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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When LCA International Mission’s Pastor Matt Anker, Erin Kerber and Nevin Nitschke and I discussed possible cover ideas for this edition we kept coming back to one subject: baptism.

As we walk with our overseas church partners, we share in the call to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …’ (Matthew 28:19). Baptism goes to the heart of all mission – whether local, regional or global. It is central and essential to the Great Co-mission we have with the triune God and with all believers.

Where there are baptisms, God is growing his church. Where there are adult baptisms, people who have been without the hope we have are coming to know Jesus as their Saviour and Friend – and that gives cause for great rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:7) and on earth.

Of course, if we stay focused only on what we see happening within the four walls of long-established congregations in Australia and New Zealand, many of which may be shrinking, it can be easy to miss that joy and the vitality and passion that new believers can bring to a faith community. (Naturally, there are exceptions to this experience, including some of our church-plant communities and multi-ethnic ministries).

But for our overseas partners, many of whom face far greater financial, logistical and spiritual challenges to mission and ministry than we do, witnessing people being transformed by God’s awesome, unbounded love and forgiveness is a regular blessing. And we are privileged to share some wonderful stories in this edition about lives changed by the freeing power of the gospel.

It is indeed a great blessing for our LCANZ to be able to serve with, support and learn from these international friends in their kingdom work through LCA International Mission, and you’ll read about some of the many ways in which that’s already happening and how you can be involved. Along with volunteering and giving, prayer is a vital support for our regional church friends and this month’s prayer calendar is also dedicated to these relationships.

I hope and pray that you’ll be excited, encouraged and inspired by what you read in these pages.


PS – I’ve been disappointed to learn that some of our subscribers are having to wait many weeks for their copy of The Lutheran – in fact, my own home-delivered September copy took more than two weeks to arrive from one part of Adelaide to another! If you are experiencing long delays in getting your copy, you may wish to contact your local Australia Post outlet and let them know. We lodged the September edition for postage on 31 August.

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Former LCA President Rev Dr Lance Steicke died last month, aged 88. Dr Steicke served in the role now known as LCANZ Bishop from 1987 to 2000.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson said Dr Steicke was ‘a respected and admired church leader’ among Lutherans in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, where he spent a significant part of his ministry. ‘We knew him not only as an inspirational leader but also as a “real person” and a caring pastor’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘He exuded the grace that is a hallmark of authentic Christian living. We are hugely indebted to him for his leadership of the LCA and his place among us as a brother in the Lord.

‘His influence spread beyond the LCA and Lutheranism. He was instrumental in the LCA’s membership of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and became the first Lutheran president of the NCCA. He is well remembered as a significant participant in Australia’s ecumenical journey in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

‘On 23 July 2000, Lance joined Aboriginal Pastor George Rosendale in a public rite of reconciliation before the Convention of General Synod. This was well before the Prime Minister’s national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. The LCA’s current Reconciliation Action Plan follows on from, and builds upon, the work done in that period. We are thankful to Dr Steicke for his trailblazing leadership leading up to that event.’

There were further legacies of Dr Steicke’s presidency in the areas of ecumenical relations and Aboriginal reconciliation, too. He signed the Australian Lutheran – Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and established a fund for the training of Aboriginal pastors, earmarking the offering from his farewell service towards the fund.

Lance Steicke was born in Murray Bridge, South Australia, on 19 February 1933, the son of Ewald and Olga Steicke. Baptised on 16 April 1933 and confirmed in December 1946, he attended Concordia College in Adelaide and then Concordia Seminary, graduating on 4 December 1955. He was married to Leah nee Briese on 13 December 1955 at Jindera New South Wales, and the couple had four children.

Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, Pastor Steicke was installed on 18 December 1955 at Loxton, South Australia, where he served until 1959. For the next 20 years, he served in New Zealand, including parishes and field missions at Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, and was president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand for 15 years, after serving as secretary and vice-president. From 1971 to 1979 he combined district presidential duties with the role of director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV. He became director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia in 1979, a role he served in until 1987.

In 1990, he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Concordia Seminary St Louis in the USA.

After he retired from the LCA presidency, Dr Steicke served as NCCA President from 2000 to 2003, having been a foundation member of NCCA in 1994. He was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2003, being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to ecumenism through the NCCA, and to the Lutheran Church.

‘I always found Lance to be personally humble and not self-seeking’, Bishop Henderson said.

‘He did not use positions of power or authority for his own ends, but to exercise care and compassion for others. With his much-loved wife Leah, he showed us an example of generous living, always having time for people, particularly those in need. We will miss him for his warmth of spirit, quick sense of humour, and accessibility as a redeemed person confident of his identity in Christ.’

Dr Steicke, who died on 10 September, is survived by his children Janet, Peter, Michael and Liisa. Leah died in 2020.

