congregations followed in the Natal midlands (such as Harburg, Wartburg, New Hanover) and also in Northern Natal and in the Transvaal in the region of the Tswana mission (Kroondal, near Rustenburg, was established in 1896). The German Lutheran congregations linked with the Hermannsburg Mission joined to form the Hermannsburg Synod in 1911 (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba and Lislerud 1997:176). As noted above, the LTI Archive contains a large body of material awaiting processing from the Hermannsburg Mission and the congregations associated with it as well as from the Churches that grew out of it.

In 1892, when the Hermannsburg Mission in Germany decided to join the Hannoverian Church, a number of white German settler congregations broke away and established the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod (FELSiSA). At the same time, the Lutheran Church Mission (Bleckmar Mission) had also been established in Germany to carry on with mission work, independent of Hermannsburg (Wittenberg 2011). Minimal and as-yet unsorted archival material from FELSiSA and from the Bleckmar Mission is kept at the LTI Archive.

Lutheran Settler Congregations of Scandinavian Descent

Late in the 19th century Scandinavians (mainly farmers, seamen, storekeepers, carpenters and wagon-builders) settled in South Africa. For their pastoral needs they turned to the mission societies (the CSM and NMS) which shared their origins (Scriba 1997:178). There were only few Scandinavian Lutheran settler congregations, in Durban (1890), Johannesburg (1900) and Marburg (1882). All of these became English-speaking and later joined either ELCSA or ELCSA (NT) (see below) (Wittenberg 2011).

The LTI library contains a large number of self-published booklets and theses on the congregational histories of these settler churches, especially those in Natal and the Transvaal. These are housed in both the German section and the English section.

Lutheran settler congregations in South West Africa (RMS)

The Rhenish Mission supported the early German settler congregations in colonial South West Africa (SWA), now Namibia, leading to the formation in 1958 of the independent German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (DELK) (Wittenberg 2011). There are a few papers of the DELK in the LTI Archive, and more are yet to be processed.


Constitution of Regional Churches

Winkler (1989:43) notes that, from the first mission congregations through the formation of synods to the present churches, there have been divisions along confessional, ethnic and racial lines. It remains a historical fact that the Lutheran body in South Africa continues to be split by divisions that have plagued it from its very beginnings in the missionary era.

An important step towards greater Lutheran unity in Southern Africa was the formation of the Council of Churches on Lutheran Foundation (CCLF) in 1953 that encompassed most synods of the Lutheran missions in the whole of South Africa (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:181). According to Winkler (1989:49), in 1967 12 Lutheran churches, 8 mission bodies, and 2 Moravian churches were affiliated with the CCLF. The CCLF loosely linked the churches and gave them a common doctrinal basis: all had affirmed the Holy Scripture, the three ecumenical creeds, and the Lutheran Reformation texts, the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord as foundational to their faith (Winkler 1989:50). In the LTI Archive there is one box of papers of the CCLF as well as some as-yet unsorted items.

Towards the end of the fifties, a number of factors contributed to the development of regional churches. Firstly, the winds of change were beginning to sweep through Africa; secondly, the All African Lutheran Conference (see below) of 1955 endorsed this development; thirdly, the mission bodies realised that their mission synods would need to become independent churches; and, fourthly, more black people now had training in administrative and ecclesiastical functions. In South Africa, impetus in this direction was given by a "Preparatory Assembly" in Durban in 1957, followed by a "Constituent Assembly" in Christianenburg, Natal, in 1958. Hence the mission societies (albeit with some reticence from the HMS that preferred the idea of regional federations of synods to allow for a greater degree of autonomy) undertook in earnest to work towards the formation of the properly constituted regional Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa (ELCSA). That of the Zulu-Xhosa-Swazi Region was established already in 1960, out of the efforts of the Union Committee under the auspices of the CLM. The Union Committee had set up subcommittees for theology, organization and finance in order to turn the concept of ethnic church boundaries into regional ones. The Zulu-Xhosa-Swazi Regional Church, in order to move away from a tribal emphasis, changed its name to the ELCSA South-Eastern Region (SER) in 1963. It encompassed the synods of the Berlin, Norwegian, American, Swedish and Hermannsburg Missions. The following regional churches were similarly established: Tswana Region in 1959 (Hermannsburg Mission), Transvaal Region in 1961 (Berlin Mission), and Cape-Orange Region in 1963 (Berlin Mission) (Winkler 1989:44; Wittenberg 2011).

