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Synod and Department records

In the Lutheran church in Australia and New Zealand, a synod is the overarching church body to which congregations and pastors belong.

Synods are constituted entities which form based on a unity of teaching and practise, confessing a common theological doctrine and holding to common worship practises. Synods can be regional (eg United German and Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland) or national (eg Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia). Historically, most Australian and New Zealand Lutheran congregations have belonged to a synod, although there are instances of independent congregations and pastors.

At synodical conventions, delegates gather to make decisions on the administrative, theological and mission directions of the synod.

Synods also establish departments to carry out the ministries of the church, such as education, welfare, and home mission. In addition, many church auxiliaries, such as women’s guilds and youth societies, form synod-wide associations or leagues, which generate records at the national level.

In the LCANZ, the geographical divisions of synods are called districts, which in turn produce their own district-level synodical records, departments, and auxiliaries.

Timeline of Lutheran synods in Australia by Pastor HFW Proeve


With a multitude of Lutheran synods – including schisms, confederations, and unifications – the history of Lutheranism in Australia and New Zealand can be complex. Understanding the diverse origins of the Lutheran migrants, and the shaping influence of their international Lutheran connections, is the key to unravelling this complex synodical story.

The first Lutheran church communities in Australia were established in 1838. The early waves of Lutheran migrants came as religious refugees, fleeing persecution suffered in Prussia under King Friedrich Willhem III. This wave included the migration of Australia’s first two Lutheran congregations; Pastor August Kavel and his congregation arrived in South Australia in 1838, followed by Pastor G. D. Fritzsche in 1841. Over the same time period, Lutheran missionaries began arriving in Australia to undertake mission work with Australia’s Indigenous peoples; four missionaries were sent by the Dresden Mission Society to the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains, while a group of Lutheran laypeople from the Gossner Mission Society arrived in Queensland. By 1850, religious persecution in Prussia had eased. Subsequent waves of migration from German-speaking and Scandinavian regions were motivated by economic incentives and other push-and-pull migration factors.

Wherever Lutherans settled, congregations and eventually synods were established as their communities and networks grew. However, these diverse origins meant that as Lutheran congregations multiplied, they did not always find themselves in theological agreement with each other.

In some cases, separate synods were simply a product of geographical factors. Where groups of migrants settled in separate colonies – eg South Australia and Queensland – they simply had no initial contact with each other. Regional, ethnic, and linguistic differences also came into play; for instance, Scandinavian migrants in Queensland and Danish migrants in New Zealand tended to establish congregations independently from their German counterparts.


Other synods formed as a result of schisms between – or even within – congregations. The earliest of these occurred between Australia’s first two Lutheran pastors, Kavel and Fritzsche, in 1846. Breakaway synods, such as the Immanuel Synod a. a. G (Immanuel Synod ‘on the old basis’), formed when differences between factions could not be satisfactorily resolved.

Each synod’s theological character was highly influenced by the international sources from which it drew its pastors. These included German seminaries and mission societies – such as those of Hermannsburg and Neuendettelsau – and also seminaries in the USA.

On the other hand, synods also sought to align themselves with others who shared their convictions, leading to the amalgamation of independent synods into larger regional and national synods over time. Mission to Indigenous peoples was a key driver of attempts at intersynodical cooperation, prompting the Confessional Union (1864-1874) to establish mission work at Lake Killalpaninna in SA, and the formation of the UELCA synod in 1921 to lead mission work in New Guinea.

These parallel forces of division and unification resulted in a constantly shifting landscape of synods and affiliations.

By 1921, this landscape had resolved into two major national synods of roughly equal size: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (ELCA), and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (UELCA), which formed in 1921. After lengthy negotiations, these two synods declared Altar and Pulpit Fellowship in 1965 and amalgamated in 1966, forming the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). The synod is referred to as the LCANZ to recognise the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ), which functions as a district of the LCA.

Read below for an overview of each synod (or federation) and an overview of the holdings. (Noting this is a work in progress!)

types of Records


National level:

  • General convention (minutes, book of reports etc)
  • General pastors conference
  • National president’s/bishop’s correspondence
  • Governance records (constitutions, mission statements etc)
  • Administrative and financial records (General Church Council, General Finance Council etc)
  • Intersynodical records: preparation for the union of ELCA and UELCA


District level:

  • District convention
  • District pastors conference
  • District president/bishop’s correspondence 
  • District governance records
  • District administrative and financial records (District Church Council, District Finance Council)


The records of the various departments, boards and commissions which carry out the ministries of the church, including:

  • Seminary training, teacher’s colleges
  • Local and home mission, outreach, evangelism
  • Welfare (aged care, child welfare, migrant and refugee welfare, army chaplaincy etc)
  • Worship and congregational life (music, liturgy, arts)
  • Education (primary, secondary, Sunday School)
  • Indigenous mission – see First Nation and Mission Records
  • International mission
  • Communication and media (including publishing companies, radio, TV)
  • Theology, interdenominational relations, social questions
  • International and inter-synodical relations (international Lutheran organisations)
  • Church archives, recordkeeping and research. 


