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Synod elects LCA’s fifth national leader

General Synod has elected Rev John Henderson to be its fifth national leader. After his installation in July, he will be the Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA).

‘I am so deeply appreciative and humbled in relation to the task you have placed in front of me’, Pastor Henderson said. ‘This will steer the course of the next several years of my ministry, if not until the end.

‘We need to be a listening church. I learnt that last Thursday at General Pastors Conference as we discussed the same issue that has been before us here this afternoon [the ordination of women].  

‘We are anxious. Some of us are fearful. But we trust in our Lord and Saviour. He has not abandoned us – even when things seem chaotic and strange in this church we love so dearly. We are called to give expression to that Christ, the centre of our faith, to our dying day.

‘I hope that in Christ’s name I will be worthy of this task.’

In his statement to delegates issued prior to the election, Pastor Henderson said that the President of the Church is at least these four things: a key leader in the life of the LCA, sharing  ‘a weighty responsibility for the encouragement and oversight of the doctrinal, confessional and ethical integrity of the Church’; a pastor ‘trained in astute listening and in preaching and teaching the word of God’; a human being, needing to ‘trust God for what is not humanly possible’; and a sinner ‘dependent on the grace of God, like all other members of the Church’.

Pastor Henderson brings to the office broad pastoral and leadership experience within the LCA and beyond. He has been Principal of Australian Lutheran College for four years. Prior to that (2002-2008) he served the LCA in the seconded position of General Secretary with the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), based in Sydney.

As a vicar and ordained pastor, he has served in four LCA districts: New Zealand (Palmerston North, 1981), South Australia/Northern Territory (Woodville, 1983-1986), Queensland (Dalby and western Darling Downs congregations, 1986-1994) and Victoria (Outer Eastern Lutheran Church, 1994–2001).

He was LCA Vice-President from 2006 to 2011 and a member of General Church Council from 2003 to 2011.

As NCCA General Secretary he was involved in international and interfaith affairs. He was a founding member and delegation head of the Regional Interfaith Dialogue SA Asia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with the Indonesian government). The work included delivering an address at the Vatican on behalf of the Australian government on the contribution of faith communities to solutions for sustainable regional peace.

He was co-founder and served from 2003 to 2008 on the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Pastor Henderson has been married to Valmai for 31 years; they have three adult children and five grandchildren.

He will be the LCA’s fifth national pastoral leader, preceded by incumbent president Rev Dr Mike Semmler (since 2000), Rev Dr Lance Steicke (1987-2000), Rev Dr Les Grope (1972-1987) and Rev Dr Max Löhe (1966-1972).

Two candidates, both nominated by General Pastors Conference, stood for election: Pastor Henderson and Pastor David Altus, President of the SA/NT District.

Earlier today General Synod upheld the proposal of the College of Presidents to change the title of the LCA’s highest pastoral office from ‘president’ to ‘bishop’.

The ballot result was announced today at 5.50 pm.