Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

God willing, when this edition of The Lutheran is published, the 2021 online sessions of the LCANZ 20th Convention of General Synod will have successfully concluded. Synod will have elected a new bishop, assistant bishop and general church board and made some essential technical changes to constitutions. Delegates will be poised to resume the meeting in 2022 for matters requiring greater discussion.

Over 56 years we will have held 20 conventions. That’s one for every 1022 days. Combined with district conventions, these form a veritable wall of church meetings for the LCANZ. By way of contrast, Australian Catholics are gathering for a Plenary Council (somewhat like a synod) in early October, and this will be their first such meeting since 1934 – 87 years ago! Catholics have the same trepidation about an online meeting that we do and have asked for our prayers. They face a great challenge since they are not a single unit. Catholics in Australia are a collection of 34 separate dioceses (sections of the church entrusted to the leadership of a bishop) under Rome.

Gathering the Lutheran synod so frequently takes large amounts of human, physical and financial resources. Quite honestly, it’s a taxing way to run a smallish church like ours. Leadership and delegates alike make sacrificial commitments to the process.

So why do we do it? Why not each go our own way and do our own thing? Congregations, parishes, districts, schools and other institutions all have local decision-making capabilities and a large degree of autonomy. New Zealand is a national church in its own right but chooses to be a district of the LCANZ. What do we have together that we do not have on our own?

Well, I can’t describe it better than St Paul does in 1 Corinthians 12: ‘A body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body … Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body’ (19–27 CEV). Paul is writing about individual believers being equally honoured as parts of the church. The same principle applies to the collective units we call congregations and districts, as well as schools and other forms of mission. God has given us to each other. We need each other to be complete. By working together, we keep each other honest about faith and our life in the Lord Jesus. We gain a wider view of the church and its mission, and a fuller understanding of the gospel than we otherwise would have.

Collectively, we have greater wisdom and insight. In addition, by sharing God’s gift of physical resources, we can do so much more in mission than if we all stayed in our own small corners.

By extension, in its small corner the LCANZ gains even more when it joins with other Christians who are also part of the body of Christ. We frequently undervalue the giving and receiving of ecumenical gifts. And even further, we who are still in this life gain even greater blessings when we are awake to our union with the church eternal in the presence of the risen and ascended Christ and his heavenly Father. But those are aspects for another ‘Heartland’ …

For now, despite the initial effort and cost involved in gathering as a synod, I pray we will continue to do so gladly and wholeheartedly, in a spirit of Christian love and cooperation. Walking together as Synod, confessing our common faith as Lutherans, preaching the gospel of Jesus and receiving the sacraments as one body in him, we bless one another and receive blessings in return. God be praised that he enables us to share the rich gifts of faith and life with our fellow believers in such a rewarding way.

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