by Lisa McIntosh

Each year in The Lutheran, we introduce the wider church to the newest pastors of the LCANZ, including sharing a bit about their work and family backgrounds and their call to the ordained ministry. It is both amazing and encouraging to learn of the many different paths our shepherds have taken to get where they are today. No two are exactly alike. And God uses their experiences for his kingdom as they serve in our congregations, schools, care settings, or district or churchwide ministries.

Among the ranks of serving pastors in the LCANZ are former funeral directors and footy umpires, fast-food outlet managers and farmers, taxi (and bus) drivers and teachers, economists and engineers, scientists, business bankers, finance and IT industry specialists, medical doctors and defence force personnel, cleaners, counsellors and copywriters, retail managers and sales staff, and even a prize-winning livestock photographer. And the list goes on.

But what do these ‘former lives’ mean for present-day ministries? Do any of the skills learnt behind a fast-food or shop counter, or on a tractor, in a laboratory, factory or classroom really translate into a parish setting?

Rev Dr Dan Mueller, who has served the Walla Walla Lutheran Parish in New South Wales since 2017, thinks so. A former software engineer and research scientist who worked in the Netherlands for several years, Pastor Dan believes there are two aspects from his ‘previous life’ that God continues to use in his ministry. ‘Firstly, I always had a desire to help and heal people. This is why I specialised in medical computing’, he says. ‘In particular, I designed algorithms and wrote software used by doctors in hospitals to diagnose and treat various medical conditions including cancer. This desire to help remains in my pastoral ministry. Now I help by speaking God’s gospel word of comfort; now I heal with water, bread and wine.

‘Secondly, my time living abroad and travelling, has shown me the diversity of God’s wonderful creation. It was a thrill to meet people with vastly different stories from my own. Each culture, each person, each story, enables us as individuals and as a church collective to hear, see, know, experience God more fully.’

Pastor Matt Bishop’s own experience backs up the idea that God can use any work or vocational journey to grow his kingdom. Pastor Matt, who currently serves at Blair Athol in South Australia and was ordained in 2015, was an Economic Policy Advisor with the Commonwealth Treasury, worked in the Australian Government’s Department of Finance, was deployed to the Papua New Guinea Treasury, and managed a McDonald’s franchise and served as a kitchen hand with the fast-food giant.

‘I don’t think too much is wasted, right down to being able to use my previous “Maccas” experience to place 24 pancakes expertly on a barbecue hotplate at the local high school breakfast club our (former) congregation ran in Morley Western Australia’, he said. ‘My research and policy development skills, and my God-given inquiring mind, continue to find all sorts of applications.’

With Pastor Peter Klemm’s call to the ministry taking more than 20 years to come to fruition, he also had plenty of time to explore different occupations. Pastor Peter, who serves at Cummins on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, was a farmhand on his family’s farm after leaving school, next headed to Central Australia to work at the Finke River Mission store at Hermannsburg/Ntaria, then worked in roles including tyre-fitter, delivery driver and selling batteries, stockfeed, petrol, hardware and paint, as well as quoting jobs for tradesmen for HR Sanders in Clare in SA’s Mid-North.

Pastor Peter believes that his previous roles have helped him to be able to relate to people from all walks of life and ‘to always lean on God in all things’.

‘I believe God has placed me into ministry after moulding me over a number of years’, he says. ‘God has given me a pastoral heart, a thirst to know more about him, a willingness to listen to other people and a yearning to visit people, whether on the tractor or header, in aged-care facilities, or their homes.’

Pastor Peter Heintze also comes from a rural background and says he spent 34 years ‘wandering in the wilderness’ before studying for the ministry and being ordained in 2017.

‘God was preparing me for something that I did not think I was capable of, or even worthy’, says Pastor Peter, who serves at Coonalpyn in SA’s South-East. ‘What amazes me is how God uses our journeys through someone like me, who did not like school, left as soon as I could to work on the family farm for 20 years, which I did not like, but I did learn a lot.’

As well as having been a primary producer for two decades, Pastor Peter worked as a cleaner, a school handyman and tutor, a Community Development Employment Projects supervisor, a mining laboratory soil sampler, a Big W warehouse employee, a Centrelink work supervisor, a painter/renovator and in water compliance.

‘The different occupations, the diverse range of people I worked with, the people skills I acquired, the life experiences gained, the myriad of role models, and the power of the Holy Spirit helped to prepare me for the ordained ministry’, he says.

Another pastor who spent many years of his pre-ministry life in his family’s business is Darryl Shoesmith, who serves at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Pastor Darryl, who previously studied at Queensland Agricultural College in Gatton, worked at the college as a vet’s assistant for a year while undertaking an honours endorsement in wildlife management. The following year though, he was employed at the family firearms shop as a retail assistant.

A love of the craftsmanship of firearms and their history led to study in gunsmithing in the US in 1982 and, after returning to Australia and Shoesmith Firearms, he worked as an employee for several years and then managed the business until 2008 when he retired early.

While Pastor Darryl had given thought to studying for the ministry earlier, it was only in his fourth year of retirement, after discussions with the pastor taking his father’s funeral, that he pursued his new vocation.

