Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Testosterone Behind Male Leadership

Testosterone - there are differences between male and female leadership

Women today have greater access to the halls of education, sport, power and leadership, however, there are still many barriers to them following their calling, not least of these being a dualistic theology. On the one hand it is maintained that male and female are equal in the eyes of God, but on the other hand this equality, it is asserted, does not extend to ordained ministry. While this distinction is odious, with the CTICR (Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations) some ten years ago, having declared that there were no theological objections to women’s ordination, there is a new emphasis on avoiding a split within the LCA. For this new purpose women’s ordination continues to be blocked. Interestingly, another focus against women’s ordination for some years was the ‘fatherhood’ of God, which amused theologians from the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). The goal is to avoid women’s ordination, it is only the means to the end that changes. Presumably the theory is to postpone women’s ordination for as long as possible in the hope that the issue will go away.

While President Mike Semmler may not be the chief protagonist against women’s ordination in the LCA, he is arguably the most significant in the way he exerts influence and in the manner that he has chaired General Synod. While
1. he asserts that he has not made his opinion on women’s ordination public, and
2. his expressed concern is that of maintaining unity within the Church,
his actions clearly indicate his oppositional attitude to women’s attitude.

It was disappointing how he chaired the 2009 General Synod. When it came to the vote on women’s ordination in the LCA, he vigourously counselled from the Chair that if delegates were at all unsure they must vote against the motion. If delegates were not present, their absence was counted as being against the motion, and informal votes were counted as being against women’s ordination. These are not healthy signs of a well-functioning democracy.

Such a leadership style is not new. Through history men, in the main, have manipulated power and process to achieve their desired ends. It seems that, in general, women and men have a different perspective on many things. Is there a hormone induced difference between male and female? This reading would suggest so:

In addition to brain differences, many essentialist theorists argue that hormones play a large part in explaining the disparities between men and women. Testosterone, the primary male hormone, floods a boy’s body at puberty and induces the growth of body hair, the deepening of the voice, and the development of muscles. Testosterone is also responsible for aggressiveness, sexual desire, and competitiveness. Both men and women produce testosterone, but women produce about 70 percent less than men. Thus, according to journalist Iain Murray, “Testosterone is crucial in making men men—literally.”

Similarly, women produce a large quantity of a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes bonding and affiliation. According to researchers, both men and women produce oxytocin, but women produce it in greater quantities. Moreover, researchers contend that testosterone counteracts the effect of oxytocin, while estrogen, the primary female hormone, enhances it. Oxytocin promotes affection within relationships, but it is most known for enhancing the maternal instinct. Scientists maintain that oxytocin is released during childbirth and breastfeeding and is responsible for creating a strong bond between mother and child. The fact that women are more affected by oxytocin than men, according to experts, helps explains why women are often better nurturers and caretakers than are men. Male/Female Roles | Introduction

We are concerned that our Church leadership had predetermined goals before General Synod commenced. To achieve these goals, when delegates were working from a model of democracy, was always going to take a level of manipulation from the Chair. We assume such an approach was seen by the male leaders to be strong leadership, however, another view on this style of leadership is to label it as more typically male. Gender Differences and Leadership If we consider a more female (oxytocin driven) style of leadership, which includes process, consensus and building relationships we have a stark contrast in styles and a revealing view into what the LCA might look like with female leadership in the form of women clergy.

The consequences of the outcome of leadership style is an increased cynicism within the Church and a decreased faith in due process and lay involvement. We need a genuine pastoral leadership from the Chair of our General Synod. When the Chair becomes partial and enters or manipulates the debate, delegates begin to lose their democratic choice and their spirit. The Chair needs to establish a brutal impartiality and, especially in the church setting, provide strong pastoral support to those from opposing points of view.

It is humbling to view/read Bishop (ELCA) Mark Hanson’s pastoral address to delegates at their Eleventh Churchwide Assembly. This was in regards to the delicate topic of gay and lesbian ordination within the ELCA. The LCA needs such leadership.  Leadership that reflects Christian theology of reconciliation, growing together, process and consenus.


