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LC-MS Removes Rev. Dr. (and Prof) Matthew Becker From Its Role of Pastors

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

By now, many have heard the sad news that as of July 15 the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker will be removed from the roster of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Rev. Becker has been an LCMS pastor for twenty six years, and is currently a Professor at Valparaiso University after having also served several years in the Concordia University System. Rev. Becker has consistently and faithfully spoken out against increasingly narrow interpretations of scripture which in recent years have been embraced by synodical officials as mandatory for any who would consider themselves to be Christian.    Ordain Women Now – an organisation within the LCMS (Read more for further detail)  Read here for Matt Becker’s record of the event.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker is an attempt to homogenise the LC-MS so that it speaks with one narrow theological voice.  However, in these changing multi-cultural and diverse societies it is just not realistic to expect that our theology will be as one.  It is realistic, however, to expect that in our journeying together our theology will grow closer.

We believe that a church should be stable and loving enough to hold differences of theology lightly, and that diversity will bring strength, not weakness.

Joining a church is not a statement that we agree with every theological stance that it may take. Rather, it is a statement that we are willing to journey together as we engage with Christ in our lives and what that might mean for our interaction with society and those around us.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker, rather than being an act of healing, is an act of self-destruction which will most likely lead to further expulsions and departures from the LC-MS.  In the end, the Gospel is not about law, it is about love and forgiving one another in Christ.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in politics

 

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LCA Pastors Discuss Women’s Ordination With Not a Woman In Sight

Huffington Post July 8th 2015 - Attributed to Beladalorb.com

Discussing Women in Society – Huffington Post July 8th 2015 – Attributed to Beladalorb.com

“The conference was reportedly held in 2012 at the University of Qassim and was apparently attended by representatives of 15 countries. …The picture features row upon row of men in traditional keffiyeh and white thobes.” Huffington Post

Most rational people in the West would agree that such absolute exclusion of women demonstrates a misogyny contrary to human rights and destructive to society and religion.  Without women’s voice Arab countries will continue to treat women poorly and treat them as children who must be accompanied by a male family member when out in public – no drivers’ license, no international travel without a male family companion.

LCA pastors are currently meeting in Hahndorf, South Australia without any female voice.  It’s a funny old world isn’t it?  We are able to hold two disparate points of view without any cognitive dissonance.  While we condemn Arab society for its harsh treatment of women, the LCA, through its male pastors, is doing a similar thing.

The LCA has been discussing this issue for around 30 years in a country where women were among the first in the world to receive the vote. Yet, still we cling to this strange notion that we must cling to MIssouri Synod sectarian theology, while other most Western Lutheran churches already ordain women.  Strangely in the LCA there are women chaplains, women adult educators within Equip (adult education for educators in the Lutheran school system), women elders and so on.

It is time!  If the LCA is going to cease being a magnet for those dispossessed of their conservatism from other churches, thus entrenching our inability to adapt to the times, we need to reflect our intention of engaging with the world by creating policies that demonstrate compassion, integrity and justice.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in sociology

 

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To all who are disturbed by the statement published by Dr John Kleinig, ‘Why I Changed My Mind’ – by Dr Wendy Mayer.

Dr Wendy Mayer

Dr Wendy Mayer – photo from http://earlychristianity.cua.edu/visiting.cfm

Dr Mayer is a professor of early church history, known internationally for her work on preaching. For 44 years she was an active member of the LCA. She currently resides in Washington, DC, but continues to work and worship half-time in Australia.

A description of Dr Mayer’s writings can be found here.

Re-posted with permission from the Women’s Ministry Network.


Are you condemned because you’ve come to faith as a result of teaching by pastors who happen to be women?

In my home congregation in Washington, DC, I weekly hear the Gospel preached by Pastor Karen Brau, a third generation Lutheran pastor, with a profound understanding of grace and a passion for the spiritual growth of her parishioners. In South Africa at St Peters Lutheran Church in Pretoria, on sabbatical I again heard the Gospel preached weekly by Pastor Heike, a much-loved, hard-working shepherd of a growing English-language predominantly indigenous South African community, equally loved by the aging non-indigenous German-language congregation. According to Dr John Kleinig, had I come to faith as a result of the teaching of these pastors, Christ who does not recognise the teaching of these women, would not recognise me. Indeed, even by persisting in faithfully worshipping and being active in their congregations, I, along with their destructive ‘works’, am destroyed, ruined, and ultimately condemned.