And he believes his customer-service background has helped prepare him for serving a parish. ‘Dealing with, speaking with, getting to know, so many different types of people on a day-to-day basis is a good grounding because it is not just about them, but is good for knowing yourself’, he says.

Pastor Joseph Theodorsen also had customer or client-focused roles before studying for the ministry and being installed to serve Top End Lutheran Parish Northern Territory earlier this year. After attending school in Western Australia, he was a service station attendant then manager, a clerk, a recruitment consultant, a Bachelor of Education student and taxi driver who had explored the option of becoming a Specific Ministry Pastor at his home church of Geraldton before moving to Adelaide to attend Australian Lutheran College to study to become a General Ministry Pastor.

‘There are many ways God had planned for me to grow as his servant through the various roles I had before the ordained ministry’, he says. ‘Many of them were customer or client-focused, and a desire to help people was always very strong for me. Also, the wide range of people that I would interact with through these roles, particularly as a taxi driver and at the service station, was great preparation for the ministry. To have had such a large amount of experience with people from all walks of life helps in many ways.’

Like the other pastors who’ve shared their reflections here, South African-born Roelof Buitendag didn’t start out wanting to be a pastor. After a move to Australia and studies in psychology and science, his main role was as a sleep scientist, but he had also worked in casual jobs as a shop hand at a convenience store in West End, Queensland, in a bagel shop, as a bartender, hotel cleaner, sales attendant and paint mixer with Dulux Paints, bricky’s labourer, and a youth coordinator.

Pastor Roelof, who serves at Ipspwich Queensland, believes God’s will for our lives is often only ‘revealed as we walk on that journey’. ‘Everything beforehand has helped me relate to people and hopefully helped me communicate the reality and truth of the God of the Bible into the utmost needs of people’, he says.

 

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Jamie Davies, Executive Director of Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), says it has been a privilege to shepherd the organisation through some exciting changes for more than three years. She will be leaving ALWS early next year.

The six-month transition period will allow her to complete some critical projects with the team, including re-accreditation and operational planning in line with the organisation’s new strategic directions. The lead time will also smooth the path for Jamie’s successor.

In making the announcement in late July, ALWS Board chair, Jodie Hoff, paid tribute to Jamie’s leadership, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘(Jamie’s) passion for ALWS, our church and the most marginalised and forgotten people in the world has been a blessing, building on the strong foundations laid by her predecessors, and starting with her contributions as an ALWS Board Advisor from 2012’, she said.

Born and educated in the USA, Jamie has worked in the aid and development sector for much of her adult life, including in some of the world’s most challenging countries.

‘Although my heart breaks when I see the poverty and injustice suffered by the people we reach together, I am humbled to see the Aussie and Kiwi Lutheran family bringing love to life in places and times of great challenge’, she says. ‘You’ve made my heart for ALWS grow bigger and bigger with your outpourings of love for all those doing it tough, especially during the pandemic. And I am so proud of the talented ALWS team.’

While there is much work to be done before she leaves, Jamie is looking forward to spending time with her elderly father in the USA, once borders re-open, ‘and seeing where God leads me next’.

 

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By Helen Beringen

Joy Mules was about three years old when she caught the music bug. In around 1938, the brass bands parading through the streets of Tanunda, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, drew her away from her mother’s side to march off with one of them.

And just like the German heritage of that annual brass band competition, her rich music heritage was founded in the Lutheran Church.

The eldest of five children, Joy began learning to play the piano at eight years old and by 14 she was playing for Sunday school at the Berri-Renmark Parish in South Australia’s Riverland.

Her pastor, Ern Stolz, encouraged her to take a turn to play for the worship service, a gift she has continued to share for the past 70 years.

Now turning 86 this month, Joy is still on the organ roster at St John’s congregation Unley, where she has worshipped since moving to Adelaide from the Riverland two years ago.

Whether it’s organ music for worship services, piano accompaniment for choirs, or singing, music continues to be the lifeblood flowing through Joy’s veins.

Born in Berri in 1935, Joy grew up Glossop and was cutting apricots on the family property by the age of five.

Her interest in music was also a family affair, as the wider family had lovely singing voices and would gather monthly on a Sunday night for singsongs, she recalls.

Joy even met her husband Jim through music, at a local fundraising dance where she was making sandwiches in the kitchen for supper, as her father thought that, at 16, she was too young to attend. Jim ended up dancing her down the aisle in 1958.

‘We moved to Barmera to a fruit property where we raised our son Peter, and our two daughters Jenny and Angela, all of whom have done us proud’, Joy says. The family has now grown to include five grandchildren.

Music sustained Joy through the tough years of bringing up a family and fruit picking and pruning on the property with Jim.

Joy continued to share her musical talents in her church and community until retiring from the farm at age 70, after her husband’s passing.

‘I had to keep serving the Lord no matter what stage of life I was in’, she says. ‘I need to continue doing what I can while I can, that’s keeping me going.’

Joy has volunteered for most of her life, influenced by Christian parents. She was even her congregational delegate at the LCA’s General Synod in 1976 – four years before women received the right to vote at Synod, so she was only granted observer status.