Since ELCSA-SER was the regional church responsible for the area in which the Lutheran Theological Seminary was located, it is logical that a large proportion of the papers housed in the LTI Archive are associated with that body. These ELCSA-SER papers date from 1965 to the late 1970s and include the background and contents of, as well as the response to, one of the first political statements by black Lutherans: "The Statement of the SER pertaining to the Attitude of the Church towards the Race Problem" (Winkler 1989:58). Also included are the Church Council minutes; reports; correspondence; papers of the women's and men's associations, the Abasizikazi and the Amadodana; documents of the Building Advisory Board which dealt with the construction and maintenance of church-related infrastructure; material from the Commissions on Religious Education, Evangelism, Youth, and the Diaconate; and the work of the Zulu Hymn Book Committee. In total, there is 1 box of material related to the Zulu-Xhosa-Swazi Regional Church, while there are 22 boxes of ELCSA-SER papers, and a small number of papers from the other regional churches at the LTI Archives.

It can be noted here that the formation in 1959 of the ELC-Southern Rhodesia (ELCSR) which had been linked to the CSM and which became in 1965 the ELC-Rhodesia (ELCR), and of the Evangelical Lutheran Owambo- kavango Church (ELOC) (formerly linked to the FMS) in 1960, also formed part of this trend toward the establishment of independent regional churches, described above (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:433). In the LTI Archive there is one box dealing with ELCSR (further CSM papers linked to the ELCSR are awaiting processing), and one box that concerns the work of the ELCR and ELOC.

A parallel process of regional consolidation meanwhile took place among the white Lutheran synods. They also became independent churches: the Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche in SWA (later Namibia) in 1960 (linked with the Rhenish Mission), the Transvaal Church and the Cape Church both in 1961 (associated with the Berlin Mission), and the Hermannsburg Church (linked with the Hermannsburg Mission) in 1963. They severed their traditional links with the mission societies and concluded separate treaties with the Foreign Office of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) to supply them with pastors from Germany in the future (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba and Lislerud 1997:181-182). As mentioned previously, a significant body of papers of the Transvaal Church and especially the Hermannsburg Church is housed at the LTI Archives, but these are yet to be processed.

In the late fifties and early sixties concerted efforts were made to establish one united Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCSA) in South Africa, comprising both the traditionally black mission congregations and the white settler congregations. All the newly formed regional churches therefore took on "ELCSA" as part of their names, both black (e.g. ELCSA - South Eastern Region) and white (e.g. ELCSA - Hermannsburg). Negotiations between the black and white churches to attain greater unity continued right through the sixties and early seventies but proved more and more difficult due to the racially polarized situation in South Africa. The black churches therefore broke off the negotiations and proceeded to establish their own united church with the aim of fostering a common Lutheran identity among the traditionally distinct ethnic groups (e.g. Zulu and Tswana). This new church, now claiming the name ELCSA for itself, was formed in 1975 (Wittenberg 2011; Scriba and Lislerud 1997:181-182). ELCSA is now the largest Lutheran church in Southern Africa with approximately 580 000 members (Lutheran World Information 2011). ELCSA is currently divided into the following dioceses: Cape-Orange; South Eastern; Northern; Western; Rand (Central); Botswana; Eastern. The affairs of the dioceses are run by Diocesan Councils while Diocesan Synods meet every two years. The dioceses are divided into circuits, each with a dean, and the circuits consist of parishes that each encompass a number of local congregations (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:185). There are 4 boxes of papers concerning the work of ELCSA, and a large volume of about 20 boxes of ELCSA minutes, including Diocesan Council minutes (10 boxes), Church Council minutes (5 boxes), and General Assembly minutes (5 boxes). Unfortunately, this series is incomplete as there are a number of large gaps and efforts are presently underway to bridge these by locating and inserting the missing minutes. The LTI Archive also holds papers pertaining to the above-mentioned unity talks of the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the meantime, attempts at achieving greater Lutheran unity were going on among the Lutheran settler churches. In 1964 the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (UELCSA), comprising the four white Lutheran settler churches - ELCSA-Transvaal, ELCSA-Hermannsburg, ELCSA-Cape and the DELK in SWA - was formed, mainly to cooperate in establishing theological training facilities for an indigenous clergy. Independent Lutheran congregations such as the Strand Street Lutheran congregation and settler congregations of Scandinavian descent joined either UELCSA or one of the Lutheran regional churches (Winkler 1989: 54). Membership of UELCSA currently stands at around 19463 (Lutheran World Information 2011). There is a large amount of UELCSA-related material housed at the LTI Archive, but much of this has not yet been processed. These papers will form part, when processed, of the body of material of Hermannsburg/ELCSA N-T/UELCSA provenance.

