In his eight-and-a-half years as bishop of the LCANZ, Pastor John Henderson was known as a servant-leader and ‘a pastor who kept Christ at the centre’ for those he served alongside.

In December at his home church in suburban Adelaide, Bishop John laid down his pectoral cross as part of a final rite of farewell. Having announced earlier in 2021 that he wouldn’t seek re-election as bishop at the Convention of General Synod in October after three synodical terms, he also retired from active pastoral ministry after nearly 40 years.

South Australia-Northern Territory District Bishop David Altus led the rite that day and, as the longest-serving member of the LCANZ’s College of Bishops (CoB), also spoke as part of a farewell to Bishop John during the online sessions of General Synod.

‘Together with the other members of CoB, I thank God for your availability and support, your vulnerability and strength, your encouragement and direction, and ultimately your reliance on Christ which is our best witness to each other’, Bishop David said. ‘For all these gifts and ways in which you have served, and more, we thank you and we thank God for you.’

Bishop David had also asked his District Church Council members what they wanted to thank God for regarding Bishop John’s time of leadership. Among their responses was that he was ‘a pastor who kept Christ at the centre for us’ and someone who ‘approached complex issues and situations in a calm, reasoned, organised and balanced way that used (his) gifts’.

The SA-NT bishop also acknowledged the service, gifts and sacrifice of Bishop John’s wife Valmai and those of their family.

As part of the farewell, Bishop Mark Whitfield from the Lutheran Church of New Zealand thanked Bishop John for the way he had conducted his ministry, sharing ‘the breath and life of the church’. ‘You have shared in the challenges and joys of our ministries, always reminding us that the only breath that really matters is the breath of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, which makes us new in Christ’s love and compels us to and empowers us for ministry in his name’, Bishop Mark said.

‘Thank you for your servant-leadership of “Te Waka o te Whare Karakia” – the ship of the church. You have led us with a sense of purpose and direction and have reminded us to always be filled with the hope of Jesus that will not disappoint us.’

Bishop John’s successor, Bishop-elect Paul Smith, will be installed on 20 February in Adelaide.

The members of the LCANZ thank John and Valmai for their years of service and sacrifice for the church and pray for God’s richest blessings on the Hendersons as they step out in faith into a new chapter in their lives.



1981 – Vicarage at Manawatu Palmerston North Parish NZ

1983 – Ordained at Woden Valley ACT

1983–2001 – Parish ministry at Woodville West SA, Dalby Qld, Croydon (Melbourne Outer Eastern) Vic

2002–2008 – General Secretary National Council of Churches in Australia

2006–2011 – LCA Vice-President

2009–2013 – Principal, Australian Lutheran College

July 2013 – Installed as bishop of the LCA, the first leader to have that title and the first non-South Australian to occupy the role

Dec 2021 – Retired as bishop and from pastoral ministry

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