Pastor John Henderson has a simple and yet all-encompassing hope for the church he led as bishop from 2013 until retiring late last year.

‘It’s the familiar adage that it’s all about Jesus and that Jesus is the answer to everything’, he says. ‘My hope for the church in everything is to hold to our faith in Jesus our Saviour – and practise that faith in an authentically Lutheran, biblical, sacramental and liturgical setting. The church should remain true to who it is.’

John also believes the Lutheran faith has a strong role in the ecumenical scene in Australia and New Zealand, because ‘it brings a focus and a special contribution that adds to the richness of the Christian scene’. ‘We shouldn’t step away from that’, he encourages. ‘I don’t mean our Germanic, Scandinavian, or locally developed cultural peculiarities. I mean the hard-fought Reformation truths of the 16th century translated into the 21st century. We must discern those things that we must at all costs hold to and recognise those that we can legitimately change or let go of.’

Another of his prayers is that the church will continue to foster peaceful dialogue and respectful methods of engagement when there are points of difference over such issues as the ordination of women. ‘We need those skills more than ever now in COVID times and with the various community compliance issues confronting us, we need to learn to talk together peacefully about what matters’, he says.

He says that during his time as bishop ‘the world of the church became more complex’, through increasing regulatory requirements. These, along with an ageing population and diminishing resources, add to the challenges facing churches, but he remains optimistic about the future.

‘We’re increasingly subject to regulations and higher community expectations than we have been in the past. Society is expecting us to set the highest standards’, he says. ‘Complying with those expectations may seem to absorb some resources that otherwise we might have put into mission or helping others. But we must do it for the sake of the gospel and for the good of society. We can no longer take the goodwill of the population for granted.

‘I am a great believer in the church. It has been a lifeboat for me all my life. It is a lifeboat for me because Jesus is in it, no matter what the current storm may be.

‘And the LCA has such fabulous people in it. We’ve got fantastic people in the churchwide office. We’ve got wonderful people in the districts. We’ve got amazing volunteers and committed people; they’re just marvellous.

‘So, thank you to the church for allowing me the privilege of serving you as bishop. In each one of you, Jesus is present. And if I’ve been able to be Jesus for you once or twice, I’m grateful to God for that opportunity and that’s my life’s purpose now fulfilled.’

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