Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

‘God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others’ (2 Corinthians 9:8 CEV).

Grace and peace to you all in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It’s nearly time for our church to gather as a synod once again, as we do every three years. The synod includes all our congregations and parishes across Australia and New Zealand, and representatives from various ministries, such as Lutheran schools.

When the LCANZ talks about ‘synod’ we mean ‘walking together’. When we gather as a synod, we call it a ‘convention’, a meeting at which we talk together. In formal terms, a Convention of General Synod is an assembly of delegates to act on particular matters and the ‘highest constitutional authority of the church’ (see LCA Constitution Article 7). The 2021/22 Synod meeting will be the 20th General Convention in the life of the LCANZ.

This time, however, things being as they are, we will structure the meeting in a new way. God willing, we will hold it in two parts. Part one will be two days of online sessions (October 2021). Part two will be three days of in-person sessions (later in 2022 at a location to be announced). Both the online and the in-person sessions will be parts of the same convention, which we will adjourn for the intervening months.

While we’ve never done it like this before, we all know the reasons for the change. The church has certain business that it must transact this year, even though we cannot be in the same physical space. We have other important but more discretionary items that must wait until delegates can gather in the same room. Should an item that is scheduled for the online sessions prove to be complex or controversial and require fuller discussion, it will be held over until the in-person sessions. To be ready for the October 2021 sessions, delegates will need to have read the materials provided and accept that the online situation brings certain restraints.

The decision to organise the convention in this way was made responsibly to reflect the changing, fluid environment of border closures, lockdowns and meeting limits. COVID-19 has affected our lives on so many levels, including church worship. We are thankful that we have been spared the worst so far, but humanly speaking, the situation still causes us unease and uncertainty. These are uncharted waters. Where are we headed with all this?

Whatever changes confront us, the church is resilient because its people are resilient. That resilience is born of faith and trust in our loving, gracious, patient and compassionate God. As St Paul writes in Romans 8:38,39, ‘I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!’

The 20th Convention of General Synod is important to us, but it is only one aspect of the church. Our real life takes place at the ‘grassroots’, as we gather for worship, praise and thanksgiving, as we hear the word, and as the sacraments are administered. God is truly active in these things. Jesus is truly present, as he says he will be. His mission is enacted by the thousands of believers who carry his word in their hearts and reflect his love in their daily lives.

Please pray for our church and all its members and convention delegates, the planning committee, and all those who are working towards us having as fruitful and productive a meeting as possible. To God be the glory, now and always.

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