Her church life has been full, with commitments including Sunday school teaching, church council membership and serving as chairperson. Her volunteer efforts in the broader Riverland community, which spanned sport and the arts, were recognised by an Australia Day honour in 2018 when she was named ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the Berri Barmera Council, which she describes as a ‘humbling privilege’.

That same philosophy led Joy to volunteer to raise funds to support refugee children to go to school through the Australian Lutheran World Service Walk My Way fundraiser through the town and countryside of SA’s Barossa Valley on 1 May this year.

Walking from Nuriootpa to Tanunda, Joy was the oldest registered participant, raising enough money to send almost seven refugee children to school.

Despite not being a regular walker, Joy covered just over nine kilometres, not including her training sessions with daughter Angela, who accompanied her on the walk.

‘I was halfway, and I suddenly thought, “God, please give me strength”, and he did’, Joy recalls.

That same strength still sees her on the church roster for readings, flowers and organ at St John’s Unley, as well as volunteering her time to play the piano for residents at the nearby Fullarton Lutheran Homes fortnightly and hymns in the chapel once a month.

Her husband once asked her when she was going to retire from playing the organ. Her response: ‘I’m not going to retire, why would I? God has given me this talent.’

‘I have had a few challenges throughout my journey through life and have only managed them because of my faith in my Lord and Saviour’, she says. ‘Faith is my second name.’

How fitting then, that her favourite Psalm 23 is one she’s sung at many special occasions including weddings and funerals. It is an ongoing reminder of his guidance throughout her life.

‘I always ask God to guide my fingers to play for his glory.’

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By Libby Jewson

Change is not easy and can bring fear, uncertainty and insecurity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our home, work and worship lives, including some that we would have thought unimaginable just 18 months ago.

It has put further pressure on our faith communities, too, through church closures, ongoing but ever-changing restrictions, increasing compliance requirements and the need to re-think and adapt how we conduct and take part in worship and how we engage with and serve the communities around us.

I believe this has left many people weary – especially in my home state of Victoria – and, in some cases, they are disheartened about life and church.

Even before COVID, some people within the LCANZ expressed fears that change in the world around us would threaten the very survival of our church as we have known it. Others believe a viable future for the church comes down to whether or not we are prepared to change to connect with and minister to that ‘world’. Coupled with already-dwindling attendances in many mainstream churches, including ours prior to 2020, we may feel that we face the multi-pronged attacks of hostility from without and division within.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – far from it. We are all God’s children, and his unfathomable love is the one constant, unchanging reality for the world. Also, our Father, Son and Spirit have promised to be with us, walk alongside us and hold us in loving arms as we face the trials of life, including unexpected and unwanted changes.

And many great things are happening across the Lutheran community in Australia and New Zealand. There are indeed differences in thinking across the church about how and whether we need to change to not just survive, but thrive as we seek to further God’s kingdom. But I believe we can work together to address these differences. And I am hopeful we can do this collaboratively in a spirit of trust and respect.

From my experience in both church and professional life, I believe that managing change well and coming through the other side stronger is all about working in respectful partnerships with others, including – and even especially – those we may disagree with.

One image used to describe this partnership of ‘opposites’, is that of the place where the river meets the sea – fresh water and saltwater mingling into one body, but each still existing in its own right. It’s an image evoked in the Archie Roach song Liyarn Ngarn which, translated from the Yawuru First Nations language, literally means ‘a coming together of spirits’. It is a place of richness and vitality. It is also the metaphor used for the theme of the LCA’s Reconciliation Action Plan website (www.rap.lca.org.au).

Such collaborations of disparate partners suggest that, when we are open to and respectful in working with people of different viewpoints, each can learn from and be enriched and blessed by the other.

We also may come to humbly recognise that each person is individually gifted by God and has a role to play in bringing the good news of Christ’s saving sacrifice and love to the world, as we read in 1 Peter 4:10 (‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace’), 1 Corinthians 12:14 (‘For the body is not one member, but many’) and elsewhere. I am an accredited partnership broker and partnerships and system change have been passions of mine for more than two decades. Perhaps more helpfully described as a change-maker, bridge-builder or servant leader, a partnership broker is an active ‘go-between’ who supports partners in navigating their journey together by helping them to create a map, plan their route, choose their ‘mode of transport’ and change direction when necessary.

Partnerships can be reactive, adaptive or transformative. Reactive partnerships are formed as a strategy to deliver outcomes within the framework of the existing status quo – in other words, without significant change. Adaptive partnerships are designed to deliver development that occurs somewhat separate from, but alongside, the mainstream – so it will involve some change, though not likely fast or revolutionary. Transformative partnerships are intentionally created to challenge and change mainstream systems and mindsets.

The world’s longest-established organisation dedicated to multi-stakeholder partnering, The Partnering Initiative (https://thepartneringinitiative.org/), outlines the ‘partnering cycle’ in The Partnering Toolbook. This cycle goes through the phases of scoping needs and building relationships, managing and maintaining such elements as governance arrangements and partner capacities, reviewing and revising the partnership effectiveness and collaboration agreement and, finally, sustaining outcomes within partnerships. The cycle can then continue as the partnership matures and develops.

Many things can threaten productive partnerships, according to the Partnership Brokers Association (PBA), the international professional body for those managing and developing collaboration processes.

