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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fear Not, Love Never Ends – a poem

Fear Not…I am with you
Stand up for what is right
LOVE fulfils the law

I’m a woman in a patriarchal church
I love the LCA
Through it I came to faith
It has given me friends and community and mission
I’m sad that women pastors aren’t recognised
I’m sad that numbers are declining
God says….DON’T FEAR….STAND UP

My job involved travelling
Each Sunday I attended a different Lutheran church
“Where are the young folk” I asked the pastor
“They’ve gone to C.O.C….A.O.G…..Pentacostal…Uniting…Anglican
Other Christian churches”
“Oh” I think “I wonder why”
Led by the Spirit, says God.

God calls my son to serve
He is ordained in the LCA
God calls my daughter to serve
She can’t be ordained in the LCA
“I wonder why” I think
“Fear not, I am with you” says God
“What can I do?” I think
“Stand up for what is right” says God

Tanya has a PhD in preaching
The Anglicans loved her homily
“Why can’t she preach in the LCA?” I wonder
“Go and Tell” says God

Rosmah is called to be a pastor
What a joy she isn’t in Australia
I can send some of my money to help her
Pity the LCA misses out
“Stand up for the oppressed” says God

My friend Emma tells me
Her niece is a Lutheran pastor
“Can’t be” I say
“Oh she lives in Germany”
There is neither Jew nor Greek  says God

Joyce is a pastor
She came to Australia
Married Ian  and the LCA said “You can’t work here”
So she worked for the Uniting church
God is blessing her ministry
Preach the Gospel says God

Margaret led the service and preached
She is an inspiring leader
Then someone in power found out and put a stop to it
God led her to pastor to us
I hope she stays

The Lutheran needs an editor
It’s always been a male pastor
It should be a male pastor
But Linda does the job and wins accolades
“Wow” I think “Fantastic job she does”
“You can do all things through Christ” says God
“Fear not I am with you”
But she’s a woman

I read somewhere that if you are ordained
You can be an Aged Care Chaplain
Heidi’s doing the job
She’s a qualified Chaplain
But they won’t ordain her
“I wonder why because God has called her”
“Preach the Gospel” says God

Ian Watto is a leader bloke
He knows lots of things
He’ll know why woman are rejected
“Power” he says “some men want power”
Stand up for what is right…Neither male nor female…Preach the Gospel

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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in sociology

 

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Royals to crown women – one less pillar of sexism

Yesterday’s announcement from CHOGM in Perth, that the Commonwealth is to scrap laws barring first-born daughters from ascending to the throne, is one less card in the house of sexism and misogyny that came as baggage from ancient days.

At the time of Jesus it was normal to minimise women, to the point of ignoring them when counting people (Matthew 14:13-21).  Today, such attitudes are unacceptable. In a myriad ways, the position of women has advanced (consider the position of women in Australian political leadership today), but sadly, LCA leadership clings to pre-war notions of women’s position in the Church.

Just as it is inappropriate to maintain male superiority in the British Royal Family, it is increasingly contradictory and destructive to LCA morale and membership to attempt to maintain a theology of male superiority, while at the same time proclaiming Jesus’ grace to the whole world.

________

Check out the recent blog “In search of the picture of biblical womanhood“.  It’s a tough reminder of how women were viewed in the Old and New Testament and then a reminder of the grace that Jesus showed women.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

If you found this post useful, consider sharing and subscribing to this blog for free.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in sociology, theology

 

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LCA walking close to LCMS

It is of concern that current LCA leadership underscores links with LCMS.  The emphasis on doctrinal rigidity at the cost of pastoral care and inclusion is a corrosive and anti-evangelical feature of our churches.

While the LCMS may seem monolithic in its closed-mindedness and views on ‘sinful unionism’, that is not the complete truth.  As the quote below, from The Daystar Journal, shows, the LCMS has other approaches to theology and pastoral care.

Sometimes the LCMS itself has seemed a rather dark place. Too often compassion and decency have been absent in the synod, where chauvinism has frequently been confused for synodical loyalty and meanness of spirit has been mistaken for contending for the faith. The Daystar Journal – essays, editorials, and book reviews by teachers, laity, pastors, professors, missionaries, deaconesses, directors of Christian education, chaplains, seminary professors, seminarians, and others.

