by Lisa McIntosh 

The cultural and ethnic make-up of communities in which many Lutheran churches are based has changed dramatically. How can we best serve alongside people of all nations so that we truly welcome ‘the stranger’ with the gospel? Two LCANZ congregational leaders share their insights.

Pastor Mark Schultz from LifeWay Lutheran Church in New South Wales is in no doubt – multi-ethnicity is God’s vision for his church. ‘We are to be a community united in Christ, made up of every tribe, nation, people, and language’, he says.

A multi-site church family, LifeWay has recently welcomed Illawarra worship centres at Wollongong and Oak Flats, and has launched a Western Sydney church plant in Glenmore Park to join locations at Epping and Newcastle.

‘Becoming a multi-ethnic church is not just about reaching out to the community’, Pastor Mark says. ‘It starts with an attitude and practice of accepting people of all nations as equal, fully participating members in church fellowship, and then living that out by all nations using their gifts and abilities and being actively involved in the mission and the vision of the church. The critical component is living Jesus’ love, which accepts, embraces and values.’

More than 20 nationalities are represented among LifeWay worshippers and 46 per cent of people in Epping’s local community were born overseas and speak a language other than English at home. The major ethnic groups in that area are Chinese, Indian and Korean.

LifeWay has celebrated more than 15 multi-ethnic baptisms of children, young people and adults in the past two years, while eight out of 10 young people who completed the congregation’s ‘Step up to communion’ course recently, were from multi-ethnic families.

Its mainly music ministry is a bridge into the local community with more than 80 per cent of those who attend representing the community’s ethnicities. Mums who attend this group but are not church members have brought friends to worship, which culminated in the Easter baptism of three members of one family.

Other multi-ethnic ministries at LifeWay include a ‘praise dance’ group; a weekly singing group with devotions from Asian Ministry Chaplain Wilkinson Hu; a fortnightly Bible study; and Chinese-speaking small groups. LifeWay also includes Chinese language, with English, on screens during worship for the creed and The Lord’s Prayer.

And in a region that in 10 years will accommodate 10 per cent of Australia’s population, with more than 160 nationalities, the fledgling LifeWay Westside church plant is intentionally a multi-ethnic ministry from its genesis.

‘A multi-ethnic mindset begins with my heart – redeemed, restored and reset for God’s purposes’, Pastor Mark says. ‘Without Christ sacrificing his all for me, I would remain lost and condemned. But he has made me his forever. He loves me, accepts me, values me. He delights in me.

‘Through that truth, you begin to look at others not as people who need to be converted, but as people whom Jesus also loves and are made in God’s image.’

Cross Cultural Mentor Barbara Mattiske from Glynde Lutheran Church in Adelaide says the local community there has also been changing. The suburb has long been home to an Italian community. However, in more recent times, an increasing number of people from China, India and Malaysia, and other nations such as Japan and Korea, have made the area their home.

‘We looked at the community around us and how we could integrate more into the community’, Barbara says. ‘And one of the main things we learnt is that friendship is one of the most important things we can offer.

‘We can offer friendship through activities for children, through listening, education and learning. So now we run mainly music classes for mums and dads with their children, we run English and cooking classes, we do learning mornings about education, we learn about being a parent, about marriage and about God.’

Rika, who is originally from Japan, has been coming to Glynde for several years, particularly for its family ministries. ‘Glynde is a very special place for me because I can see new people and also, I feel very important and [that I] belong and I feel this is a family to me’, she says.

After the first lockdown in Adelaide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rika’s family decided that her three young children would be baptised at Glynde. Her Christian background only involved adult baptism but, after input from Barbara and Pastor Wayne Boehm, Rika spoke with her family about baptism.

‘I wanted them to come to see God through Christ’, she says. ‘I talked to my husband; he is not a Christian, but he understood the importance of this baptism. But the most important thing was if my children wanted to have it. So, I sat down with them and I asked them, “Christ died for you, God loves you, would you like to be baptised?” And the three of them – they are little, but they understood to their level – they said: “Yes, we would like to have it”. And looking at their eyes, so serious but excited, I thought, “Yes, this is the thing God has prepared for them, not me to decide but for them to decide”.’

Barbara says the Glynde family was very excited about the baptism and that on the day in church were other young migrant mums who engage with Glynde ministries: ‘And as we all came back to our seats … the other two women turned around and looked at me and they said, “I need to have what they have”. God is amazing!

‘And that is so much what Glynde is about. We want everyone to have what Rika’s children received – to be part of God’s family – and so that is our prayer for everyone who comes here.’