Challenges that partnerships commonly face include anxiety about differences between the partners, power imbalances, hidden agendas, competitiveness and uncertainty. In each case though, the PBA says there are core principles the partnership can adopt to address these, and benefits that result from them.

Some relationships don’t reflect partnership behaviour – there may be an imbalance in communication between the members or the intent of partnership principles may not be understood. These are simply about exchanging information or are more operational.

A genuine partnership features mutual accountability and shared risk between the partners. The partners are equal and develop goals and strategies together, paving the way for exciting and often unimaginable outcomes at the start of the partnership journey.

Of course, there are many benefits and blessings that can flow from working together in genuine partnerships, including in our church. We gain knowledge, capabilities and resilience in the face of change. Partnerships can also help each member to develop a healthy curiosity about the other member/s and a willingness to understand and learn as they work together. This helps to get rid of rushing to judgement about other ministries. And this is not a new concept; there are many examples of this happening already.

In a simple example, when congregations and families team up, aided by resources and support from district and churchwide child and youth ministries, the faith of our youngest members is nurtured. For many years, congregations have established and partnered with Lutheran schools, and work with them in mission. Partnerships can also exist between churches located in the same region, as through this collaboration they discover opportunities for projects and ministry that haven’t even been thought of yet!

So how do we use the same strategy of working in genuine, equitable partnerships when we face far more complex questions, uncertainties and change together as a church? The development of a partnership agreement derived using a collaborative process and the framework as outlined allows for this. Once the partners begin to follow the principles and work together, there is no end to the projects that could develop and exciting opportunities that may arise.

The key is to recognise that it is only through God’s grace that we can hope to put aside our will and prayerfully seek to follow his leading together, especially when circumstances change. Then we can explore ways in which partnerships could provide opportunities for the unforced rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:28–30) – continually coming in to Jesus’ rest and going out in his grace. Working together is always more effective than working in silos.

We will hear God’s voice through the partnership as we put aside our differences to work together and seek to do his will. Are there more opportunities that we have not yet taken up as a church where we can adopt a partnership approach?

A member at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church North Geelong, Victoria, Libby Jewson has worked in organisation and systems design, agency partnerships, leadership and management and, most recently, leadership in the family violence sector. She also has extensive experience in multi-sector and multi-organisational partnerships. She is the chair of the Greater Geelong Lutheran Forum, which brings together the leaders and pastors of three Lutheran parishes, Geelong Lutheran College and Araluen Lutheran Camp, to explore opportunities to do things better together that they can’t do alone.

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On 6 July, in a first for the LCANZ’s General Pastors Conference (GPC), participants met online for the triennial meeting with a slimmed-down agenda. The conference leaders and IT support team broadcast the conference from the boardroom in the Churchwide office in North Adelaide, with 202 pastors logged on from their homes or offices. Some pastors gathered in regional hubs.

Pastors voted using the OpaVote platform, which will also be used for the online session of Convention of General Synod in October. Once the IT support team had assisted some pastors with a variety of issues, all pastors were able to fully participate in the voting process.

The 151 pastors who have been appointed as General Synod delegates elected nominees for the positions of LCANZ Bishop and Assistant Bishop. Pastors Matt Anker and Paul Smith each received the prescribed minimum of 25 per cent of the votes to become nominees for bishop. Pastors Neville Otto and Stephen Pietsch were nominated by the pastor delegates for the role of assistant bishop. The incumbents, Bishop John Henderson and Assistant Bishop Andrew Pfeiffer, did not make themselves available for nomination for re-election. All General Synod delegates, lay and ordained, will vote for the bishop and assistant at the first session of Convention, to be held online in October.

Dr Andrew Pfeiffer, Chair of GPC, based his opening message to pastors on 2 Timothy 4:5: ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all your duties of your ministry.’

Speaking of the demands and challenges of contemporary pastoral ministry and the potential flow-on effects of fear, anxiety and discouragement, Dr Pfeiffer said: ‘We endure in the difficult time because Christ is at work, both in us and in the lives of others through our ministry. There is no pastoral theology of glory here. Pastors live and work as theologians of the cross, and the pastoral ministry can be marked by hardship, difficulty and even persecution.’

Four hours of Continuous Education for Pastors (CEP) was offered through an exegetical paper by ALC lecturer Dr Stephen Hultgren, as well as two pastor panels covering the topics: ‘Pastoral Responses to COVID Challenges’, and ‘Reflections on Pastoral Supervision’.

Pastor Mathew Ker, GPC Secretary, noted that the experience of an online conference demonstrated both the successes and limitations of this format.

‘We were able to complete work that didn’t rely on open and complex dialogue, such as the elections’, he said, but added that ‘such a one-way event would make more comprehensive dialogue difficult.’

The decision to go online for Synod was made only weeks prior to GPC, due to the increasing risk of COVID restrictions, and GPC likewise went online. Dr Pfeiffer thanked the team of almost 20 people, including the LCA IT team, who ‘made it happen’.

Pastors have been asked to provide feedback on the online GPC in order to assist LCANZ event planning teams, including the General Synod planning team, to create the best possible online conference experiences.

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by Helen Beringen

It’s hard to go past a friendly smile greeting you at the door before Sunday worship, or that warm cup of tea or coffee after service.

