Friday, June 11, 2021

Retiring bishop. . .

Friends in Australia have pointed me to the announcement that Bishop John Henderson of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) has announced that he will not seek reelection at the church’s Convention of General Synod later this year and, in fact, will retire from active ministry at the same time.

Bishop Henderson was first elected to head the LCA in April 2013. It was a difficult time in which there were many who were trying to persuade the Australian Lutherans to ordain women.  While this resolution gained a majority, it was not a sufficient majority to be enacted.  Although things have been quiet on the front, the work continues -- especially among those of a certain age and mindset -- to make sure that the Aussies join those of the other more liberal Lutherans in opening the ministerium to women (and, as it has been showed repeatedly to be the case among those who ordained women, from women to all genders and sexual identities).

Bishop Henderson has had a long career in the LCA, serving as Vice President of the LCA 2006-2011, as a member of the General Church Council from 2003-2011, and Principal of Australian Lutheran Council from 2009 until his election as bishop.

So, will Austrailian Lutherans choose a bishop who will push for the ordination of women or will they take a pause in this pursuit.  Who knows? The delegates to the General Synod will elect the new churchwide bishop.  Pastors at General Pastors Conference in July will hold a nominating ballot to select the nominees for the position of LCA bishop. Those names will be presented to General Synod and those receiving at least 25% of votes will be on the final electoral ballot at Convention of General Synod.  In the past there have surfaced two or three candidates from this process.  Although there is a special provision for delegates at General Synod to nominate further candidates from the floor, it has rarely been used and would be unlikely to reflect a groundswell of support necessary to elect.

We in the LCMS have enjoyed a great relationship with the Aussies and have been especially blessed with the wisdom and teaching of people like Dr. John Kleinig.  While the LCA is not a large church body, it has consistently produced great pastors, theologians, and exegetes who have served the wider church (people like Gregory Lockwood and his Concordia Commentary comes to mind).  Pray for our brothers and sisters down under and for the course to be steered clearly on the side of confessional, liturgical, and catholic Lutheranism.


Carl Vehse said...

In May 2021, the LCA (sometimes referred to as LCA/NZ or LCANZ [including New Zealand]) General Church Board and College of Bishops released a Joint Statement proposing three actions for the July General Pastors Conference and the September General Convention of Synod:

1. The GPC is a theological advisor to the Synod and is scheduled to meet in July 2021. The GCB is formally asking the GPC to provide advice in advance of the General Convention on the relevance of Theses of Agreement (TA) 1 Principles governing church fellowship to the ongoing discussion about the ordination of both men and women in the LCA, with specific attention to the intent of TA 1.4 and the applicability or inapplicability of the process outlined in TA 1.4.e to the current debate.
2. The Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations will work (with the CoB) on framing questions and providing background papers for the GPC on the applicability/inapplicability of TA 1.
3. The GCB and the CoB will work together to frame any questions and/or proposals on the ordination matter that might be useful for the 2021 General Convention and for the wellbeing of the church.

The Joint Statement noted that an August 2020 Report, presented three scenarios for the future of the LCA[NZ]:

Scenario one: a single LCANZ Synod – one teaching, two practices
Scenario two: a single LCANZ Synod – status quo (current teaching upheld)
Scenario three: multiple Lutheran Synods – we can no longer remain together.

The Joint Statement also promoted: "Thirty years of debate tell us that somehow, for some reason, the sex of a pastor matters – one way or the other, depending on your view. But do we really know why it matters so much to us in the LCANZ and why for some of us, it seems to have become the proverbial line-in-the-sand, the issue of such gravity that it threatens to divide us?

"God calls us in the midst of our marvellous, God-given diversity, telling us that we are united in Christ, each one of us part of his family, uniquely chosen, loved, reborn and redeemed by him. What does that unity as God’s dearly beloved children look like when we have such strongly differing understandings on the proper sex of a pastor?"

The Joint Statement was signed by Pastor John Henderson, Churchwide Bishop and Dr. Nigel Long, Secretary of the Church, on behalf of the General Church Board.

Despite having failed to get the 2/3rds approval requirement at the 2000, 2006, 2015, and 2018 LCA conventions, the ordination of women in the LCA will be on the agenda at the General Pastors Conference and the General Synod Conference in Sept. 2021.

Carl Vehse said...

The LCA is an Associate Member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and at the same time a member of the Lutheran World Federation.