Monthly Archives: April 2012

Getting along with each other

What lens do we view Scripture through?

One’s culture can limit one’s perceptions. This is the principle of ethnocentrism, the viewpoint that “one’s own group is the center of everything,” against which all other groups are judged.  More  A common idiom for ethnocentrism is “tunnel vision.” In this context, ethnocentrism is the view that a particular ethnic group’s system of beliefs and values is morally superior to all others.  All about

The LCA has been accused of tunnel vision, but it could be said that faith of any persuasion walks close to ethnocentrism. How does one hold a conviction without implicitly asserting that one’s system of beliefs and values, one’s worldview, is superior to somebody else’s system of beliefs and values?   Under ethnocentrism one consciously believes that one’s cultural arts are the most beautiful, values the most virtuous, and beliefs the most truthful. Is this the perspective of those proposing a male-only pastorate?

On the other hand, those who counsel tolerance of diversity may be accused of cultural relativism (where there is no absolute standard of right and wrong). Is this the perspective of those proposing women’s ordination?

Perhaps it would be better to use the term, pluralism, which stands in opposition to one single approach, or homogeneity. Is this the perspective of those proposing women’s ordination?

Theocentrism may be suggested as a third way. This is where God’s will is accepted and adopted regardless of any controversy.  Deciding just what is God’s will, however, is the issue.  At this time the lenses we bring to a text, the hermeneutics we use to interpret Scriptures from another time and culture, becomes a new focus of discussion.

Are these terms necessarily exclusive?

Theocentrism does not exclude pluralism. The key convergence between theocentrism and pluralism lies in the concept of God-centeredness in our life and acceptance of unity in diversity as a divine mandate. This “theocentric view of pluralism” presents a solid moral basis for tolerance of other religions and cultures. … Pluralism and theocentrism are compatible and complementary and can lead humanity to peace, collaboration and mutual respect both locally and globally. Ref

While this passages refer to inter-faith and inter-cultural tolerance, and the building of world peace, they are just as appropriate as a call for mutual respect within the LCA over women’s ordination.

We suggest, rather than looking at how we operate, (progressive/conservative, liberal/fundamentalist, ethnocentric/cultural relativist, theocentrist/pluralist) it could be useful to take a broader perspective and look at our culture, from where our tensions arise and divisions become attractive options. We find that our culture is not alone in displaying a disparate and conflicted membership.

We have learned from work in critical sociology and postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies that cultures are heterogenous and heteroglossic (K+M: a diversity of voices, styles of discourse, or points of view), written through and through with complexity and difference, with conflict over power.  Ref. Reading Online – Research: Four Resources Model.

Any culture, or Christian denomination, is heterogenous and ‘written through with complexity and difference, with conflict over power’.  Despite beliefs of institutional homogeneity, and beliefs about consensual rules and cultures, the LCA is complex and far from being homogenous. Pretense of homogeneity is pointless.  Pretense of the Church, shining like a beacon of unchanging theology in a storm-tossed society is counter-productive. It is time for another paradigm of God, of faith and of our evangelical presence in our society and culture.

We have experienced change through women’s new voice and position in society, through leadership of lay women and men within the Church, through the watering down of ‘German-ness’ in the LCA, through couples living together outside of marriage, through a new era of information and education, from ecumenism, inter-church dialogue, inter-faith dialogue, through birth-control, television, the pill, social networking, through the ease of international travel, through awareness of different theologies within other Lutheran synods, through the reporting of war and civil strife on news broadcasts, and so on.

The LCA will continue to change at an increasing pace. Women’s ordination will be a reality soon in the LCA, however, asserting something is right doesn’t make it right. Our key challenge is how to get along with each other fairly. Ref


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New Testament Women Church Leaders

Mary Magdalene. Illustration from the Albani Psalter, Hidesheim, 12th Century.

Were there many New Testament women church leaders?

Below is a list of posts from Margaret Mowzko (Christians for Biblical Equity, Sydney Branch) examining New Testament women leaders in some detail.  She provides reminders that women were central among the leaders of the early Church.  Certainly female leadership is supported by multiple Biblical precedents.

My favourite posts: NT Women Church Leaders.