Isn’t that what makes our faith communities welcoming? Whether new faces or regulars, being made to feel welcome is how we connect as a community.

And, if welcomers are the bricks, then the post-worship conversation and coffee is the mortar.

Every week around Australia and New Zealand, parishioners young and old are rostered on to ensure worshippers are welcomed into God’s house.

Morning tea rituals may have had to adapt in light of health precautions in the current COVID climate, but despite the challenges of sharing food under a pandemic-safe regime, the invitation to talk over a beverage is an important sign of a welcoming community.

Enter the hundreds of folks who, on any given Sunday, have put their hands up to help out.

Our worship life would be the poorer without every person who puts their name on a congregational roster.

In many cases, the same faces have been saying ‘g’day’ or pouring the drinks for decades.

One such couple is Grace and Les Dodt, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on July 14 this year. In their current parish of St Pauls Townsville, in north Queensland, the pair had spent most of their 20 years there on the greeting and morning tea rosters until COVID-19 restrictions interrupted worship services in 2020.

Baking for morning tea was Grace’s forte and she is still baking for family members. ‘All my life I have loved cooking and baking, and I still love cooking’, Grace says. ‘We have a cooked breakfast and a hot lunch every day.’

Even though home-cooked goodies are off morning tea menus at some churches for the moment, that doesn’t stop Grace from baking at home, especially for her family.

‘I just love my six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren’, she says. They have a daughter, Kaylene, in Townsville and their son, Russell, lives in Tasmania.

When The Lutheran caught up with Grace, 90, and husband Les, 96, there was an apricot jam slice in the oven ready to share at a family lunch with Kaylene and her family.

Family was the reason for their move to Townsville 20 years ago.

Before that, they ushered, baked and boiled kettles at another St Pauls congregation, this time in Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

As a couple who were brought up and married in the Lutheran church, the Dodts have always been active in church life.

Both grew up in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, with Grace raised at Minden, mid-way between Brisbane and Toowoomba, and Les in nearby Gatton.

It was a church synod that brought them together when they were introduced by Les’s cousin Ron, who was a synod delegate billeting with Grace’s family in 1948. The pair married after a three-year courtship, settling first on Les’s family farm near Ropeley before moving to Toowoomba, where Les worked for 36 years in the Northern Australia Breweries’ malt factory. He even received a gold watch for his efforts!

Grace loved volunteering with The Good Samaritan op shop run by the local Toowoomba and Darling Downs ladies guild, where different congregational members were rostered on to assist in the bargain shop, and where she made many friends.

Then there was ladies guild, choir, flowers, baking and the cradle roll. Like volunteers in church communities around Australia and New Zealand, Grace and Les have been on the church roster almost all of their married life.

‘I love serving God and my fellow man’, Grace shares. She loves music too, choir singing and playing the organ and piano. But nerves and age have kept her from playing in church. Greeting and ushering have been Les’s favourite volunteer jobs. ‘I’ve liked welcoming strangers especially’, he says.

While the pair are now starting to slow down, they remain in good health and are still both able to drive themselves to church each Sunday.

While no longer on the roster, they remain welcoming to all at St Pauls – being part of the worship community is an important part of their lives.

‘It is very important, as it makes people feel at home’, says Les.

So together, after 70 years of marriage, they remain fruitful, just as Psalm 92:14 reminds us that, ‘in old age they still produce fruit’.

 

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by Nick Schwarz

When you consider buying something, what factors do you weigh up? Necessity? Price? Quality? Style? Features? Benefits or usefulness?

These considerations and others may come into play whether we are looking to buy a small item or service such as a book, fresh food, movie tickets or a haircut; a more costly purchase such as a mobile phone, household appliance, furniture or holiday; or even when we make a major financial commitment in buying a car or house.

Advocates for ‘ethical shopping’ encourage us to also weigh up the ‘ethical status’ of things we buy. They say that some products are morally better than others and that where possible, we should choose them.

By ‘ethical status’ they most commonly mean how ‘responsible’ a product is in terms of its:

  1. environmental impact (at all stages of the life of the product);
  2. social impact (its effect on people, relationships and morals); and
  3. corporate governance (does the producer of this product deal honestly and fairly with suppliers, employees, contractors and consumers?)

How nice that by just shopping we can benefit people and the environment!

Christians look first to Jesus’ life and teachings and the Bible more generally for guidance on ethical matters. Concerning business practices, the Bible teaches that:

  • bosses are to treat their workers with respect and pay them fairly (see Deuteronomy 24:14,15; Colossians 4:1; James 5:4). (Slavery was common and accepted as part of life in biblical times but is never presented in the Bible as ‘God-approved’. The prophets warn that God will judge harshly masters who treat their slaves as mere possessions and exploit and abuse them. Christians have always been at the forefront of campaigns to eradicate slavery);
  • primary producers are to take care of the land and waters so that they remain fruitful (see Genesis 2:15; Leviticus 25:2–5); and
  • merchants are to deal honestly with their suppliers and customers (see Deuteronomy 25:13–16; Proverbs 11:1).