Due to the overlap of congregations in Natal traditionally linked with the Berlin Mission and the Hermannsburg Mission, the two regional churches - ELCSA-Transvaal and ELCSA-Hermannsburg - united in 1981 to form the ELCSA N-T (Winkler 1989:54). Again, the LTI Archive holds a significant amount of unprocessed papers related to the ELCSA-NT.

Attempts at fostering closer Lutheran cooperation and unity among all Lutherans, not only in South Africa but on the sub-continent, led to the formation of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa (FELCSA) in 1966. FELCSA included Lutheran churches from South Africa (also the Moravian church) as well as from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi. The Council of Churches on Lutheran Foundation had united the Lutheran churches as regards doctrine, but not organizationally and, with this aim in mind, FELCSA took over from the CCLF in 1966. Both the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation were pressing Lutherans in southern Africa to strive for more unity. The new organization worked closely with the LWF. Besides acting as a channel for the distribution of funds and aid for development, FELCSA's work included the establishment of committees on religious education, clergy recruitment, and stewardship in order to tackle various matters facing its member-churches as well as the organization of various seminars and training courses for students, lecturers and pastors, a number of which were held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary (for example the 1967 pastoral conference on the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms). Through such conferences and other channels, FELCSA provided a forum where southern African Lutherans' responses to apartheid could be voiced. In 1975, FELCSA issued an "Appeal to Lutheran Christians in Southern Africa concerning the Unity and Witness of Lutheran Church Members in Southern Africa", outlining a theological approach to racial unity (Winkler 1989:63). However, tensions within FELCSA led to the resignation of ELCSA from this organisation in 1984. In 1991 another overarching body for Lutheran cooperation, again including ELCSA, was founded, the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) that continues the work of FELCSA (Winkler 1989:50; Scriba and Lislerud 1997:181; Wittenberg 2011). The LTI Archive contains 1 box of CCLF papers, 8 boxes of FELCSA-related papers and 4 boxes of LUCSA-related papers. Further material pertaining to all three bodies is yet to be processed.


History of Lutheran Theological Education in SA

Training in the black mission churches

In Natal the Co-operating Lutheran Missions (CLM) played a crucial role in establishing the seminary at Oscarsberg (Rorkes Drift) in 1905, thereby providing a theological training facility for indigenous clergy (Winkler 1989:92-93; Wittenberg 2011). The LTI Archives houses 2 boxes of material linked to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Oscarsberg, as well as 16 boxes of CLM material, while there are also a number of yet-to-be processed papers. In1962, the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS), also known as the Lutheran Theological College moved to Umpumulo where students from all the newly established regional churches were given permission by the government to receive their training. The bulk of the LTI Archive contents as they stand at present (i.e. the bulk of the collection which came from Umpumulo) concerns the seminary at Umpumulo and includes a total of 71 boxes. The collection provides a good picture of student life at the seminary and includes for example the student magazine, Focus on LTC (1975-1982) and the applications by, and correspondence with, students as well as the documentation pertaining to various student bodies, such as the Student Christian Movement, and to student committees, for example the Tour Committee. Also held in the archive are the LTS constitutions, rules, memoranda and prospectuses. In addition, there is information on courses offered in Clinical Pastoral Education and on internships and refresher courses and curricula as well as lecture notes on various subjects and syllabus related documents. Also in the LTI Archive are a number of papers regarding the important input made by the ELC-Southern Rhodesia (and subsequently the ELC-Rhodesia) in the field of indigenous church music at the LTS. There are furthermore papers concerning the seminary staff, including their correspondence with the seminary and their research papers, as well as documents on visitors and visiting lecturers to the LTS. The minutes of meetings of the Governing Board, the College Board and the Faculty are also available, as are the annual reports of the staff. In addition there is financial information on the seminary, material on its infrastructural management (via the Umpumulo ? Glebal Board) and paperwork on LTS scholarships in the LTI Archive.

