Pr Semmler speaks

13 Aug

Clergy will have received the latest letter from Pr Semmler.  Included in his letter are eight paragraphs about the process towards women’s ordination.

So we are quite clear and that there are no false expectations on the matter of both women and men, …

Isn’t General Synod meant to be the regular time when the Church comes together to discuss and reconsider matters of importance?  If the Chair of Synod already has decided various matters, shouldn’t a point of order be announced and the Chair be reminded of due process?

… synod will hear from the ‘newer voices’ of the study group to look at the issue as called for by the Church at the 2009 Convention.

Actually, Synod 2009 called for a process of consensus to be initiated. Nominating five male clergy to discuss the matter does not fulfil synod’s expressed intention to initiate a consensus process.   Here is an explanation of consensus from Wikipedia.

The teaching of our Church with relevant texts is set out in the document Theses of Agreement Section A, VI Thesis of the Ministry paragraph 11.

Any discussion on this matter at any level in the Church is bound to address this matter on the basis of the Scriptures.  We acknowledge the Scriptures as “the divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God, and as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life’ (Article II, LCA Constitution).

Dr Jeff Silcock (ALC Associate Dean [Research] and chair of CTICR) reflects on this type of language: “At the beginning of the CTICR’s deliberations (approx mid 1980’s) it was decided that any decision by the church would be taken solely on the basis of scripture and theology. Looking back, perhaps this was a bit naive. How can you grapple with scripture and theology without taking into account the experiences of people and of culture?  You can’t abstract cultural, experiential and hermeneutical issues from the texts.  These things play a part in determining the position we adopt – at least initially. ”

Dr Silcock concluded by suggesting that, in view of the difficulty and uncertainyy of the key passages used to prevent women from being ordained, the LCA should, at the very least, change the status of the prohibition against the ordination of women from doctrine (Theses of Agreement)  to opinion.

The word ‘inerrant’ cannot be found in The Confessions and the word ‘infallible’ cannot be attached to The Confessions.  We need more scholarly tools than simply reading Scripture.  However, the use of such language carries significant influence at synod, and it is understandable why Pr Semmler would wish to use its emotional leverage.

The current teaching must be clearly understood by all before any judgement can be responsibly made on a presentation which may claim to disagree with the present stand.  There is no alternative but to address the issue on Scripture and to earnestly hear what God has to say about his gift of this office to the Church.

Isn’t it strange, therefore, that Pr Semmler has ignored the Church’s theological reference body, the CTICR, which, after years of study and discussion, twice came to majority findings that there is no theological impediment to the ordination of women?

The question is ‘How are we listening to Scripture?’ That was the theme for a symposium convened at Tanunda in 2011, generously sponsored by the LLL with presentations by theologians from across the Lutheran World which still awaits addressing by our own Church.

Be assured we continue to have a teaching in the LCA which is practised at this time.  To question our understandings can be a positive way of strengthening ourselves for the future.

Pr Semmler wants to console Lutherans that there is unity of teaching and doctrine in the LCA.  Despite his best of intentions, there is no unity within the LCA, but this should not be a cause of concern in our multi-cultural society.  We are already a Church of great diversity but we are larger than our differences.

Teachings such as this are not decided on a populist vote or by the culture or by lobbying or by feelings or ‘inner calls’.  Only the Scriptures are inspired.  The lack of clarity in hearing scripture is from us the hearers of God’s Word.

Does this sound like a Chairperson who is dedicated to facilitating the will of the people? We are long past the time when we need to be told that the answers will be found in Scripture. The truth is that the Scriptures say nothing definitive about women’s ordination.  The continued parroting of such pieties should be seen as ideological framing designed to invoke the pieties of others and a “strict father model” of the church. (Such framing has been studied in depth by George Laker and the Rockridge Institute.  Read free .pdf version of “Thinking Points” here. )

The process requires the Church (usually the Commission on Theology or another appointed group) to present a position/study to the General Pastors Conference (and usually also through District Pastors Conferences) to give guidance to the synod (1/3 pastors and 2/3 lay delegates) before any such decision is put to the vote.

We don’t mind the fact that Pr Semmler is opposed to women’s ordination.  That is an opinion that each of us have the right to hold.  We don’t pretend that it is possible or desirable to have complete consensus on all things theological.  We are not even opposed to Pr Semmler maintaining the deception that he is an independent arbiter on the matter. We are opposed however to his obfuscation of issues pertinent to women’s ordination and the declaration that women’s ordination will not happen ‘on (his) shift’.  This is an abuse of the trust that synod has endowed him with, which has ramifications across the whole LCA, and which will be played out in coming years, long after he has left the Presidency.


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