Monthly Archives: September 2012

United Nations International Day of the Girl

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall, has distributed a notice to Anglican Bishops that the United Nations’ first “International Day of the Girl” is to be held this year on 11 October 2012. (United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the International Day of the Girl Child, approved on December 19, 2011)

His letter continues,

The day is an initiative of the Working Group on Girls, a non-governmental organization working at the United Nations, which includes representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion Office and Anglican Women’s Empowerment.

The International Day of the Girl is about “helping galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” (General Assembly Resolution 12.9.11).  The day is an opportunity to speak against injustices and to advocate for gender equality.  It will be marked on 11 October with a Virtual Summit involving girls from around the world at

In the meantime, an excellent “Day of the Girl: Proclamation Project Toolkit,” which is suitable for school-aged girls, may be accessed at oolkit/.

I seek your assistance in making the International Day of the Girl appropriately known in your dioceses.

It is still the case that women and girls within the church and outside the church still do not have equal access to life’s opportunities.

We’re guessing that this is a notice that won’t be relayed by the President of the LCA.


Posted by on September 29, 2012 in politics, sociology


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Four factors behind opposition to women’s ordination

Karen Bloomquist has served until recently as Director for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation.

Further to our thoughts on how context and history influence the way we interpret Scripture, (most recent post – Patriarchy in colonial Lutheran schooling) the following more scholarly synopsis is taken from Karen L. Bloomquist‘s article on women’s ordination in the ELCA.  She speaks of four factors leading to the opposition of women’s ordination.

[3] Where there is hesitation or opposition to ordaining women, four factors typically are involved:

1. HISTORICAL LEGACIES from churches and mission societies that first established and continue to support churches here in Africa. This especially includes interpretations of the Bible and ways of being church that they have passed on, sometimes in opposition to positions of their own churches. Such interpretations deeply affect how we read Scripture to legitimize positions that may have been arrived on other grounds. As Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro has written:Whether or not to ordain woman has depended largely on the practices, visions and wish of the ‘mother church,’ as well as the local perception of leadership in society, access to theological education, and interpretation of received traditions.

2. TRADITION – what is customary in a society or a church, which of course for much of church history has not included women as pastors. Theological or biblical arguments against the ordination of women typically are lodged here. However, in the New Testament, there are many accounts in which Jesus over-turned traditions and practices of his time, especially in how he an observant Jew related to women. Similarly, Martin Luther freed people from being bound to tradition, as represented by the Catholic Church of the time, especially when tradition hindered being faithful to God’s freeing Word of the gospel. Since the Reformation, basing something on “tradition” has been theologically suspect for Lutherans.

3. CULTURE is often set forth as a reason for not ordaining women. Certainly it is important that the gospel be inculturated or contextualized in a given culture. A culture sustains a people and therefore is good, but it also can protect or legitimize sinful practices, such as excluding or abusing those who are female. Those who are abused by cultural assumptions and practices usually are not those who defend the factor of “culture.” For Christian, culture can never be the last word, but is continually being transformed in light of the gospel.

4. GENDER refers to expected roles for women and men that are constructed and reinforced through culture. This is also reflected in many passages of Scripture, in which male-dominant gender understandings prevailed in patriarchal cultures that were the context when these passages were written. The problem is that these assumptions about the relationships and appropriate roles between males and females — which are human constructions — often are mistaken as being the will of God for all time.

via Ordaining Women Goes to the Heart of the Gospel – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

 Karen Bloomquist’s four factors could be used to explain why some Australian immigrants return to live in their country of origin, but then discover that it is not the same place and often fail to make the transition successfully.  Many of them reverse their decision and return to Australia, deciding finally to be one with Australia.

An evolving culture will not always be comfortable for everybody, but it is, at least temporarily, a fact of life.  In Christian faith, our challenge (like Australian immigrants) is to find roots in that evolving culture or fade away in despair through lack of connection.  It is always our choice.

What culture have you found yourself adapting to? What has been challenging and what has been liberating?

