Kia tau ki a koutou te atawhai me te rangimarie o te Atua
願 父 神 所 賜 的 恩 惠 和 平 安 與 你 們 同 在
Grace and peace to you from God
KIA ORA ... BE WELL
I had the joy and privilege, along with the other Bishops of the Church, of distributing Holy Communion at six Eucharist Services during General Synod last week in Brisbane. General Synod began with a Holy Communion service on the Tuesday evening, and then there was one each morning through to the Closing service last Sunday morning.
During the closing service, as people approached me to receive Christ’s body hidden in, with and under the bread, I greeted them with the words, “Kia ora” (be well), “the body of Christ given for you.”
One of the wonderful blessings of General Synod was the way we gathered in worship each day around the Table of the Lord, to be fed by the One who makes us one. A large Christ Candle burnt continuously where we worshiped and where we conducted the business of Synod; a candle reminding us of Christ, who is the Light of the World; a reminder of the constant presence of God: ‘where two or three are gathered in my name.
We were together as Synod (σύνοδος / synodos meaning "assembly" or "meeting"); together as Church, together as Christ’s Body, and even though we came with different expectations and views and opinions on various matters, we celebrated daily our unity and oneness in Christ.
This was our strength for General Synod, and it will continue to be the strength of our Church moving forward.
That’s why I could assure each person as they received Christ’s Body that they could be well because of the One who has become our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
FROM BISHOP JOHN
Bishop John Henderson has written to the Church since General Synod, and I have asked all LCNZ delegates and pastors to ensure that you, the members of the Church, get to read this letter. I have reprinted it here:
At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged (Acts 28:15 NIV).
Dear fellow members in the body of Christ,
It is with gratitude to God that I write to you after our recent General Convention of Synod in Rochedale, Queensland. I write on behalf of the College of Bishops, which met on Monday after Convention to reflect on how best it might serve you at this time.
The Convention was blessed with wonderful local hosts, a superb venue, perfect weather, good food and peaceful surroundings. We give thanks to our God for these people and things, and we especially thank him for the daily worship, the presence of his Spirit, the strengthening power of Word and Sacrament and a willing spirit among those present.
As I daily looked across the room of delegates I frequently felt as St Paul did in Acts 28:15. Seeing the people gathered together in faith encouraged me, despite our debate on a difficult doctrinal issue. We handled many important matters during the Convention, but the one everyone was waiting for was the proposal 'that the LCA accepts the ordination of both men and women and amends Theses of Agreement VI and the Constitution accordingly'. On Saturday, after hours of respectful dialogue and debate over the previous two days and Scripture and prayer led by chaplains, delegates came forward to the Christ candle to place their ballot in the basket. It was an awe-inspiring moment. Many were evidently in prayer.
Of the 423 delegates registered at Convention, 269 (64%) supported the resolution and 145 (34%) opposed it. The remaining 2% were absentees or informal votes. The vote was fair and close. The Constitution of the LCA requires a 2/3 majority on such an issue, and therefore the doctrine and practice of the church remains unchanged
The outcome of the vote has left people with a variety of responses and emotions, some of them quite strong. This is hard, but it is human and quite normal. The bishops have also experienced a range of emotions, coupled with some exhaustion after working so intensely for so long. We believe, therefore, that it is too soon to understand the full impact of the vote. It is obvious, however, that there is work to be done. Part of that work, decided by Synod, is to prepare a doctrinal statement on the ordination of women and men.
Right now, though, there is something more immediate we need to be doing. In the closing sermon on Sunday I asked, 'What happens next?' The first thing we need to do is pause and breathe, just as the delegates did from time to time during the debate, and as Jesus also did after intense times in his ministry. This is not our church, but God’s. That’s why Convention resolved '... that the church enter a period of careful theological reflection and pastoral work for the next synodical term ...'
