This letter from Pastor John Kleinig (emeriti – Luther Seminary, North Adelaide) was originally posted by cyberbrethren. It was taken down when it distressed members of the LCA. To our knowledge it hasn’t been readily available on the web for some time. We post it here to relate how the ‘men-only’ pastors work in the LCA.
More on Australian Lutheran Vote on Women’s Ordination
Here is more detail on the action of the recent convention of the Lutheran church of Australia. It is even more remarkable that this not only did not pass, but was actually pushed back even more firmly this time than last time it came up for a vote. There is much instruction in this account for all of us who are, in our respective churches, resisting those who would wish to undermine and change the historic Biblical and Confessional position of our church bodies. Their tactics are always the same. They attempt to deflect attention from their true agenda, and to keep it hidden. They will be heard to protest that in fact “they take no position” on issues like this. There is no Biblical rationale for ordaining women to the pastoral office. It is a false doctrine. The one thing you can say about those in favor of the practice in Australia: at least they have the integrity to stand up for their position boldly and openly and not try to hide it or cover it up.
We can also learn quite a lot from how the faithful there have handled this matter: with courtesy, tact, manners, integrity, etc. There are earnest and sincere brethren in our Synod who do have a tendency to behave in a boorish manner. Enough of that!
Apologies for not getting to you sooner on the results from the vote on the ordination of women at our convention! I know how anxious you all have been on this and how much we have been in your thoughts and prayers. But I was computerless up there in the deep north. And I was too tired yesterday to do anything coherent.
The Pastors’ Conference ran from Tuesday to Friday last week. One of our younger pastors, Fraser Pearce, put the case against WO most winsomely, with a deep appeal to conscience that did much to commend the case to waverers in the middle. The actual vote was 50.91 for WO and 49.09 against. This was a slight swing in favour of WO since 2000 but that is rather deceptive for two reasons. First, in our polity, all pastors who are present have a vote at Pastors Conference, even if they are not pastor delegates at the convention.
The conference was held at Toowoomba in south east Queensland where most pastors are in favour of WO, whereas in Adelaide in 2000 we had the votes of many retired pastors. So confident was one of the leaders in Qld that he publically trumpeted his judgement that the vote would be at least 80% in favour. Second, there was some stacking of the deck, so that the much maligned local confessional pastors, most of whom work far from this corner of the state, were underrepresented. But some of them countered this by attending in any case at their own expense. Thank God for these fine men, unsung heroes, many of whom have suffered much for their convictions! The tone of the debate was good. It was calm and reasoned. Unlike 2000, there was not a single case of personal ad hominem attack apart from the occasional imputation of fear.
Our president Mike Semmler helped in this by insisting that the debate had to be scriptural. On the whole those who advocated WO appealed either to reason or to emotion, while we made an effort to appeal to the conscience.
The vote to ordain women was taken on Tuesday 2 October at 12:30. It was as follows:
Yes 194 50.39%
No 169 43.9%
Abstentions 20 5.19%
The last three categories count as voters against. So practically it was 111 for and 107 against. What a miracle! The yes vote percentage was slightly less than that at the 2000 Conventions (1.13%). This too is deceptive not just from the location of the synod but also because there was some stacking with delegates in favour of WO who represented parishes to which they did not belong.
The issue was introduced in a briefing session on Monday night by two speakers: Andrew Pfeiffer (for the church’s teaching); and Peter Lockwood (against the church’s teaching). They were backed up by a small panel. Andrew was supported by Greg Lockwood and me. The debate at the convention was outstanding in that people stuck to the issues without resorting to any ad hominem rhetoric. The tone was good as people made an effort to reach to each other across the great divide. I was impressed by the presence and conduct of our younger pastors. They spoke winsomely and well, scripturally and theologically. In fact, our side of the argument was put so well by the laity and the other pastors that Andrew Pfeiffer, Greg Lockwood and I did not need to speak at all. As you may imagine, that required some effort from me. We made a determined effort not to play the political game on CTICR where we, quite deliberately, did not press our advantage by taking a vote on the issue when we had a narrow majority, at Pastors’ Conference where we could have quite legitimately tried to prevent the issue from going to the Convention since it did not have the support of the 2/3 of the pastors, and at the Convention by not playing that card. That helped, in part, to get us across the line. But the most significant thing was the prayers of the whole church and many faithful little people. Thank you too for yours!
