New Zealand Lutherans have asked that the name Lutheran Church of Australia be changed. The Convention of Synod of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ), held in Wanganui on 23 and 24 May, said that the name should recognise also the New Zealand church.
The resolution flows from the findings of the LCA Governance and Administration Review, conducted last year under the direction of consultant Dr Maureen Cleary. Her report recommended that the name be changed in order to recognise both the Australian and New Zealand Lutheran churches.
‘There was universal acceptance of the proposal to change the name from the Lutheran Church of Australia to the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand by all the groups who participated in the Second Consultation process’, the report reads.
The LCNZ Synod resolved that if the LCA General Convention of Synod were to adopt a name change, the New Zealand Council of Synod and the LCA General Church Council would work together to enact the change, upon satisfying themselves that all legal, constitutional and operational issues had been addressed.
At its meeting on 6 June, General Church Council decided that it will put a proposal to General Convention of Synod only if there is agreement on the suitability of the proposed new name and that key operational and legal issues associated with the name change have been settled.
In other business the LCNZ Synod discussed enthusiastically the idea of being the first Lutheran church in the world to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017. Lutherans around the globe are planning celebrations, but the New Zealanders will claim the privilege of holding the first commemorative event on the day. They are planning to charter a plane to fly to the remote Chatham Islands, 800 kilometres east of the mainland. It is one of the first pieces of land to greet the sunrise each day, and is also the place where Lutheran missionaries first landed in New Zealand.
‘We are planning that this Reformation commemoration will propel us into the next 500 years’, LCNZ Bishop Mark Whitfield said. ‘At the very least, we want it to be a catalyst for future ministry, as we introduce and reintroduce the reforming gospel to the people of New Zealand.’
A significant mission initiative enthusiastically approved by Synod is the re-establishment of Lutheran radio messages, which had been for many years a thriving outreach ministry of the LCNZ. In February Pastor Richard Fox, Director of the LCA’s Lutheran Media, met with radio station managers in New Zealand to discuss opportunities for broadcasting Christian messages. The response was ‘very supportive’. As a result LCNZ Synod resolved to work with Lutheran Media and New Zealand radio stations to produce messages appropriate for the New Zealand context.
‘These messages will sow the seed’, Bishop Whitfield said. ‘By the time we hold our Reformation commemorations in 2017, the people of New Zealand will at least have heard the name Lutheran and will know something about us and the gospel we proclaim. We pray that these Lutheran Media radio messages will fall on good soil, where the seed of the gospel can take root and grow.’
The LCNZ has fifteen congregations and seven pastors (including Bishop Mark Whitfield). Although it is a small church and not without its struggles, its congregations’ reports presented to the synodical convention demonstrated a determined and creative mission outlook. Of particular note was the extraordinary mission renewal at Wanganui, the host congregation, under the inspired leadership of Pastor Phil Husband.
‘The feeling … was much more positive than two years ago’, said one delegate. ‘At that stage all the congregational reports (including mine) were about struggles, rather than looking forward with a positive focus on the future.
‘That has changed. I look at what (especially the small) congregations are achieving and I feel that things are moving in a good direction.’
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT NZ