Listen – not only with your ears

Smile – not only with your mouth

Remember names – it makes people feel special

Act – upon what you are told

Honour culture – don’t judge

Show hospitality – share a coffee or meal

Be careful with language – many don’t understand church talk

Pray – for those you meet

Enjoy – you will be blessed

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The LCANZ’s New Horizons local mission conference program is heading to Sydney next month. This follows a successful 2021 launch at which more than 50 people attended a two-day workshop in Adelaide.

Co-hosted by the New and Renewing Churches and Cross-Cultural Ministry departments, the conferences are being staged across Australia and New Zealand, as the teams work together to engage with new arrivals and support congregations wanting to be more embracing of newcomers. The conferences aim to:

  • build capacity for meaningful cross-cultural engagement at the local (congregational) level, and
  • shape and support congregations and leaderships for multi-ethnic/cross-cultural mission and ministry.

The next event will be held on Saturday 29 May at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Darlinghurst, under this year’s New Horizons theme of ‘Bridging cultures with the gospel’.

Craig Heidenreich, the LCANZ cross-cultural ministry facilitator, said the conferences were for anyone who ‘longs to see Jesus honoured in our society’.

‘Australia and New Zealand have always been nations of immigrants, but lately, those arriving are people from non-European backgrounds who have had less exposure to the gospel’, he said. ‘Forty years ago, around one in 20 members of the Australian population was of non-European heritage – now it is one in four. In a city like Sydney this would be an even higher percentage.

‘There is an increasing desire within the LCANZ church family to better engage with our changing society.

‘We believe this changing demographic is a good mission opportunity, as these newcomers are less “inoculated” against the gospel and are probably more receptive.’Craig and Pastor Nathan Hedt, the LCANZ’s New and Renewing Churches department manager, will speak at the Sydney conference. ‘We find there is tremendous joy as we move out into the Lord’s harvest field and we would love you to join us at the conference’, Pastor Nathan said. ‘Come with your enthusiasm, your experiences and questions.’

A New Horizons conference is also planned for Melbourne on 24 and 25 July 2021, with Brisbane, New Zealand and Perth events slated for 2022.

Registrations for the Sydney workshop on 29 May are open. For more information or to register for the Sydney conference, go to

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Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

I recently had a pair of multifocal spectacles that just weren’t right. Everything was slightly off. No matter how I twisted my head or swivelled my eyes, my vision was not clear. Outdoors, horizontal lines, such as house gutters, took on a blue-halo effect. Eventually I had the lenses replaced. Now, with new ones, I can see clearly.

When we read the Scriptures, we also see them through lenses of various types, and I don’t mean spectacles. In times of distress, God might lift up passages that you previously glossed over. In times of joy, words of praise will leap off the page. In a tight spot, words of encouragement will be there. When struggling with sin or guilt, you will read words of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus’ name. In times of persecution, you will see the hosts of heaven praising God in eternity. The Scriptures reveal God’s love for us in real, living ways as he meets us where we are at.

Our immediate situation, however, is not the only lens that shapes our reading of Scripture. Many lenses work together, just as they do when an optometrist tests your vision. We usually don’t notice them, just as a fish doesn’t notice the water it swims in. When the lenses work together well, we see clearly, but when they don’t, they distort our vision to varying degrees. Such lenses include culture, gender, race, affluence, poverty, pride, greed, prejudice, and many more. They can help or hinder the clarity of our vision. Some we choose, some we don’t.

We Lutherans also openly read the Scriptures through the lens of our Confessions, which we accept as ‘true expositions of the Word of God’ (LCA Constitution 2.1). Very specifically, they are the documents contained in The Book of Concord of 1580. (If you don’t have them, you can find them online at sites like If you’ve ever read the Small Catechism, for instance, it is from our Confessions. The ancient Apostles or Nicene creeds we use in worship also are included. The Confessions are the lens which confirms us as trinitarian, small ‘c’ catholic (ecumenical), scriptural, sacramental (baptism and communion), and evangelical (the good news of Jesus Christ).

The Book of Concord, or ‘agreement’, comes from a time of great turmoil in western European society and the church. People died in defence of the truth, and people died in defence of error. Wrong was done on many sides. Holding on to the gospel of Jesus Christ, despite the violence, division and potential ruin of the time, took more than ordinary human vision. It required a very sharp focus, which came from the central scriptural witness to Jesus Christ and the doctrine of justification by faith, not by works.

