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Richard Rohr: learning from midrash

Richard Rohr reminds us of the ‘yes and no’ approach to Bible study, learned from Jewish tradition, where it was called midrash.  In community we learn from each other and respond to invitations to go in different directions by those in our midst.

Yes, And. by Richard Rohr

Yes, And. by Richard Rohr

Jewish Midrash

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I think we learned the Sic et Non approach in the early Christian period from our Jewish ancestors. They called it midrash. Midrash was a different way of coming to truth. It was simply where you get together and look at Scripture in an open—but faith-filled—way: It could mean this; it could mean that. It might challenge you in this direction; it might invite you in that direction. [1]

Jewish midrash extrapolated from the mere story to find its actual spiritual message. We all do the same when we read anyway, but Jesus and his Jewish people were much more honest and up front about this. Fundamentalists pretend they are giving the text total and literal authority, but then it always ends up looking like what people in that culture would want to believe anyway. (Remember, good Bible Christians in the U.S. Confederacy and in South Africa were quite sure the Scriptures justified oppression and enslavement of black people.)

To take the Scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Serious reading of Scripture will allow you to find an ever-new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition. [2]

[1] From Sic et Non; Yes, And webcast recording (MP3 download)

[2] Adapted from Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations, p. x

Gateway to Silence:
Yes . . . and . . .

Of course, we make the association with women’s ministry (or lack thereof) in the Lutheran Church of Australia, in which this blog’s authors reside.   Decades of Bible study on this matter within our communion surely have given understanding that literal use of Scripture to prove various church position erodes its power to transform people. “Let darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness (be) our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.

We can live with each other. In fact, we must. We are family – a family of diverse experience and world view. We can love each other and not pretend that we are identical. We are, after all, not so different to the sit-coms that have family seated around the Christmas table, rubbing up against each others prejudices and making faux pas to be laughed about in coming years.

By loving each other in our difference, we will grow together toward places yet unimagined.  God’s work is surely not complete – there is more in store for each of us.

 
 

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Today, SA women get the vote – 119 years ago

One hundred and nineteen years since South Australian women could vote in state elections!  One hundred and nineteen years since women were considered equal with men in public life.   source: Australian Geographic

It’s ironic, wouldn’t you agree, that women in the LCA so many years afterwards still cannot be pastoral leaders of congregations?

Mary Lee was one of the driving forces behind the South Australian suffragette movement. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Lee was one of the driving forces behind the South Australian suffragette movement. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

ON TUESDAY MORNING, 18 December 1894, the division bells tolled 29… 30… 31. At 31 triumphant cries and applause echoed out of the South Australian parliament as tired campaigners celebrated. They had done it. South Australian women had won the right to vote by 31 votes to 14.

The bill had been debated until after midnight the previous evening. And, as with nearly every debate on the issue, women packed into the public gallery of SA’s parliament building to observe the proceedings.

South Australia among first in the world to grant women the vote

South Australia would be the first Australian colony to give women the vote, and only the fourth place in the world to do so, following New Zealand 18 months earlier. The bill that was passed also made South Australia the first place in the world where women could stand for elections. The right to stand for parliament and other liberal privileges was a clause that was attached to the Act by a councillor who had supposed that these additions would make the bill too radical for it to ever be passed.   (more)

When women are finally ordained, this last sentence highlights that there should be no compromises over women bishops.  If there are no barriers to women’s ordination, then there should be no barriers to women bishops.

 

 
 

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Why St Stephen’s Congregation Support the Ordination of Women

St Stephen’s has published a document explaining why it supports women’s ordination.

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the late Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball, Suncreek UMC http://www.aglorybe.com/memorial/kathleen_b.html

Why St Stephen’s Support the Ordination of Women

The Bible and Lutheran theology endorse the ordination of women (‘Final report on the ordination of women’, CTICR, 1999), and the overwhelming majority of Lutheran churches in the world ordain women.

Scripture
The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), and the Bible gives clear evidence that women served in both of these offices, among others (e.g. Ex 15:20; Judg 4:4; 2 Kgs 22:14; Isa 8:3; John 20:17,18; Acts 18:26; 21:9; Rom 16:1,3,7; 1 Cor 11:5). This continued in the early church until the church started to exclude women from the ministry in the fourth century.
Texts used previously in the LCA to exclude women from such activities as leading Bible studies, lay reading, voting at congregational meetings, and chairing congregations (1 Cor 14:33–36 and 1 Tim 2:11–15) are now used only to exclude women from the public ministry. A contextual understanding of these passages shows they have to do with none of these matters. Rather, they express Paul’s sincere concern that worship be conducted decently and in good order (1 Cor 14:40), so that people can be built up in faith and love, a priority that has been expressed variously throughout the history of the church.

