Lutheran Church of Australia

  •  

Our people

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 largest Protestant church) in the world. [read more]

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 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 1 when the use of German was prohibited and many German Lutherans were interned. Numbers increased again after World War 2 with the influx of northern European migrants.

Australian and New Zealand Lutheranism in the 21st century reflects the multicultural nature of our two nations. Today Australian and New Zealand Lutherans represent every continent on earth. 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 the Indigenous peoples of Australia 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 people. (For information about current LCA ministries with Indigenous people, click here.) We are a culturally rich and colourful church.

Although the LCA is a small church compared with other mainstream Christian denominations in Australia and New Zealand, we are disproportionaly represented in the community through our many schools, childcare centres and aged-care facilities, all of which have an outstanding reputation for offering excellent professsional 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. [close]

Our mission

Our logo represents how we see ourselves as two nations under the Southern Cross, created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve the people of our two nations and the world.

Our tagline, Where Love Comes to Life, reflects the heart and soul of our mission. In every district and department of the Lutheran Church of Australia, in every congregation and school, in every Australian and New Zealander who identifies as Lutheran, we want to be the place where love comes to life. In other words, we want people to see the love, grace, forgiveness and compassion of Jesus Christ coming to them through every place and every person in our church.

Our beliefs and teachings

In the words of the classic Lutheran summary of faith, we believe that we are saved 'by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith'. In other words, there is nothing we can do to earn God's favour or to gain eternal life. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has won all this and more for us. We also believe that only the Bible is the source of inspiration and teaching.

The LCA subscribes to the central teachings (or confessions) of Lutherans worldwide (see What Lutherans Believe). We also adhere to the three ecumenical (or universal) creeds of Christians around the world.

Within these parameters, from time to time we produce statements that reflect our own understanding of various issues, for example, gender and sexuality (see below). These views can and sometimes do differ from the views of other Lutheran churches around the world. So, while there is agreement among all Lutheran churches about key doctrines (critically, salvation through Jesus Christ alone), there is also freedom to hold differing opinions on issues not considered central to the Christian faith. [read more]

Contemporary issues

The LCA does not ordain women, although it has been debating the issue for over a decade, nor does it ordain men in a same-sex relationship because it believes that this is contrary to God’s word. However, our church is committed to the compassionate pastoral care of all people, including those who identify as homosexual, and we are currently working on a statement that deals with the topic of human sexuality as a whole. [close]

Click here see the list of LCA Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions, many of which you can read online or download.

Our structure

The LCA is 'synodical' church, meaning that every congregation 'walks together' with every other congregation, every district with every other district, and every department or agency with every other one. We're not isolationist; we support each other and grow together as one church. At the same time we recognise that every congregation is a unique expression of our church and we value and celebrate our diversity. So, while all congregations adhere to the LCA constitution, they are free to exercise their own interpretations of the LCA's mission and ministry objectives.

Every three years representatives of the LCA's congregations meet for the Convention of Synod, which is our church's primary decision-making body. Pastors provide input regarding theological matters, but in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church. [read more]

The Convention of Synod elects national office-bearers, including the president (the pastoral leadership role known as bishop in many other Lutheran churches around the world) and members of the General Church Council, which is the key governing body of the church. The administrative functions of the church are overseen by the executive officer of the church and the secretary of the church.

For the purposes of effective governance and administration, the LCA is divided into six regional districts, one of which is the LCNZ (which is also a church in its own right).

The districts meet every one or two years for their own Convention of Synod, where regional business is conducted and office-bearers, including the president, are elected.

The many missions and ministries of the LCA are conducted by a vast range of departments, agencies amd auxiliaries, which are typically overseen by governing boards or committees. [close]

Our history

To see a quick overview of the history of the LCA, click here

The Lutheran Church was established in South Australia in 1838 by German emigrants from Prussia. The first ones came because of the religious persecution they had suffered in Prussia. Although this persecution ceased in the mid-1840s, many more Germans followed, seeking the better life that the first migrants reported to them. Settlements were established at Klemzig, Hahndorf, Lobethal and in the Barossa Valley. Some 20,000 German Lutherans migrated to South Australia between 1838 and 1860. With the expansion of settlement the German Lutherans began to spread out across the state in search of larger landholdings. In their settlements they soon built churches and schools. [read more]

German Lutherans also came to Victoria from the 1840s onwards and established the Lutheran Church in the Melbourne district. Some Germans moved from South Australia to Victoria, first to the Hamilton district in the 1850s and then to the Wimmera in the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1860s Lutheran families moved from South Australia to the southern region of New South Wales as land became available for selection. As a result the Riverina became the main area for the Lutheran Church in New South Wales.

