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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Is an LCA schism inevitable?

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.

Reading on Consensus Building
A Short Guide to Consensus Building – and explains why Robert’s Rules are no longer appropriate
Process Guide: Building Consensus – a very brief summary of the process

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in theology

 

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I am a Feminist. I am a Christian. No Disclaimer. – Angela Drylie

Christ as Holy Wisdom

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj

I am constantly bemused by the number of people I meet who say “I’m not a feminist but…. [insert statement that implies the person making the statement believes in the importance of equality between men and women]”. Many of my friends, my uni mates, work colleagues, and wider family do not think they are feminists, yet believe in the equality of women and their right to fair treatment. Kelly Clarkson claims not to be a feminist yet protests against the “Old Boys’ Club” she is constantly up against in the music industry. Just who do all these people think a feminist is? Contrary to popular myth, feminists come in all shapes and sizes, ages, genders, sexualities and religions. You do not have to a) be a lesbian, b) be abundantly, unabashedly hairy, c) eschew makeup and all kinds of laughter (although if you so choose any of the above, that is entirely up to you). It is not a prerequisite that you hate men. In fact, you can even be a man and still be a feminist. In fact, you can be a Christian, even a Lutheran and still be a feminist. Heck, I even know some pastors who would describe themselves as feminist. I even would go so far as to describe Jesus Christ as a feminist. The Feminist even.

Sojourner Truth in 1851 argued: “that …man…, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? …From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” While he was bodily on earth, Jesus consistently acted in a manner that affirmed the worth and equality of women. Christ advocated for the equal application of Jewish law to men and women (Jn 8:3-7). Christ appeared after his resurrection to women first and commissioned them to give statements about this (in those times women were unable to give evidence in a court of law) (Jn 20:13-18; Mt 28:8-10). He included several women within his close group, teaching them (Mt 27:55-56; Lk 8:1-3; 10:39, 42). Throughout the Bible, God ordains female leaders, apostles and prophets such as Miriam, Deborah, Anna, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia. The first chapter of the Bible highlights that both men and women were made in the image of God (Gen 1: 27). God even answers to names with feminine overtones – for instance, ‘El Shaddai’ can be translated as “The Breasted One” and has connotations of abundance and fertility.

Christianity in general has always been concerned with issues of injustice and oppression. Feminism can sit comfortably alongside other important social justice concerns such as disability, poverty and homelessness, exploitative trade practices, Indigenous rights and the rights of prisoners. Despite this, many Christians still seem loath to be associated with feminism. I think this is partly to do with confusing the arguments of some feminists with the arguments of the whole group. Christians are not a homogenous group. We are not all prudish, cross-wearing, Bible-waving, teetotallers (though again, if you so choose, that’s your prerogative). Feminists are not a homogenous group either. The stereotypes are merely stereotypes. There is only one criterion in order to be a feminist: that you think that equality and fair treatment of women is a good thing. So am I a feminist? Absolutely. Do I need to qualify that? No. Do you believe that equal rights and fair treatment for women is a good thing? Yes? You are a feminist.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in sociology, theology

 

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