During the closing hours of Convention, delegates were already demonstrating what we need to do. They had sat together throughout the Convention. They had dialogued and listened to each other, sharing what was on their hearts. Knowing one another as they now did, after the vote many remained behind to care for each other. People encouraged one another and quietly prayed together. Tears and fears were evident in the room, but there was also comfort and consolation. The mutual consolation of Christians was clearly evident at that moment. For example, one table group that had expressed a wide divergence of passionately held views reported that they now value each other so much they will be friends for life. My prayer is that we will all commit ourselves to this type of action. Where love comes to life can be given new meaning as we lovingly work through the situation in which we find ourselves.
I especially encourage our pastors to follow in this way of Christ. Blessing and encouraging God’s precious people must be at the forefront of our pastoral practice. Gentleness and compassion, often sacrificial, must come first. It is written that despite everything that was done to him Jesus loved his own to the end. He willingly went to the cross for their sake (John 13:1). Pastors, as servants of Jesus Christ, can do no less at a time in the life of the church when so many people need your help and wise counsel.
So let’s now take the space we need as we receive the outcome of the Convention. Your church leaders are feeling many of the same things that you are. We don’t have immediate answers but we do know that it is unwise to rush into action before we have waited on the Lord.
Your bishops also recommend that as a church we wait a while before deciding on opening up public conversation spaces as we did with OWL. For this reason, we won’t be receiving comments just yet on the Convention website or the LCA official Facebook page. If you are involved in private blogs or Facebook pages, please help the church by publishing content that exhibits Christian respect, love, grace and compassion. When all the parts of the body love and respect each other, so the whole body is honoured, and Christ is served.
Many delegates reported that the highlight of Convention was the daily celebration of our unity and of the church of which our Saviour has made us a part. For the many of you who were not able to attend Convention, please ask your delegate to share with you his/her experience of the unity we shared around the Christ candle. Your bishops pray that all of us are strengthened to continue in this spirit. Each one of us can play a part, as we speak well of each other in love.
'And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
To God be the glory.
Pastor John Henderson Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
On behalf of the College of Bishops:
Rev John Henderson, LCA Bishop
Rev Dr Andrew Pfeiffer, LCA Assistant Bishop
Rev David Altus, Bishop SA/NT District
Rev Mark Lieschke, Bishop NSW District
Rev Greg Pfeiffer, Bishop WA District
Rev Greg Pietsch, Bishop Vic/Tas District Rev Paul Smith, Bishop Qld District
Rev Mark Whitfield, Bishop LCNZ
Rev Neville Otto, Secretary of the Church
FROM THE LLL (Lutheran Layman's League)
The LLL has recently approved grants for the following:
- The 2015 Spice Retreat (to enable the wives of Pastors and Church Workers to meet and be of support for each other),
- The Wellington congregation who are planning on holding a family camp and for
- The Grow seminar to be held in Wellington in November
The LLL are delighted that they are in a position to financially support these projects and wish to inform the Church that it has money and encourages others to apply.
FROM THE GENERAL CHURCH COUNCIL (GCC) LCNZ REP ...
The LCNZ’s GCC rep, Jill Hobden reports as follows –
As a GCC member I am committed to learning about aspects of the LCA/NZ which may not have a profile or presence in New Zealand. With this mind I attended the Lutheran Women of Australia Convention which preceded Synod last week. Approximately 250 women and a small number of men from across Australia were present for two days of business, singing, devotion and speakers.
Several of the speakers were the highlights of the Convention for me. Jonathan Krause of the ALWS spoke of the work being done in various parts of the developing world. I was interested to learn just how important long drop toilets and water wells are in reducing disease and the amount of time and effort required by women in collecting water and nursing sick children (after all this is women’s work in many parts of the world). This really does transform lives in these communities. The ALWS display includes a particularly powerful display of a week’s food ration for a refugee in any of the various African camps compared to the food we might consume over the same period (see photo). Jonathan informed us that the daily cost of care and support for a refugee is 85 cents per day, however, only 35 cents per day is actually available and the food ration shown in the display now has to last a fortnight.
