LCA NSW District Bishop James Haak was farewelled yesterday by more than 650 mourners at his funeral service at Peace Lutheran Church Gatton, in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley. He had been born in Gatton and served as pastor to the congregation for 11 years prior to taking up the role of NSW Bishop in January this year.
James died on Saturday 20 October in Adelaide from a heart-related condition. He was 59 years old.
He had been in Adelaide attending meetings of the LCA’s College of Bishops and the first meeting of the new General Church Board, to which he had been elected by General Synod earlier this month.
We admired him as a genuine pastor theologian, a man of gentle and persuasive faith. He was as prepared and ready as any man could be. Jesus knew him well, and he knew Jesus.
‘James always gave himself in service for others’, LCA Bishop John Henderson said, ‘whether he was serving as a local pastor, a district leader in Queensland or as Bishop of the NSW District.
‘His ministry was marked by kindness, gentleness, humility and deep respect for those he served. He tried to see the world through the eyes of others, connecting with people from all walks of life. He didn’t judge.
‘As a Christian leader his heart was not just for his own people, but even more so for those who do not yet know Jesus. Earlier this month, as NSW Bishop, he welcomed attendees at the General Convention of Synod in Sydney. He reminded us of the great mission field in which we were meeting, and urged us to think not of ourselves but of others.
‘James’ unexpected death has shocked and saddened thousands of people to whom he had brought the light and love of Christ.’
At the funeral, Bishop Henderson preached on Psalm 19, including the words of verse 14: ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer’. Bishop Henderson said that while family, friends, relatives and colleagues, and those who knew James as pastor, bishop and counsellor, may not have been ready for his passing, he had lived his life in a way that meant he was ready when God called him home.
‘James’s life was shaped by faith’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘After dabbling in other career choices, he enrolled at Luther Seminary, where he studied the word of God, full-time, for seven years. He didn’t stop there, however, but immersed himself in the word for the rest of his earthly days. He became a scholar who could read and understand with wisdom, clarity and discernment. We loved and respected him for that, and for his continuous, thorough, inquiring and faithful reading of the Scriptures.
‘We admired him as a genuine pastor theologian, a man of gentle and persuasive faith. He was as prepared and ready as any man could be. Jesus knew him well, and he knew Jesus.’
James was born on 7 June 1959 in Gatton to Cecil and Thelma Haak, and was baptised at Zion Lutheran Church Minden. He went to school at Concordia Lutheran Primary School and Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, and was confirmed while at the college. He began studying for a science degree at The University of Adelaide in 1977, with the plan to become a science teacher, but switched to pastoral ministry studies at the then Luther Seminary in 1978.
While in Adelaide he met his wife-to-be, Marie Graetz, and they were married in 1983, the same year James completed his vicarage at St Paul’s Lutheran Church Nundah in Brisbane. He was ordained on 23 December 1984 at his home congregation at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Toowoomba. James was installed at Calvary Lutheran Church Rockhampton, where he served from January 1985 until January 1991.
He then served at West Logan in Queensland from 1991 to 1994, at Pittsworth Queensland from 1994 to 2001, at Eudunda South Australia from 2001 to 2007 and at Gatton from 2007. In 2011, while serving at Gatton, James was elected as First Assistant Bishop for the LCA’s Queensland District, a position he held until becoming NSW Bishop.
James is mourned by his wife Marie, children Aiden and Anastasia (Annie) and their families.