German migration to Queensland began in large numbers in the 1860s. Their places of origin in Germany were different from those which produced the earlier migrants to southern Australia. Because of the distance from South Australia, separate Lutheran Churches were established in Victoria and Queensland. Only a small number of Lutheran congregations were established in Tasmania and Western Australia. As a result, 45 per cent of all Lutherans in Australia today are found in South Australia. Queensland has 25 per cent, Victoria 15 per cent, with the remaining 15 per cent in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania.

The Lutheran Church was predominantly a rural church and it remained so for over 100 years. With the growth of cities from the 1950s and the recent rural decline, there has been a steady rise in urban congregations.

German continued to be the language of many Lutheran homes for up to three or four generations. Similarly, the language of the Lutheran Church was German in its worship and its business. In the early 1900s moves were made to introduce English, and this was hastened by the outbreak of World War I. There was a transition period in the 1920s and 1930s, and after World War II only English was used.

The early Lutheran Church in Australia has unfortunately been marked by division. The first pastors, Kavel and Fritzsche, disagreed on a number of matters and in 1846 they established separate churches. Further division led to more separate churches being formed. Victoria established its own church. Queensland had two Lutheran churches. As a result, in the early 1900s there were eight separate Lutheran churches, plus some independent Lutheran pastors.

In the 20th century efforts were made to bring unity and in 1921 five churches joined together. Another one joined in 1926. The final union in 1966 created the present-day Lutheran Church of Australia.

Despite three Australian-trained pastors graduating in 1855, most of the pastors in the 1800s came from Germany, especially from the theological seminaries of Hermannsburg, Neuendettelsau, and Basle in Switzerland. From the 1880s the church sought pastors from the US (Missouri Synod, or Iowa Synod). From the early 1900s they began training pastors in Australia at Concordia College and Immanuel College.

The provision of schools for their children was a priority for the early Lutherans. Many congregational primary schools were started in the 1800s. During World War I these schools were closed in South Australia by an Act of Parliament. However, they gradually reopened after the war. Secondary colleges were also started in the 1890s. In the 1970s and 1980s there was a rapid expansion in the Lutheran school system and numerous primary and secondary schools were established, especially in Queensland. [close]

Related resources

Our relationships with other churches

The LCA has been in theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Uniting Church since the 1970s and is committed to ongoing ecumenical engagement. Christ prayed to the Father that his followers may be one, even as we are already one in faith (John 17:20,21).

We are a member of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and a signatory to selected parts and dimensions of Australian Churches Covenanting Together, a multilateral initiative of the NCCA.

The LCA also has associate membership in two international bodies: the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which is a communion of about 95 per cent of Lutheran churches in the world, and the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

A unique partnership exists between the LCA and Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC). This is the only church with which the LCA has entered into a formal ‘Recognition of Relationship’. The document was co-signed by the presidents of the two churches in 1993. Since then there have been four pastoral exchanges between the two churches, and in 2008 LCA and LCC national and district presidents met in Adelaide, Australia, for a series of meetings. [read more]

The LCA has long-standing mission partnerships with churches in South-east Asia:

  • Indonesia – the LCA works with and through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) National Committee Indonesia which consists of twelve Indonesian Lutheran churches. Significant relationships have been formed over many years with six of these churches: Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP), Gereja Kristen Protestan Indonesia (GKPI), Gereja Kristen Luteri Indonesia (GKLI), Gereja Kristen Protestan Simalungun (GKPS), Gereja Kristen Protestan Angkola (GKPA) and Huria Kristen Indonesia (HKI)
  • Malaysia – Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malaysia (ELCT)
  • Papua New Guinea – Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG)
  • Sabah (East Malaysia) – Basel Christian Church of Malaysia (BCCM)
  • Singapore – Lutheran Church in Singapore (LCS)
  • Thailand – Evangelical Lutheran Church of Thailand (ELCT).

Through these partnerships the LCA also participates in ministry and mission in countries beyond the borders of our partner churches as they engage in mission with their near neighbours. This is evidenced particularly through extension work in China and Cambodia. [close]