How to assess the opposing interests in the W.O. debate

29 Sep

Have you ever felt uneasy when politicians are being interviewed, listening to them ignore the questions and skirt around the issues?  When journalists persist, they often simply say the same thing again and again using different words? Phillip Adams of Late Night Live on Radio National loves to point out the BS that politicians eternally speak to the electorate.  That’s what comes when individuals are obliged to toe the party line.

In contrast, we have the independents who call a spade a spade.  You know exactly what they think and where they stand. It seems to me that the honest, straight-talking manner of  the independent  Nick Xenophon was the reason the electorate voted him into the Australian Senate in the penultimate elections four years ago.  The topical current group of Federal independents also exude an honesty and clarity of thought that is refreshing in the context of the adversarial two-party political system in Australia.

Concerning women’s ordination, where is the truth? Are the arguments equally weighted? Who speaks with more credibility?  I propose the astounding, preposterous notion that only one side in this LCA debate is straight-talking, consistent and calls a spade a spade.    The argument is simple. It has been announced that there is:

“… no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.

I’m just not interested in the Conservative notion that this does not really apply to women’s ordination.  Such a response is the language of politics.  It is obfuscation. Yes, there are contradicting notions in the Bible, but it was written by humans, albeit inspired by God.  Should we expect perfect works from sinners?  Barbara Moulton, from the Wesleyan Church in Canada, who speaks cogently when considering the call that she has experienced from her early Salvation Army days, explains it like this:

Years from now my children might find letters I wrote to my husband when we were courting. There were things that I wrote to him concerning our faith, our love and our future together which are timeless. They will be edified in reading it. But there are many things I wrote which will have little application because they were written to him at that time and for a specific reason.

Now I know that the Epistles are far grander than my old love letters. I know that God has inspired Paul. But they are still letters. Surely we can discern what is meant to apply for all time and what was written to address specific situations.

Scripture cannot be read for a literal translation. Hermeneutics is no easy discipline but there are many contextual factors contributing to a text that may not apply today.  For example, on the surface, 1 Timothy 2:12 would seem to be clear in prohibiting women’s ordination.

2:11 Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 2:12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.

Barbara Moulton again:

What was in Paul’s mind as he wrote to the pastor at Ephesus? We can take some of his words in isolation and assume that they are the only truth. Here Paul says that he doesn’t allow a woman to teach. But the facts are that he did. He commended them for their teaching in other passages, called them “coworkers (Rom 16:3), and allowed other men to receive instruction from women (Acts 18:26). That suggests that there is more to what Paul is saying than isolated verses read through our own cultural set of lenses.

Paul, despite 1 Timothy 2:12, allowed women to teach and to share their wisdom.

To further take from Barbara’s simple article, she asks if God would say,

I shall pour out my spirit on a woman and she shall prophesy but be silent?  Contrast with Joel 2.28

I shall tell women to proclaim the message of my resurrection but be silent?  Contrast with Matthew 28:5

I shall tell Priscilla who instructed my servant Apollos to be silent?  Contrast with Acts 18:24

I shall tell Philip’s daughters to prophesy but be silent?  Contrast with Acts 21:8

Again and again we have examples from the New Testament where women were prophesying, speaking up, teaching and leading.

Enough twisting of the text! Enough denying the hermeneutical tools that Biblical scholars have brought us in recent generations!  Enough clinging to the maxims of Conservatism, which suggest that ways of old have inherent value simply because they have been handed down to us!   God is alive and walks amongst us, revealing a new creation and a new revelation of God’s presence on Earth.   What is there to fear?

I worked in a church where the minister told me that he would never tell his congregation that scholars think there were three different authors of Isaiah.  He considered that such Biblical research would threaten the faith of his people.  Fear is alive and well in many shapes and forms, not least amongst God’s people.  If we are true to this Jesus, however, who we witness to as our saviour, and who announced the in-dwelling of God’s Spirit, we are called to face our fear and be open to how God is revealing God’s self to us this day.

Long before the life of Jesus we are given a vision of the work of the Spirit in womanhood (and manhood).

Joel 2.28 “After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. 2.29 In those days I will pour my Spirit on servants, on both men and women. 2.30 I will work miracles in the sky and on the earth: blood, fire, and clouds of smoke. [cf. Acts 2:17 ff.]

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy!” Scripture is abundantly clear!  Enough of the qualifying clauses!  Enough revisionism.  The Holy Spirit is clearly and unarguably alive in women so that they might prophesy. The debate is over!

So, how to assess the opposing interests in the women’s ordination debate in the LCA?  Look around  you.  Do justice and walk humbly with your God. On your trip you are bound to see the gifts of women rain blessings on all.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in politics, theology


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4 responses to “How to assess the opposing interests in the W.O. debate

  1. gormlessfool

    May 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Katie and Martin: You mentioned the inspiration of scriptures. It’s a not too astute observation that our understanding of that technical terminology is moulded by what we bring to it. Some people struggle with uncertainty. I think that’s why our latter day LCA church fathers had to add the qualifyer, “Innerant” to skew our understanding. Your Galatians references includes an appeal to our Theology of the Cross. The theology of the cross reassures me that things don’t have to be neatly tied off to be of God, and to bless. I don’t have to impose my own insecurities by demanding that “inspiration” and “innerancy” mean more than they ever can. God is revealed even through corrupted and confusing flesh. It’s a tension that comforts and offers hope. Now we might have to endure a symposium on hermeneutics with the hope that the LCA might develop a uniform dogma (to articulate all of the baby boomer modernist anxieties around process). And once again the little voices will grow silent while the anxious majority rules.

    • Katie and Martin

      May 28, 2011 at 5:50 am

      Thanks gormlessfool for your observations. The “inerrant” addition in recent years is interesting as it demands that dominant theology (dominant interpretation of Scripture) should go unquestioned. Such an attitude is evocative of papal infallibility, where one questions at the risk of exclusion from communion and community. How we long for a lightening of fear and embracing of difference in the LCA.

  2. Glee Tanke

    June 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

    May God be with you – all ‘pro-ordination of women’ voters …. It’s now 2011.
    How amazing it is that the dogmatic are still the majority “vote” in the LCA !
    I commend you all who stay and fight for change along with all those who have the strength, the faith, the gifts, and the spirit to believe that it will happen!
    I pray that the ‘winning post’ at the end of this long ‘up-hill’ struggle is near!
    I’m not a scholar, but post LCA, I have found it so easy to worship in the freedom of God’s church, (It could be the one just across the road or up the street a little from your own). There’s no stress – no dogma – I’m free to be on my personal faith journey – all the time growing in my faith and understanding, and free to step up and be a proactive and useful witness!
    There’s been mutual nurturing and great rapport with other women of faith, women in ministry, and amazing men of like thinking; people of God with open hearts and minds, and where gender is somewhat irrelevant.
    My observation is that in the LCA it’s been like a long, long war.
    I’m sure Jesus’ life was lived simply for good reason……. He preached ‘simplicity’…. can’t we just recognise that that’s what He would want for us?
    I pray that you can make a difference… and that the long ‘fight’ is soon over.

  3. Katie and Martin

    June 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Indeed! It’s a sad reflection on a denomination that so treasures theology.

    The women who have already studied for ordination are of a high quality, and without their formal ministry we are all less than we might be.


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