The Daystar Journal is a significant gathering of LCMS theologians.  The Daystar Journal …

…began in 1999 as a small online network of individuals in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) who were concerned about theological issues and problems in and beyond their church body. Organized by Professor Robert Schmidt and the author (Dr. Matthew L. Becker – an associate professor of theology at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.), along with the help of two other LCMS members, the network grew to include a wide assortment of people: a past synodical president, current and former district presidents, synodical officials, seminary professors, university professors, teachers, directors of Christian education, deaconesses, missionaries, licensed deacons, seminary students, military chaplains, leaders in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) and the Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL), and other lay leaders. All have shared an abiding concern about the direction of the synod, which over the past forty years has been oriented partly toward the enforcement of “Old Missouri” doctrinal rigidity, … and partly toward a form of American Evangelicalism that takes many of its cues from Protestant Fundamentalism. Ref.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in sociology, theology

 

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A response by Pastor Geoff Burger

What the process of consensus might look like.

Pastor Geoff Burger left a comment on the previous post and a response to the three man collective, that the President commissioned. As it contains important thought we’ve reposted it in the belief that it should be read widely.

___________________

Recently the President asked three people to research what it means to Walk in Consensus – the Lutheran way –

I put together a response – if you are interested to read on this is it.

All the best
Geoff

WALKING IN CONSENSUS – THE LUTHERAN WAY – A RESPONSE”

The group has diligently followed the terms of reference to describe what a consensus is in the Lutheran church with a few no gos A great deal more needs to be done. Here are some personal responses. Of course I may be wrong
Fundamentally we believe the Holy Spirit works through study and searching of the Word. However in the church this happens in a very human context – it is “in, with and under” human personalities and psychologies, social and cultural movements and changes, traditions and politics.
I believe the report would have been more valuable if the terms had been widened a little to explore the way in which an old consensus disintegrates and a new one develops in a church and the factors involved in recognising and affirming this new consensus. We can get insights on the process and factors involved from many fields of study.
Sometimes resistance to change can cause great suffering. The change in consensus on how to fight a modern war only came after unimaginable suffering on the front lines in WW1. Political resistance to a new consensus can lead to violent revolution – the Arab spring. Or opposition to a new consensus in a social group or church can lead to withdrawal and resignations and the formation of a rival group – sectarianism.
There is an insight from the way political change is recognized peacefully in our society through an election. A party gains a consensus and when it loses it through the defection of swinging voters another party forms government. The new consensus is accepted even though it cannot be unanimously agreed to because there are still maybe 49% of the population apposed to the new government.
The new political consensus is accepted because there is a deeper consensus behind it – a commitment to the Westminster adversarial system and a common commitment to the nation.

LCA GENDER ISSUES
There is not a theological consensus in the church at the moment on many issues one of them being gender based or gender free ordination. The accepted status quo position from past tradition and Biblical understanding is that gender is critical. However this is not a unanimous position. It is possible that if the issue came to a vote a numerical majority of pastors, people and congregations would favour a gender free position.
So a consensus position by the church on an issue does not mean a unanimously held position. There is something deeper involved.
The deeper consensus which preserves unity is a common commitment to the LCA , its wider theology, heritage, traditions and personal relationships and friendships within the church. This is what will hold us together when other consensi are changing.

UNITY IS BIGGER THAN UNANIMITY
The church has always had to struggle with the lack of unanimous consensi on all sorts of issues. This is the challenge for God’s people to remain one as Jesus prayed. Oneness based on total agreement on everything is simple, a fairly easy human achievement that doesn’t need any intervention by the Holy Spirit. This can be forced or on the basis of compromises. At times we define ourselves against others and the conflict of us against them creates unity.

Our calling is to be bigger than this . To remain one and become an ever larger one even with a lack of all sorts of consensi on all sorts of things – gender issues being just one of them. We survived lack of consensus on attitudes to various wars and invasions. Statistics indicate that 50% of Christians accept euthanasia, 50% don’t. Similarly with environmental issues, climate change, boat people. And of course Biblical literalism and evolution, etc.
Our deepest calling as church is to do more than social clubs do – remain one at times in spite of a lack of unanimity or a consensus on issues. This is where we need all the resources the Spirit can shower us with.
In the church as in music difference is an essential characteristic of harmony. This is an implication of Paul’s reflection on the church as the body of Christ in Romans 12. People with strength of character, Spirit given faith and confidence harmonise with others but may not necessarily agree with them. The opposite of harmony is not chaos but uniformity and homogeneity. In human life as in agriculture a monoculture based on uncritical agreement is inherently unstable and unhealthy.
Consensus in the church is always a harmony which enables and embraces difference.
It may be helpful as well as realistic to see the glass as 95% full rather than 5% empty. On the really big denominational issues – justification and salvation, Jesus and the Trinity , ministry and mission, justice and welfare there is an undeniable consensus. Gender and sexuality is interesting but not that big a thing in the total scheme of things