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in history, politics, sociology, women's ordination


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Patriarchy in SA colonial Lutheran schooling

Despite South Australian colonial Lutherans being ‘model citizens’, history records that patriarchy was well entrenched in their tradition.

This post records the exclusion, in the main, of women from higher education and leadership in Lutheran  churches and schools in the first 80 years of the Lutheran school system (as recorded in The Patriarchs: A history of Australian Lutheran Schooling, by Richard Hausler, 2009).

Lutheran theology is known internationally for speaking with some clarity about grace and forgiveness.  The Lutheran tradition is also known for its reformist origins and breaking with Catholic corruption, conservatism and wealth.  It is therefore not immediately apparent why the LCA has chosen a conservative incarnation of the Lutheran tradition when many other synods have a higher level of engagement with society and contemporary values.  This post provides historical clues from the first 80 years of Lutheran settlement in Australia.

(p25) “One point that needs to be made is that while Lutheran leaders of the nineteenth century qualified as patriarchs in the sense that they presided over a system which strongly discriminated against females, the same was generally true of the situation which pertained in most of nineteenth century society.  There was also common discrimination against women in all education systems of the era.  For instance, in Victoria the Public Service Act of 1883 included provisions for excluding women from the principalships of all except the smallest schools in the state system. Their salaries were also set at eighty percent of the male rate.  In fact women often served in school positions which attracted a modicum of pay but demanded considerable professional expertise.  The term “sewing mistress” depicted such a role which was humbly remunerated but could involve teaching over the whole curriculum up to full time.  This situation was echoed in the other states.

However, it must also be pointed out that the Lutheran patriarchs presided over a system, which was even more discriminatory against women than society in general.  There was an assumption that leadership in the family, church and society belonged to men.  In part it was a result of Christian beliefs.  To this extent their discrimination was not motivated by their desire to exercise power.  They placed themselves under the authority of the Bible which, they believed, taught that the man should be the head of the house, that wives were subject to their husbands, that women should not speak publicly in the church and that only men could be ordained as pastors.  In part it was the traditional practice of their church.  Men sat on one side of the congregation while women and children sat on the other, and all positions of leadership from pastor and teacher, to lay reader and elder, as well as voting rights and committee memberships were the domain of men.  There was even the unsavoury practice when an unmarried woman became pregnant that she, but not the father, had to appear before the congregation to express repentance.

These patriarchal assumptions spilled over into the schools.  There was always a close connection in Lutheran schools between the roles of pastor and principal. …Being a teacher  in the Lutheran church was one step away from being a pastor, a role reserved for men.  So it was not surprising that men should run the schools as well.  Women, in contrast, were often involved in school enterprises, but always in a subsidiary role.  …

(p27)From the very beginning girls were automatically enrolled in congregational schools just as the boys were.  Significantly, however, it was in the institutions of higher learning that girls had a decidedly lesser place.  For instance,  for the first five years of Immanuel College (secondary) at Point Pass, only two of the first thirteen students were female. At the rival synod’s college called Concordia there were no female students enrolled at all between 1890 and 1926.  This reflected the belief that while female students required a basic Christian education in order to be taught the fundamentals of the faith and to read their Bibles and the confessions of the church, because of their gender they did not qualify for the training to become leaders in the church.

The communities of Prussian, rural, antipodean citizens, who clung to the German language for many years in their schools in Australia, had an exclusive understanding of what was appropriate for females and males in their schools and for leadership at home, school and church.  While it was accepted that girls should have compulsory schooling until the age of fourteen, is this because Prussia instituted the very progressive, compulsory schooling for all children in 1763, approximately 100 years before Australian colonies.  One wonders what value might have been placed on female education in primary schools if this was not the case.

While some concerned LCA members bemoan the influence of culture in our Church today, they seem to be unaware of the influence of their own culture on their thinking.  While stating that their theology is determined purely from Scripture, their blindness to their own historical influences ensures that culture maintains a strong influence on how they interpret Scripture.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in history, sociology, theology, women's ordination


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Richard Holloway on Church and Ethics

Richard Holloway

The former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway states that Christianity and other revealed religions have a problem with keeping up with the best of modern ethics.

