When should congregations refuse to play the conservative game? Reflections on Gen.Synod 2006

20 Jan

Martin Luther

Luther worked within the structures of the Catholic Church to convey his understanding of Scriptures, but when continually hitting immovable walls conscience dictated his actions. Perhaps the LCA has operated from fear that conservative congregations would break from the LCA if women’s ordination was approved.  Little thought, however, has been given to the possibility that moderate congregations would break away after suffering the closing down of the discussion.

When is it time to step away from an abusive Church?  How long should congregations suffer the manipulation of democratic processes?

The following is Tanya Wittwer’s reflection after General Synod in 2006.  The despair she expresses from that time is evident again in our Church as we lead up to General Synod in April of 2013.  There is significant expectation of change.  Members and congregations of this Church are not content to forever suffer diversions and stalling.

From the beginning of the proceedings it was apparent that the leadership had decided to keep a tight lid on Synod.  The first woman to speak asked that one of the two nominees for the position of President share his vision for the church, prior to the election; the incumbent had just delivered his report and it seemed reasonable to be able to at least have heard from each of them.  This request (repeated by another woman the following day) was immediately denied.

The ordination question was clearly established as something to be debated from opposing sides, rather than an issue that could be discussed collegially.  On the Monday evening of Synod there was an “information evening” at which two seminary professors had been chosen to speak for 25 minutes – one presenting the position that only men could be ordained, and the other responding.  Unfortunately it was the No position that established the parameters of the “information” presented.  In the format chosen and the time limit given there was no opportunity to address bigger questions of Biblical interpretation, or faithful decision-making.  The chair contributed negatively to the debate, with a long, heavy-handed introduction, and unhelpful remarks.

The chair had been clear in his direction that only Scriptural and theological issues were to be addressed, but this did not prevent some of the anti-lobby using manipulative anecdotes and sweeping statements to support their arguments.  The style of “debate” meant that there was no opportunity to respond to these.  When the chair declared that only those waiting to speak would be given an opportunity, and no more were to go to the microphones, the balance was such that the final five speakers were against the ordination of women.  The chair urged people to abstain from voting if they had any doubts at all, or if they thought the time was not yet right.  Then the votes were cast.

I felt surprisingly free.  I felt free to leave the LCA, and join another denomination.  The reaction surprised me, but it felt as if the part of the race I needed to run was complete, and it was time to hand the baton over.  I was overwhelmed by the people – many of them strangers – who thanked me for my words, and shared their sadness.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, I had moved to a position of feeling free … to stay, at least for a while. To stay and to support others in being the church we believed we needed to be, even if this meant pushing boundaries. The nice, polite, official way of doing things seemed unhelpful; maybe now is the time to forget being “good.” We need to name clearly the legalistic turn in our church. We need to work against the pressure being applied by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). We need to find ways to proclaim more loudly God’s inclusive grace.

via GENERAL LCA SYNOD 2006 — “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) | Women’s Ministry Network – Tanya Wittwer (6 October 2006)


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11 responses to “When should congregations refuse to play the conservative game? Reflections on Gen.Synod 2006

  1. lcamyopinion

    January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    a little humour in the middle of all that 2006 sadness. One of the women who went to the microphone to ask for the presidential nominee to share his vision spoke to me afterwards. She was encouraged to go forward by her friends. They were all feeling the same thing but needed someone to be the spokesperson. “You go. We will give you prayer cover” were the words spoken by one of her friends. So…encouraged, yet still fearful, she stepped forward. She told me that even with all the offers of “prayer covering”, when you approach the microphone at synod, you stand alone…very alone and very exposed.

    “Speaker to Base! Speaker to base! Are you receiving me? Over?
    “Pray cover blown! Repeat! PRAYER COVER BLOWN!”

  2. lcamyopinion

    January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Yes…that Synod was the only one that i have attended…not a good taste in my mouth afterward.

    At the 2006 synod i was a part of a group of pastors who had moved a motion for the establishment of alternative avenues to ordination. None of us were critical of the way the church did things or prepared pastors. We were just looking for additional ways to prepare pastors who were increasingly being called to serve in unusual situations that they had not been trained for. So that there would be no misunderstanding about the motion being anti sem or anti church a small representative group went to the COP to explain the rational. One of that group, David Christian, (hardly a raving radical!) told me that they were “treated quite shabily by the President”. Over the next few months i had put up with a decisive attempt by the President to block that motion from going forward to the WA District Synod. He had also publicly called our motion and our strategy of having as many congregations as possible show their support for the motion as “COLLUSION” . By the time of the synod i was approached by 3 pastors that i can remember who i had never met before, who didn’t really know what it was all about but who were sure that we were acting to destroy the church. A seminary lecturer (Jeff Silcock i think?) approached me to ask why we were doing it and why we were against the sem. When i explained our position he was completely satisfied. he had obviously been given the wrong impression. After the motion went on for further investigation.. the president then went to the lectern and for a full 5 minutes made a statement against those of us who had moved the motion. His actions during the preceding months were a selfish expression of his own defensiveness and insecurity and his statement at the microphone were a childish abuse of power.