National level:

  • Women’s leagues
  • Men’s leagues
  • Youth leagues
  • Lutheran Laypeople’s League
  • Australian Lutheran World Service

District level:

  • Women’s leagues (administration, conventions, publications)
  • Men’s leagues (administration, conventions, publications)
  • Youth leagues (administration, conventions, publications)
  • Schools
  • Aged care facilities
  • Campgrounds


The following is a list and overview of the Lutheran synods - as well as federations or Confessional Unions - that have existed in Australia and New Zealand since 1838 to today, for which Lutheran Archives holds records. The majority of the records are not comprehensively listed but are still accessible for research. Records can be scoped on request for a small fee. Listings of the mission records can be searched on the First Nations and Mission Records page.

A federation of member synods established by the Victoria Synod and the Immanuel Synod in 1876.

Establishment: The establishment of the General Synod was triggered by the ending of the Confessional Union (ELSA and Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod) in 1874. Following the establishment of the Immanuel Synod (established by the joining of the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod and the Tanunda Light’s Pass Synod) a convention (or meeting) was held in November 1874 at Melbourne, with delegates from the ELSAImmanuel Synod and Victoria Synod in attendance. Here the issue of receiving pastors trained at Basel (Basle) Seminary, Switzerland was discussed: ELSA did not agree to receiving Basel-trained pastors; Immanuel and Victoria Synods did agree to receiving Basel-trained pastors as long as they submitted to a colloquy (examination of their beliefs). This resulted in the subsequent establishment of the General Synod by Immanuel and Victoria Synods only.

The first synodical convention of the General Synod was held in 1876. The first President of the General Synod was Pastor Herlitz (from Victoria Synod, 1876-1914), and he was followed by Pastor Braun (from Immanuel Synod aaG, 1916-1921).

In February 1884, at an Immanuel Synod synodical convention¸ the Immanuel Synod resolved to no longer endorse the calling of Basel-trained Pastors. As a result, Immanuel Synod left the General Synod federation, thus effectively ending the federation with only one member synod remaining. 

However, it was re-formed shortly afterwards, following the formation of the Immanuel Synod aaG – which was a splinter group of the Immanuel Synod who continued to support the calling of Basel-trained pastors. Member synods of the General Synod from 1884 onwards were Victoria Synod and Immanuel Synod aaG

In 1889 the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Queensland (ELSQ) also became a member of the General Synod

The General Synod ended in 1921 with the amalgamation of 5 Lutheran Synods to form the UELCA.

The General Synod was a means for providing co-operation between Lutheran Synods in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Whilst it did not undertake or establish any mission ventures of its own (unlike the Confessional Union), it did support existing missions: Bethesda Mission in SA, Moravian Brethren missions in Victoria and Queensland, the Syrian Orphanage in Jerusalem, and the Basel Mission Society, Switzerland.

Member synods:

  • Victoria Synod: 1876 – 1921
  • Immanuel Synod: 1876-1884
  • Immanuel Synod aaG: 1884 – 1921
  • Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Queensland (ELSQ): 1889-1921


Other affiliations: Kirchenbund

In 1920 the General Synod (comprised of 3 synods) joined the Kirchenbund federation (comprised of the UGSLSQ and the Immanuel Synod).

International connections:

  • Basel-trained pastors 1876–1921
  • Neuendettelsau-trained pastors 1876-1884

Origin/predecessors: No predecessor synods.

This is the first Lutheran synod constituted in Australia, in May 1839, by Pastor August Kavel. Pastor Kavel was joined in 1841 by Pastor Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche.

Pastor ALC Kavel was the leader and founder of this church. He led a band of German Lutherans (called Separatists, or Old Lutherans) to emigrate from the village of Klemzig (Kreis Züllichau), and neighbouring villages in the Prussian state of Brandenburg, to South Australia. The English businessman, George Fife Angas, assisted the migrants financially, and the first group arrived on the ships, Prince George and Bengalee, in November 1838.

They established a settlement on the River Torrens and named it Klemzig. A church and school were soon established.

Other German Lutherans soon followed. The Zebra arrived in December 1838 and the Catharina in January 1839. The migrants on the Zebra established the settlement of Hahndorf in 1839.

Kavel invited fellow-pastor, GD Fritzsche, to join him in SA. He arrived with many of his congregation on the Skjold (Skiold) in 1841. They established the settlement of Lobethal.

Settlements in the Barossa Valley at Bethany and Langmeil followed.

Growing disagreement over theological issues resulted in a split at a synodical convention held at Bethany, SA in August 1846.

Kavel and his supporters formed the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod.

Fritzsche and his supporters formed the Bethany-Lobethal Synod.

English names: Kavel-Fritzsche Synod
German names: n/a

Succeeded by:

+ Langmeil-Light Pass Synod [Pastor Kavel]

+ Bethany-Lobethal Synod [Pastor Fritzsche]

Our holdings: view the attached list here.

The Kirchenbund is a federation of synods. No records are retained as a Kirchenbund series but can be located within the member synods.