Posted by on November 27, 2010 in politics, sociology


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From the LWF – the Witness of Ordained Women Today

An LWF consultation in 2008 invited churches to see,

… that limiting the ordained ministry to men obscures the nature of the church as a sign of our reconciliation and unity in Christ through baptism across the divides of ethnicity, social status and gender (cf. Gal. 3:27-28).

“We view the ordination of women not primarily as a societal or women’s issue but as a matter that goes to the heart of what it means to be the church. The church’s witness to God’s reconciliation and freedom in Christ is compromised when women are excluded from being able to serve as public witnesses to this by proclaiming the Word and celebrating the sacraments.”

In considering the use of scripture the report suggests, “rather than focusing only on select passages, either in favor or in opposition, we call for a more comprehensive understanding of the witness of Scripture, as centered in Jesus Christ. We point especially to the Lutheran understanding of the living voice of the gospel (viva vox evangelii)”.

“Often, it is not theological but cultural reasons that stand in the way of women being ordained. This is especially the case where hierarchical and patriarchal practices are entrenched. In the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ ministry, what is obvious is how he repeatedly challenged cultural assumptions and practices that excluded others, particularly women. He also challenged hierarchical patterns of religious leadership. The liberating power of the gospel continues to challenge such assumptions and practices today. A 1992 LWF consultation noted that often

[t]he problem lies not with the culture of the surrounding society but with a particular culture that has developed within the church…. After many decades, however, not only is that “church culture” foreign to the church in the countries from which it was imported, but it also becomes a barrier to evangelism locally.

While the LCA couldn’t quite become a member of the LWF, preferring to maintain strong links to Missouri Synod and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) – the Association of  ‘Confessional’ Lutheran Churches, – this pre-eminent international Lutheran body continues to be strongly concerned that member churches bring about women’s ordination:

“Now, as we prepare for the Eleventh Assembly in 2010, in the spirit of what it means to be a communion of churches, we ask each of our member churches to consider how they have responded to this call and what in all our communities remains to be done. In particular:

As we anticipate a new and accessible LWF resource for use in local settings, we call on member churches to encourage local congregations to engage in educational discussion so that members can understand better the theological grounds for ordaining women.

There is strong support from the LWF to ordain women, however, when the LCA President suggests that the LCA needs help in moving forward, there will be no surprises when President Semmler requests Missouri Synod (non-LWF) to offer their experts to help the LCA move ahead.

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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Hermeneutics, sociology, theology


A reply to Pr John Kleinig


australian lutheran college

Australian Lutheran College, Nth Adelaide

Pr John Kleinig, who is possibly the LCA’s key figure in opposing women’s ordination, has had a significant influence over Seminary (male) students, and therefore over the LCA.   His influence at ALC, along with that of Pr Andrew Pfeiffer, is highly strategic within the LCA, in the continued denial of women’s call to the ordained ministry.

While Kleinig is a highly respected theologian in traditional quarters, his loyalty to Luther’s courage of questioning Catholic status quo has no such credibility.   Kleinig has little enthusiasm for the Protestant tradition of grappling with continued revelation of Gospel truth.  Rather, his approach is one of elevating and delving deeper into tradition, focussing on fatherhood, and in doing so, hoping to find reason that contemporary Christians should forego modern means of worship and changing attitudes to groups in society.  Kleinig, not unlike the Amish, clings to traditions from ages past and gives them a status that Luther surely never intended.  Sadly, he has done a disservice to the LCA in its struggle to maintain relevance with contemporary society and its ever decreasing numbers in congregations and support for mission.

The following paper, Is the ordination of women church divisive? shows Kleinig’s approach to doctrinal matters and how he works for unity with Catholic tradition rather than honour those women who are called to serve as pastors within the LCA.

The reprinted paper below has my comments interspersed.