HISTORICAL CONSENSUS ON GENDER
I vaguely remember as a child in the late ‘40s in Geelong that women wore hats in church to cover their hair, sat separately from men and Lutherans communed as a gender group not in families.
And over the past 40 or so years we have recognised a different consensus on the role of gender in the LCA developing.
I was ordained in 1968 and was part of a succession of LCA church conventions where gender roles in the church were debated and bit by bit the gender consensus changed. Women were allowed to vote in congregations, then synods, then do Bible readings in worship, then hold office, then lead committees, then be “pastoral carers”, then lay readers. Each step of the process involved a discussion and steadily narrowing interpretation of the same Biblical passages – mainly Paul.
There were some verbal gymnastics to make accepting the new consensus easier for some – the right of males to make an issue a male vote if they wished (!!!!), not using the term “elder” to describe female pastoral carers and so on.
FACTORS INVOLVED IN ACCEPTING A NEW CONSENSUS
Obviously many factors were involved in this acceptance of a different consensus on church gender attitudes among Lutherans. It wasn’t just theology. As they became less rurally isolated Lutherans became more and more Australian and were affected by all the factors creating a changing society – war time mobilization of women into the paid work force, movement from farms to the cities, prosperous baby boom children, more women and men undertaking secondary and tertiary studies, European migrant Lutherans, overseas travel, TV and Internet etc.
There are significant personality differences leading some people to welcome change more than others – some people live for stability and safety and are threatened by change – anchor people. Others need challenges and stimulation to energise them – sail people.
Both groups can exist side by side in the church – actually the church needs both to balance each other. A static unchanging church can only exist in isolation and gradually becomes more and more exclusive and irrelevant. A constantly changing church has no foundation or stability and ends up being indistinguishable from everything else
One problem is that it seems easier for sails to accept anchors than for anchors to accept sails.
The group mentioned the 25 year movement towards union of the two synods culminating in the formation of the LCA in 1966. It would be worth doing a careful analysis of the factors involved. Sure there was lots of theological discussions but what lay behind these?
Personalities were obviously important along with their histories and experiences. There was the bitterness of 100 years of suspicion and family squabbles in some places; personal animosities of some pastors; the Concordia-Immanuel rivalry – at one football match there were reports of students spitting at the opposing team.
On the other hand there was a very positive commitment of church leaders on both sides, the growing trust and friendship between pastors on the union committee. Gradually more and more pastors and leaders form both synods got to overcome stereotypes and historical animosities.
Hugely important at the end seems to have been the collegiality, respect and friendship between members of the two seminary faculties.
In the end it seems to have been the total commitment of church leaders to the new consensus which over came the fears and hesitancy of other clergy. Laity recognized this and were able to give solid support to what most had long thought had to happen eventually.
In summary , the critical human factor is a united leadership of academic theologians and church leaders (bishops) who are as passionately and uncompromisingly committed to a similar basic consensus as our Canberra politicians – win or lose we are committed to something greater than our selves. We will not separate from each other whatever happens because we recognize the body of Christ.
This happened over time as an ever growing group of leaders and theologians kept meeting and sharing fellowship before union – eventually they began to pray with each other to open the meeting. Finally they shared a common consensus – there needs to be one LCA.
In the context of this fundamental consensus the smaller consensi gradually took place or were allowed to remain as a movement towards consensus – eg relations with LWF.

THE INFLUENCE OF INDIVIDUALS
Dr Sasse seems to have been a very important personality respected by both sides, a sort of baggage free catalyst from the outside. He seems to have helped to move the church leadership to accept a new consensus.
It is really vital to recognize the unique importance of some individuals. Some people by force of personality, charisma and sometimes uncompromising (or blinkered?) conviction are more influential than others –gifted speakers and communicators, able to convey passion and win support. They punch well above their weight.
On a spiritual level being given unrestricted authority to do this is not respectful of the body of Christ and its unity. Nor on the human level is it democratic. It is fairly easy to identify LCA individuals who have used these gifts either to maintain the old consensus against any changes or to support the new consensus. New consensi can be created by or blocked by fanatical spiritual populism – the histories of personality based sects in the church give evidence of this.
The challenge for church leaders especially is to discern real wisdom, theological and spiritual insight and to strongly affirm this. The really hard and vital thing in deciding whether to hold onto an old consensus or affirm a new one is to sense the timing and know whose views should be supported and whose views should be restrained.

