The relaxation of Australia’s border restrictions has led to many happy reunions between long-separated family members and other loved ones.

And it was a similarly joyful reconnection between international church friends when Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) President Reverend Antonio del Rio Reyes visited Adelaide recently for the installation of LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith. The three-day visit was President Reyes’ first to Australia, but it offered the opportunity to catch up with Lutheran leaders and members, including Bishop Paul, whom he had met previously, or connected with online.

President Reyes attended the installation as the Asia-Pacific representative of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and conveyed greetings from the international body and LCP. He also thanked the LCANZ ‘for the love and support you gave to our church workers … at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’, referring to financial support sent to assist pastors who were without income.

While the LCANZ and LCP are still working towards an official partnership, the two churches have forged a strong friendship. Pastor John Henderson, immediate past bishop of the LCANZ, and Pastor Matt Anker, Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, are among those who have worked to build on the close working relationship with LCP.

According to President Reyes, the Philippines church’s membership of ILC and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has resulted in an ‘automatic relationship’ with the LCANZ, which is an associate member with both bodies. But, he says, the fruits of the friendship attest to a shared commitment to ‘walk and work together’ for the sake of the gospel and Lutheran Confessions. ‘I look at the LCA as being also a partner in the proclamation of the gospel in doing good works, because in Ephesians 2:8,9 it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your work, it is God’s gift lest you should boast”. And then verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work”’, President Reyes says.

‘Doing good works collectively as children of God is one thing I look at in this relationship – so we walk together, we work together, we study together and how can we manifest the fruits of our faith together? We have different gifts we can put together and then we work as one body.’

Pastor Matt says he is inspired by the Philippines church for several reasons: ‘The first is the depth of understanding and living in the scriptures and the confessions that I see in their church workers, which then inspires them to be very mission-focused. Secondly, they are so ready, as Saint Peter says, to give a reason for the hope that is in them. That kind of evangelistic passion and readiness and zeal is something that we can learn a lot from.’

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