Jesus weighed up our lives and found them so valuable that he gave his life to save us. Now he calls on us to love others as he loves them. He wants us to help people in need – including people who are strangers to us and people we are accustomed to thinking of as enemies (see Luke 10:25–37).

Jesus said that God will bring into his glorious presence forever people who follow his example of helping the needy, but people who could help, but don’t, risk being left out (see Matthew 25:31–46).

Lutherans also look to the confessions of our faith for ethical guidance. In Martin Luther’s explanations of the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Commandments (against killing, stealing and lying) in his Small Catechism and Large Catechism, he says that in positive terms, these commandments call on us to treat our neighbours with dignity, respect, honesty and fairness.

So, it seems we can make a good case for Christians to demonstrate love for their neighbours and care for God’s earth by considering the environmental and social impacts of the products and services they buy and the way the companies that produce them do business.

However, discerning a product’s ethical status is not always easy or straightforward. Sometimes it is confusing and disheartening. Let’s consider three ways that this can be so, then look at the motivation for shopping ethically.

  1. THE ETHICAL PICTURE IS INCOMPLETE OR A MIXED BAG

Producers know that ethically minded shoppers are a growth sector with substantial spending power, so they advertise their products’ ethical virtues prominently. Some make environmental claims, e.g. ‘organic’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘unbleached’, ‘compostable’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘recyclable’, ‘sustainable’, ‘earth-friendly’, ‘climate-friendly’ and ‘ozone layer friendly’.

Some describe how well they treat their suppliers and workers or how well they treat any animals involved in production, e.g. ‘fair trade’, ‘slavery-free’, ‘child-labour free’ or ‘cruelty-free’. Some tell us that money from the sale of the products will go to good causes, such as schooling for poor children, cancer research, or the preservation of endangered species.

How can we trust that these claims are true? Fortunately, Australia and New Zealand have advertising standards and consumer protection bodies to investigate suspicious marketing claims and penalise companies for falsely labelling products with ethical certification.

We live in a fallen world, however. If we look hard enough, products marketed as ‘ethical’ often turn out to be tainted in some way.

We will never have all the information about products we need to assure ourselves that ethical claims are absolutely true. Still, that shouldn’t make us throw up our hands and reject ethical considerations as a waste of time.

  1. COMPETING GOODS

We can also find ourselves stuck trying to decide between products that make different ethical claims. There may be no obvious ‘right’ answer to the question of which claims carry the most ethical weight. For example, should I prioritise environmental responsibility by buying my fruit and veggies from local growers (on ‘food miles’ grounds) or from growers who farm organically (on soil protection grounds)? Or should I prioritise social responsibility by buying them from poor growers (on charitable grounds) who may not farm organically or live nearby? What if there are no poor local organic farmers to make my choice easy?

Again, this is a situation in which there is no clear answer. We are free to weigh things up for ourselves, and we should be slow to judge others who choose differently from us.

  1. OTHER VALID WAYS OF DETERMINING WHAT IS ‘ETHICAL’

If you have a low income and/or a family to support, the cost of goods and whether they are essential or optional will loom large in your thinking. You will likely prioritise your duty to your family over your duty to distant strangers, wild animals or future generations. The reality is that ethically certified products are unlikely to be the cheapest on offer. Ethical production comes at a cost and ethical certification adds to the cost. If ethically certified products are just as affordable as others, the case for choosing them strengthens. But if not, the ethical (or morally right or good) choice for a low-income shopper is probably to buy the cheaper items so that their money stretches to buy as many of the essential items on the shopping list as possible.

Wealthier shoppers who want to be able to maximise their charitable giving might also feel justified in buying cheaper options.

Will you judge them and tell them they are wrong?

Some people might argue that it makes no practical difference whether I buy an ‘ethical’ product for altruistic reasons or selfish reasons. That’s true. In either case, the purchase of the product (hopefully) contributes to some environmental or social good. Christians believe, however, that motivation is important. We think there is virtue in buying an ethical product out of a desire to make some small change for the better in the world. But we also think the virtuous act loses its shine if it is done to bask in a glow of moral superiority or show off our virtue to others. Advertisers of ethical products don’t make this distinction, however. They flatter shoppers by saying every ethical purchase is virtuous.

In Matthew 6:1–4, Jesus warns against making a show of our righteousness so that others may see and praise us. Luther’s explanation of the First Commandment (we are to fear, love and trust God above all things) warns against making an idol of our reputation.

So, yes, even show-offs do good. And they often receive the feel-good praise they want. But Jesus encourages us to do good without fanfare and leave any rewards up to our Father in heaven.

Christians seek to please God by making good choices. But they realise that a few (or even a lot) of good choices don’t earn us our salvation. Our ‘best ethical life’ falls far short of God’s standards. We try to please God out of gratitude for saving us already through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus, and because we want to follow Jesus’ example.

So, take some time to think about how you spend your money. Reflect on your motivation for buying what you buy. And be slow to judge others who might choose differently to you.

Nick Schwarz is the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop – Public Theology and a consultant to the church’s Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions.

 

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In a first for the LCANZ, the church’s next Convention of General Synod will be held in two parts – an online meeting in October 2021 and an in-person meeting in 2022.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson announced the change in a special eNews to the church on 10 June after the General Church Board (GCB) decided on the move on 9 June. The six-day face-to-face convention scheduled to be held in Melbourne from 28 September to 3 October will not go ahead.