LWA sends 2000 birthing kits annually to PNG and a relatively new initiative has been to provide solar panels. These have been installed in birthing rooms in rural areas so that night time deliveries can have adequate lighting. Solar panels also mean that vaccines requiring refrigeration can be kept in these isolated rural communities. The mainstream churches including the ELCPNG are seen as being more accountable for delivering Australian government aid programmes in PNG.
Lutheran Women form a vital cog in the work of our church by raising desperately needed funds to support such diverse projects as;
- Aboriginal Ministry South Australia
- Home of Praise, Bangkok – where children from the slums of Kong Teoy can come to be fed, washed and hear the welcoming love of Jesus each weekday.
- ALC Women’s Auxiliary – for such things as refurbishing student flats. Recently 10 new kitchens were installed at Katherine Court.
Bishop John Henderson is to be commended for the careful and deliberate process used in conducting the business of Synod. Almost 2 days were devoted to the question of women in the office of public ministry, firstly in dialogue of groups of 8 at tables followed by debate in the open forum and then the vote on Saturday morning. The voting process was carefully explained and prayers given, the votes were cast and then counted on stage in front of the 423 delegates present.
Both the opening and closing Synod services can be viewed in full by following the links on the LCA website.
“Safe At Church” Workshop Christchurch Saturday 3rd October 2015
Christchurch turned on a beautiful day for my visit to St Paul’s where I ran a workshop with the Church Leaders. We held the workshop at All Saint’s Anglican Church where St Paul’s are sharing worship while their building is finally being repaired four years after the terrible earthquakes. The workshop was attended by seven enthusiastic participants who fully engaged in discussion, sharing lots of experiences and stories. May God richly bless this tightknit band of leaders as they plan for the future of St Paul’s Lutheran Church. The church here is in good heart and good hands.
Jill Hagen, Professional Standards Officer Lutheran Church of New Zealand
Photo from left to right: Ahi Allen, Jill Hagen, Judy Calder, Susanne Thompson, Elizabeth Barrett, Svanaug Nilsen, Stanley Pidakala, Nathan Klein
SINCE WE LAST SPOKE ... WHERE I'VE BEEN AND WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO ...
5th September We held the first meeting of the Reformation 2017 Working Group.
10th - 17th September We welcomed Dr Stephen Pietsch from Australian Lutheran College (ALC) back to New Zealand. Steve vicared at St Lukes Palmerston North in 1987, and came back to facilitate at the LCNZ Church Workers' Conference in Wellington.
13th - 16th September The pastors and lay church workers of the LCNZ gathered for conference in Wellington.
17th - 21st September I conducted a pastoral visit to St Matthew, Hamilton and performed an organ recital in St Matthews Anglican Church in Morrinsville.
28th September - 4th October Together with Leanne, who was delegate for St Pauls Wellington, i attended the Convention of General Synod of the LCA/NZ in Brisbane, and preached at the Morning Eucharist on Friday 2nd October.
11th October I conducted a pastoral visit to my home congregation of St Pauls Wellington and led worship there. In the afternoon, I visited and conducted worship in the Wairarapa.
From St Martin, Marton we hear news that they have a new administrator, Barbara Atkinson, that they are about to re-start a Sunday school, and that four new young people are attending worship. (Great news!!)
St Matthew, Hamilton reports that they held agarage sale as a FUNdraiser on Saturday the 27th September. Members of St Matthew had been collecting items for sale for a couple of months. Volunteers came in to help set everything up in the church hall during the week and early on Saturday morning. A free sausage sizzle gave away about 125 sausages to many of those who came looking for and finding bargains. Those serving sausages and those helping the customers were able to chat with members of the community. Encouragement and verbal invitations to worship were offered to a number of those who stayed for a chat.
