Saturday, January 03, 2009

+ Bishop Andrew Elisa + R.I.P.

The passing of 2008 brought another bittersweet passing, the entrance of Bishop Andrew Elisa into glory (31 December 2008).

Bishop Andrew presided over the fledgling Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan (ELCS), a conservative, confessional, and traditional Evangelical Catholic church body in communion with the LCMS.

Several of my friends and colleagues knew Bishop Andrew much more intimately than I did. My classmate and friend, the Rev. Kent Schaaf, SSP, spent three weeks with Bp. Elisa teaching seminary classes in Sudan. Bishop Elisa also presided at Mass and preached where Kent serves as pastor, All Saints Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC. Also, my dear friends, the Rev. Subdeacon Latif Gaba, SSP, and his wife Ruth, had the privilege of hosting the bishop at their apartment in Fort Wayne. All and sundry were impressed with the bishop's quiet demeanor, true humility, and deep piety and devotion to the Lord and to His bride, the Church.

First and foremost, Bishop Andrew Elisa presided over Sudanese Lutherans as a churchman, a loving pastor, a servant of Christ.

I met the bishop once while visiting my old field work congregation, Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne (where I was also ordained) a few years back. Bishop Andrew spoke softly and carried a big crosier (that is to say, the Word of God). He gave a presentation about his fellow Sudanese Christians and all the crosses they bear for the sake of Christ. He did not whine or complain. He simply explained the way things are. He was cheerful even in the midst of telling us of the pain and suffering of his people. This is a pastor who led a persecuted minority of Christians in the midst of Muslim oppression and civil war. He saw fellow Christians martyred, and churches and schools burned to the ground. In the midst of it all, the bishop never lost faith, never became embittered, never sought revenge, and never veered from the Way of the Cross.

What a great example of a blessed churchman and faithful Christian saint we have in Blessed Andrew, now that his life on this side of the grave has been completed.

I look forward to singing the liturgy again with the good bishop around the throne of our Lord for eternity. May we all follow in the footsteps of this faithful churchman as we too tread the cruciform path of our Lord and Master.

Soli Deo gloria!

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