John W Kleinig (date unknown)

1.     Confessionally speaking, it is true that those who advocate the ordination of women are not heretics. They may teach false doctrine, but they do not deny the Triune God and so sever themselves from the body of Christ.

K+M: No, those advocating women’s ordination do not teach false doctrine. In 1999 the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships (CTICR) found, with a 2/3 majority, after a decade of study, that there was no theological objections to the ordination of women.  Again in 2006, with a 2/3 majority they reached the same conclusion.

2.     They do not thereby deny the teaching of our Lutheran confessions, but they do reject the confessional basis of the LCA as contained in the TA. On this level such a move would be divisive, for it would separate those who are committed to this as the confessional and legal basis for the LCA and its ministry from those who had departed from it.

K+M: Each denomination which has ordained women has stories to tell of the threats of church division prior to the event.  The reality is, when women are ordained, that they become a blessing for the church, often in the context of male systemic and domestic violence, and opponents are mostly won over.

3.     Ecumenically, it would be divisive in two ways. It would separate the LCA from the church catholic and the orthodox tradition from the early church until modern times. We would therefore move away from those churches which adhered to that tradition and align ourselves with unorthodox Protestant groups. We would ourselves forfeit the right to be catholic and become a sect. We would, of course, thereby separate ourselves from those Lutheran and Protestant churches which continued to uphold the orthodox teaching on ministry and the catholic practice of it.

K+M: It seems to me that this is the crux of Kleinig’s objection.  It is his heart-felt conviction that the Catholic tradition is something that we need to return to.  The question for the rest of us is whether or not we wish to become Catholics or adhere to the tradition that Luther laid out before us.

4.     It would inevitably lead to divisions within each congregation of the LCA. Every call meeting would lead to a battle between those who wanted to call a woman and those who did not. If a congregation did appoint a woman as a pastor, those who conscientiously rejected her authority would either have to leave or stay away from any services led by her. Every woman pastor would constantly face theological challenges to her authority from her opponents and so need to justify her position in the congregation.

K+M: The experience of other churches is that initial reservations are mostly overcome in the first few years through the pastoral care that these women give in times of need.

She in turn would be unable to exercise proper pastoral authority to maintain the divine unity of the congregation.

K+M: Pastoral authority is not male authority.  It is that given by the crucified Jesus, based on love and forgiveness.  Gender logic is a strange thing.  It is exclusive language, deeming women to ‘otherness’ and thereby disallowing them any right of reply.  ‘Otherness’ can play no part in Christianity.  It may play a part in patriarchy, tradition and conservatism, and certainly does play a part in sexism, racism, and homophobia, but it can never play a part in Christianity, where Jesus lays his life down for each of us in order that we are all brought to the fullness of new life and empowerment in the risen Christ.

5.     It would be liturgically and sacramentally divisive. Those who rejected the ordination of women would not in good conscience receive the sacrament from a woman pastor. They would therefore be excluded by the church from the sacrament and the fellowship created by participation in it. If they did receive the sacrament from her, they would do so with a bad or uneasy conscience, for they could not be sure that the sacrament was valid, since, for them, it had not been administered as Christ had commanded. They would therefore be deprived of its comfort and subject to the accusation and condemnation of the evil one.

K+M: Once again other churches would beg to differ. In the end the issue is not a liturgical or sacramental division but one of culture and tradition.  There are endless stories from those who can attest to the comfort received and the grace conveyed through women clergy.  The matter is an experiential one, where one at a time we experience Christ through the witness of a woman in a pastoral position, and one at a time are convinced of God’s calling to women.

6.     It would be synodically divisive. If a woman became a president, all the pastors who opposed the ordination of women would either refuse to recognise her or leave that district. People who rejected the ordination of women could not participate in any synodical service where a woman was giving the absolution, preaching, or presiding at communion. It would lead to the withdrawal of congregations from synod and the establishment of independent congregations – perhaps even districts- opposed to this doctrine and practice.

