Conflict and the Subsequent Split of the Lutheran Church in Botswana, 1978-1997

Simon Isaac Bayani


In 1978 the Botswana branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) had internal confl icts that led to its subsequent split in 1979. A separate church called Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana (ELCB) was formed out of this split, and it was autonomous from the South African one. After the split, a confl ict soon followed concerning ownership of the church property as the two rival entities both claimed it. The High Court ruled in favour of the ELCSA, and advised that the ELCB be registered as a separate entity and acquire its own property and buildings. It took 18 long years for the ELCB to leave the ELCSA property and during the 18 year period, at least on two occasions violent altercations took place between members of the two rival churches. A parliamentary debate was also held in 1979 to discuss this issue, which had taken a political dimension, as the government of Botswana seemed to push a political agenda by supporting the ELCB. This article brings this crisis in the Lutheran Church to light, and details the events that took place from 1978 to 1997 and even after. The piece does not focus on the conceptual state-church relations in Botswana, but rather on the administrative dynamics of the Lutheran Church in the country.

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