Bishop Paul’s letter
Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand
My youngest son Jeremy is in his final year of study as he prepares to be a candidate for ordination as a pastor of our church. He is currently serving as a vicar at Faith Lutheran Church Warradale under the guidance of Pastor Tim Klein and is having a great time. My wife Heidi and I dearly love our son and thank the Lord that Jeremy can be prepared for the work of a pastor, through his studies at Australian Lutheran College in Adelaide.
This year there are only three students – Jeremy, Edwin Shoesmith and Joel Grieger – in their final year of study, preparing to be candidates for ordination. In 1988, when I finished my studies at Luther Seminary, I was in a class of ten. My class at the beginning of my seminary journey numbered 19.
I have heard various opinions about why we have so few men training for the office of the public ministry in our church in this 21st century. Whatever people may say about this crisis in candidates at Australian Lutheran College, we must address this as a matter of highest priority.
We are a church of the Lutheran Confession; therefore we believe, teach and confess that: God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel (Augsburg Confession Article 5). Therefore, we Lutherans have faithfully prepared ‘servants of the word’ to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. In our Lutheran Church in New Zealand and Australia we call these servants of the word, ‘pastors’.
At their February meeting, the College of Bishops resolved to initiate a process to address the vital matter of the supply of church workers in our Lutheran communities on both sides of the Tasman Sea. The focus will not only be on pastors but also workers across the ministries of our church and will begin with an initial workshop at the May meeting of the bishops in Adelaide. I have described this May workshop as the task of carefully ‘unwrapping the bandages’, before looking at how we should address this wound of church worker supply among us.
Each of us will have memories of a faithful church worker who helped us grow in our understanding of the grace of God at work in this world, and in our lives. Our church has been blessed with extraordinary men and women in various roles of leadership in the ministries of the LCANZ. In these difficult times of COVID and lockdowns, the workers in our church have purposefully laboured in the cause of the gospel, but many are struggling.
When I consider these issues, we do not despair but can remain deeply hopeful. It is the word and promise of our Lord that guides our conversations about church workers for the mission that we are given. The church is the Lord’s. We properly call our church work ‘the mission of God’.The Lord who calls us and sends us for this work who declared, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16).
Please pray for those attending this workshop in mid-May, that they would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Also, please continue to pray for this work of church worker development for the ministries of the LCANZ. In Luke’s Gospel, we read the words of our Lord Jesus, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Luke 10, NRSV).
We take up this vital task to better prepare women and men for works of service given to us, for the sake of the gospel, so that the people we serve in this world, would be gathered into God’s marvellous light.
‘Because we bear your name.’
‘Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name’