K+M: While there are many clergy who oppose women’s ordination, this is in no small way due to the influence that Kleinig and Pfeiffer have had at ALC over many years.  I understand that Kleinig has considerable charisma and influence, which would make it challenging for any student to resist his influence over years. It is interesting to note that Pfeiffer was theologically progressive before studying at Fort Wayne Lutheran Seminary, Missouri Synod, in the USA.  On his return to Australia, his theology was that of the conservative Missouri Synod.

Kleinig was also ‘outed’ on the anti-women strategies used when one of his letters to a Missouri Synod group was published on the internet, revealing the manipulation that had occurred at Pastor’s Conference in 2006.

It is not surprising that there may be synodical division, but Kleinig and Pfeiffer will need to take some responsibility for that.  Congregational withdrawals from the LCA may be inevitable.  If we ordain women some congregations may withdraw, and if we refuse to ordain women some congregations may withdraw.  We will need to deal with that, but as the years pass members will find the grace of God is conveyed as efficaciously as before and perhaps, even more so because the majority of our membership are women, who often communicate more deeply with another woman.

There should be no compromise on women as presidents or bishops.  To do so is having a bet each way on God’s grace.  If there is no objection to female clergy there can be no objection to female presidents.

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Posted by on November 12, 2010 in sociology, theology


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“The Authority of Scripture, Women’s Ordination and the LCA”

The Journal of Lutheran Ethics, ELCA,

carries a concise summary of the women’s ordination debate in the LCA, including the history and hermeneutics brought by the different sides.  The author, Tanya Wittwer, is a doctoral candidate at Flinders University in South Australia, holds a Master of Divinity From Wartburg Seminary in Iowa and is Master of Public Health Coordinator, University of Adelaide.  She points out the manipulation that has occurred by the ministry-for-men proponents.

Excerpts are included below.  For the full article, including papers and references from many sources, click here.

7] Those that argue that Christ established the office of ordained ministry do so on the basis of passages such as Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23. There appears to be no acknowledgement that these “establishment” verses may be being used to justify existing practice based in tradition rather than providing a clear mandate for ordained ministry. Those that would argue for the office of ministry having been developed in the early church would look to, for example, Acts 15, Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 4:11 for evidence of an emerging (and diverse) ministry structure. This discussion seems not to have been part of the ordination debate.[8] The study of the ordination issue has focussed on the two verses used as the basis for the prohibition paragraph in The Theses of Agreement rather than using as the starting place the witness of Scripture regarding ordained ministry. I surmise the reason for this is the assumption of consensus regarding the office of ministry.

[10]…However, there have been persistent hermeneutical differences between those engaged in the discussion, and it could be argued that these have been shaped by the ideological positions held prior to any Scriptural study.

[11] Significant voices in the debate have argued from what they maintain to be a literal (but not Biblicist) understanding of Scripture. The subordination of women is an implicit assumption for many. Other significant voices uphold a viewpoint that the Gospel is central to all interpretation and that allowing the text to speak implies a contextual reading. Many of the same people would suggest the Holy Spirit remains active in the development of the church and its theology.

[13] While the official line has been maintained that all discussion in the church on the matter of the ordination of women has been on the basis of Scripture, the reality is that it has been a discussion nested in political strategem.  Many decisions about process have been less than transparent. Those nominated by the church to provide leadership in matters of theology voted by a two-thirds majority – after a long process of study and discussion – that Scripture permits the ordination of women. However, when the General Synods of 2000 and 2006 were asked to discuss and vote on the issue there was silence about the work of the CTICR and the impression continues to be given that they did not reach a decision. A task force was established by the General Church Council following a resolution of the 2006 Synod, “to determine and implement strategies for promoting greater consensus on the matter of the ordination of women” but the report of the task force to the 2009 Synod seems to suggest that the previous study and discussions were ignored.

