Monthly Archives: July 2011

Imagine That – from Matthew Becker’s blog, Transverse Markings

LCMS church logo

from: Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes: Imagine That.

Imagine that you are the young daughter of a female slave who lives in Colossae in the year 450. Unlike some other religious traditions that do not allow slaves to be members, the Christian churches accept slaves into their fellowship. You worship Jesus, in part, because he “had taken the form of a slave” and was beaten and crucified, as so many rebellious slaves had also been… Read more.

Imagine that you are a young adult, the Lutheran daughter of a former slave owner who lives in South Carolina in the year 1868. Read more.

Imagine that you are the high-school-aged daughter of an LCMS pastor in 2011 and you think that God may be calling you to become a pastor Read more.


Consider following Matthew Becker’s (an LCMS pro-women’s ordination pastor/associate professor of theology) blog, Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes

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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in history, theology


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Women’s ordination and slavery – It’s easy to spot injustice and oppression in history

Slaves in the hold of a transport ship

It seems unlikely that in a few generations many will support today’s LCA notion that women cannot be called and equipped by God for ministry. The rest of the Church will look back in sadness and regret that women were so poorly treated. They will wonder at the inhumanity of the Church and, most likely, consider that they would never have participated in such systemic oppression of women.

As support for this hypothesis, we want to look at the way scriptural passages were used to support the notion of slavery. It is sad that so few people opposed this theology for hundreds of years, resulting in the dehumanising and deaths of countless thousands of people.

1. Slavery was divinely sanctioned by the patriarchs

Noah’s curse upon Canaan (Gen. 9:24-27) (the first appearance of slavery in the Bible) was a prophesy of the black African’s destiny.

Abraham is our godly example.  He was a great slave-owner. He received, possessed, and willed slaves to his children as property.  The Scripture says that the Lord blessed Abraham by multiplying his slaves (Gen 24:35), and an angel commanded the slave, Hagar, to return to her mistress (Gen 16:1-9), which “clearly support(ed) the fugitive slave law.” Hopkins (1864, 76-77)

Joseph saved many people from starvation because God commanded him to, “buy the people and the land, making them slaves to Pharoah.” (Gen 47: 15-25) (Stringfellow, in Elliot, 472)

2. Slavery was incorporated in Israel’s national constitution

God allowed two categories of slaves:  1. They were allowed to take foreigners as slaves and to will them to their descendants (Lev. 25:44-46).  2. Hebrews could will themselves and their families into slavery for a limited period of time. (Ex. 21 and Lev. 25)

3. Slavery was approved by Jesus and the apostles

Despite living amidst the brutality of slavery in the Roman Empire, Jesus and the apostles were not reported as speaking out against the practice. “It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that slavery is contrary to the will of God. … We accept the Bible terms as the definition of our slavery, and its precepts as the guide of our conduct.” (Pro-slavery Arguments, 1852,107-08)

Amongst other Biblical proof-texts, 1 Cor. 7:20-24 speaks clearly (Stringfellow), “as the Lord has called every one so let him walk”.

4. Slavery is a merciful institution

Through the practise of slavery, “millions of Ham’s descendants,” who otherwise “would have sunk down to eternal ruin,” have been, “brought within the range of the gospel influence.”  Hodge says (in Elliot, 848), “If the … course of abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were (sic) wrong.”


The style of hermeneutic is similar to that applied to opposing women’s ordination.

There can be no justification for denying women the opportunity to respond to their call. When Scripture is used to justify an abusive position it reflects poorly on the hermeneutic, the scholar and the Church.


Elliott, E.W., ed (1969) Cotton is King and Pro Slavery Arguments… New York, Negro Universities Press (originally published 1860)

Hopkins, J.W. (1864) A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical View of Slavery from the Days of the Patriarch Abraham, to the Nineteenth Century, New York, W.I. Polley and Co.

Pro Slavery Arguments: Several Essays (1969) (orig published 1852), New York, Negro Universities Press.

Swartley, W.M. (1983) Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women, Herald Press, Scottsdale PA, USA.

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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Hermeneutics, history, theology


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The LCA has already crossed the Rubicon

Caesar crossing the Rubicon

The Rubicon was crossed with women’s ordination in the LCA when General Synod approved the vote for women.

Voting is the symbol of a participatory democracy, where every voter exercises authority. When women vote at Synod on issues of theology and doctrine, they -in partnership with all other voters – are exercising authority over the Church.

When the LCA General Synod gave women the vote at Synod they gave women the power – via their vote – to exercise authority.

Those who opposed the vote at the time did it exactly on the basis of arguments that said a woman should not exert authority over a man.

The Synod did not agree. And in giving women the vote have in effect declared that the pauline texts relating to women and authority are not to be taken as ones that are able to prevent women exercising authority in within the Lutheran Church today.


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