National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Building of a bishop

September 2013

by Linda Macqueen

‘So, who is this new bloke with the non-German surname?’

In his sermon prior to his installation as our first bishop, John Henderson voiced the question that’s been doing laps around the LCA for months. He was stating the obvious—that his surname rings a bell of change in our church, following the distinctly Germanic names (Lohe, Grope, Steicke and Semmler) of his predecessors in the LCA’s highest pastoral office.

As we come to know him better, we’ll discover that his name isn’t the only thing that is, well, not typical of LCA leaders past and present.

John’s childhood and adolescence were grounded firmly in Lutheran culture, but from there his pathway to leadership departs from the script. It’s coloured with the sorts of experiences that make you suspect that, at every step along the way, God was preparing John for this particular role—to guide the LCA through a time of change.

For change is something John knows quite a bit about. He can’t remember a time when he thought the Lutheran Church was ‘the church’. Probably his maternal grandmother had something to do with that. ‘She was born into a Presbyterian family and married a Lutheran in a Methodist church’, John explains. In her mature years, she worshipped at the Lutheran church in Brisbane’s CBD, went to an Anglican charismatic healing service, sang in the Baptist Crusade Choir and went to Bible study at the Uniting Church.

‘But the Lutheran Church was always her home’, he says. That’s how it is for John too: ‘The church is more than us, more than the Lutheran Church. But this is my home. I’m Lutheran by upbringing, and also by choice.’

His father became a Christian when he was about 23 or 24, after…