He says that a lot of church values are bronze age values; the subordination of women, seeing gays as an abomination (Leviticus) and how slavery was authenticated.

Holloway says, “If you believe that your revealed Scripture (‘our sacred title deeds’) is timelessly perfect in every regard, then you’re stuck with these bronze-age attitudes.”  The following quote is verbatim from ABC RN – Big Idea.

Christianity has to recognize that ethical challenges can come from the state and from secular society.  They don’t have a monopoly on goodness and idealistic thinking and the real challenges to the church in my lifetime have all come from outside the church: the challenge of women – the feminist movement – it took the church a long time to catch up*, and the gay thing, most people under 40 in my country (Great Britain) – the issue’s over – and we’re tearing ourselves apart about it, because it’s there in our sacred title deeds, and we need to reposition ourselves with regard to the title deeds.

It is said that a fish is unaware of the water it swims in.  In the same way many are oblivious to this discord between secular and conservative Christian ethics.  For some, equality and respect are corollaries with belief in a loving God, while for others, a hierarchy of humanity and exclusivities are necessary for belief.

What are the exclusivities in your congregation?  Are women in your congregation doing any of the following:

  • reading the lessons of the day
  • being stewards
  • assisting at holy communion
  • serving on your pastoral committee or church council (and doing something other than secretarial tasks and taking minutes)
  • serving as congregational chairperson
  • preaching the sermon
  • serving as pastor of your congregation

       It is an absolute certainty that one day women will serve in all of these roles and more.

*T   * The LCA, at this point, has not yet caught up with the equality of women.

       Reference: Religion: the next chapter – Big Ideas – ABC Radio National Australian Broadcasting Corporation.




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Girls Can’t WHAT?

Girls Can’t WHAT? Gifts for Girls, Gifts for Teens, Gifts for Women.
There are items for sale on this linked website, indicating that girls can be astronauts, doctors, scientists, firefighters, baseballers …  Oh! How times have changed!

Yet others long for the good old days when women knew their place.


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Girls Can’t WHAT? Gifts for Girls, Gifts for Teens, Gifts for Women

Girls Can’t WHAT? Gifts for Girls, Gifts for Teens, Gifts for Women.
There are items for sale on this linked website, indicating that girls can be astronauts, doctors, scientists, firefighters, baseballers …  Oh! How times have changed!

Yet others long for the good old days when women knew their place.

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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in theology, women's ordination


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Waking up from fundamentalism

Image from

The following blogger enters the confessional and shares a sad list of insensitive and abusive interactions she had with those around her while still a fundamentalist.  While it’s not about women’s ordination, it’s about what happens when individuals take Biblical texts literally and impose the consequences on others. While having the best of intentions, fundamentalists are out of touch with their impact on others. It all seems rather too close to the rigid adherence of LCA social conservatives.

Wordgazer’s Words: My Wish-I-Hadn’ts.

I have, over the course of years that I’ve been a Christian, changed the way I think about a large number of things.  Some of the beliefs I used to hold caused me to treat people (or even myself) in ways that I’m sure now were not what Jesus wanted.  Though I’m sure I have His grace and forgiveness for these things, that doesn’t change the harm I now believe I did.  So here are some of my regrets.  Some of them, as I look back, make me laugh or shake my head; others make me very sad.  If anyone who reads this was affected by any of these things, I hope you already know how truly sorry I am.

So here, in no particular order, are my Wish-I-Hadn’ts:

I wish I hadn’t kept bothering my Catholic co-worker with invitations to my church’s events, even though she had told me she had her own faith.  I thought I was trying to get her away from a false religion.  She thought I was just plain annoying.

I wish I hadn’t had my pastor preach a how-to-get-saved sermon at my wedding, to the captive audience of relatives and friends who had only come to see me get married.