Pastoral Care
Some people prefer to confide in a woman rather than a man regarding pastoral concerns, or regarding specific pastoral issues. While laity also provide pastoral care, when this care connects with the church’s public worship and witness it has an additional dimension. Ordaining women as well as men enhances and extends access to pastoral care within the context of the means of grace.

Ministry
For Lutherans the heart of the ministry consists of the pure proclamation of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments, in order to draw people to Christ and to sustain them in faith (Augsburg Confession 5), not the gender of the pastor.
Continuing to insist on an all-male pastorate perpetuates a requirement that is not biblical and undermines and subverts the gospel.
With both men and women as pastors, the ministry as a whole more truly represents and reflects Jesus Christ, the true image of God, who in his humanity has embraced the whole human race.

The members of St Stephen’s long for the day when the LCA joins those churches that have acted on the conviction that ordaining women is a vital part of our being faithful to the Gospel.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in theology, women's ordination

 

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Jim Wallis – Facebook

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1 Comment

Posted by on December 1, 2013 in theology

 

It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

Reposting the first part of Tony Jones’ article on women in the church

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I don’t take this lightly. I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously. Our eschatological hope is that the church will be one, and that we will all be united in belief, practice, and love.

But sometimes we need to separate. We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way that Jesus laid out for us. We need to divorce.

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.  Read more here.

Sadly, the secular world has discovered the gifts and talents of women decades ago, and there comes a time when enough is enough.  The time for talk is done.  The issue was settled long ago for most people. There is no good news in gender power structures.

It will be difficult for many people. It will cause broken relationships. But we have daughters, and the subjugation of women in the church needs to end in this generation.

 

 
18 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2013 in sociology, theology, women's ordination

 

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Female archbishop of Sweden announced

How often does conversation in Australian Lutheran circles turn to personal ancestry in Germany, Sweden and other northern European countries?  These connections seem to be revealed with sincere pride.

It is one more point of irony in the LCA, when countries of origin have, in the main, moved ahead many years ago with women’s ordination. Note the final sentence in the article from AsiaOne News below:

Sweden follows in the footsteps of other Lutheran churches in the US, Canada, Germany and Norway which have appointed female leaders.

Source – AsiaOne News

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

STOCKHOLM – The Church of Sweden announced on Tuesday that it had elected a woman as its leader for the first time in the institution’s history.

The Bishop of Lund, Antje Jackelen, won 55.9 per cent of the votes from the 324-strong ecclesiastical college and will replace the current archbishop Anders Wejryd.

“I’m a little dazed and grateful for the support I got,” she told news agency TT.

The 58-year-old bishop is married to a priest and has two children.

Jackelen, who was ordained in 1980, said it was not so strange for the church to choose a woman leader.

“It doesn’t come as such a surprise,” Jackelen said. “We have had female priests for over 50 years.”

About two thirds of Swedes are members of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, which separated from the state in the year 2000.

Sweden follows in the footsteps of other Lutheran churches in the US, Canada, Germany and Norway which have appointed female leaders.

“It was about time,” Anders Wejryd told TT.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in politics, women's ordination

 

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Pr Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop of the ELCA, interview on ABC America

Prior to Pr Elizabeth Eaton’s installation as Bishop of the ELCA in Chicago this weekend (recorded here), she gave an interview on America’s ABC TV network.  She touched on a number of topics but describes a Lutheran Church which reflects God’s unconditional embrace of everyone. We believe that the LCA is also called to witness to this astounding love and grace for all people.

Some of the interview is transcribed below.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America not only welcomes paradox (but) we embrace (it). We realise that God has created an incredibly diverse world and that diversity is a kind of a beauty and so we’re a church where everyone is welcome, we would say.  We also hold fast to this notion … that we’re loved by a God who wants to lavishly, unconditionally love every one of us. …  Since we have been loved in this way we are free then to love the world and serve the world. …

We believe that God loves us unconditionally.  God does not love us (as the Billy Joel song says) “Just the way we are”, God wants to call the best out of us.  And so in that freedom we think that we can take controversial decisions…When we say we welcome everyone, I think that’s very important. It was a costly decision for us (ordaining gay and lesbian pastors) but if it is the right decision then no cost is too high. But when we say we welcome everyone we also welcome those who disagrees with that decision.  They are fully members of our Church because we can agree on the cross of Jesus Christ. …

Lutherans have a specific way of reading the Bible.  We are not Biblical literalists – I mean, there are different lists of disciples, the mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed and it doesn’t mean that our Lord didn’t know what he was talking about, but whatever shows forth God’s love as it was revealed in Jesus Christ, that’s what key.  There’s a lot of stuff that is not as important.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Hermeneutics, sociology, theology

 

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