History of the Lutheran Church of Australia

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The history of the Lutheran Church of Australia is the sequence of events related to divisions, mergers and affiliations of Lutheran church organisations from the time Lutheranism first arrived in Australia, to the time of unification of the two main synods in 1966.

First Lutheran Body in Australia (Kavel-Fritzsche Synod)[edit]

The first Lutherans to come to Australia in any significant number, were immigrants from Prussia, who arrived in 1838 with Pastor August Kavel. This period in Prussia was marked by a persecution of Old Lutherans who refused to use join the Prussian Union, under King Frederick Wilhelm III. On 23 and 24 May 1839, Kavel convened a meeting of the elders of the three Prussian settlements at Klemzig, Hahndorf, and Glen Osmond. At this meeting, the constitution of the new Australian Lutheran synod was adopted.

In 1841, a second wave of Prussian immigrants started. with the arrival of Pastor Gotthard Fritzsche. He settled with the migrants in his group, in Lobethal, and Bethanien.

Division into Immanuel Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia[edit]

Relations with the earlier Prussian settlers was initially quite harmonious, however this was to change. In 1842 Pastor August Kavel in an attempt to consolidate the settlers into one localized community, strongly urged the settlers in the early settlements at Klemzig and Hahndorf to relocate to the newly settled Langmeil. Many of the settlers in these towns refused, and an underlying tension arose between these communities and Pastor Kavel.

At the synodical gatherings of 1844, and 1845 the subject of millennialism was discussed. Kavel who had developed millennialistic views, was preaching on the subject. Fritzsche disagreed with millennialism, and had the subject discussed at these gatherings. No resolution was reached by the end of the synod in 1845. This disagreement between the two pastors divided the Lutheran community.

In 1846, Kavel released a proclamation regarding the power of civil government in the church. Kavel specifically pronounced disagreements with the Lutheran Confessions, favoring instead statements made in the new adopted church constitution formulated in 1838. Fritzsche explicitly disagreed with Kavel, affirming the Confessions over the constitution. As a result the divide between the followers of Fritzsche and of Kavel intensified.

At the synodical gathering at Bethany, on 16 and 17 August 1846, the most significant event took place. The subject of millennialism was once again tabled, and as the discussion became heated, Kavel and his followers left the synod. They went to nearby Langmeil and had their own synod gathering there, while the remainder continued with their synod. The followers of Kavel formed the Immanuel Synod, and those of Fritzsche the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Australia. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Australia renamed to Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia (ELSA) in 1863.

After Kavel’s death (1860), and Fritzsche’s (1863), the Immanuel Synod, and ELSA were able to reconcile some of their differences. This resulted in a “Confessional Union”, but not an organizational merger.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia[edit]

ELSA continued to coexist independently with the other Lutheran synods until 1966. It underwent a name change in 1944, to Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (ELCA). One group did break away from ELSA in 1904, and became a district of the Ohio Synod, of the United Lutheran Church in America. This group called themselves the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia auf alter Grundlage (ELSA a.a. G) (auf alter Grundlage – on old basis).

Lutherans in Victoria[edit]

In 1856, a new independent synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Victoria (ELSV), with Pastor Matthias Goethe serving as president, was founded to serve the Lutheran congregations in Victoria.

General Synod and the Immanuel Synod[edit]

In 1860, the year of Kavel’s death, a group broke away from the Immanuel Synod. This break away group developed a union with the ELSV, that was called the Evangelical Lutheran General Synod (General Synod).

In 1874, the Immanuel Synod also developed an affiliation with ELSV. ESLA was opposed to the practice of ELSV to call non-Lutheran pastors, so the Confessional Union they had with Immanuel Synod was dissolved. With this event the Immanuel Synod renamed themselves, the Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Synod (ELIS).

The ELIS in 1884 broke ties with the General Synod, because of this same practice of calling non-Lutheran pastors. When this event occurred in 1884, a small group from ELIS choose not to break away, and they organized as a separate synod named Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Synod auf alter Grundlage (ELIS a.a. G).

Lutherans in Queensland[edit]

In 1885 two Lutheran group formed in Queensland. The first was called Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Queensland (ELSQ), the second United German-Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Queensland (UGSELSQ). ELSQ was initially independent, but joined the General Synod affiliation in 1889. UGSELSQ was also independent at first but merged with ELIS in 1910.

United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia[edit]

After World War I, Papua New Guinea was put into the hands of the Australian government. With this were the large number of German missionaries, that were to be transferred to the control of Australian churches. This issue is attributed as a large reason for the formal amalgamation in 1921 of all the independent synods affiliated in the General synod and ELIS. The new organization was known as United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (UELCA). ELSA a.a. G, which had continued to operate independently since they formed in 1904, merged with UELCA in 1926.

Merge of UELCA and ELCA into the Lutheran Church of Australia[edit]

On 27 August 1956, the UELCA and ELCA both adopted the Theses of Agreement, which set the stage for the merging of the two organizations. The final merge occurred in Tanunda, South Australia, at a joint synod held on 29 October to 2 November 1966. The merged organization was named the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA).

In 1973, the Lutheran Church of Australia published its first hymnal, the 'Lutheran Hymnal', revised in the mid-1980s into the present hymn book, the Lutheran Hymnal with Supplement.

References[edit]