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The Lutheran has again been recognised by the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA), receiving three honours in the 2021 ARPA awards.

Our churchwide magazine won a gold award for Best Profile Story, a silver award in the Best Faith Reflection category and completed the set with a bronze award in the Best News Story category. The gold award recognised the work of journalist and volunteer contributor Helen Beringen for the Going GREYT column on the Lutheran Community Sewing Group, published in the October 2020 edition under the title ‘A stitch in time builds lives’. The judges said: ‘This article deserves first place for a number of reasons: it clearly fulfils the stated aim of the article, describing with clarity the origin, purpose, method of operation, and people involved in the Lutheran Community Sewing Group; it describes and quotes from the people involved in such a way that they are appealing; [and] the activities of the group are presented so that they are inspirational and encouraging.’

The Lutheran received its silver award for Pastor Reid Matthias’s piece on social isolation entitled ‘Social Dis-connection’. The judges said of the faith reflection from the June 2020 edition: ‘Story-telling is the hallmark of Christian teaching … This article takes less than five minutes to read but its reward is in the message of real connection it will leave you.’ The Lutheran‘s bronze award came for Editor Lisa McIntosh’s story ‘Love amid bushfire crises’, published in February 2020.

Linda Macqueen, LCA Communications Manager and former editor of The Lutheran, said the magazine’s continuous peer recognition over several decades is testament to its ability to adapt to changing reader expectations. ‘It’s a challenging time to steer a publication that relies on subscriptions to survive’, she said. ‘It’s immensely rewarding to receive even one award from this community of professional editors and writing; to pick up three, including a gold, is something all of us in the LCANZ can be proud of.’

ARPA’s premier annual honour, The Gutenberg Award, was this year won by Zadok Perspectives and Papers, the flagship publication of Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity & Society. The Lutheran won The Gutenberg Award in 2011.

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Adding to the Olympic success of Queensland Lutheran schools’ alumni and students, Taymon Kenton-Smith represented Australia in archery at the recent Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Taymon, 27, competed in the open men’s individual recurve and mixed team recurve events and was narrowly beaten in the 1/16 elimination round of the open men’s event. A former student at St John’s Kingaroy and Prince of Peace Everton Hills Lutheran primary schools and Grace Lutheran College Rothwell, Taymon was also part of the Australian team which lost to Poland in the open 1/8 elimination round of the mixed team recurve. Born with a partial left hand, he competed with a custom grip and arm brace. He said on social media after his return to Australia that he ‘had an absolute dream over at the Paralympic Games’.

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Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10

In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCA, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are, with whatever gifts and opportunities we’ve been given.

by Helen Beringen

Be careful of barbecue conversations, because you never know where they might lead! Especially if you are newly retired and have an open mind about where God might be leading you.

This was certainly true for retired Openbook Publishers (formerly Lutheran Publishing House) General Manager Warren Schirmer, 73, and his wife Marianne, 69, when they met an interesting guest at a friend’s barbecue in Adelaide back in 2010.

The guest? Lutheran Church in Singapore mission director Rev Dr William Chang, who was visiting Adelaide. And the friend hosting the barbecue was Glenice Hartwich, from LCA International Mission.

Warren says he had no plans for his future in retirement but had been convinced by friend Mal Hyde that it needed to have ‘purpose’. ‘You’ve got to have purpose in retirement’, Mal, a former Commissioner of South Australia Police, had told him. ‘After you retire it doesn’t stop there, and it’s about what you do in retirement.’

So, when Dr Chang started talking about the need for a new church plant in Cambodia, which was supported by the Singaporean church, Warren got to thinking about how he could help. Before the snags were cold, Warren had agreed to lend a helping hand. This was despite knowing little about the mission challenges in the South-East Asian country formerly ruled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, who carried out the Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979.

‘Cambodia was right out of our comfort zone, but we did say yes’, Warren recalls. ‘How does the Holy Spirit work? I have been totally driven by the gospel. My family has always been involved in the church … and here was part of the church family desperately needing volunteers to support the local Lutheran church.’

The couple, married since 1979 and 40-year members of St Johns Lutheran Church at Unley in suburban Adelaide, then went on their first reconnaissance trip to Cambodia and were hooked.

‘Both of us got busy working with the Lutheran Church in Singapore’s mission and we became very closely linked personally with the Cambodians’, Warren says.

The Lutheran Church in Singapore had started a hostel for about 60 students from the provinces who wanted to go to university, providing them with a safe place to live, assistance with their university fees and ministry support.

For Warren and Marianne, a retired educator, it was all about working with the locals to provide a helping hand, while sharing the gospel. ‘Living closely to people who are first-generation Christians and seeing the excitement in their faces, it was amazing the way God works through that’, he says. ‘Despite the leadership challenges of being a young church and the need for self-determination, God is at work there.