Another observation! We had a simple clear story to tell, an agreed rationale that focused on the fact that the prohibition was the Lord’s command.
Initially their tactic was one of attack on the traditional case, as if the case would be won, by default, merely by calling the traditional case into question with the exercise of an hermeneutic of suspicion. The assumption was that anything and everything that was not forbidden was permitted. The result of that was that they helped us to sharpen and strengthen our case, while they kept theirs in reserve, since it was difficult for them to agree on why women should be ordained even though they are agreed they should. They therefore had no single story to tell, no agreed scriptural rationale. Instead they came up with a grab bag of arguments, which was most evident in their presentation to the convention in a briefing session on Monday night.
To the very end their case was a work in process. In looking back on the 15 years that I have been part of this debate, it strikes me that as soon as we knocked down on argument they came up with a new one and so on. We were always dealing with a moving target. They still do not have an agreed scriptural theological rationale. I wonder whether it is possible to mount one.
Just before the close of the convention the General Church Council put forward a resolution that the matter could only be put back on the agenda by synod itself. This means that we would have respite at least until 2012. This brought on a desperate rear guard attack from the opposition. They were simply unwilling to submit to the decision of convention. They talked of hurt (as if they had a monopoly on that!) and openness to the Spiriti’s leading in the future (as if we had not invoked his guidance repeatedly at the convention), but it was evident to many that they were playing church politics. It won them little sympathy and disgusted some of their much more moderate and churchly supporters. Thankfully a referral motion was passed for the GCC to have another look at its resolution!
We thank God for your prayers. The result was beyond our expectations (we all thought that it would be much closer). Has anything like this ever happened before in our Lutheran churches? Surely God was merciful to us. Nevertheless we, sadly, are still a house divided. It seems to me that God has given us this narrow margin to keep us from becoming triumphalist, political and complacent, for the issue of the ordination of women masks far deeper and much more important issues, such as our acceptance of the scriptural authority, the doctrine of ministry, the doctrine of the relationship of the Son to the Father, the doctrine of creation, the third use of the law, and sanctification, all of which is a symptom of the rampant gnosticism that we have inherited from the Enlightenment. Yet, I think, we are in much better shape synodically. Theology is back on the agenda. We, and especially a whole generation of young confessional pastors, have learned to speak the truth in love, without rancour and apparent self-righteousness. Nothing has been resolved, but we have been given some breathing space. The battle goes on!
The old gospel reductionists, who interpret all talk about mandate and commandment as loveless legalism, are utterly bewildered by the change of climate. New alliances have been forged. Best of all, for the first time in my ministry, most pastors and lay people have openly acknowledged and accepted importance of a good conscience under the word of God, the reality of spiritual warfare, and the power of prayer. I now feel that I have done my bit in these and many other issues. It’s now up to the young fogies to carry on the cause, which they can do much more disarmingly than I have been able to do so.
Four other reasons to rejoice! Mike Semmler was re-elected by a clear majority. The Church Council is much the same as it was; the two main vacancies were filled by a fine confessional pastor in Stephen Schulz and a sound lay woman, Jillian Heintze. In the CTICR Peter Kriewaldt, an unsung hero in the battle, was replaced by Dr Adam Cooper, a fine young confessional scholar. Best of all, we have been driven away from politicking and argument to repentance and prayer.
I am, as you may well imagine, exhausted and yet deeply relieved.
Please share this with whoever else may be interested.
Thank you, most of all, for your intercessions for us in the battle.