Kirchenbund: 1910-1921; this was a federation initially between the Immanuel Synod and United German and Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland (UGSLSQ). The Kirchenbund between the two synods had been favourably resolved in October 1910 by the UGSLSQ and agreed to by Immanuel Synod at convention in 1911. In 1920, the General Synod (federation comprised at the time of ELSQ, Victoria Synod, and Immanuel Synod aaG) also joined the Kirchenbund. The Kirchenbund ended when the synods amalgamate (rather than federate) forming the UELCA synod.

Member synods and time of membership:

  • Immanuel Synod (1910-1921)
  • United German and Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland (UGSLSQ) (1910-1921)
  • General Synod (1920-1921)

At the time that General Synod joined the Kirchenbund in 1920, member synods that comprised the General Synod were: Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Queensland (ELSQ); Immanuel Synod aaG; Victoria Synod

Name: Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod

Origin/predecessors: Kavel-Fritzsche Synod.

After the August 1846 schism between Pastors Kavel and Fritzsche (which occurred at a synodical convention held in Bethany SA), Kavel and those in favour of his Protestations left to form their own synod: Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod. Congregations were Langmeil, Klemzig and Hahndorf.

Pastor Kavel died on 12 February 1860. He was succeeded as leader by Pastor Johann Christian Auricht.

In 1860 a split occurred in the Light’s Pass Immanuel congregation of Pastor Staudenmayer, and supporters of Pastor Auricht formed the Light’s Pass Strait Gate (Zur engen Pforte) congregation and called their teacher, G. Julius Rechner, as their pastor. In December 1860 the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod severed its connections with Staudenmayer’s congregation (Light’s Pass Immanuel) and Tanunda St John’s congregation, which then formed the Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synod (1860-1874).

In the years 1864-1874 a Confessional Union existed between the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod and the ELSA. During this time they cooperated to start mission work among the Dieri people at Killalpaninna on the Cooper’s Creek.

In 1862 the church paper, Kirchen und Missions Blatt, was first published. It came out regularly from 1865 under various names (Australisches Kirchenblatt, Kirchenblatt, Deutsche Kirchen und Missions Zeitung).

In August 1874 the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod reunited with the Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synod. They took the name: The Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Synod of SA (commonly known as Immanuel Synod)

Leader: Pastor ALC Kavel (1846-1860)

            Pastor JC Auricht  (1860-1874)

Unions or confederations: Confessional Union (1864-1874): a confessional union with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Australia (ELSA) for the purpose of mission work amongst the Dieri people. The Union ends when the Langmeil-Light’s Pass and the Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synods reunite in 1874 and form the Immanuel Synod.

The Confessional Union ended as ELSA no longer wanted to draw pastorate from the Basel (Basle) Seminary, Switzerland. The issue of Pastors from Basel had been discussed at a convention in 1874 which was attended by ELSA, Immanuel Synod, and Victoria Synod delegates: Immanuel and Victoria Synods agreed to continue to receive Pastors trained at Basel Seminary – ELSA did not, which signalled the end of the Confessional Union. This resulted in the formation of the General Synod – a confessional union between Immanuel and Victoria Synods.

Breakaway Synods: Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synod (1860). They reunite in 1874, forming the Immanuel Synod.

Successors: Continued as Immanuel Synod (1874-1921) after a reunification with the Tanunda Light’s Pass Synod.

Missions: Killalpaninna Mission (Coopers Creek, SA) – Dieri people. Jointly founded by the ELSA and the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod through the Confessional Union. Missionaries were from the Hermannsburg Seminary, Germany and later from Neundettelsau Seminary, Germany.

Our holdings: Archival holdings for the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod are comprised of synodical convention minutes, constitutions, correspondence and include the Confession Union. A listing can be accessed here

Name: Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synodal Verband

Origin/predecessors: Formed by the Light’s Pass Immanuel and the Tanunda St John’s congregations in December 1860.

The formation followed from a split in the Light’s Pass Immanuel congregation (Pastor Staudenmayer) in September 1860: Staudenmayer had concerns over Kavel’s Apostolic Constitution and Protestations – the basis of the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod. Some members who supported Staudenmeyer formed the Tanunda St John’s Congregation (Pastor Keppler), and others remained at Immanuel. Those remaining at Immanuel who no longer supported Staudenmeyer but supported President Auricht left to form the Light’s Pass Strait Gate congregation (Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod).

In December 1860 the members of Light’s Pass Strait Gate and other congregations in the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod severed all connections with Staudenmayer. As a result, the Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synod was formed.

Continues as: Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Synod (commonly known as Immanuel Synod)

In August 1874 the Langmeil-Light’s Pass Synod reunited with the Tanunda-Light’s Pass Synod. They took the name: The Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Synod (commonly known as Immanuel Synod.)

Description coming soon!

Description coming soon!

Description coming soon!

Description coming soon!

  • Dresden Missionaries (1838-1845)
  • Gossner Missionaries (1838-1848)
  • Suomi Conference (Finnish Lutherans in Australia)
  • ELCR
  • AELC

Description coming soon!

Description coming soon!

Lutheran Archives is located on Kaurna Country. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this Country and the Traditional Owners of the lands that have been documented or referenced in our collection throughout Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. We acknowledge their continuing connection to and care of Country, Culture and Community. We pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that names, records and images of deceased persons occur within our collection.