The LTS at Umpumulo enrolled its students for the BA degree in Theology via UNISA from 1965; for the Joint Board Diploma in Theology established by the Association of South African Theological Institutions (ASATI) from 1971 (see below); and for the Diploma in Theology of the Theological Education by Extension project, established by the South African Council of Churches' body, the National Council for Theological Education (NCTE), from 1976 (see below). The LTI Archive holds a number of documents related to the work of the three institutions with the LTS, further outlined in the next section.

A Pre-Seminary School (the former Umpumulo Institution) was also situated on the grounds of the LTS in Umpumulo. At first the Pre-Seminary provided only basic education but from 1965 the school offered matric certificates to students. There is 1 box of material on the Pre-Seminary School in the LTI Archive.

Beginning in 1965, the Lutheran Theological Seminary hosted annual conferences, known as "Missiological Institutes", on topics such as "Our approach to the Independent Church movement in South Africa" (1965), "The healing ministry" (1967), "Church and development" (1971), "Relevant theology for Southern Africa" (1972), and "Affluence and poverty" (1976). The Missiological Institutes received support from FELCSA and the LWF. There are 13 boxes of papers on the Missiological Institutes housed at the LTI Archive.

The staff at Umpumulo conducted research into African Independent Churches (AICs). AICs are churches that were begun by Africans in Africa, primarily for Africans. These churches have consistently asserted their own leadership autonomy as well as religio-cultural contextuality, free from the immediate control of Western-oriented church leaders (Daneel and Robert 2000:xvii). Anyone interested in studying the evolution of these churches within regions falling under the Lutheran fraternity will find this collection worthwhile. In particular, Hans-Jurgen Becken's papers provide an informative source regarding his early contacts with the indigenous clergy in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1960s. There are also a few papers by Axel-Ivar Berglund and Bengt Sunkler in the collection, pertaining to their respective areas of research and work. The LWF encouraged dialogue with the AICs which, already in 1965, included over 3000 distinct churches and in 1966 the LTS resolved to open its doors to individual students from AICs. Meetings with the AIC Association from 1972 led to further research studies and also to the creation of a scholarship fund for AIC students studying at the LTS. The LTI Archive houses 4 boxes of materials relating to AICs.

Theological education in the Transvaal (the Tswana/Pedi/Sotho) area goes back to 1873, when the Hermannsburg Mission opened a seminary to train teacher-catechists enabling them to also serve as pastors in their congregations. In 1956, the South African government took over the whole enterprise of teacher-training and thereafter a new seminary was built at Rustenburg in 1958, the Marang Lutheran Theological Seminary. There is one box of papers concerning Marang at the LTI Archives. When the Theological Education by Extension College (TEE College) was established in 1976, students from both Umpumulo and Marang were registered for a three year diploma in Theology and Ministry via TEE. The LTI Archive holds 5 boxes that deal with the TEE accredited courses and related matters (see below).

At its inception in 1975, ELCSA inherited the two institutions (Marang and Umpumulo) and allowed them to continue but doubts concerning the financial viability and desirability of having two seminaries mounted. A compromise distributed functions between the two seminaries so that, thereafter, students began their training at Umpumulo and completed them at Marang. (Note: this applied only to students studying for a diploma.)

Training in the white settler churches

Up to the formation of UELCSA the white Lutheran churches had obtained their pastors either from the mission societies or from Germany. With the formation of UELCSA and the increasing use of English and Afrikaans in worship services, the need to provide facilities for ministerial training in South Africa became urgent. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to negotiate with existing theological faculties, such as those at Pretoria or Rhodes. In 1965 at the synod of the Cape Church a motion was passed and subsequently adopted by UELCSA to establish a seminary in Cape Town. To put this institution on a broader basis it was proposed to work together with the Moravians who had been forced to move their seminary from Fairview in Port Elizabeth to Cape Town due to the Group Areas Act. This proposal was submitted to the LWF for funding. In 1970 the LWF vetoed this project but allowed the alternative of negotiating with the Department of Divinity at the University of Natal to go ahead. It agreed to fund two lecturer posts and to support the University library.

