While Pastor Semmler (President of the LCA) insists that he has never made his views known on women’s ordination, he continues to impede its progress. His reasons may be theological but, more likely, they may be a result of fear that women’s ordination will cause a schism in the LCA. Ironically, while he impedes women’s ordination, he may be officiating over the split of the LCA as congregations lose hope in what is seen to be a facade of consensus-making.
Those who lobby the President have told him that women’s ordination will alienate clergy, laity and congregations around Australia. They have told him that women’s ordination will initiate the break-up of the LCA, and he has paid attention. He has paid attention to their fear and now acts as if their conservative voices are the only ones in the LCA.
We can assume that Pastor Semmler was profoundly influenced by the difficult journey to union of the ELCA and UELCA. Older members will remember the years of inter-Synod negotiations. For some, this period was so difficult that they couldn’t consider going down that path again. Perhaps this is the key reason for his lack of readiness to chair a Synod that is moving towards women’s ordination. It is understandable if deep in his heart Pastor Semmler is concerned about women’s ordination. Concerns are okay and he is allowed to express them. As the Chair of General Synod, however, he has an obligation to judiciously listen to and represent all sides of the debate to ensure that the integrity of the democratic process and of the democratic institution itself is maintained. Sadly, Pastor Semmler’s leadership has not reflected these values. .
Pastor Semmler has not paid attention to those who support women’s ordination. He has not paid attention to:
- the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships (CTICR), which decided by a 2/3 majority, in 2000 and again in 2006, that there were no impediments to women’s ordination.
- Synods in 2000 and 2006 where a simple majority of delegates voted in favour of women’s ordination.
- Synod resolutions in 2006 and 2009, which directed General Church Council to establish a committee to work towards consensus. If he had treated these motions seriously the committees would have been established promptly. Currently it is more than two years since the 2009 Synod and his proposed committee of five young clergy has still not been appointed
- those who have left the LCA
- those women who experience the call to ordained ministry
- those women who suffer daily marginalisation within the LCA
- those women and men who long for female pastoral leadership in a patriarchal Church
Pastor Semmler has blocked due process in many ways, as evidenced by:
- the lack of a genuine, prompt consensus process
- the banning of letters to the editor of The Lutheran on women’s ordination after the 2000 Synod. ref
- the appointment of a three man conservative committee (2011) to advise the President on what Lutheran consensus means with the report being distributed to most Synod delegates
- the intention to appoint a committee of five young clergy to find consensus amongst themselves. How will five young clergy achieve Church consensus? What women or Church groups are represented?
- a desire expressed by Pastor Semmler that the 2013 Gen Synod be held in Adelaide (S.A.) rather than Alice Springs (N.T.) possibly in order that Pastors’ Conference may import retired clergy from retirement homes for any vote on women’s ordination. His scare tactics of the 2009 Synod surely would not work again.
- the creation of a hermeneutics conference (for Oct 2011) on women’s ordination when CTICR has twice found no problems with women’s ordination.
- the disempowerment of the CTICR by removing women’s ordination from its brief
Is it a wonder that some congregations feel disempowered when vested interests are the main concerns rather than that of the LCA? What options do supporters of women’s ordination have? Should they continue to forego their beliefs for the sake of national Church unity or do they follow what they believe is God’s calling? Eventually congregations will do what they deem necessary, just as ignored or marginalised people eventually take matters into their own hands. .
While this may sound like an argument for the inevitable schism in the LCA, this is not the case. The road to LCA strength is one where energy is invested in embracing diversity and finding ways that we can live together, including a genuine process towards consensus, not unanimity. While the LCA persists in upholding an artificial notion of unity in thought and practice, only then is schism inevitable.