God reveals his boundless love at work in the world through the cross, as summarised in Augsburg Confession IV: ‘ … we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21–26] and 4[:5]’.

This is our confession. This is who we are. Without the gospel, the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake, we are nothing. But our God is faithful. We can rely on him. Focused on the central teaching of justification by faith, we know the love of God, deeply and confidently. It is our clear vision for the way forward. As the Scriptures say, Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No-one comes to his Father but through him (John 14:6).

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Over the past few years, I’ve found great joy in worshipping alongside people who look nothing like me. My home congregation is complemented by people of different cultures and ethnicities, various ages and generations, contrasting backgrounds and experiences, and with a range of abilities and disabilities.

Many of us were once strangers to this gathering of believers but today we are a faith family. And I hope and pray that every time a ‘stranger’ visits, we will continue to welcome them with the love and hospitality of our Lord and Saviour.

The make-up of my congregation wasn’t always this way. Indeed, the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand is more diverse in its membership than ever before – particularly in terms of race, ethnicity and culture – and what a blessing that is! After all, Jesus doesn’t say to ‘Go and make disciples’ of ‘one or two nations’ or of ‘this or that ethnicity’ (Matthew 28:19).

And, if our churches don’t reflect the changing faces of our cities and towns, it may be that we are missing the ‘Go’ part of our call as Christians.

In this edition, we are privileged to share stories from our Lutheran family members who are welcoming ‘strangers’ by inviting, hosting, engaging and building relationships with people in congregations, church groups and schools. You will read about ways in which multi-ethnic or cross-cultural ministry in the LCANZ – whether through planned programs or incidental acts of kindness and friendship – are enriching us as a church as we learn from those different to us.

As well as our themed and regular columns and resources, this edition contains two special features which prioritise care for others. One is about the warning signs of leadership burnout, while the other highlights our LCANZ Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts campaign as part of Domestic Violence Prevention Month in May.

Of course, in May we also thank God for mothers or our treasured memories of her, and we pray for mums who have lost children and those who wished to be mothers.

We pray, too, for unity and healing among First Nations peoples and other Australians as we mark National Sorry Day (26 May) and the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum leading into National Reconciliation Week from 27 May.

These special events are further reminders that no matter who we are or where we come from, we know whose we are, as God wants us all as part of his family. And, so, may he richly bless our efforts to welcome the stranger in whatever way we are called to do so.


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The LCANZ’s General Synod will be able to meet electronically should this be necessary in future, following the approval of changes to the church’s bylaws.

The changes within sections 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4 of the LCA’s bylaws, which relate to the convening of General Synod, the procedure of transacting business by Synod and nominations and elections, were approved last month by a postal ballot of delegates from the 2018 Convention of General Synod.

The motion on the ballot, authorised by the General Church Board and submitted by the Secretary of the Church, proposed to allow conventions of General Synod to ‘take place by meeting in person or by electronic means’. The proposal also included bylaw changes to allow procedures in transacting business and nominations and elections to be amended to suit the form in which the meeting takes place, whether in-person or by electronic means.

The Secretary of the Church. Dr Nigel Long, has announced that of the 417 ballots mailed out, 279 (67 per cent) valid votes were returned, which exceeded the required quorum of 209. He reported that 232 or 83.15 per cent of responding delegates voted ‘yes’ to approve the changes, while 47 or 16.85 per cent of delegates voted against the changes. This exceeded the requirement of a two-thirds majority for the motion to be adopted.

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by Adam Borgas

I never thought that I was strange.

Perhaps the reason it seems so risky to welcome a stranger is that we fail to see that we are one ourselves.

Would those people you think are odd or strange think the same thoughts about you? Are there some peculiarities about you? Are you too young, too old, fair-skinned, black, red, yellow, just-too-similar but all too different? That’s because you are different – you are a stranger. There is no-one like you in the world. You are alone when it comes to being you.

Take me for example. Born and bred Australian. I took a test the other day and found I was a Prussian, Russian, Welsh, Scottish, Danish Australian. I own my own home and the land it’s on but know it belongs to the Meru nations. I have been a Victorian and loved it, I’m a native South Australian but when visiting Queensland, I thought ‘I could make my home here’.

Are you starting to see that the more we live life, the more we don’t fit and are different? That’s when it becomes easy to see Jesus and know him for who he is. ‘Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give him rest’ (Matthew 11:28). When you know you are different, life is tough, and you start drinking from that life-giving well that is Jesus.