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Posted by on November 6, 2010 in Hermeneutics, politics, theology


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Is Women’s Leadership in the Church a Primary Issue?

Mimi Haddad from Sojourners,

suggests that the answer is often, ‘No’, with the primary issues being understood as “those that focus on the gospel, evangelism, and the leading of the lost to Christ”.

Haddad tells the story of Emily, who is alienated by the church’s attitude to women and consequently loses her faith.  She asserts that, “One’s biblical position on gender clearly advances or diminishes the good news of the gospel”.

When people find the presentation of faith as illogical and unjust they re-examine Scripture and find that, “The differences between egalitarians and complementarians (those who support a male model of authority) run deeper than a difference in interpretation or personal preference. Egalitarians and complementarians present differing worldviews, and this is why so many of us challenge gender-hierarchy as God’s ideal”.

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) of which Mimi Haddad is president,” is devoted to showing individuals like Emily — who have left the church, or who refuse to marry, or who have joined other religions — that scripture does not extend authority to men just because they are male. Rather, leadership and service is the product of God’s gifting, one’s intimacy with God, and one’s moral choices”.

Read more.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in sociology


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Congregations will eventually ordain women

In the LCA congregations will eventually begin to ordain women.

It is happening in the Catholic Church because congregations are despairing of any change through formal channels. In August Elaine Groppenbacher became the fourth female to be ordained a Catholic priest in the Phoenix area, USA.  When the Vatican increasingly loses respect and authority, congregations will increasingly risk being ejected from the fold to do what they think is right … and this is in a tradition where obedience has a high priority.

“We’re the Rosa Parks of the Catholic Church,” says Bridget Mary Meehan, a Womenpriests bishop and former nun. “We no longer accept second-class status in our own religion.” Read more.
The Vatican is in crisis.  It is facing a drop in membership despite Catholic policy against birth control, it is beginning to face the crimes of its clergy from the last few generations, (I shudder to think of the undisclosed crimes from the last two millenia) and very few Catholics have any respect for the Catholic decree prohibiting the use of contraception, which has led to a devastating surge of AIDS in Africa. In addition, a US CBS poll says that the majority of Catholics support women’s ordination.
There is panic in the Catholic camp for the Vatican is responding with inordinate force, denouncing  “female ordination a delictum gravius, or a grave crime, the same label it has given to pedophilia.”  Time Magazine 27th September 2010, pp 53-55 The Vatican declares that women who attempt to become priests, and the officiating bishops, will automatically be excommunicated from the church. Let’s be clear about this – women who wish to share the gospel through the ordained ministry are condemned with the same language as paedophile priests who use children for their own sexual gratification!  Such loss of perspective and such loss of focus indicates a blinkered urge to regain control of a diverse Church and an accompanying loss of pastoral care and vision.
It is clear where the Vatican’s priorities lie. The Times cites the case of Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who was excommunicated two months after he took part in a ceremony ordaining a woman. It took years after bishops’ requests, in many cases, to defrock pedophiles.

Women and men have waited generations for women’s ordaination in the LCA.  It is a certainty that congregations will eventually lose patience with the callous handling of this pivotal issue.  It is unlikely that the Church can remain intact through another General Synod without ordaining women.  I believe that General Convention 2012 will be a turning point.  No more will all congregations be content to trust in the process.  No more will they trust that women’s ordination ‘will soon happen’.  No more will they trust Church leadership. No more will they continue to tell the women in their midst to continue waiting.

Congregations will increasingly consider their options are as General Synod 2012 draws closer.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in sociology, theology


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Elizabeth Platz – The ELCA’s first female pastor celebrates 40 years

Pr. Elizabeth Platz on her ordination

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz is celebrating 40 years of ordained ministry in the ELCA on Nov 22, 2010.  She has served her entire ministry at University of Maryland campus pastor.

“I came to it slowly,” she said. “Never underestimate the persistence of God.”

Another link to Elizabeth A. Platz and the anniversary.

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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in politics, sociology


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