A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2012

View more articles in the Spring 2012 issue.

Visiting professor brings global perspective to modern church questions

by Christine Hallenbeck, M.A. Junior

This January, the Rev. Dr. Falres Ilomo made a cross-Atlantic trek from his home in Tanzania to serve as the Schiotz Visiting Professor a program made possible by the Schiotz Endowment Fund, during the 2012 spring semester.

As the Schiotz Visiting Professor, Ilomo has already given a number of presentations on campus in addition to pursuing his own research in African traditional religions and missiology.

Presentation topics have included:

  • "Differing Perspectives on African Traditional Religions"
  • "Fire: A Socio-Religious Function in African Community"

He will also present a public lecture on April 19, "The Legacy of Missionary Teaching in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania Today." This lecture is free and open to the public.

The Schiotz International Fellowship provides an opportunity for a scholar to come to Luther Seminary to research, write, teach and interact with Luther Seminary faculty and students. Through this academic exchange, Ilomo brings questions to Luther about how present-day, missional Christianity is shared by scholars and congregational leaders around the world. Additionally, he wishes to seek ideas on how to connect the gospel with new and emerging generations. He sees his Schiotz professorship as an opportunity to intentionally explore those questions and their connections to present-day practices in global mission.

"Nowadays, the church is giving old answers to new challenges," he said. "We have to learn how to give new answers to new questions in this generation."

Ilomo sees the mutual opportunity of this international exchange. Thankful for the benefits that he is already reaping through his time at Luther, Ilomo is excited about the ongoing "exchange of experiences which expands attitudes toward global mission and imagination about how we can move forward together."

In exchange for what he hopes to learn from his time at Luther, he will bring ideas from his Tanzanian context to Luther. In Tanzania, Ilomo serves on the faculty of Tumaini University-Iringa University College where he teaches African traditional religions, African Christian theology, mission history and cultural anthropology and tourism.

In addition, Ilomo notes that while membership numbers in mainline United States and European congregations are decreasing, this has not been a challenge he has encountered in his native Tanzania.

"I'm going to share the Tanzanian experience here," he said of this mutual exchange. "Here the number of church members is going down. In Africa, the number is going up. I intend to share how we are doing spirituality in the church."

There he has also observed a tendency to invite church scholarship from voices outside of the church, which brings a separation between objective information and intimate passion within the church.

Of the United States Christian context, Ilomo said that "scholars do research from inside the church. (In Tanzania), it's now the time to use scholars and discuss things deeply."

To learn about upcoming speaking events, or to invite Dr. Ilomo to your congregation, contact the Global Mission Institute.

Ilomo will give a lecture, "The Legacy of Missionary Teaching in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania Today," on Thurs., April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Olson Campus Center Lecture Room, located on the lower level. The lecture is free and open to the public.