The Chosen Lady:  The Chosen Lady in 2 John 

Euodia and Syntyche: Church Leaders in Philippi

Priscilla: Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?

Junia: Junia and the ESV

Priscilla, Lydia and Phoebe: Working Women in the New Testament

Stephanas: Man or Woman?

Various Women: New Testament Women Church Leaders


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Female Jet Pilot? Sure. Preacher? No.

Rev Susan Sparks, New York, New York

From Rev Susan Spark’s blog on Huffington Post:

One third of the U.S. Supreme Court justices are women; more than fifty female astronauts have traveled into space; and forty-one women have won the Nobel Peace Prize. But place a woman in a pulpit and blood pressure and eyebrows immediately begin to rise; rise, that is, within the religious tradition of my upbringing: the Southern Baptists.
It’s not so different in the LCA.  We have women doctors, lecturers, CEO’s, social workers, therapists, lawyers, singers, school principals, administrators, counselors, accountants, translators, missionaries  … and yet women are not fit for the pulpit.  Lord forgive us. If it was the post-war 1950’s, when the two Synods were discussing union, it would be understandable, but the 21st Century is another matter.

Posted by on April 21, 2012 in sociology


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Love Builds Up

Megan Greulich

Megan Greulich is the editor of Mutuality magazine and the membership coordinator for CBE. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she bakes special occasion cakes and volunteers with her church’s youth group.

“But 1 Corinthians 14 says that women should be silent in churches…right?” It was a shy question from a high school student, in the middle of a church fundraising supper. I had been chatting with this student and his family, and his father mentioned how the Bible passage had come up in discussion at their home a few days earlier. “I believe that women can be preachers. In fact, a woman pastor performed my wife’s and my wedding ceremony more than twenty years ago,” the father said to me as the mother nodded in agreement. “But we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I didn’t know what to say to my son when he read those verses. Maybe you can help us understand.” The father, mother, and son all looked at me with tentative but curious faces.

We launched into a great discussion about the cultural context of the Corinthian church, about the surrounding verses in the letter, and about Paul’s approval of women leaders in other sections of his writings (check out these resources on 1 Corinthians 14 for more information). I love these kinds of conversations. I was so inspired by this family’s honesty, humility, and willingness to ask tough questions.

As we chatted, I watched the mother. While she said very little, I noticed how her eyes began to brighten. She even gently leaned forward in her chair—a sure sign, in our understated Minnesotan subculture, that she was getting excited. I recognized it because it matched my own response when I first heard egalitarian Bible interpretations. It was hope. And relief.

But then another young man at our table decided to jump into the conversation. Interrupting me, he very assertively declared, “All I know is that God will use women leaders only when the men aren’t doing their job and stepping up.”

His words, delivered in such stark contrast to the kind and gracious manner of our conversation up to that point, surprised me. And they stung. I looked across the table at the mother. “Wait…what?” She said under her breath. She slumped back into her chair. “Where does the Bible teach that?” I tried pressing the man. But he had no interest in dialoguing. “It’s there,” he responded gruffly, authoritatively.

“There is no teaching anywhere in the Bible that women are God’s second choice.” I said this more to the mother than to the young man. Yet the damage had been done, and the conversation was effectively over.

Jesus help us, is the simple but passionate prayer I find myself silently saying whenever I think about this encounter. For whatever reason, our conversation made that assertive man very uncomfortable. So he merely repeated—unquestioningly regurgitated, actually—an unbiblical teaching he had heard at church all his life. In his effort to silence the dialogue, he held no concern for what his words communicated to that mother, or to me, the only other woman involved. His lack of empathy, his lack of love, deflated the mother at our table that night, inflicting a subtle but very real wound on a sister in Christ.

Why is it that so often in our conversations about God we are the most unlike God? It is a humbling realization that we are all susceptible to this lack of empathy in our interactions with one another. I could recount many times in which I responded to a complementarian out of pride and anger, more in an effort to silence a conversation, or be right, than to come alongside and support a brother or sister in Christ who is on a journey. But Paul, over and over, warns about this. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 8. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” he insists in Galatians 5:6 emphasis added. And, just one chapter before those tricky verses in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul so beautifully contends that even if he possesses spiritual gifts, all knowledge and wisdom, and faith that can move mountains, without love he is nothing. These are familiar verses to us, and yet sometimes the most familiar ones are the most difficult to live out.