Following successful negotiations between UELCSA and the University of Natal in 1972, a Memorandum of Agreement between the two parties was signed which established modest training facilities - known as the Lutheran Training Centre - for white Lutheran ministerial candidates in the Department of Divinity (later Religious Studies). The first two lecturers seconded by UELCSA to the University of Natal were Dr. Wolfram Kistner and Dr. Gunther Wittenberg. In 1979 a property was bought at 29 Golf Road in order to provide accommodation for UELCSA students (Wittenberg 2011). There is a large body of material at the LTI Archive that is yet to be processed dealing with the LWF-University of Natal-UELCSA meetings, correspondence, agreements etc.

A joint Bachelor of Theology degree programme at the University of Natal

The ministerial training programme offered by the Lutheran lecturers together with the Department of Divinity was never satisfactory. Major theological disciplines were lacking and the number of UELCSA students enrolled was very small. The project was not viable in the long run. At the end of 1975 Dr. Kistner left the programme to take up the post of Director of the Department of Justice and Reconciliation of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). The Kistner Collections of papers pertaining to Kistner's work in this regard is held at the LTI. The Lutheran training programme in Pietermaritzburg was in danger of folding and a new initiative was needed to salvage it (Wittenberg 2011).

This new initiative became possible not only because of the growing need for quality theological education for UELCSA students but also due to the concerns of Lutheran lecturers in Umpumulo. Apart from the diploma training undertaken by the majority of students at Umpumulo, a smaller number were able to register for a BTh through UNISA. One box of papers concerning UNISA is housed at the LTI Archive. Lecturers and students at Umpumulo felt that this was unsatisfactory and that a joint theological education programme for graduate and post-graduate students at Pietermaritzburg would be a much better option. An initial opportunity to launch such an initiative presented itself through the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Lutheran Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA) of the Lutheran World Federation in 1980, whose mandate was to advise on the improvement of theological education all over Africa and to evaluate submitted proposals. The LTI Archives holds 3 boxes of papers related to ACTEA. In addition, the visit of a high ranking official of the LWF Department of Studies to the Department of Divinity in Pietermaritzburg in 1981, and his indication that the LWF might be willing to fund a new BTh training project if it were ecumenical and open to all races, constituted a further step in this project becoming a reality. The subsequent attempts to establish such a programme had to overcome a number of obstacles (the Group Areas Act, the admission of black students to a white university, and the provision of accommodation). But on 17 May 1985 a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by ELCSA, UELCSA, the University of Natal and the Lutheran World Federation which led to the establishment of a Bachelor of Theology Degree programme, initially within the Department of Religious Studies that soon became the independent Department of Theology (later the School of Religion and Theology). To be able to provide accommodation for black students coming from Umpumulo, UELCSA had in 1982 bought the property at 27 Golf Road to add to the Lutheran Training Centre which was now known as the Lutheran House of Studies (later the LTI) (Wittenberg 2011). There are numerous papers in the LTI Archive which are not yet processed that deal with all aspects of the joint project between the two Lutheran church bodies, the University of Natal, and the LWF. These fall under the body of documents that emanated from theHermannsburg/ELCSA N-T/UELCSA provenance and are grouped with that material.

In order to finance the new project, ELCSA and UELCSA established the South African Lutheran Theological Training Trust (SALTTT) in 1990 which took overall responsibility for running the project. Apart from lectures at the University, students took courses at the Lutheran House of Studies that were specifically geared for the needs of the Lutheran churches (Wittenberg 2011). The documentation pertaining to SALTTT on the formation, administration and work, as well as students and staff of the LTI is currently undergoing processing. The seminary under SALTTT is treated as a separate body since the papers pertaining to it have their own provenance within that body.

All ELCSA ministerial training concentrated in Pietermaritzburg

By the end of the final decade of the 20th century, ministerial training in ELCSA was split between 3 centres, Umpumulo and Marang (diploma training), and Pietermaritzburg (degree training). Full Lutheran unity also had not yet been achieved. To harmonize ministerial training in the different Lutheran churches also across the races, a Joint Committee on Lutheran Theological Training (JCLTTT) was established in 1999 to carry out a feasibility study on how best to execute this delicate task. Three stakeholders were involved in this exercise: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa (ELCSA), the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (UELCSA), and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). As a result of these discussions, ELCSA in 2002 closed the two seminaries, Umpumulo and Marang, and moved all training to the Lutheran Theological Institute in Pietermaritzburg, concentrating on the BTh degree programme as the main vehicle of theological education for its students (Wittenberg 2011). Documentation related to the work of the JCLTTT, to the closure of the seminaries at Marang and Umpumulo, and to the merger of the two seminaries with the Lutheran Training Centre is housed at the LTI Archive but is yet to be be processed. The LTI Archive with Umpumulo provenance concludes at this point, as these records form a closed body. However, the body of work ofHermannsburg/ELCSA N-T/UELCSA provenance and that from the LTI itself, dating from the inception of SALTTT in 1990, will be added to the LTI Archive in due course though, once again, the integrity of each of the collections will be maintained in order to reflect the original order and usage of the documents contained therein (see below).

