LCANZ bishop-elect Pastor Paul Smith says he is ‘humbled’ by his election by General Synod and has asked for the prayers of church members as he prepares to take up the role next year.
Bishop-elect Paul, who is currently serving a six-month placement at St Peter’s Lutheran College Indooroopilly on behalf of the LCA’s Queensland District (LCAQD) and is the immediate past bishop of the LCAQD, was elected to the role for an initial six-year term by delegates to the LCANZ’s historic 20th Convention of General Synod on Friday 1 October. He will succeed Bishop John Henderson, who has served as bishop since 2013 but did not seek re-election and is retiring at the end of the year.
Bishop-elect Paul and Pastor Matt Anker, who serves the church as Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, were the two candidates nominated for the role of Bishop by the LCA’s General Pastors Conference, which met online in July.
‘I pray God’s blessing on this decision to call me to the work of bishop’, Bishop-elect Paul told the historic online gathering after his election. ‘I am humbled, and I am deeply aware that I am an earthen vessel, serving for Christ’s sake through faith and knowing that we share in the Lord’s promise that our labours in the Lord’s name are never in vain. The Lord will continue to build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’
As well as thanking his wife Heidi and family for their support and praying a blessing for outgoing Bishop John, Bishop-elect Paul also acknowledged Pastor Matt.
‘I also thank Pastor Matt Anker for his Christian service in accepting nomination’, Pastor Paul said. ‘I look forward to working with you, Pastor Matt, as you continue to serve in the church.
‘Finally, I ask you to pray for me and for the communities of our church in Australia and New Zealand as we continue to labour together in the cause of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘In LHS 301, the hymn “Take Thou my hand and lead me”, that well-loved confirmation hymn written by Julie Hausmann, we have been taught to pray in whatever journey is ahead of us. In verse three of the hymn we pray:
“Though oft it seems thou hidest, Thy wondrous might,
yet me Thou safely guidest through darkest night.
Take then my hand and lead me, till life is o’er.
With heavenly manna feed me, forevermore”.’
Ordained in 1988, Bishop-elect Paul has served in school ministry at Trinity Lutheran College Ashmore, St Peters Lutheran College Indooroopilly and Pacific Lutheran College Caloundra, all in Queensland; and in parish ministry at Tailem Bend-Karoonda Parish and Immanuel Lutheran Church North Adelaide, both in South Australia and at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at Toowoomba in Queensland. He was bishop of the LCAQD from 2015 until earlier this year when he did not seek re-election at the Queensland District’s Convention of Synod.
In addition to serving on the LCA’s College of Bishops and General Church Council and in various district roles, Bishop-elect Paul’s churchwide service has also included being a member of the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations from 2015 to 2018 and the Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions from 2019 to 2021.
Bishop-elect Paul, who grew up in Far North Queensland with no Lutheran congregational background, is married to Heidi and they have three adult children.
In a first for the LCANZ, its General Synod met online for the first part of a two-part convention to be held across two years, with more than 385 delegates engaging with the worship and business sessions on Day 1 via the internet conferencing system Zoom.