Am I condemned? The answer is a resounding ‘no!’ As a Lutheran raised in the LCA I can state this with confidence and here is why.

Because together with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530, I and Lutherans across the world, including the LCA, confess that we “cannot be justified before God by our own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith” (AC IV) and “that we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel, that is, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake” (AC V).

It is the Holy Spirit who works faith, when and where it pleases God. It is the Holy Spirit who, through the Word and the Sacraments, works faith, not human beings. Here there is no mention of gender. Indeed when I look at these key confessions of our church, I think of the theology of divine accommodation. It is we human beings whose understanding is limited. We are incapable of completely knowing God, who is beyond gender, infinite in wisdom and mercy. He became human so that we might come to know him in Christ. I ask myself, if God had come to us in human form in Australia in the 21st century when we have women prime ministers and premiers, might it not be possible that we would be reading in our scriptures ‘this is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased’?

Dr Kleinig calls us to be afraid. To be afraid that if, in the Australian Lutheran Church, women are permitted to teach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, our faith is suspect. Christ will not recognise us. We will be condemned. But condemned by whom? God? As Lutherans we affirm that it is God who ‘justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake’. Our salvation is between us and God. This is pure grace. This is why as Lutherans we can be unafraid. The Holy Spirit works faith in us when we hear the Gospel – no ‘if…’, ‘but…’, or other constraint. Salvation is not by pastor (whether male or female – thank, God!), but by grace. Grace is unconditional. To place constraints on it is to deny the Gospel and to confuse it with the Law.

This is why I am not condemned. This is why I know that I am saved. As a confessional Lutheran I can without fear listen to the Gospel and receive the sacraments from any person ordained to the Ministry – because I know that the Holy Spirit works through them, however gendered, however sinful, however flawed.

So, can we as a church come together to vote on this issue in confidence that the LCA will not be divided? The answer in this case is a resounding ‘yes!’ As a confessional Lutheran I can state this without hesitation and here is why.

Just as the LCA and Lutherans across the world confess that we “cannot be justified before God by our own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith” (AC IV), with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530 we accept, too, that “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII). As confessional Lutherans we can be confident that disagreement over matters that fall outside what we hold essential for the unity of the church, no matter how distressing such disagreement might be, is not church divisive. Such disagreements are a natural consequence of our limited human understanding and part of the long history of God’s church on earth. God forgives us unconditionally, and his work in the world persists. Indeed, as confessional Lutherans we can have confidence that any attempt to divide the church because of disagreements over such matters is an unacceptable confusion of Law and Gospel, which will lead inevitably to a distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something for us to take to heart – as both caution and reassurance – on both sides of the ordination of women debate.

March 2015


Dr Kleinig’s “Why I changed my mind” can be found here.
 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in theology

 

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Scripture alone?

Nicolaus Copernicus rocked the church with his heliocentric view of the Solar System.

Nicolaus Copernicus rocked the church with his heliocentric view of the Solar System.

Theologians, both supporting and opposing women’s ordination, have claimed ‘Scripture alone’ as a basis for their arguments.  We Lutherans pay particular attention to such arguments as we hold Scripture as central, but the conflicting arguments for and against any issue, both adhering to ‘scripture alone’, make the term less convincing.

‘Scripture alone’ is well and good if you are arguing for something embracing, tolerant and uplifting – however, to do this, you need to strategically ignore many Old Testament terrifying passages. (Consider this theologian’s reflection on his 20year old understanding of his faith.) However, a simple understanding of ‘scripture alone’ has disturbing implications when used to uphold power structures and difference, for they are the foundations of misogyny, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

‘Scripture alone’ implies that Scripture has all that is necessary for us to decide on matters of contemporary life.  We suggest, on the contrary, that Scripture needs interrogating to find the core truths and to find the cultural unnecessary baggage.  Such interrogation is assisted with the tools of hermeneutics.

‘Scripture alone’ was not enough when it came to deciding on:

Now, it’s probably harsh of us if we condemn the church of old for its theology and action when knowledge was not what it is today, but you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t use ‘Scripture alone’ and yet rely on the benefits of the modern world (including science, research, medicine, democracy). Either you have it completely correct by just using Scripture, in the tradition of the Amish, or you rely on society, culture and science to help you in your quest to understand God in Scripture. Which is it?

The reality is that our knowledge of the world and the structure of the universe is changing.  We are intimately entwined with the world’s understandings, its social structures and its interpretations of justice.  When we are shielded from society we are blinkered, dangerous in our certainty and even sect-like.  Revelation is progressive and also comes through our secular citizens – not so shocking if we accept that God loves and works through us all, even if we are unaware of God’s grace.

