Government censuses indicate that about 250,000 Australians and New Zealanders identify as Lutheran. In practice, though, the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), which includes the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ), is a relatively small Christian denomination, with about 60,000 regular worshippers. By contrast, the worldwide Lutheran Church, with just over 70 million adherents, is the second largest non-Catholic church (and the largest Protestant church) in the world.
In Australia and New Zealand there are 648 Lutheran congregations, 298 parishes, 533 pastors (including those who have retired) and 116 registered lay workers.
Lutherans have been in Australia and New Zealand for more than 150 years. In the 1830s small groups of European Lutherans emigrated in search of religious freedom. Membership decreased during World War I when the use of German was prohibited and many German Lutherans were interned. Numbers increased again after World War II with the influx of northern European migrants.
Australian and New Zealand Lutheranism in the 21st century reflects the multicultural nature of our two nations. We are a culturally rich and colourful church. Congregations of people from Asian and European countries contribute to the cultural diversity of our church, and increasingly we are also welcoming African people, primarily Sudanese, into our worshipping communities.
The work of missionaries and co-workers among Indigenous Australians from the mid-1980s to the present day has borne much fruit, and today we are proud to include in our Lutheran family around 7000 Indigenous Australian people. (Click here for information about LCA ministries with Indigenous Australian people.)
Although the LCA is a small church compared with other larger Christian denominations in Australia and New Zealand, we are disproportionately represented in the community through our many schools, childcare centres and aged-care facilities, all of which have an outstanding reputation for offering excellent professional services and Christian care. It is likely that the many non-church attending Australian people who identify as Lutheran do so because of their association with a Lutheran school, childcare centre or aged-care facility.