    I was not surprised to hear him say that anyone who was uncertain should not vote..even if they felt in favour but that the time was not yet right…to abstain from voting… this direction was also an abuse of the position of chair and completely inappropriate in the situation.

    And… Mr President before you write an “Easter Message” from the President in the same vein as the “Christmas Message” where you were so petty as to send a barb to those of us who dare to voice descent to your destructive and divisive strategies… before you accuse anyone else of “hiding behind pseudonyms”…this has been written by me …Pastor Neil Hart.
    Remember me? One of the flock… one of the injured ones that you left dying in the paddock…If you have issues with what i have to say then make a direct comment to me, to my blog or to this blog. Dont hide behind cowardly and completely inappropriate presidential christmas messages or statements at synod that the people you abuse have no chance to reply to…

    If you set a one sided agenda…such as exists in our church at the moment…you set the atmosphere for revolution. The thing you fear most Mr President is a split…the irony is,,,that in your fear…you are bringing it about….

  3. Barney

    January 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    No fear of a split, concern about a take over by people maskarading as Lutherans whilst denying part or all of the doctrines of the Lutheran Church. If you can not comply with the doctrines of one denomination – go and find a denomination that resonates with your interpretation of the Word of God; and take the dissenting clergy with you. You will be respected for your honest opinion and decision, you will not be respected if you want to change the doctrine of the church which many of you have voted to uphold. Our National President may not agree with me, but I think it is better to have a small Synod of fair dinkum Lutherans than a large one that is diluted by heterodox [other thinking] members.


    • Katie and Martin

      January 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      Barney, it sounds like you haven’t understood the manipulation that went on in Toowoomba, and haven’t understood the ramifications for members and congregations in the LCA. Regardless of your position, surely you can understand that with neither open processes nor appropriate facilitation of the discussion from the Chair of Synod, there has been a breakdown in the Church’s good order. This is bound to have significant consequences.

      • Barney

        January 22, 2012 at 5:12 am

        K&M, Maybe I understood the ‘ramifications’ of Toowoomba better in terms of keeping the Lutheran Church LUTHERAN.
        I made my stand very clear in the beginning of my commenting on this blog; Article II of our Constitution [based on our Doctrine as expanded in the Book of Concord] is still part of your congregation’s constitution. Departure from that [overtly or covertly] is a departure from what the Lutheran expression of the Christian faith stands for.

    • lcamyopinion

      January 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      ahh Barney… were beaten out of the other blog by the consistent logic of the other readers and your complete inability to even understand their questions they asked of you. So now you need to spout the same message of ignorance, hate and division here. Its clear from your small mindedness that your Phd came out of a weeties packet. If you were actually required to do any research that required independent thought, you would not be up to the task.

      See, I dont have to be so polite. here i am just another commentor.

      How on earth can you say “No fear of a split” and then say “leave the LCA and take the dissenting clergy with you” all in one breath. Cant you see the complete nonsense in that? I dont really expect a reply, Barney, coz i know you are intellectually not up to the task. 🙂

      • Barney

        January 22, 2012 at 5:13 am

        Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

  4. lcamyopinion

    January 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    ahhh Barney…sarcasm??? you think im being sarcastic?? Sigh….

  5. Barney

    January 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Katie and Martin :
    Barney, it sounds like you haven’t understood the manipulation that went on in Toowoomba, and haven’t understood the ramifications for members and congregations in the LCA. Regardless of your position, surely you can understand that with neither open processes nor appropriate facilitation of the discussion from the Chair of Synod, there has been a breakdown in the Church’s good order. This is bound to have significant consequences.

    K&M, maybe not, but I do understand that to be a Lutheran, one must at least be aware of Lutheran doctrine, and be prepared to submit to it. In a well used text St. Paul writes about order in the church and ends with saying that what he wrote was a command of God.
    Those who can not abide by Lutheran doctrine (lay and clergy alike) are free to leave the LCA [this is not a split but a freewill parting on doctrinal grounds]. It is those who want to change the LCA who should be either comply or leave, rather than trying to change the LCA to suit their own agenda. The Anglican Church would be happy to receive those who subscribe to Women’s Ordination.



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