Jesus help us. Jesus help me. May our conversations, as egalitarians and complementarians alike, be marked by love.


What are your thoughts on paying attention to a few verses in order to understand what Jesus is saying to us today?

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Jesus Is A Liberal

Why is Jesus a Liberal? Webster’s dictionary defines a Liberal as one who is open-minded, not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways. Jesus was a pluralist Liberal who taught that one need not conform to strict and orthodox views of God, religion, and life. He rejected greed, violence, the glorification of power, the amassing of wealth without social balance, and the personal judging of others, their lifestyles and beliefs.

via Jesus Is A Liberal – Home Page.

What examples do you have to show that Jesus was a liberal/progressive?


Posted by on April 19, 2012 in sociology


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Do something

From the Naked Pastor, a Canadian artist pastor

What is the future of the LCA?

It involves turning suffering around, by doing something different than what we are doing now. It’s about improvement.  It’s about moving forward.  There is nothing divine about being frozen in time, in ice.  There is nothing necessarily holy about our structures at any given time.  Not the length of the working day, not the way people are used, not embedded racism, not the lack of suffrage for women – these were all institutional issues in Australia that have changed over time.

Jesus engaged with society, he turned it around and upside down.  Things would not be the same once people encountered Jesus.

Jesus continues to come to us today, to turn our lives around, in our Church. Not just to create a powerful, prayerful, personal piety, but also to turn the system upside down, to bring about justice – even to create a system that works out of compassion and brings about justice.

Of course, Jesus was never a politician or another power-wielding character.  That work has been left to us.  We are “to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)

How might we act justly, when the structures around us breathe injustice?  One person can’t tell another what they must do, but action is the key.  Whatever happens, action is needed.  We need to take charge in some way.

Turning around injustice usually involves changing power structures, and is usually met with resistance from those whose interest is served by maintaining those power structures, even from within the Church.  We’re going to need support.

Whatever the issue, there are people who need our support, there is a stand that we might take.

How might we serve those who are suffering in our circles?  Who might we ask to help us plan our action? How might we change the face of the LCA by turning suffering around?

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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in sociology


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A woman’s story of leaving the LCA

I was asked to write an article some months ago detailing my experiences with the 2006 Synod and my subsequent decision to leave the Lutheran church in the last year or so. I think one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write this article, has been because of the deep grief I feel over leaving the Lutheran church, the community which first told me of God’s great grace, and the way in which articulating my decision publically gives it a greater sense of “realness”. Here is my story.

When I attended the LCA National Synod in 2006, it was as someone who was encouraged and hopeful. I was encouraged that my congregation of mainly older members had supported me and chosen me, a twenty-something woman as their synod delegate. I took the responsibility very seriously, canvassing the opinions of congregation members regarding woman’s ordination and reading widely, prior to attending. I prayed. I read my Bible. At Synod, I listened carefully to the information evening and the debates prior to the vote. To my mind, there was no theological/scriptural impediment to the ordination of both men and women, in fact the opposite. And, so I voted.

When I voted, I voted with hope. I was hopeful that the LCA would acknowledge the ministry of women throughout the Bible, and the continual pastoral work of women. Hopeful that I could hear more of Huldah, Anna, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene and Priscilla. I was hopeful that the LCA would acknowledge that women are created equally in the image of God, rather than somehow being lesser and unfit to proclaim God’s message in God’s church. I was hopeful that women who I have known, women struggling with body image, eating disorders, sexuality, sexual assault, and grieving abortion, and who had told me that they didn’t feel as if they could discuss these issues with a male pastor, would soon be able to safely speak to a female pastor. I was hopeful that the women in the LCA, who had had God call them to ministry, would be able to exercise their God-given gifts to God’s glory. I was hopeful that the LCA would find a partial solution to its encroaching pastor shortage. I was hopeful that the LCA was to become a church that demonstrated God’s love for all people, of all genders.


