From Tuesday 10th to Thursday 12th July 2018 over 230 Lutheran pastors from across Australia and New Zealand met at St Michael’s Lutheran Church and School in Hahndorf, SA, for the triennial General Pastors Conference of the Lutheran Church of Australia. Pastors gathered in table groups, ably led by the Conference Chairman, Assistant LCA Bishop Dr Andrew Pfeiffer.
Over three days we worshipped and communed, prayed and studied, encouraged each other, and worked together earnestly and prayerfully to serve the church by discussing matters of a theological and confessional nature referred to us through the General Church Council in advance of the 19th General Convention of Synod this October in Sydney.
Those matters involved a number of proposals submitted by congregations on:
- The ordination of women and men, including the Draft Doctrinal Statements prepared by the Commission on Theology and Inter Church Relations on the issue and whether it need be church divisive;
- The communion of infants
- Full membership of the Lutheran World Federation and the International Lutheran Council
The advice and recommendations of the Conference on these matters will be available to Convention delegates and the wider church very soon. I encourage delegates to receive and consider this material as you prepare for the October meeting.
In a full program pastors also engaged in presentations on biblical exegesis, what it means to be a confessional Lutheran in church planting and school mission, and clergy self-care. They discussed the LCA’s arrangements for ecclesiastical discipline, and expressed gratitude for the General Church Council’s decision that the LCA join the Australian National Redress Scheme following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Along the way we were most grateful for the generous care and provision of the wonderful people of St Michael’s, and the hardworking organising committee, which included key staff from the SA-NT District and Church-wide offices.
There was a fine tone to the meeting. Pastors related to one other with evident care and compassion. They asked the Bishops to prepare a general statement of encouragement for all of us in the LCA to act likewise. The statement reads:
The God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor.13:11b).
In spite of differences, the pastorate of the LCA is united in its concern for the unity of the Church and has asked the Bishops to provide pastoral advice regarding the possible outcomes of the vote on the DDS on the ordination of women and men. We acknowledge that this discussion leads to anxiety and pain for many. Whether the Church decides to retain or change its teaching, there are likely to be those whose deeply held convictions put them at odds with the Church’s teaching on this matter.
As we work with the outcome of any synodical decision, the Bishops encourage people to respect the burden of conscience for some. This can be done when we all:
- Recall that through our common baptism into Christ we remain united with each other;
- Put the best construction on the motives of others (Luther’s Small Catechism explanation to the 8th Commandment);
- Make every effort to avoid unnecessary damage to the church and the proclamation of the gospel.
The Bishops encourage all of us as God’s people to enter into prayerful reflection in the days leading up to and beyond the synod and to continue to be patient, showing restraint, whatever may happen.
In the name of the Triune God, let us all strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3)
God’s peace be with you all,
Pastor John Henderson
Adelaide, 15th July 2018
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