Hendrik R Tjibeba
We received the sad news about the death of Bishop Frederick on the morning of 15 May 2021. I met Bishop Hendrik Frederick when I was a high school student at Dobra high school outside Windhoek during a Nanso meeting. He was in the company of the late Daniel Tjongarero, Father Horst Uberall and other prominent clergy.
He was the general secretary of the ELCRN. Five years later, I enrolled at the ULTS- Paulinum Seminary at Otjimbingwe, and he was the chairman of the governing board and during that time I learned him closer as a pastor, as a prases and later as a bishop.
Bishop Frederick’s theological formation started in the mid-fifties at Karibib Paulinum Seminary as an Evangelist and early sixties at Paulinum in Otjimbingwe as a pastor, and he also attended the Umpumulo Theological Seminary in Natal, South Africa. He was ordained in 1967 at Keetmanshoop together with the late Dean August Matthys.
If one looked at the period that Bishop Frederick was the leader of the church, it was one of the most difficult times in the history of our country and the environment was hostile due to apartheid policies of the time. Student uprisings was the order of the day and citizens protested against the draconian pass laws and contract labour.
He served on many ecumenical bodies such as Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches, United Evangelical Mission and Lucsa to mention a few.
Bishop Frederick would issue media releases dealing with condemning the compulsory conscription of the Namibian male citizens above the age of 18. He became extremely unpopular with the apartheid regime of South Africa due to his public pronouncements.
Fortunately, his faith in God, his humility and his servanthood leadership style remained relevant to and needed by, the broader ecumenical sector in Namibia.
Bishop Frederick was an excellent chairperson in meetings and was a prolific writer.
His demeanours, intellect helped him greatly to steer the ELCRN ship in turbulent times. He could take collectively with his church council tough and unpopular decisions, but never personalised church issues.
The church (Ecclesia), the body of Christ was much bigger for us all and was the focal point. His leadership was not known with underhand dealings or clandestine agendas.
Whenever Bishop Frederick called you, firstly he will enquire about your well being as a pastor and your family, and secondly about the well being and developments in the parish, with the following words “Are the parish still together?” In theological terms, it simple means are the parishioners still in unity.
Bishop Frederick was a firm believer in empowerment and theological education, and he has known his co-workers’ various gifts and talents, therefore he could send some of us to renowned universities and colleges in South Africa, the United States of America and the United Kingdom and Germany with good recommendations in order to secure for us scholarships.
Bishop Frederick was a God-fearing man. He was a man of integrity and high intellect. A brilliant church leader who was not after fame or accolades. He could not absorb the suffering of his people. He was a family man, strict but firm. He lost last year through death his beloved wife Johanna Frederick after a marriage of 65 years.
He was a dedicated church leader who, against all odds serves his people diligently and honestly. Bishop Frederick’s legacy will continue to inspire those of us whose roads crossed with him during his lifetime.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.
* Hendrik R Tjibeba is a lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Unam in the Section of Religion and Philosophy. He is an ordained ELCRN pastor.