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Friedrich Max Immanuel Löhe (1900–1977)

by Robin Radford

This article was published:

Friedrich Max Immanuel Löhe (1900-1977), Lutheran minister, was born on 26 May 1900 at Tanunda, South Australia, eldest son of German-born parents Johannes Paul Löhe, the Lutheran pastor of Steinfeld (Stonefield), and his wife Thusnelde Bertha Hildegard, née Völter. In 1902 the family moved to Natimuk, Victoria, where Max attended primary school. He pursued his ambition to be a farmer until he decided in 1915 to proceed to secondary school in South Australia where he completed his senior certificate at Immanuel College, Point Pass. His Wimmera boyhood had given him a 'pro-Australian outlook' which, he later wrote, was resented in the more conservative atmosphere of Point Pass. Löhe returned to farming until 1921 when he felt called to the ministry. He began his theological training at the Wartburg Seminary, Tanunda, in the first class of the newly formed United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia, of which his father was foundation president. In 1923 the seminary was relocated at Immanuel College, North Adelaide, with his father as principal. Löhe was ordained on 2 August 1925 at St Stephen's Church, Adelaide, and installed in the parish of Mackay, North Queensland. At Nazareth Church, South Brisbane, on 29 April 1926 he married Hedwig Adelheid Rechner (d.1988), a 31-year-old milliner from Tanunda. He was pastor at Nazareth Church from 1932 to 1953.

Emphasizing 'a changeless Christ for a changing world', Löhe believed that education was 'the keystone of all church work', and 'intelligent lay leadership' its greatest need. He maintained his commitment to education and the printed word throughout his ministry, preparing teaching materials for Sunday School, serving as a member of college and seminary boards, and editing (1934-48) Lutheran Youth. In addition, he undertook editorial work in Queensland for the Lutheran Herald (1927-34) and the Queensland Lutheran (1943-53), chaired (1943-53) his church's publications board, helped to revise the Lutheran hymnal and edited the devotional book, Lord Teach us to Pray. Keenly interested in architecture, he promoted the renovation and preservation of church buildings. He also supported the Hope Vale Mission in North Queensland, and Lutheran missions elsewhere in Australia and in New Guinea. His fluency in English and German enabled him to be an effective intermediary between the two cultures in both secular and church affairs. He worked for greater understanding and reconciliation—at the parish level, between the two major Lutheran synods in Australia, with Federal and State governments during World War II, and in assisting German-speaking immigrants in the years after 1945.

Löhe was secretary (1933-40) and president (1940-53) of the Queensland district of the U.E.L.C.A. In 1953 he became president-general and returned to North Adelaide. A staunch advocate of Church unity, he was president of the Lutheran Church of Australia from its formation in 1966 until his retirement in 1972. The Wartburg Seminary of Dubuque, Iowa, United States of America, had conferred a D.D. (1955) on him for his services to the Church. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1976.

After travelling widely in Europe, India, North America and Papua New Guinea, Löhe ministered in Canberra and East Melbourne in his retirement. Interested in history, the preservation of church records, and bookbinding, he was influential in the building and establishment of the Lutheran Archives in North Adelaide and became its archivist.

Max Löhe was tall, broad shouldered and imposing. A vigorous and dynamic man, he was conservative in his theology, but sensitive in his handling of difficult issues. His 'strong and insightful leadership' provided a 'stabilising influence' during the first years of the L.C.A. and his 'clear and forthright (sometimes brusque) opinions' gave direction to his colleagues. His home was noted for its hospitality. Most of his personal library was bequeathed to the Luther Seminary and archives in North Adelaide. He was a keen follower and former player of Australian Rules football. Survived by his wife, he died on 23 July 1977 at his North Adelaide home and was buried in Langmeil cemetery, Tanunda. He had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Hebart, The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia English version ed J. J. Stolz (Adel, 1938)
  • E. Leske, For Faith and Freedom (Adel, 1996)
  • Lutheran, 15 Aug 1977, pp 338, 340
  • Löhe papers (Lutheran Archives, North Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Robin Radford, 'Löhe, Friedrich Max Immanuel (1900–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 May, 1900
Tanunda, South Australia, Australia


23 July, 1977 (aged 77)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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