How and Why the ELCR Was Formed

The ELCR was formed in 1966, when a number of sincere Lutherans could not, for conscience reasons, enter the union between the former Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (ELCA) and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (UELCA) into today’s Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). Below is a brief overview of the events leading up to formation of the ELCR and the reasons for its formation.

1928 – Union Negotiations Fail. After 1926 there were only 2 Lutheran bodies in Australia. In 1928 negotiations between the two bodies were attempted. However they broke up because the differences were too great. In what did these differences consist? Unlike the ELSA, the UELCA did not base their teachings on the true Word of God in the following matters: Open Questions, Holy Scriptures, the Last Things, the Millenium, Antichrist, Conversion of Israel, Church and Ministry, Election, Christ as the God-man, Attitude to the Lutheran Confessions, Sunday, Church Fellowship and Engagement. These differences were clearly recognised by both churches.
1930 – Prof Zschech comment. Already in 1930, Prof Zschech made the comment to Pastor Kleinig, “We (the ELSA) are no longer the old ones. A different spirit is entering our church.”

Professor Zschech

Professor Zschech

1941 – Haaman spreads false view on Rom 16:17-18. In 1926 Dr Haaman (snr) was called as professor to Concordia Seminary, Adelaide. Being a highly educated man, he soon was highly respected by the ELSA. But sadly he was infected with a false view on the doctrine of Church Fellowship in the Bible. In 1941 he wrote an article in the Theological Magazine of his church proposing a change in position on the doctrine of church fellowship. In regard to Rom 16:17-18 he claimed that the command, “Mark and Avoid,” should no longer be applied to all false teachers, but only to those who can be proven to be unbelievers.

Dr Hamann Snr

Dr Haaman Snr

1948 – Change in position on Church Fellowship. This false position was accepted by the ELCA (its new name) in 1948, at a Pastoral Conference held at Jindera, NSW. This conference also agreed to allow prayer fellowship between the committees of both churches, who had commenced union negotiations again in 1941. Sadly, very few voices from the ELCA raised any objections to these changes in doctrine.

After this change in position of 1948, the ELCA quickly gave way to the UELCA’s position in one doctrinal matter after another. A document called the Theses of Agreement was drawn up which supposedly settled the differences between the two churches. However, it was based on the evil Open Questions Principle (the false belief that we may agree to disagree with others in regard to doctrines which have been clearly revealed in the Word of God), having cleverly worded statements which allowed each side to retain their former teachings. This is clearly seen by Theses I, para 4 (e), which states that differences in doctrine need not hinder fellowship between the churches.

1959 – Theses of Agreement (Evil Open Questions). The Theses of Agreement were adopted by the UELCA in 1956 and ELCA in 1959. However, union did not occur for another 7 years because of differences regarding fellowship with overseas bodies. The UELCA, for example, was a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) which the ELCA would not join. This was a clear sign that there was no true unity between them.

1965 – Document of Union (Compromise). Finally, in 1965, the Document of Union was drawn up which proposed that both churches cut their overseas fellowships, in order that union could proceed. Differences in these matters were declared to be Open Questions, and the suggestion made that they be settled after union by the united church. Both churches accepted this document in 1965, resulting in the declaration of fellowship in Nov 1965, and formation of the LCA in 1966. This was a sad day for true Lutheranism in Australia.

Signing Of Document Of Union

Dr. M. Lohe (President, UELCA), Pastor H. D. Koehne (President, ELCA) signing document of union and Dr. F. Schiotz giving his blessing

To the events just described, only one faithful pastor from the ELCA objected and was prepared, taking his stand on Scripture, to leave the now heterodox (false teaching) ELCA. This was Pastor F G Kleinig, who had been trained in Concordia Seminary, ELSA, graduating in 1924. Recognising that the ELCA had departed from Scripture, he and a number of solid lay Christians refused to be a part of the LCA.

Pastor F. G. Kleinig, 1967

Pastor F. G. Kleinig, 1967

1966 – Formation of ELCR. A number of independent Lutheran congregations were formed at Kumbia, Murgon, Maryborough, Gympie and Woombye, Queensland, who called Pastor Kleinig to be their shepherd. In March-May, 1966, a number of meetings were held, which resulted in the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of the Reformation (ELCR), Pastor Kleinig being their sole pastor.

Council of ELCR 1967

Council of ELCR 1967
L-R: Noel Priebbenow, Herb English, Pastor Kleinig, Hector Winter, Lyle Zanow and Benny Jeffers

Today the ELCR has congregations in Brisbane, Kingaroy, Toowoomba, Woombye, Lowood and Melbourne. The congregations are served by Pastors Bryce Winter, Gavin Winter and Timothy Winter.

The ELCR is characterised by love for and loyalty to Christ and the pure Word, adherence to pure Lutheran teaching, and out of love to Jesus the leading of Godly lives.

“May God in His mercy grant that the ELCR continue to remain faithful to pure Lutheran teaching, that through God’s Word souls be rescued from sin and kept in the true faith to eternal life.” – G.L. Winter

For a detailed history or more information on the ELCR, please contact our pastors.