Think about your differences from those closest to you. I know I married my best friend, but I didn’t know best friends can have major disagreements. I carry the same surname as my siblings and parents, but we’ve had our differences.

Being a stranger and seeing others as strangers it becomes easier to welcome the stranger. We see ourselves in the reflection of even the most different-looking individuals. We can see through to people’s hearts and know that they hurt as we hurt and cry the same salty tears as we do.

When you know you are a stranger, you can experience down-to-earth comfort with saying hello to others.

My hometown of Waikerie is a little country town of about 2700 residents, situated on the banks of the Murray River in South Australia, about two hours’ drive east of Adelaide. Waikerie Lutheran Primary School is a small community of about 85 primary school-aged students and their staff. We specialise in being co-educators with parents of more than 60 local families. Most recently, five Indian families, predominantly of the Sikh religion, have joined us.

As a school principal, you are always thinking about ways of improving the education you provide. As a school of the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), our little rural school generates some big ideas. The IBO has a term that is one of the essences of its programs called international-mindedness: ‘International-mindedness is the acceptance, respect and acknowledgement of diversity in culture, background, values and beliefs. It recognises differences and celebrates diversity in all human beings and attempts to promote respect and understanding in all of these components.’

After my first trips overseas and many discussions with colleagues, it hit me – international-mindedness starts at home!

We set about accepting all our families for who they are. We endeavoured to meet them where they were, and offer non-judgmental love, care and support.

So, when an opportunity existed to re-evaluate our language program, I investigated and implemented a language program with a difference. On reflection, I think it was a bold move, but I never look back and question the past, as I know it is the way God meant it to be.

As far as I know, we have always learned a language other than English in our Australian education system. But I acknowledge that, as a youngster, I thought learning a second language was a waste of time, so I knew there was room for improvement. I wanted language lessons to count and be valued!

I decided I needed a native speaker to teach the students, combined with the classroom experience of a seasoned teacher. So, the plan was hatched in the summer of 2018: Operation Approach Stranger!

That summer if you were out at the shops in Waikerie and you had an accent, I would walk up, say hello and introduce myself. I then asked native speakers of other languages whether they would like to help ‘teach’ the children with me as my primary language resource. I approached between 20 and 25 people and came close to having the school continue its Indonesian program or change to a dialect of Pilipino or Malay. The obvious one I had missed was Punjabi.

I was almost at my wits’ end when I remembered that I had played cricket with an Indian man nicknamed ‘Lucky’. I decided to ring Lucky and ask him whether he knew anyone in the Punjabi community who would teach with me. He said his wife Sharry might consider meeting me about the opportunity.

I signed Sharry up as my primary resource, and through having a 50-minute lesson each week to plan together, we not only worked on language, but we also found out the differences and similarities between the Sikh and Christian religions. These are best summed up by the Sikh greeting which doubles as a farewell: ‘sut shri akal’, which means ‘true Mr God’. Each time Sikh people meet each other, they remind each other of their one and true God!

Sharry and I discovered that the patterns in our faith are almost identical. Our hope mirrors the hope of the other and our love for people is congruent.

Our school just celebrated Holi festival for the first time! Holi is the festival of colour, celebrated all over India around one week before Easter. Holi celebrates love, forgiveness, peace and respect and so, as a school, we thought this was a tradition within our community we should appreciate.

For our staff and students, this learning with each other sharpens how we live our faith every day. Our worship and Christian studies have been energised through these relationships as we continue to grow in love towards one another.

Adam Borgas is Principal of Waikerie Lutheran Primary School in South Australia’s Riverland.

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An estimated 300 congregational leaders and pastors joined a recent LCANZ Safe Church webinar.

The webinar in late March featured a presentation on the draft LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations by Child Protection Project Officer Mary-Ann Carver.

The standards align with and will help the church to implement the Australian Government’s National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. The standards also are designed to help the LCANZ to build up its existing children’s ministries.

Videos from the event are available on the Child Safety Standards page on the LCA website at

Mary-Ann and the LCANZ’s Professional Standards Department thanked everyone who participated for their commitment and their contributions during the online seminar.

Tim Ross, manager of the Professional Standards Department, said many participants also asked insightful questions during the webinar. ‘It was fantastic to see such enthusiasm for Safe Church’, he said. ‘Due to the importance of the topics discussed, we encourage those who missed the webinar on the day to view and share the videos.’

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by David Craig

During our retirement, my wife Ruth and I have been blessed to be able to volunteer in several countries. In each case, there were new faces, a new language and a different culture. As strangers in foreign lands, we knew there would be challenges. But there were also many kindnesses.

