Smith. No, not Schmidt. Smith. Paul Smith.
The surname of the Queensland District’s bishop-elect reflects a cultural shift in the Lutheran church in Australia as its branches stretch and grow upwards and outwards from its primarily Germanic roots.
At the Queensland District Convention of Synod on 30 May, Pastor Paul Smith was elected to the position of District Bishop, to serve for a three-year term.
In 1978, with no background in Christian life, Paul Smith (not Schmidt) was sent to board at St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane, after his parents’ divorce. There he experienced the gentle but powerful witness to the gospel from staff and students. For the first time, Paul understood what God had done for him in his baptism in St Barnabas Anglican Church in Julia Creek in 1962. His newfound faith stuck. In Year 12 he was confirmed, and the following year he commenced pastoral studies at Luther Seminary (now Australian Lutheran College).
Since his ordination, Pastor Smith has spent 16 of his 25 years of ministry in his home state of Queensland, and, not surprisingly, for 13 of those years he has served as a college pastor in Lutheran schools: Trinity, Ashmore (1989–1991), St Peters, Indooroopilly (2006–2008) and currently Pacific, Caloundra (from 2008).
Pastor Smith, 53, is married to Heidi, who serves as full-time chaplain at Immanuel Gardens Retirement Village, Buderim. They have three adult children.
On the announcement of the election result, Pastor Smith asked Synod to pray for him, using words from ‘Take thou my hand and lead me’, the well-loved confirmation hymn: ‘Without thy grace and favour I go astray; Take thou my hand, O Saviour, choose thou my way’.
Pastor Smith, who is currently serving as First Assistant Bishop, will be installed as Bishop within three months. Details of this service, as well as of the farewell service for Bishop Noel Noack, will be announced shortly.
On the election of Pastor Smith as Bishop, the Second Assistant Bishop, Pastor James Haak, became First Assistant Bishop. Synod elected Pastor Mark Vainikka to the position of Second Assistant Bishop.
During the financial report, delegates heard that congregation contributions were $80,000 lower than anticipated for the 2014–2015 financial year, but that rental income had assisted the district to meet its budget. Earlier, Bishop Noack had noted the decline in church membership. He said that quiet, deep, considered reflection is required to address this issue, and he encouraged delegates to consider how their congregations could spread the gospel within their own contexts and communities.
In an example of how that can be done, the LLL Mission Stimulus Grant of $25,000 was awarded to Gladstone for the employment of a family connection coordinator. The grant will be used to connect with young mothers and fathers through a pre-schoolers music program and other initiatives to ‘bless the community’.
The 2014 grant recipient, Cairns, reported on their ministry progress. Their Monday night meal and Bible study has been growing, and is now spilling over into Sunday morning services. This is primarily a teaching ministry. The congregation asked Synod to pray for them, so that the gospel can be further ‘found and formed’ in their local community.
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