In the meantime, it has become clear however, that degree studies are for the majority of ELCSA students not a viable option. ELCSA has therefore opted to revive theological training for diploma students, registering them again through the TEE. This training remains based at the LTI. Presently, most ELCSA students study for the three year diploma in Theology and Ministry through the TEE, while others pursue under- and post-graduate degrees with the University of KwaZulu-Natal as part of the partnership that has been in existence since 1985. The TEE College was established as an anti-apartheid institution in March 1976 in order to provide affordable, contextual theological education within an ecumenical and multilingual setting. The College is governed by the member churches, meeting in Council, while the model of learning is that of Distance Learning by Extension. The College's members, including the LTI, uphold the Extension relationship through their involvement in providing local support to students via lectures and practicals (TEE College Yearbook 2011).

Since 1985 new buildings have been erected on the LTI's three properties 29, 27 and 25 Golf Road: expanded residence accommodation, dining room facilities, a chapel and a new library which now houses the LTI Archive.

Covering a cross-section of the subheadings in this section on the history of Lutheran theological education in South Africa, is the LTI's Oral History Programme that commenced in 2013. This programme aims at documenting the reminiscences of prominent Lutheran educators (this will later be expanded to include pastors and ordinary church members) who have contributed to the development of the Lutheran church and whose memories and experiences must be captured for posterity. To date three interviews have been conducted, which explore various aspects of the history and development of the Lutheran Church and its educational organisations.


Other bodies

The LTI Archive holds a significant body of material related to the work of other bodies which fall outside the above headings and these are now mentioned here.


Bodies related to the Lutheran Churches

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was formed in 1947 as a global Lutheran movement with the aim of improved coordination as regards the mission and work of Lutheran churches worldwide, in both the church and social spheres (Schjorring, Prasanna and Hjelm 1997:xv). The LWF engaged with the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Umpumulo via its Committee on World Mission, its Department of World Mission and its Department of Church Cooperation, its Department of Studies and via its Board of Trustees for Lutheran Extension Work in South Africa (ibid.:173). The LTI Archive holds material such as correspondence, meetings, and agreements involving these LWF bodies.

The LWF held global and continent-wide gatherings to further its aim, including LWF Assemblies and the All African Lutheran Conferences. The proceedings of these gatherings are held in the LTI Library. The staff from the LTS at Umpumulo participated in the 1969 All Africa Lutheran Conference held in Tanzania.The Study Commissions of the LWF involved the gathering of information "from the field" and had been instituted to improve the Federation's understanding of, and contextually appropriate response to, global concerns. Thus, during the 1960s, the LWF, via ELCSA-SER, conducted Study Commissions into various matters including polygamy, Christian marriage and church discipline (LWF Study Commissions 1960s). The LTI Archive holds a number of documents pertaining to the LWF Study Commissions. The LWF also became involved in responding to apartheid and its relationship with the white Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa became increasingly strained. In 1984, the ELCSA Cape Church and the DELK (SWA) were suspended, and ELCSA Natal-Transvaal that had applied for LWF membership decided to withdraw its application (Winkler 1989:66). The material surrounding these events is among the papers yet to be processed at the LTI Archive.

Nevertheless, the LWF continued to work for unified theological training for all Lutherans in South Africa. As mentioned above, the Advisory Committee on Theological Education in Africa was initiated by the LWF Departments of Church Cooperation and Studies. ACTEA held meetings across Africa between 1981 and 1985 (Winkler 1989:166) and also played a central role in the establishment of the BTh programme at the University of Natal. During the 1990s ACTEA conducted studies into "theological formation" in Africa and continued its involvement in theological education in Southern Africa via LUCSA (ACTEA 1990s). In total 7 boxes of LWF-related papers are housed at the LTI Archive, while there are 3 boxes of ACTEA documents. A number of ACTEA conference papers are also held in the English section of the LTI Library.