When Ruth first left her South Australian hometown to teach in a Lutheran mission in Papua New Guinea in 1960, she was unsure what lay ahead. But on her arrival, she was met by an act of kindness. The parents of her students presented her with a hen and bowl of eggs. Through an interpreter, they explained she was regarded as the mother to their children who would be safe under her wings.

This simple act of friendship gave Ruth an insight into the locals’ welcome to her, a stranger.

While living in Sumatra, in a seminary where we were helping incoming students with English, we received many invitations into people’s homes. Once when we were asked to visit for coffee, we were greeted with ‘Happy birthday’! Yes, it was Ruth’s birthday and they had made a cake to celebrate.

After the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’, Ruth was fed the first mouthful of cake on a spoon. Then, as was the custom, she fed other guests. It was a heartwarming experience.

One Easter while we were teaching in Pakistan, our director, knowing we were Christians, offered us his car and driver so we could attend the nearest church, two-and-a-half hours away. When we returned, it was touching to be welcomed by the director and his family. They said, as we were far from home, we should recognise our holy day with a party and they were happy to celebrate with us. We were then able to share our faith with our Muslim friends.

During our time teaching in Nepal, we began to long for some Aussie bread. The wife of a teacher must have heard us ‘grumbling’ and several days later was on our doorstep with a warm, freshly baked loaf.

In Bangkok, we were privileged to be invited to the blessing of a new Lutheran church in northern Thailand. The village had very few resources, but the locals wanted to show hospitality to those who had travelled long distances.

Some villagers spent many hours preparing meals, while at night they joined visitors in hymn-singing and testimonials. Bedtime was a revelation – 40 visitors, including the bishop, slept on the floor of the small church building. We were head-to-toe, but it was a most entertaining experience! We strongly felt our oneness in Christ with the villagers who had welcomed us.

Over the years, many offers of hospitality have led to enduring friendships. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to learn from other cultures. We were no longer strangers, but pilgrims on a journey.

David and Ruth Craig are volunteers with LCA International Mission. Go to or phone Nevin on 08 8267 7300 for more information.

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by Helen Lockwood

How many times have you heard these or similar words: ‘If this program has raised any issues for you, please call 1800RESPECT’? Often it follows a show about domestic and family violence or sexual abuse. This national counselling service is a vital 24-hour helpline, ready to support people going through abuse or whose memories of abuse have resurfaced.

Have you wondered who might ring that number or what would it be like to take the calls of distressed and desperate people?

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month in Australia and recently I spoke to members of the Lutheran community who work on the 1800RESPECT line about their experiences.

They say it’s a heavy burden hearing the stories of those being abused or who have been abused in the past. Some callers are in crisis, fearing for their lives, and the counsellor works to give them strategies to stay safe and to connect to services. Perhaps the hardest to hear is the impact on children.

Some callers feel that they are going mad as their partner has been using coercive control, ‘gaslighting’ them. Sometimes the callers are experiencing spiritual abuse. Their violent partner is an important person in the church and so she fears she will not be believed. Or she believes her marriage vows mean she has to stay in a violent relationship, or he keeps telling her that this is the cross Jesus expects her to bear.

Both women and men call. Some abuse the counsellors. Some need to talk about their trauma. Some are asking how to help family and friends they suspect are experiencing domestic and family violence.

When COVID-19 restrictions began the lines went quiet. Counsellors were worried because they knew that abuse survivors were locked in at home with perpetrators 24/7. Fear and trauma were magnified by the isolation of COVID lockdowns.

The counsellors face many challenges. They spoke to me about how their understanding of God’s love for everyone helps them to respond positively to those they speak with and how they pray for the right words to say. Domestic and family violence workers are aware of their power with extremely vulnerable people. One worker said: ‘I need that power when I have to advocate for the survivor, but if I am to reach out to that person with compassion, I need to lay aside my power as Jesus did and stand alongside them as they share their pain. The name of Jesus may not be spoken, but Jesus goes along inside me as I work.’

Helen Lockwood is a member of the LCANZ’s Working Group on Domestic and Family Violence.

The Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts campaign website at features stories of survivors, resources and support.

If this article has triggered any concerns for you, you can ring the 1800RESPECT number or log in to the website at

GET HELP – Hidden Hurts Healing Hearts

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic and family violence, visit or call 1800 RESPECT (24-hour National Sexual Assault Family Domestic Violence Counselling Service), or Lifeline Counselling (24 hours) 131 114. In an emergency, call 000.

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