From the start, it seemed strange, that something that determined the rights of the women of the LCA was to be determined by mostly men. It appeared that most congregational delegates were men, and, one third of the delegates were pastors, and thus all men, and additionally, any visiting pastors were able to cast a vote. This is not to say that many men were not supportive of the pro-ordination position, but none-the-less, it was not the rights of men that were being debated. This situation of men determining the role of women within the LCA continues, with the appointment of five young male pastors to a ‘consensus building’ taskforce.

I was dismayed at the LCA president’s urging of people to abstain if they were not completely certain of which position to take on the ordination of both men and women. Multiple times. Firstly, wasn’t once enough? Secondly, this was on the Synod agenda for a long time, and people had been given plenty of opportunity to read, to pray and to form an opinion. Thirdly, when an abstention counted against the yes vote, it essentially became a no vote.

And I was hurt by the president’s attempts to silence debate, both at Synod, ending discussion with little warning, and outside of Synod, prohibiting letters to the editor in The Lutheran on the topic.

I was also troubled by the sense that the LCA is so certain of its abilities to determine the correct theological understanding regarding the ordination of women and men, that it does not need to take into account the work, the scholarship and prayer of many other churches in Australia and around the world, including churches we have many similarities or ties to, such as the Anglican Church and the various Lutheran Synods throughout the world.

Ultimately, I have had to question whether I can remain in a denomination that seems unable to fully recognise the image-bearing status (and thus equality) of women and thus continues to act in ways that are unloving towards women. The Biblical principle of social justice is to me the living out of such commands as “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19.18) and “what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Christ’s heart for those who are marginalised has inspired me to study social work, a profession with social justice as its key tenet. Given my commitment to Christ and the value of social justice, I can no longer continue to identify as a Christian and a future social work professional and at the same time identify as a Lutheran, as long as the LCA continues to discriminate against women through failing to ordain women. It hurts my heart deeply to leave, but it was hurting my head and my heart more to stay.

Angela Drylie


Posted by on April 16, 2012 in theology


‘The Chrysalids’ speaks to the LCA

Sometimes fiction speaks truth.

The following is from the final chapter of The Chrysalids, when the rescuer from the more advanced civilisation comes to rescue those who the fundamentalists seek to destroy because they are different,

‘Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled – they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature. Who, then, were the recent lords of creation, that they should expect to remain unchanged?

‘The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken.  The idea of completed man is the supreme vanity; the finished image is a sacrilegious myth.

‘The old people brought down Tribulation, and were broken into fragments by it.  Your father and his kind are a part of those fragments .  They have become history without being aware of it.  They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted – a place among the fossils….’

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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in sociology


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Rev. Malcolm Boyd: Who’s Afraid of Female Priests?


Rev. Malcolm Boyd: Who’s Afraid of Female Priests?.

In Christian art, including Michelangelo and Hollywood biblical films, the maleness of God has long been highlighted. Seldom has there been a depiction of deity or spiritual strength that remotely suggested a woman like Eleanor Roosevelt or Marian Anderson, Helen Keller or Barbara Jordan.

However, extraordinary change was in the air in July 1974 when 11 women shattered tradition by being ordained Episcopal priests. Ironically, I became involved when invited — as a male — to write a cover story about it for groundbreaking Ms. Magazine. From my perspective, by following the anthropomorphism that depicted God as male, the church failed in its witness to God and came close to committing institutional suicide. The idea of receiving the Host from the hand of a woman apparently confronts some people with grave difficulties. Could this stem from the life experience of praying “Our Father who art in heaven” while one was mentally on one’s knees before a male God? Was the male priest before whom one knelt in church to receive Holy Communion a surrogate figure of a familiar bearded and patriarchal God?

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Further Censorship of The Lutheran

Pastor Mike Semmler, President of the LCA

Good reader, you will remember how The Lutheran has been barred from publishing any Letters to the Editor on women’s ordination … the latest is that Pastor Mike Semmler has barred The Lutheran from publishing any notices or advertisements about the coming Conference on women’s ordination that will be held at ALC.  (More information to come shortly.)

This is an intriguing situation.  While the previous President, Pastor Lance Steicke encouraged open conversation on the matter in order that the Church might find a resolution to this vital matter, Pastor Mike Semmler, the incumbent, seemingly does whatever it takes to stop the conversation.


Posted by on April 2, 2012 in politics


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