FORMING A CONTEXT FOR THE RECOGNITION OF A NEW CONSENSUS
Critical in any discussion on consensus is to take seriously the church as the body of Christ. So an olde consensus is preserved and a new one recognized by the community of God’s people in a Christ relationship with each other.
In my limited experience as an observer the CTICR is a very pleasant activity for those attending. There is camaraderie, vigourous discussion and at times dissent, and at the same time there is respect for one another and appreciation for differences in theology and application. I cannot imagine any of the participants leaving the group or church because they did not get their theological point of view accepted. There is a consensus that the LCA must remain united
This process needs to be made the basic principle as it was a number of years ago when there were free discussions around the church in all congregations on the issue. Unfortunately the process was allowed to lapse without a formal resolution – maybe this can be seen as a failure in leadership
Could the CTICR be widened to be open to all pastors who want to be involved and all leaders especially all those who punch above their weight?
Whatever happens it will need to be personal-social-relational-theological allowing group dynamics to be given equal weighting with theological position papers and disputation. It will be important for everyone to be given an equal hearing.
Probably this will mean more Australia wide pastors’ and lay leaders’ retreats so that relationships can be developed and a strong consensus of commitment to the body of Christ will strengthen and allow possible recognition of a new consensus on gender free ordination

Geoff Burger
August 2011

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Hermeneutics, politics, sociology, theology

 

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Dear Dr. Laura

Dr Laura Schlessinger

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to best follow them.

* When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

* I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

* I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

* Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

* I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

* A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

* Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

via The Dr. Laura Bits.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in history, theology

 

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Hermeneutics Symposium – Tanunda from 13th October

There is a Hermeneutics Symposium to be held this weekend in Tanunda, South Australia.  It is by invitation only and those not invited will not necessarily have heard about it. It has been initiated by Pastor Semmler (LCA President) in response to the ongoing call for the ordination of women, but we understand that it is to assist the LCA in thinking clearly about how it interprets Scripture for other imminent issues.

The initiation of this Symposium ignores the fact that the CTICR (Commision on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships) has twice found no impediments to women’s ordination.  It undermines the CTICR’s theological work within the LCA.

It seems that Pastor Semmler is somewhat hesitant about what some of the speakers might have to say, with dire warnings about placing Gospel above Scripture.

Pastor Semmler’s letter is included below.  We have taken the liberty of inserting some of our responses and would appreciate it if you would share yours.

————

Sent:Thu, 6 Oct 2011 17:10:55 +1030

Subject:LCA Hermeneutics Symposium

Dear LCA Participants and Observers in the Symposium at Tanunda,

I trust that you are looking forward to this event. It is not expected to provide answers for our Church in the many issues, which will confront us in the future, particularly in the field of bioethics. It is however designed to assist us in thinking clearly about our approach to Scripture. That is, “How are we listening to Scripture?

The framework through which Scripture is viewed by some of the presenters will not be our understanding, but will give us an insight into why there are variant views on teaching even across the Lutheran world.

Members of the Consensus Task Force on the ordination question as requested by the last convention of Synod will be in attendance and will meet briefly face to face. We have, however, had a late setback with Matthew Thomas unable to continue. We may have a replacement after this week’s College of Presidents meeting, but realistically we may have to wait for a suitable replacement.

Remember, we have a strong preference for the next generation of budding theologians to take the matter up. K+M: Synod wished for a process of consensus to occur.  It is unlikely delegates will be satisfied to have the motion enacted in the form of five younger clergy attempting to find consensus amongst themselves.  The fact that two of the proposed five (Pastors Frazer Pearce and Tom Pietsch) long to reconnect to the Catholic tradition suggests that the ‘Task Force’ has been set up to fail. This is part of our emphasis as a Church in developing leadership and it also breaks the impasse of those who have been around and stated their views strongly (with no apparent change) in two discussions of Synod in the past decade or so. K+M: This group of five is unrepresentative, wholly male, clergy and undemocratic. It does not represent groups within the Church and cannot hope to bring consensus to the floor of General Synod. Processes thus far have not included consensus methods.

