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.
 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.
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?
- Patriarchy in colonial Lutheran schooling (katieandmartin.wordpress.com)