The Joint Committee on South Africa (JCSA), formed in 1961, was a body of representatives from the Home Mission Boards of the various Lutheran churches in South Africa. It included the American Lutheran Church, the Berlin Mission, the Hermannsburg Mission, the Church of Sweden Mission and the Norwegian Mission Society. The JCSA was involved in a wide range of matters including issues concerning church workers in South Africa sent by the Home Missions, theological education at the LTS, medical mission work, financial matters, FELCSA-related issues etc. The JCSA became known as the ELCSA Standing Committee in 1974 (JCSA/ELCSA Standing Committee correspondence, 1974-1976). There are 5 boxes of material concerning the work of the JCSA which date from 1962 to 1976, while other JCSA-related documents are housed in the boxes on FELCSA.


Ecumenical bodies

The Theological Education Fund (TEF) was formed under the auspices of the International Missionary Council in 1958 to promote theological education in the developing world (Newbigin 2008:18f). The TEF provided financial assistance to theological institutions including the LTS, both at Oscarsberg and at Umpumulo, as well as scholarships. A number of items held in the LTI Archive document the correspondence between the TEF and these institutions.

Lutherans had taken part in the meetings of the Natal Missionary Conference (NMC), founded in 1886 and which worked toward missionary cooperation (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:191). The LTI Archive holds the NMC's Annual Reports from 1932 to 1961.

The Natal Christian Council (NCC) was an ecumenical body formed in 1961 which held a number of seminars and conferences on matters such as African marriage and family life (NCC correspondence, 1961). There is only 1 box of NCC papers housed in the LTI Archive, dating from 1960 to 1969.

Also at the Archive are the papers and reports of the Christian Council of South Africa (CCSA), founded in 1936. Lutheran participation in the CCSA took place mainly during the 1960s (Scriba and Lislerud 1997:191). Only 1 box of CCSA material is held at the LTI Archive.

The CCSA became the South African Council of Churches (SACC) in 1967, a body that actively campaigned for justice in the South African context and also was involved in theological education-related matters (ibid.). The LTI Archive houses 2 boxes of SACC material, while the LTI Library holds a number of Study Projects on Christianity in Apartheid Society (SPRO-CAS) booklets, published by the SACC and dealing with the Christian response to the socio-political situation in apartheid South Africa.

The Association of South African Theological Institutions (ASATI) was formed in 1965 as an ecumenical body with the aim of maintaining the standards and promoting the development of theological education in the country. It did so via its Textbook Committee, Syllabus Committee and Recruitment Committee, as well as through organising seminars and conferences. ASATI became the accreditation body for theological institutions and courses nationally. Through its Joint Board for the Diploma in Theology, ASATI established a national diploma course for theology, with its own syllabus and examinations. The LTS at Umpumulo enrolled its students in the Joint Board Diploma from 1971 (ASATI correspondence, 1965-1971). There are 4 boxes of papers linked to ASATI and 25 boxes linked to the Joint Board for the Diploma in Theology are housed in the LTI Archive.

The National Council for Theological Education (NCTE) was established in 1972 at the instigation of ASATI, but fell under the leadership of the SACC. The NCTE ran consultations, conferences, training in Clinical Pastoral Education and refresher courses. An important part of the focus of the NCTE was on the establishment of the Theological Education by Extension project, which led to the opening of the TEE College in Johannesburg in 1976 (Lombard 1999:227). As mentioned above, Lutheran students at both Umpumulo and Marang enrolled in TEE courses from the inception of the College, and the majority of students at the LTI are currently studying through the TEEC. At the LTI Archives, documentation concerning the work of the NCTE and the TEEC are kept in the boxes with ASATI and the Joint Board for the Diploma in Theology items.

In 1984 the SACC and the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (of which the LTI Archive has 1 box of papers dating from 1985 to 1990) facilitated the formation of the South African Council on Theological Education (SACTE). This body took over some of the functions of the NCTE and ASATI (the latter eventually closed down in 1995), especially as regards the syllabi and exams of member- seminaries, and in 1991 the Joint Board was brought under the auspices of SACTE, and in 2005 the Joint Board Diploma was discontinued (ASATI correspondence, 1977-1993).