If it helps, as you listen to the presentations (and I have not seen the papers at this stage) there may well be an approach, which places the Gospel above the Scripture. In the LCA we do not play the Gospel against the Scriptures. There is no Gospel without the Scriptures. The Gospel is embedded in the Scriptures. K+M: Note the framing of the issue as gospel reductionism (the tendency to reduce the Bible to the gospel). The use of this warning, an old LCMS chestnut, carries with it a contrast to Gospel-centred theology and a threat to the biblical gospel. (Ref: Greg Lockwood on CyberBrethren)

Ours is a confessional Church and accepts the Scriptures and Confessions as in the Book of Concord. We amalgamated in 1966 from two former synods on the basis of the Thesis of Agreement. Pastors and congregations place themselves under the teachings espoused in this Agreement. K+M: Yes, and it is time for the LCA to come of age in making its own theological decisions that reflect sound hermeneutics.

Spiritual oversight is carried out by the Presidents under the same norm, that is, the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions and the Thesis of Agreement.

In our context and culture, absolute truth is often under question and that should not surprise us as sinners refuse to submit to authority.  K+M: Is the President holding onto the notion that Scripture portrays absolute truth on all matters?  It is just not possible that the writers of Scripture could have foreseen all important matters for all time –  slavery, war, gender, sexuality, citizen participation in governance, ‘demons’ of poor health, cosmology etc.  There would be no need for hermeneutics if we could simply rely on ‘absolute truth’ on every matter. 

You may hear that for some, priority is given to human experience as a way of interpreting Scripture. There are some who see a “living word” going beyond the written word.

Absolute truth and the authority of Scripture are issues. Is it enough to agree on the Gospel and disagree on matters moral and ethical?  K+M: We repeat, CTICR has twice found that there is no problem with women’s ordination.  Is he suggesting that CTICR has not paid attention to the authority of Scripture? We will always disagree on things.  The issue that the LCA has not begun to face is, “How might we live with diversity?”

How does Law and Gospel play out?

Expressions like “bound conscience” (I doubt you will hear that) as distinct from being in a “state of confession” on a teaching of Scripture, can easily assume authority over Scripture and become a governing factor in interpretation.  K+M: This reads as if someone has suggested a list of topics for him to cover in his letter.

The term “bound conscience” for some has the implication that tolerance of all views (right or wrong) becomes the new norm for Biblical interpretation. Ref

However, the term has its origins in Romans and 1st Corinthians and is clearly represented in Acts and other New Testament writings (ref).  Luther used it the famous “Here I stand speech”:

I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God (emphasis mine). I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. (LW 36: 112) Ref

In simple terms (or is it simplistic) we ask the question whether we are wiser than God.

What lies in front of our Church will test our submission to the authority of the Scriptures and the Confessions and our decisions on matters of teaching and theology will have to do with how we listen to God’s Word. K+M: Such clanging of alarms makes it sound as if the Hermeneutics Symposium will be a threat to LCA theology.  The only conclusion we can make is that Pastor Semmler is concerned that the discussion will take the same course as CTICR.

Pray that this event will be of value to our Church and to those who will join us from overseas, particularly our partners in mission throughout Papua New Guinea and South East Asia.

 The Church accepts without reservation the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as a whole and in all their parts, as the divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God, and as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life (Article II. Confession Constitution of the Lutheran Church of Australia).

AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US, AND WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF A FATHER’S ONLY SON, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. (John 1:14)

The Lord be with you as you travel.

In Christ,

Mike

REV’D DR MICHAEL P SEMMLER
President
LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in politics, theology

 

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Journey Towards Gender Equality

Lance Robinson - founder of Equitas

This following blog extract comes from Lance Robinson – President/Founder of Equitas, an organization dedicated to building partnerships that seek justice for the vulnerable and oppressed. He served for many years as a church planter and pastor. You can follow him on twitter: twitter.com/robinsonlance

Did I really believe in a God and a gospel that would subjugate part of the humanity (however so slightly) to another part of humanity simply because of their gender (or race)? Of course not. … I also came to believe that whatever interpretative Scriptural difficulties there may be on this subject, the early church, based on their experience of Jesus, began to set as their trajectory one overriding principle: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).” No limitations. No subjugation. Nothing less than living in full equality with one another. Complete freedom to be who God made you to be, regardless of gender or ethnicity. That’s just. That’s good news. That’s a trajectory worth following.

via A Matter of Justice | Arise E-Newsletter.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in sociology, theology

 

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