Read many more.

The post, “Don’t talk about it”, tells some of her story of living in Maranatha Campus Ministries, an authoritarian Christian community.

Are you a recovering fundamentalist, or perhaps you have a story of being mistreated by fundamentalists or fundamentalism?


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Why do corporations often underperform in the ethics arena?

Issue #1

The WA government has made a less than magnanimous offer to its Indigenous people.

Between 1905 and 1972, the WA government withheld up to three-quarters of the wages earned by workers on state-run Native Welfare Settlements. The monies were put into government trust accounts with the promise that they would later be rightfully dispersed.  Link

The money was never paid.

An indigenous stockmen

An indigenous stockmen –  from ABC news

With records ‘lost’ The WA government has offered $2 000 to each worker as compensation for unpaid wages.

Why is it that WA bureaucrats, in this era of clear thinking around racism, would attempt to minimise decades of racism? Why is it deemed acceptable that decades of lost wages are to be cancelled with a single payment of $2 000?

Issue #2

Grunenthal, the maker of Thalidomide, has apologised to mothers who took the drug during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

Why is it that a company waits 50+ years to apologise?  Even now it denies legal responsibility. Was it not the company’s responsibility before this? Was it no-one’s ethical issue?  What is happening when a company turns away from taking responsibility?  Aren’t companies run by ordinary citizens, who are upright members of school councils, churches and sports clubs?  What is happening with the culture of a company when presumably ethical individuals are subsumed by the less than ethical nature of their company?   Few people would say that money is more important than people, but that’s what their corporations say all the time.   Link
Issue #3
The LCA has debated women’s ordination for decades, with the Church’s commission on theology determining that there are no theological problems with its inception. General Convention has twice voted with a majority for women’s ordination. The will of the Church is clear, but the lack of action ensures deepening division.  All this while the LCA suffers from a lack of clergy to fill parishes (it’s the same in the Catholic Church – Irish Catholic situation).
How is it that corporate LCA continues to block women’s ordination when general Church consensus and theology has no problem with it? The LCA hierarchy seems to have a notion that the LCA body isn’t ready for women’s ordination.  It gives voice to conservatives and mutes the voice of reason behind women’s ordination. “Let there be no debate.  Let the voice of protest be silenced.”  Like a ‘stern father’ the hierarchy holds that it knows best and there is no budging.  Like the stern father with adolescent children it is unable to adjust restrictions and fails to enter into respectful conversations with family members who are unhappy with current circumstances.
The WA government stands accused of being self-interested and callous. Its response is at best inadequate and, more realistically, out of touch with standards of compassion and ethics. Grunenthal, after years of denying responsibility, stands accused of a disingenuous apology. It is not surprising that the apology has been rejected by suffering families.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of being disingenuous in the way it has sidelined the CTICR after its years of study on women’s ordination.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of idolising Church unity at the cost of women and deepening Church division.  While we understand that District Presidents are mostly supportive of women’s ordination, why is it that we don’t hear their voice? While individuals may be upright moral Church members, they have remained silent to the LCA’s less than ethical response to women, to the voice of the General Convention, to the deliberations of CTICR.  Presumably it’s because they fear that their voice will not be heard.  It is time to speak up!  The silence of the well-intended is given little respect in history.
By resisting change the LCA no longer reflects the reformers’ drive to be true to the Gospel.  By resisting change the LCA is now in a position contrary to the radical Gospel through which Jesus introduced grace for all – slaves, rulers, robbers, lepers and even women.  Without women’s ordination the LCA is also unable to witness to issues of justice, but there’s nothing new there.  Did you notice that the LCA was not amongst the churches mentioned in the news this last week calling for a more humane approach to asylum seekers?  There are times it feels shameful to be a member of the LCA.
Perhaps, an epitaph on certain tombstones might one day read,
I, alone, held the Church together by not ordaining women. Strangely, I rent the Church in two.
One day, under wiser and more tolerant leadership there will be an apology from the LCA for the way it has treated women.

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