Ecclesiastical Discipline, Adjudication and Appeals Review


At its Convention in October 2018 the LCA General Synod adopted the following resolution:

The General Synod requests the General Church Board to undertake a review of the LCA’s overall Ecclesiastical Discipline Adjudication and Appeals provisions, policies and processes including a review of the PSD and related policies, procedures and practices, in response to concerns raised in congregational and district pastors conference proposals submitted to this Synod on matters related to the discipline and judicial system of the Church.
That the review be conducted by people with no involvement in allegations against the PSD nor with any responsibility for PSD. Those undertaking the review to be members of the LCA and include high level theological expertise and knowledge of police and judicial matters as well as the Royal Commission into the Institutional Abuse of Children. That submissions to the review be sought from interested parties.

As highlighted in the Synod resolution, the resolution was responding to a range of concerns expressed by a number of LCA bodies in respect to the judicial system of the church and the work of the Professional Standards Department.

The resolution aims to undertake the review in a comprehensive and integrated way, rather than address specific issues in a piecemeal manner.

The Synod also resolved that the review be conducted as independently as possible, but the ‘review team’ membership is drawn from the church and consist of people with the requisite skills, qualifications and experience.

Progress update

In accordance with the Terms of Reference, submissions were invited from all sectors and interested parties in the LCANZ. After the closing date of 31 January 2020, the submissions were analysed by the review team, which also conducted interviews and investigated how other organisations manage issues of an ecclesiastical discipline nature. The review team has prepared and submitted a report for the General Church Board. The GCB will now consider the report’s findings and recommendations. A report will be submitted to the Convention of General Synod later this year. More information about the review process and its progress follows.


In November 2019 a submission paper was developed and distributed to pastors (including bishops), calling body chairpersons, district administrators, church leaders and General Synod delegates. The submission window closed on 31 January 2020.

  • Ninety-two submissions were received: 47% case-based, 53% general commentary.

The breakdown of respondents was:

  • 26% pastors
  • 25% members
  • 21% governance groups
  • 15% direct involvement
  • 7% other
  • 5% church workers.


The review team identified and examined the complaints handling, professional standards, judicial processes, preventative structures and best-practice conflict and discipline management strategies in comparable organisations within Australia and the world:

  • 4 international churches
  • 6 Australian church denominations
  • 9 state/diocese church entities
  • 8 church education entities
  • 5 secular organisations
  • 3 government entities.

More than 89 documents were researched and 10 interviews were conducted.


In addition, the review team conducted consultation interviews of key persons identified from submissions, as well as those directly involved in the LCA’s current discipline and judicial system.

More than 22 LCA policies, procedures and documents were reviewed and 21 LCA consultation interviews were conducted. These included:

  • LCA Bishop and District Bishops
  • Professional Standards Department
  • Tribunal Administrator and Panel
  • Reconciliation Ministries
  • Australian Lutheran College
  • Church Worker Support Department
  • Constitutional Review Committee.


The review team’s findings have been collated into a final report, which has been submitted to the General Church Board.


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