‘With the Pol Pot regime, a whole generation was wiped out, and one of the biggest assets that Australia has is an older generation with their wisdom and time. If we are called there, why wouldn’t we do that?’

Warren recalls one older lady who lived in a grass hut in a Cambodian village, who had no access to funds and eyelids which had been damaged by bombing during wartime. They met on a food distribution visit, and she told him: ‘What more in life would I want? God loves me and you’ve given me food.’

‘That was a powerful moment. She now goes to the church plant every day and lifts her eyelid with one hand and wipes all the tables. She’s also in the choir. She is one powerful gutsy Christian woman – I have never met anyone like her!’

Marianne says she has a sense that we are so blessed living in Australia, that we can use the blessings that we have in any way that God might direct us. A survivor of breast cancer for 26 years, she believes that when you are given a second chance, there is a reason you’re still here, so use it.

‘Instead of asking why this happened to me, it’s “Why not me?”’, she says. ‘Why has God left me here? That is what has driven me. God’s got me here for a purpose.’

After the Schirmers reported back to the LCA Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, Pastor Matt Anker, on 10 years of support to Cambodia, he then asked them to help with Papua New Guinea (PNG) mission work in 2019.

But their task of helping to refurbish the Gaubin Mission hospital on Karkar Island off the coast of Madang in PNG was stalled by COVID-19.

So, this year, instead of going to Cambodia or PNG, the Schirmers have bought a small caravan and are hitting the road over the next few months. And they are looking forward to using the opportunities God will show them.

‘Maybe during COVID God is calling us to be more active in the streets we live in, with our neighbours’, says Warren. ‘We are very blessed. We have our health, and we are able, so let’s just let God use us somewhere.’

Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.

Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor   

If you would like to consider serving as a volunteer in mission, please phone Nevin on 08 8267 7300 or email him at

For more information, go to

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Nurturing a strong faith foundation

Regular devotions can be a great foundation for our home-worship life. They can help nurture our faith and even that of our families, as they strengthen our relationship with Jesus, increase our trust in God and our openness to the call of his Spirit. We pray that you will receive blessings from the devotional materials here and in the Church@Home resources collection collated and shared on the special webpage at There are also other faith-building and practical resources available through this webpage. If you have internet access and a printer, why not print some and mail or deliver them to those who may otherwise miss out?

– Lisa

Exodus 33:14

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.


These reflections are from a collection of devotions written for our LCANZ family and friends to help us to keep our eyes on Jesus. They can be used by families, small groups and individuals as part of daily faith practice. You can find these and more on the LCA website at

Serving the Lord by Pastor Mark Lieschke

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23).

Read Colossians 3:18–25.

The kind of behaviour Paul is talking about in these verses is not surprising. It would have been generally thought of as noble in the society of that day. He is not presenting a completely new morality for Christians.

What he is doing is saying something very new about the motivation for this behaviour. This is continually emphasised in the phrases ‘as is fitting in the Lord’, ‘this pleases the Lord’, ‘reverence for the Lord’, ‘working for the Lord’ and ‘the Lord Christ you are serving’.

In the repeated references to Jesus, we are reminded that as Lord, he is Lord in the everyday lives of believers and our relationships with other people.

What a great challenge, responsibility and privilege! We are called to live and serve. But instead of being motivated by rules, regulations and laws, we are encouraged, inspired and energised to reflect the love of Christ because of his presence and power within us.

Rather than being pressed, forced and coerced into serving, rather than being under the threat of punishment if we don’t do what’s expected of us, rather than feeling obligated and duty-bound, we’re freed to give of ourselves as Christ has given of himself to us.

The service we offer, then, while never perfect, is the very love and grace of God, offered by our hands, voices, ears and hearts. It is Jesus Christ himself serving those around us. He comes, he acts, he gives, he forgives, he blesses, and he loves as we live in loving relationships with those around us – and especially those in our homes and family life.

Gracious Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to serve us. Thank you for releasing us from the pressure of living under the law and enabling us to serve you freely in gratitude for your love and grace. Bless us in our serving, especially those who are near and dear to us. Bind us together as sisters and brothers in Christ and give us your grace as we serve one another. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Like living stones by Marlene Cooper

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:4b).

Read 1 Peter 2:4–10.

A striking feature of farming areas in the north of England is the network of dry-stone walls crisscrossing the landscape. These walls, some ages-old, have been built to last come wind or weather. Skilled craftsmen choose the stones and their place within the wall with ancient wisdom. Essential to the structure and set into the walls at intervals are the vital ‘through stones’ – large penetrating stones, which serve as linchpins, holding each stone secure in the wall’s fabric.