The Federal Theological Seminary was inaugurated at Alice, in the Eastern Province of South Africa in 1963, after accredited representatives of eight participating churches decided to establish a united seminary. Following clashes with the South African government, Fedsem was moved to Umtata and then to Pietermaritzburg in 1980, but it closed down in 1993. Although the Lutherans did not join FEDSEM, there was correspondence between the two parties in this regard (Duncan 2006:838). The LTI Archive contains a number of papers on FEDSEM.


Social and political bodies

The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) was formed in 1929 to work for social justice and racial understanding (SAIRR 2011). The LTI Archive holds 7 boxes of material pertaining to the work of the SAIRR.

The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement (now the Inkatha Freedom Party) was a cultural organisation and a political party founded by Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi in 1975 (Inkatha Freedom Party 2011). There are 3 boxes of speeches by IFP leaders, mainly Buthelezi, housed at the LTI Archive.


The Kistner Collection and Photos back to Africa

Two further archival collections are held at the LTI: the Kistner Collection and the Norwegian Photos Back to Africa collection (33 boxes and 40 catalogues of mounted photographs respectively). These collections are not strictly speaking part of the LTI Archive, as regards their provenance. However, due to their relevance to the Lutheran Church in South Africa, and to church history in the country generally, they are mentioned here as the authors would like to publicize their presence at the LTI.

The history of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) is incomplete without mention of the sterling work that Wolfram Kistner did for the council during the years of apartheid. "Dr. K." as he was affectionately and respectfully known at the South African Christian Council (SACC), made a major contribution to the development of South African churches during a crucial period in the life of SACC and the country (Brandt 1988:3). His memoirs, official writings and reminiscences add to the richness of the primary material that is in custody at the LTI archives and provide insight into his public and private life.

Photo-documentation of events as they happen, as noted by Durrani (2000:15; Currathers 2000:27), gives an instant authenticity to events and this was the underlying ethos that shaped the Norwegian missions' comprehensive photographic collection, also held in the LTI archives. The project "Photographs back to South Africa", completed in 2007, was designed and implemented in response to a great interest from South Africans regarding the valuable cultural heritage available in the Norwegian Missionary Society Archives (NMS Archives), located at the School of Mission and Theology (MHS) in Stavanger, Norway. The comprehensive collection of photos captures the activities of NMS missionaries between 1844 and 1960 in the KwaZulu-Natal region (NMS Archives 2007) and through the project, these photos have now been made available locally.

It is the above background that informs the foundation of the archival resources found at the LTI library and, as Hedenskog (1987:1) points out, the archives of mission societies and churches have information which is important from an historical, ethnological, sociological and theological point of view. It is hence of great importance to ensure that this archival collection is maintained under the best possible environmental conditions, a matter which is the topic of Part Two of this paper.



In conclusion, it cannot be overstated that for one to fully comprehend the historical development of the Lutheran church in South Africa an interrogation of the wealth of information in the LTI Archive is mandatory. The researcher into this field of church history will clearly need to integrate these primary sources with secondary ones and perhaps to supplement his/her findings through oral history and personal testimony.


Contact details and Library operating hours

The Lutheran Theological Institute Library is located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, in Pietermaritzburg. The LTI Library is open at 9am and closes at 6pm from Mondays to Fridays. It also opens on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm but is closed on public holidays. Inquiries about the archives should be addressed to:

The Manuscript Librarians

Lutheran Theological Institute Library

29 Golf Road


PMB 3201

South Africa

Tel: 033-2606069

Fax number: (033) 2606069






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Association of South African Theological Institutions (ASATI). 1965-1971. Lutheran Theological Institute Archive. ASATI 1-4.         [ Links ]

Association of South African Theological Institutions (ASATI). 1977-1993. Lutheran Theological Institute Archive. ASATI 1-4.         [ Links ]

Brandt, H. 1988. Outside the camp: a collection of writings by Wolfram Kistner. Johannesburg: South African Council of Churches.         [ Links ]

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Marang Lutheran Theological Seminary background document. 1968. Lutheran Theological Institute Archive. MAR 1 H8.         [ Links ]

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1 Dr. Francis Garaba is a full time manuscript librarian at the Lutheran Theological Institute Library and an honorary lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His email address is
2 Annalise Zaverdinos is a librarian at the Lutheran Theological Institute and can be contacted at

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