‘After making every effort to hold the Convention by the usual means, ongoing uncertainty about travel restrictions, exacerbated by the recent lockdown in Victoria and its potential flow-on impact in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, meant the time had come to make the very difficult call on a COVID contingency plan’, Bishop Henderson said.

Taking into account the extraordinary circumstances relating to COVID-19, the GCB unanimously agreed to hold the 20th regular Convention of General Synod in two parts: an online meeting in early October 2021, which will then be adjourned until the meeting resumes in person at a location to be determined in September or October 2022.

‘The GCB has adopted this approach, a first for the LCANZ, so we can keep the regular constitutional cycle of three-year synodical terms and make the necessary decisions in a timely and orderly way, allowing proper opportunity for consideration and discussion’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘With the risks to travel at present, that will mean an online format in 2021 and an in-person meeting in 2022, God willing.’

The 2021 online component of the Convention, likely to be held over two days, will be for essential business items necessary for the regular transition into the next synodical term, such as the election of the LCANZ bishop, assistant bishop and GCB; board and council reporting; and voting on essential constitutional and other matters that for various reasons cannot be held over until 2022.

Delegates will receive the Book of Reports, which also contains proposals to General Synod, before the 2021 online meeting.

The 2022 in-person component of the meeting, likely to be held over two to three days, will be for matters of a theological or doctrinal nature and the proposals that will require robust ‘live’ debate in the usual Synod format.

The General Pastors Conference (GPC), scheduled for 6–8 July 2021 in Tanunda South Australia, will now take place as an online conference on Tuesday 6 July.

GPC will still need to ensure that nominations for LCANZ bishop and assistant bishop reach the opening session of Convention of General Synod in 2021 and that its advice on theological and doctrinal issues reaches delegates suitably in advance of the second meeting of Synod in 2022.

Regarding General Synod, GCB was mindful of the financial risk to the LCANZ and its parishes in the event of a snap COVID lockdown in Melbourne. Also taken into account was the considerable burden a physical Convention of General Synod in Melbourne would place on ‘already exhausted leaders, pastors and people in Victoria, the state that has borne the brunt of the COVID pandemic in Australia’.

‘In making this weighty decision, the GCB has considered not only the potential impact on delegates and others but also the risk to the wider church’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘While the financial risk is one factor, there is also the possibility that any decisions made by a depleted Convention of General Synod might later be contested as not being fully legitimate.’

As details about the online component of the convention become available, registered delegates will be informed via the Synod eNews, and there will be regular updates in LCA eNews for the wider church.

Bearing in mind that specific details for the new format for Convention of General Synod are not yet available, if you have questions or concerns, please contact the General Synod planning team via synod@lca.org.au

For more, go to www.lca.org.au/changes-to-general-synod/

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by Helen Beringen

Some people just get on and do. No fuss, they just find a place where they can quietly help out.

For one such septuagenarian, Annette Wessling, it has been a case of finding not one but several places to lend a helping hand and a listening ear.

But through this quiet service, Annette feels strongly that she gets more than she gives – the joy of being around people, a sense of appreciation and a sense of belonging.

Just ask the folks at the Lutheran Media office in North Adelaide, where she has volunteered for almost 17 years. Her helping hands have stuffed many an envelope, packaged up CDs and bundled brochures to mail out to congregations.

Annette’s stewardship gives her purpose. ‘I enjoy everything, and they tell me I am doing a good job and it makes me feel really appreciated’, she says.

She has seen much change in Lutheran Media’s outreach methods over her weekly Monday visits, from a focus on large mail-outs of booklets to online resources and social media channels.

‘I have been astounded at the difference over the years in how they reach people’, Annette says.

Annette started volunteering with the team when she was asked by a fellow church member at Bethlehem, in Adelaide’s city, to help with a mail-out to supporters.

And she’s been doing it ever since, travelling by bus, as she doesn’t drive. She even walked to her weekly shift once, from her suburban home in Fullarton, about 7 kilometres away. Leaving home at 7.30am, she arrived at 9am after taking a lovely stroll through the Adelaide Botanical Gardens on the way.

Annette feels at home doing office work, which had been her career throughout her adult life.

‘Most of my stuff is behind the scenes and I am happier being a “washer-upper”’, she says. ‘I love being around people, but I am not a good talker, I just like to belong.’

Annette also loves to volunteer at Fullarton Lutheran Homes, in Adelaide’s inner south-eastern suburbs. This stems from an almost 20-year association with the residential aged-care facility, which began on her arrival from Brisbane as a newlywed to her husband of 47 years, Besil.

Annette landed a job at Fullarton on arrival, a job she describes as ‘the most amazing place to work’. ‘That’s why I like to go there, as they were just so generous to me’, she says.

‘I had some wonderful women who looked after me so well’, she recalls of her 19 years there, which include working part-time while bringing up her young family of three children.

Fullarton was an early adopter of the work-from-home practices now normalised in the COVID-era. In 1978 when she was due to have her first child, Elise, they installed their electronic accounting machine in her house (it was the days before home computers were common), so that she could work from home.

