Dr John Strelan

Position:Emeritus Lecturer
Area of service:Emeritus Lecturer


About John Strelan

‘Joe’, as he is usually known, was the third child of ten in the Strelan clan, born in Ungarie, NSW, in 1936 to Peter and Erica Strelan, nee Appelt. His father and maternal grandfather were ministers.

He studied at Concordia College and Seminary, graduating in 1959. At that time, it was observed that he ‘really enjoys being alive, and he can see the funny side of life. He’s a born comedian and has a keen sense of humour. Joe enjoys mixing with people, and is the sort of person that can put life into a party.’

He spent the next three years as the ELCA pastor at Wangaratta, Victoria. He then went to Papua New Guinea as a missionary, and spent the next two decades there. In his own words he was, at the beginning, ‘young, unmarried and ignorant’. He began as a circuit missionary in Kwaikuma, from 1962 to 1965, and was then called to the newly-formed Martin Luther Seminary at Lae. Here, he served as a lecturer from 1966 to 1984, librarian from 1968 to 1980, vice-principal from 1973 to 1976, and Dean of Studies from 1973 to 1980. He lectured mainly in English, but ‘language was a tool, not a prison`. So they often moved in and out of English and Pidgin. He helped to train a generation of national teachers and pastors. He enjoyed the family spirit on the campus, where everybody lived—faculty, single students and married students. He loved the sheer thirst for knowledge which many Papuan students displayed.

He did not stay unmarried for long. Bronwyn Burgess came to PNG in 1964 as a primary school teacher and served on Rooke Island for one year before they met and married. They had four children in subsequent years.

During this time, he spent 1973 in the USA, studying for a Doctorate in Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, St Louis, MO. After his time in PNG, he spent a year from 1984 to 1985 as a guest lecturer at the Missions College and Augustana Hochschule in Neuendettelsau in Germany. He also lectured at the University of Erlangen.

In 1986, he was called to the faculty of Luther Seminary in Adelaide, and remained here until the end of 1997. The first impression of students was that he had ‘a certain charisma, a quiet confidence, which never seems to become disturbed’. He taught in the areas of New Testament and Systematic Theology. He also served as the First Vice-President of the Lutheran Church of Australia from 1988 to 1997.

He accepted a call to Port Macquarie, NSW, in 1998 and retired from full-time ministry in 2000.

ALC positions held

  • Lecturer, 1986–1997
  • Editor, Lutheran Theological Journal, 1986–1997

Qualifications in detail

  • DTh, Concordia Theological Seminary, St Louis, USA, 1973

Papers & publications



Where earth meets heaven: a commentary on Revelation, Chi Rho Commentary, Openbook Publishers, Adelaide SA.


Efesas (Tok Pisin Baibel Kommentari), Kristen Pres, Madang PNG.


The Epistles of John, Chi Rho Commentary, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide SA.


Can a cassette love: and other Bible studies for Christian communicators, Kristen Pres, Madang, PNG.


Ephesians, Chi Rho Commentary, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide SA.


The Crucified King: Studies in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Lectures delivered at the Conference on Partnership in Mission and Development under the Reign of God, held at Port Moresby, Kristen Pres, Madang PNG.


Search for salvation: studies in the history and theology of Cargo cults, rev ed, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide SA.


The return-to-origins motif in Pauline theology and its significance for a theological interpretation of Messianic and millenarian movements in Melanesia, Doctoral Thesis, Concordia Theological Seminary, St Louis MO.

Papers (selected)


‘The legalization of the gospel’, Lutheran Theological Journal 40/2&3, 122–31.


It is happening: congregational mission outreach. Study Guide. Lutheran Church of Australia. Home Mission Dept.


‘Mary MacKillop and “The Service of the Saints”: a commentary on Augustana 21’ Lutheran Theological Journal 29/2, 19–26.


‘The Privatisation of the “Cultus Publicus’’’, Lutheran Theological Journal 27/1, 13–22.


‘Faces of Pluralism’, Lutheran Theological Journal 25/1, 26–37.


‘The Age of Pluralism’, Concordia Journal 16/3, 202–216.

‘The Crying Children’, To the Unborn with Love, compiled by Jan Schmidt, Lutherans for Life, Adelaide, 27–34.


‘Theologia Crucis, Theologia Gloriae: a Study in Opposing Theologies’, Lutheran Theological Journal 23/3, 99–113.

‘Prisoner in the Victory Procession: Meditation for a Sermon on 2 Corinthians 2:14–16’, Lutheran Theological Journal 23/2, 79–81.


‘For Thine are the Statistics’? Sermon Study on Mark 4:26–29’, Lutheran Theological Journal 22/1, 32–36.

‘Singing when the audience has turned its back’, Colleague 15:1, 3–7.

‘Cultures, Religions and Ministry in Melanesia: a review essay’, International Review of Missions 77/305, 136–139.


‘Siassi and Menyamya: the work of Australian Lutheran Mission’ in H Wagner & H.Reiner, eds, The Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 253–272.

‘New challenges: traditional and new religious movements’ in H Wagner & H.Reiner, eds, The Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 469–496.


‘The Pharisee Lurking: Reflections on Luke 18:9–14’, Lutheran Theological Journal 20/2&3, 116–21.

‘Sermon Study: Matthew 20:1–16’, Lutheran Theological Journal 20/1, 19–21.


‘Sermon Study on Luke 16/19–31 (Gospel for Trinity)’, Lutheran Theological Journal 16:1, 41–45.

‘Preparing to Preach: Reflections on Luke 17:11–19’, Lutheran Theological Journal 16/2, 83–87.

‘Luke 2:21: Gospel Lesson for January 1, 1982’, Lutheran Theological Journal 16/3, 138–41.

‘When the church should fall silent’, Media Development 29/4, 37.


‘A Note on the Old Testament Background of Romans 7:7’, Lutheran Theological Journal 15/1&2, 23–25.

‘The Art of Preaching in Melanesia’, Lutheran Theological Journal 15/3, 122–26.

‘Mission Miscellanea: new and on-going Religious Movements in Melanesia’, Lutheran Theological Journal 15/3,140–41.

‘Who heals the healer’, Point 2, 170–179.


‘Response to Dr Hebart’s “The Unique Contribution of the Book of Concord to the Christian Church’, Lutheran Theological Journal 14/3, 132–33.

‘O worship the King’, Point 2, 16–23.


‘The Old Testament and salvation’, Catalyst 7/1, 3–15.

‘Eschatology, myth and history in Melanesia’, Point, 197–207.


‘Our common ancestor: toward a theological interpretation of Cargo Cults’, Catalyst 2, 33–40.

‘Burden-bearing and the law of Christ: a re-examination of Galatians 6:2’, Journal of Biblical Literature 94/2, 266–276.


‘Some aspects of adult baptism according to the Book of Acts’, Australasian Theological Review, 35/4, 117–132.


‘The Organization Church’, Australasian Theological Review, 34/3, 104–105.

Updated: 08/05/2014 10:36am