Peter writes to believers experiencing the ‘great persecution’ (Acts 8:1). Their reliance on Christ has been threatened as they have fled into unfamiliar territory, losing the happy, supportive fellowship of their own congregations. ‘You are like living stones’, he writes. You are not scattered, lying loose across the field. Rather, you are purposefully taken up to be set wisely into the walls of a spiritual house of God. Keeping these ‘stones’ secure and rock-steady in the wall is the mighty ‘through stone’, Christ, the immovable Cornerstone. He is the precious Chosen One, who, through his Spirit, works to unify believers into walls of a house built to last. Here, all the stones together ring out their praise and offer their prayer in a united service of worship.

What an image of grace! Living stones in a wall of praise! Interconnected for mutual support and encouragement. It graces us to live for others, invites us to sing, ‘Make us your building, sheltering others, walls made of living stone’*. The events of life may sometimes cause us to feel unsteady, perhaps isolated and scattered, far from our spiritual home. But here is the assurance that we are in the Builder’s hands. No doubt or anxiety can separate us from his wisdom and love. The gift we receive daily as children of God’s love, through Christ our Cornerstone, holds us steady and secure in the walls of God’s house by the power and persistence of the Spirit who always builds to last.

Lord Jesus, our unfailing Cornerstone, hold us close to you and to one another as you build us into the walls of God’s house. Open our hearts and lives to sing your praise together, resting in your wise and gracious hands when we meet the shocks and storms of life. Amen.

*Bernadette Farrell, 1993



A short sigh to God the Father…
O God, Father of all poor, miserable souls!
Give us all your grace and enlighten us with
your truth.
To you be praise, glory and thanks forever.
– Martin Luther (1483-1546AD), from


Be to me, O God,
a bright flame before me,
a guiding star above me,
a smooth path beneath me,
and a kindly shepherd behind me,
today, tonight, and forever.
–  St Columba (521–597AD), Iona, from

Psalm 27:1a 

The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?

One true hope by Maria Rudolph

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).

Read Micah 7:7–12.

Often, I have heard Christian people say, ‘Family is the most important thing’. We are certainly taught to honour our father and mother (Exodus 20:12) and be humble and gentle to all people (Ephesians 4:2), not least the members of our own family.

But relationships with others is somewhat out of our control. They can never give us complete satisfaction and fulfilment, no matter how much we pursue positive relationships with others.

Sometimes things go wrong. As we are reminded by the prophet Micah (7:6), ‘a son dishonours his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies are the members of his own household’. And the prophet Isaiah even reminds us, ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’

Although our closest friends and family may forsake us at some point in our lives, God never will. God can always be trusted; he is always constant. God is always close to you – in times of joy and in times of need.

God is, in fact, the most important thing and should come before all other things in our lives. When we have God as our number one, all other things will fall into place. It doesn’t mean the hardships will stop and everything works out for the better. But when we look to God above all else, we know where our help comes from. We can put things in perspective, and we can have confidence in him.

Have you been challenged in family relationships?

Loving God, thank you for your constant, unfailing love. Help me put my trust in you completely. Help me be forgiving and loving with people who hurt me, particularly my own family members. Help me to love in the way you love me, unconditionally and loving even the unworthy and unlovable. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ’s love meets our every need by Kimberley Pfeiffer

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

Read Psalm 23.

Do you ever think about why ‘I shall not want’ comes after ‘The Lord is my shepherd’?

Often when we think of Christ as our Good Shepherd, we imagine ourselves as his sheep. Maybe we are prone to getting into trouble or wandering off, and we remember Jesus, our Shepherd, who guides and protects us, keeping us on a safe path. The Good Shepherd also provides for the sheep so that they lack nothing. In this prayer, we also receive the gift of contentment that we find in Christ. Contentment in God is opened up for us in Christ.

In Christ, you are given a new life where you walk with God. What does this mean? It means that every morning as you rise, God’s blessings are made new. God is with you on the days you dread giving you courage; the days filled with sadness giving you hope; sounding the heavenly choir with you on the joyous days; and comforting you when you are grieved.

God is faithful; he can do no other, and he wants to give you everything you need at the proper time. So, as you pray this psalm, give thanks to God for his goodness and mercy and his love that is always shining on you. Thanks be to God for all the gifts that come out of his abundant mercy: life, love, peace, courage, faithfulness and joy, to name a few. They certainly make any worldly wants seem pretty minor by comparison.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for opening up to us the abundance of your love in Christ. Send us your Spirit so that we can faithfully look to you when we find ourselves in want. Please send your Holy Spirit to help us when we are tempted to find satisfaction in worldly things. Help us to grow in your love so that we can share your gifts with those you have called us to love and serve. In Christ, our Lord, Amen.

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