Pastor Paul Smith has been installed as the sixth churchwide leader for Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand since church union in 1966, in a service of celebration at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide.

Pastor John Henderson, who served as LCANZ bishop from 2013 until his retirement in December 2021, installed Pastor Paul to the role of bishop on 20 February at the same church where the new churchwide leader was ordained in 1988.

At Bishop Paul’s request, South Australia-Northern Territory District Bishop David Altus focused his sermon on St Paul’s words in Galatians 5:1 – ‘For freedom Christ has set us free’. Bishop David encouraged the new church leader with a reminder that God’s saving work through Christ Jesus sets us free to live and work for him, unafraid of making mistakes in our quest to share the gospel.

‘Paul, you don’t need me to remind you it’s a daunting task that you have accepted at the call of the church’, Bishop David said. ‘And God says we are accountable to him, the Chief Shepherd, and the bar goes up a few notches for those of us who would be overseers of his church.’

However, Bishop David said the freedom won in Christ ‘is not an escape’. ‘It’s a gift and a life we can all enjoy together in God’s church and share with the world’, he said. ‘The Christian faith says that in his love, God stepped into our shoes, lived a life of perfect love and then willingly took our place, dying for our imperfect lives. God has already stepped forward and taken your place Paul, and you have stepped into a life of freedom with him.’

In his remarks at the end of the service, Bishop Paul asked for the prayers of the church and highlighted a commitment to servant-leadership in relating his response to Lutheran school students who had asked him what a bishop does. ‘I [explained] that the word bishop was a technical church word for “foot washer”’, said Bishop Paul, who has spent many years as a school pastor as well as being the immediate past district bishop of Queensland.

‘Having just washed his disciples’ feet, our Lord Jesus says, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

‘I ask you to pray for me and for all the people of our evangelical Lutheran Church in New Zealand and Australia and for the people of all Christian churches of the world, that we would gladly serve in the Lord’s name.

‘As we all travel purposefully together in this mission life as the church of the Lutheran witness to Jesus Christ, let us hold fast with joyful hope to our Lord’s sure promise – that he will always continue to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail.’

The service included recorded songs from the Ntaria Choir of Hermannsburg Northern Territory and the St Peters Lutheran College Chorale from Indooroopilly Queensland, and a setting of Psalm 37 written for the occasion by Lutheran Church of New Zealand Bishop Mark Whitfield.

To watch a recording of the service, go to

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