While we can accept the principled theological intentions of the term, ultimately Scripture is not the only word on matters of contemporary importance, including the position of women in the LCA.

We thank God for academics, researchers, philosophers, scientists, educators, doctors, social scientists, astronomers…  That’s what makes society so rich.  Without embracing the growing wisdom from these disciplines and professions we are a reduced people.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in theology

 

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The un-civil rights of Christians

bWe

(From bWe Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog)

Today in church, I felt like I was the “N” word. I am a woman. I don’t live in the First Century, but what happened then still rules my church culture today.

My soul cried out. Tears came to my eyes. I wanted to kick, scream and throw something.

(Read More)

Today the church badly needs a Christian Civil Rights Act. But don’t hold your breath. As long as Christians think they can continue to keep women from preaching and in submission to all males, they will do so.

But don’t hold your breath. As long as Christians think they can continue to keep women in submission to all males, they will do so.

 
 

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Richard Rohr – Evolving Consciousness

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.55.41 PM

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation – letting it speak for itself

The Evolving Journey

Evolving Consciousness
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Many historians, philosophers, and spiritual teachers now agree that collective history itself is going through an evolution of consciousness. We can readily observe stages of consciousness or stages of “growing up” in the world at large (e.g. today Christians do not believe that slavery is acceptable, but many at one time did). The individual person tends to mimic these stages, and they seem to be sequential and cumulative.

You have to learn from each stage, and yet you can’t completely throw out previous stages, as most people unfortunately do. In fact, a fully mature person appropriately draws upon all earlier stages. “Transcend and include” is Ken Wilber’s clever aphorism here. Most people immensely overreact against their earlier stages of development, and earlier stages of history, instead of still honoring them and making use of them (e.g. liberal, educated Christians who would be humiliated to join in an enthusiastic “Jesus song” with their Evangelical brothers and sisters even though they would intellectually claim to believe in Jesus, or adults who can no longer play, or rational people who completely dismiss the good of the non-rational).

C. S. Lewis believed it was undemocratic to give too much power to the present generation or one’s own times. He called this “chronological snobbery,” as if your own age was the superior age and the final result of evolution. I would say the same about one’s present level of consciousness. Our narcissism always tends to think our own present stage of consciousness is the ultimate stage! People normally cannot understand anybody at higher stages (they look heretical or dangerous) and they look upon all in the earlier stages as superstitious, stupid, or naïve. We each think we are the proper reference point for all reality. G. K. Chesterton stated: “Tradition is democracy extended through time.” And I would say that enlightenment is the ability to include, honor, and make use of every level of consciousness—both in yourself and in others. To be honest, such humility and patience is rather rare, yet it is at the heart of the mystery of forgiveness, inclusivity, and compassion.

Adapted from The Dean’s Address, Living School Symposium, August 2013

Subscribe to Richard Rohr’s emails here.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and lived kenosis (self-emptying), expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized. Ref: https://cac.org/richard-rohr

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in theology

 

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Lutheran Church in Chile makes it a LWF full house in South America and the Caribean

There is reason to celebrate when all Lutheran World Federation (LWF) churches in Latin America and the Caribbean now ordain women.
We were listening to RN (ABC Radio) this afternoon which was reflecting on soldiers returning from WW1. It was around the time that workers were agitating for a 40 hour week.  It related how the media labelled the workers as traitors when striking for a reasonable length to the working week. There wouldn’t be many today who would begrudge workers a 40 hours week, but for the wealthy and the wielders of power it was a threat.
While freedom of speech is a necessity for a democracy, you have to wonder at the freedom of the Murdochs of that time to spread their fear and conservatism that angrily opposed the workers who were doing their best to eek out a living in tough times.
We continue to long for recognition of women in the Lutheran Church of Australia, knowing that, women’s ordination will quickly be forgotten as a divisive issue.
Roll on General Synod 2015.
All LWF Member Churches in Region Now Welcoming Women as Ministers – See more at: http://www.lutheranworld.org//news/lutheran-church-chile-ordains-first-woman-pastor#sthash.QcIMVk1V.dpuf
All LWF Member Churches in Region Now Welcoming Women as Ministers – See more at: http://www.lutheranworld.org//news/lutheran-church-chile-ordains-first-woman-pastor#sthash.QcIMVk1V.dpuf
 

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