Former LCA President Rev Dr Lance Steicke died last month, aged 88. Dr Steicke served in the role now known as LCANZ Bishop from 1987 to 2000.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson said Dr Steicke was ‘a respected and admired church leader’ among Lutherans in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, where he spent a significant part of his ministry. ‘We knew him not only as an inspirational leader but also as a “real person” and a caring pastor’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘He exuded the grace that is a hallmark of authentic Christian living. We are hugely indebted to him for his leadership of the LCA and his place among us as a brother in the Lord.

‘His influence spread beyond the LCA and Lutheranism. He was instrumental in the LCA’s membership of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and became the first Lutheran president of the NCCA. He is well remembered as a significant participant in Australia’s ecumenical journey in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

‘On 23 July 2000, Lance joined Aboriginal Pastor George Rosendale in a public rite of reconciliation before the Convention of General Synod. This was well before the Prime Minister’s national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. The LCA’s current Reconciliation Action Plan follows on from, and builds upon, the work done in that period. We are thankful to Dr Steicke for his trailblazing leadership leading up to that event.’

There were further legacies of Dr Steicke’s presidency in the areas of ecumenical relations and Aboriginal reconciliation, too. He signed the Australian Lutheran – Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and established a fund for the training of Aboriginal pastors, earmarking the offering from his farewell service towards the fund.

Lance Steicke was born in Murray Bridge, South Australia, on 19 February 1933, the son of Ewald and Olga Steicke. Baptised on 16 April 1933 and confirmed in December 1946, he attended Concordia College in Adelaide and then Concordia Seminary, graduating on 4 December 1955. He was married to Leah nee Briese on 13 December 1955 at Jindera New South Wales, and the couple had four children.

Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, Pastor Steicke was installed on 18 December 1955 at Loxton, South Australia, where he served until 1959. For the next 20 years, he served in New Zealand, including parishes and field missions at Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, and was president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand for 15 years, after serving as secretary and vice-president. From 1971 to 1979 he combined district presidential duties with the role of director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV. He became director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia in 1979, a role he served in until 1987.

In 1990, he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Concordia Seminary St Louis in the USA.

After he retired from the LCA presidency, Dr Steicke served as NCCA President from 2000 to 2003, having been a foundation member of NCCA in 1994. He was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2003, being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to ecumenism through the NCCA, and to the Lutheran Church.

‘I always found Lance to be personally humble and not self-seeking’, Bishop Henderson said.

‘He did not use positions of power or authority for his own ends, but to exercise care and compassion for others. With his much-loved wife Leah, he showed us an example of generous living, always having time for people, particularly those in need. We will miss him for his warmth of spirit, quick sense of humour, and accessibility as a redeemed person confident of his identity in Christ.’

Dr Steicke, who died on 10 September, is survived by his children Janet, Peter, Michael and Liisa. Leah died in 2020.

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