Julie Kummerow reports that the annual Mountainside HBA (Holiday Bible Adventure) for 2015 was all about Faith Building. We focused on key bible verses each day, the first being, ‘What are we?’ ‘We are God’s Masterpieces!’ (Ephesians 2:10) The three days were based around Faith Building Play stations; activities that involved thinking about our faith development, connecting to Bible stories and of course, relaxing with some holiday fun. Building our lives on a firm foundation was a feature in the block building and thinking about how Jesus is the cornerstone in our lives was a major part of the three day event. We enjoyed watching Bible video clips, experiencing a Prayer walk, hearing bible stories, sing-a-longs and working co-operatively with each other. The best part of our HBA is the way our Senior Mountainside members help support us. Many gave up their time to volunteer in the Kitchen and help with the art and craft activities. It was a wonderful time with over 30-35 children attending on each of the three days. We look forward to next years ‘Faith Builders’ event and building on the firm foundation, Jesus our rock!
News just in from the Hawkes Bay after Dean Eaton spent today with them … Erwin Sonnendecker writes: Many thanks for your support and prayers regarding Dean’s visit today. I have, throughout Dean’s sermon, as well as [during] the workshop, been deeply aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is my humble view that very good seed has been sown and am convinced that wonderful and encouraging developments will evolve in the near future. Dean’s refreshing approach to “what, how and why” has been an inspiration and encouragement. What has been a tiny Lutheran congregation on the brink of extinction may become a rejuvenated and thriving “new shoot”.
FROM THERE TO HERE ...
I just have to tell you this. Last weekend, I was worshipping with around 800 Lutherans from around Australia and New Zealand at the General Convention … in a beautiful large chapel at Redeemer Lutheran College south of Brisbane. As we say these days (and as I am about to say here): it was AWESOME.
Today, just one week on, I gathered with 5 saints; the congregation of St Francis Mauriceville West in the Wairarapa. We met in a home in Greytown looking out over the Tararua Ranges to the west (see the photo), for worship, prayer, scripture, song, the Lord’s Supper, and then a lovely fellowship dinner together. Guess what? It was AWESOME too!!
(Photo of members of St Francis, Mauriceville)
BISHOP MARK ON ANNUAL LEAVE
When I return from the next round of College of Bishops’ meetings, including interviews of the Final Year Graduation Class of ALC next week, I will be taking two weeks’ annual leave. During this time (25th October to 7th November), please contact either Assistant Bishop John Davison on 07 8395768 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the District Administrator Robert Hagen on 04 3852540 or at email@example.com.
IN OUR PRAYERS
A prayer of thanks for the wonderful way the unifying Spirit of Jesus cared for and looked after the Church (Jesus’ Body) as we gathered in General Synod.
For the College of Bishops and other servant-leaders in the Church as they prepare to lead through the next synodical term.
For Dean Eaton as he visits and works with various LCNZ congregations this month: Mountainside, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu and Christchurch … inspiring them and encouraging them as they partner with God in his mission of love to the world.
For Pastor Joe Kummerow and his family as they mourn the death of Pastor Joe’s father, Pastor Fred Kummerow … that they would be surrounded and kept safe in the love of God.
For the Graduates of ALC … especially those preparing to be ordained, that the final interviews and appointment process will go smoothly and that they will find joy in their first assignments.
Give thanks for Bishop John who led and facilitated the General Synod in a deeply pastoral manner.
MĀNAWATANGA / BLESSING
From the Letter to the Ephesians (which gave guidance to our gathering at General Synod):
Koia ahau, ta te Ariki herehere, ka whakahau nei i a koutou kia rite ta koutou haere ki te karangatanga i karangatia ai koutou.
Kia papaku rawa te ngakau, kia mahaki, kia manawanui, kia ata hanga tetahi ki tetahi, i runga i te aroha;
Me whai kia mau te kotahitanga o te Wairua, he mea paihere na te rangimarie.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph.4:1-3)
Pastor Mark Whitfield BTh MSM
Bishop of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand / Pīhopa o te Hāhi Rūtana o Aotearoa