‘I have been very blessed to work in Lutheran institutions and God’s love has shone through that institution to me’, Annette says.

Now twice a month on a Wednesday, she volunteers at Fullarton’s coffee shop which provides an opportunity for residents to meet socially. The shop also displays craft that is sold for fundraising.

Annette’s also a member of one of the craft groups that makes the items each Tuesday morning, where residents are also invited to join them for a cuppa and a chat.

That’s one of the outlets for Annette’s passion for knitting. ‘I am learning patchwork and crochet, but I am a knitter first and foremost’, she shares.

‘Anything about knitting I could talk the leg off an iron pot, but when it comes to talking to someone about my faith, I get so tongue-tied I’d probably end up in a knot’, she shares. ‘I was never good at talking … but I can listen to people.

‘If I stayed at home, I would probably mope about, but if I can keep getting out and meeting with other people, then I don’t get down in the dumps.’

And amongst all the busyness, Annette takes comfort from her favourite Bible verse, Psalm 46:10 – ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

‘It makes me stop and think that God’s in control and I am not, and I have to let him take me where he wants to take me.’

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by Jonathan Krause

Walk My Way was born inside a refugee camp in the desert in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2016.

A group of teachers from Lutheran schools in Australia was there on an ALWS leadership tour. They met people who had lost everything. They saw a bare block of land that in six months our Australian Lutheran family would turn into a school for 2000 children through a partnership with the European Union.

They met Kalsuma, a refugee for 16 years, who fled the war that destroyed her home and farm in Somalia. ‘We welcome you with open hearts. We have not before seen visitors like you, interested in education’, she said. ‘We really appreciate that you put aside all your things and come to be with us. It seems to me an illiterate person is like a person who is blind. We who are parents see education as the light. We need that light of education to scatter. We are thanking all those who support education. Please keep telling our story to your people.’

One of the teachers from that leadership tour was so inspired, that they decided to walk from Melbourne to Adelaide to raise money to help refugee children go to school. When the logistics of that proved too difficult, ALWS instead created a walk down the Adelaide Hills from Hahndorf, following the trail taken by pioneer Lutheran women in the 1840s. The trail was 26 kilometres long, which ‘matched’ the average cost of supporting a refugee child in school for a year – $26.

So, Walk My Way was on the way.

That refugee camp in Djibouti and those at Kakuma in Kenya where our Lutheran church works through ALWS, are a long way from South Australia’s Barossa Valley, which was host to this year’s Walk My Way. And the original hope for the first Walk My Way in 2017, that perhaps 50 people might be persuaded to take up the challenge to walk 26 kilometres, is a lot different from the 650 people who walked on Saturday 1 May.

Yet, for me, being both in that refugee camp in Djibouti and at Walk My Way in the Barossa Valley, there are many things that intersect.

Walk My Way welcomes everyone, and especially celebrates the gifts of those the world sometimes overlooks – those who are senior, young children, those with a disability.

This is what happens in the refugee camps too, where our ALWS family works hard to make sure no-one is forgotten, and those who may be overlooked or ignored are instead welcomed with open arms, just as Jesus asks of us in Matthew 25:40.

Walk My Way has the simple goal of supporting refugee children to go to school.

Of course, throughout our Lutheran history in Australia, we have known the importance of a values-rich education. The 40,000 students in Lutheran schools parallels the thousands of refugee and displaced children who receive a Lutheran-supported education in places like South Sudan, Somalia and the refugee camps at Kakuma.

Walk My Way asks people to take on a challenge, to do something hard, in order to make a difference for others.

In this, we seek to echo the courage and commitment of parents who carry their children out of warzones in the hope that they may find safety, and perhaps even the hope an education can bring.

At the Barossa Valley Walk My Way, I spent some time at the 24-kilometre mark with my 85-year-old dad, Colin, and his four-legged best friend Oscar, as they directed weary walkers across the road. By 4pm, all but two of our 650 walkers had completed their walk.

Thirty minutes passed. Not a walker in sight.

Then, two figures appeared in the distance.

Slowly they stumble-walked toward us, clearly exhausted.

Sharon is a retired nurse, Fiona a farmer. They told us that cars had slowed regularly to offer them a lift. Each time they said no. ‘We want to do the full 26 kilometres, so our sponsors help out’, Fiona explained. ‘We are doing it for the girls.’

I walked with Fiona to the finish line. Telling her that, as Christians, we know the first will be last, and the last will be first.

By this time, the band at St Jakobi had played its last song. Stalls were being packed away.

Yet, as Fiona reached the finish, the cheer that greeted her was the loudest of the day.

Last. First. Jesus turns the world upside down. Seeks the lost; the overlooked; the forgotten.

That’s what the 650 walkers in the Barossa Valley … and the 200-plus walkers in other walks across the country … and those who sponsored them or donated … and the volunteers who prepared food, marshalled traffic, took photos, or emptied rubbish bins … did too.

Quiet humble service. Courage to care. Willingness to give the best they had, no matter what they had to give. Stepping out … so refugee children can step in to school.

Through Walk My Way, people like you do just what Kalsuma begged us to do. You make the light of education scatter. In doing so, you are a blessing ALWayS.

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