The following is a letter from the members of St Peters and St Andrews Congregations, Qld, to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA. Information about women’s ordination has sometimes not been forwarded in congregations. If it is possible that this letter is not forwarded to key people in your congregations, would you inquire as to whether it has been received and then provide them with a copy? Many thanks.
This letter is followed by an open letter to the LCA from Neil Nuske, Religious Ed teacher at St Peter’s College, Indooroopilly.
Dear Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA
St Peters and St Andrews Congregations wish to inform you of resolutions we have submitted to the Synod Secretary for inclusion in the Synod Reports and Synod Agenda so that you can prayerfully and thoughtfully consider these proposals beforehand.
An open letter to the LCA
St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly Queensland
While attending the “Time to Soar” conference to discuss the ordination of both men and women in Adelaide, our Pastor Peter (St Peters Indooroopilly) resolved to hold a similar conference in Brisbane. The “All Saints” Conference was held on the first weekend of November 2012 in the P & F Centre and attracted nearly 60 delegates from congregations in South-East Queensland, and interstate.
At the All Saints conference delegates learnt of the significant impact the refusal to ordain women has had on the church and our educational, aged care and other institutions. Delegates learnt of the constraints it imposes on suitably qualified personnel and our outreach. We heard some disturbing stories from those affected because the LCA has not yet seen its way clear to ordain women.
The majority of Lutheran Churches worldwide ordain both men and women. Following twenty years during which time our best theological minds struggled with this issue the CTICR Final Report 2000 resolved that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA”. Therefore we conclude this is a matter of theological opinion and not a fundamental doctrine of the church.
As advocates for the ordination of both men and women, we are not disputing in any way the Doctrine of the Ministry as expressed in our Confessions. However, in keeping with the spirit of the “The Status of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” (reviewed July 2001, unedited) we consider that majority opinion at both the 2000 and 2006 Synods supporting the view that scripture and theology permit the ordination of women, demonstrates that amendments have become desirable in the course of time.
What have previous LCA synods decided?
The most recent Synod in 2009 considered the “Ordination Consensus Task Force Report 2009” From this report four (4) resolutions were proposed. Three were passed. The fourth resolution was lost. These resolutions have significant implications for the ordination of women in the LCA.
Synod 2009 Resolution 1
GCC to establish “a dialogue group with balanced representation” to work towards consensus within the group itself and across the church on the ordination of “both men and women” with reference to the published findings of the CTICR and a focus on biblical interpretation.
Synod 2009 Resolution 2
If convention authorises the ordination of women we need a preparation time before implementation.
Synod 2009 Resolution 3
Convention asks GCC, CoP, CTICR and other relevant groups in the church to note study and act where appropriate on the fourteen (14) recommendations of the Ordination Consensus Task Force.
Thus Synod 2009 resolutions 1, 2 and 3 form the platform for ongoing deliberations by the LCA on the ordination of both men and women.
Synod 2009 – The Lost Resolution
had proposed that the ordination of women be closed to debate at synod unless the General Pastors’ Conference gives clear guidance by formal recommendation.
The loss of the fourth resolution means that new resolutions for women’s ordination must be placed on the agenda and can be debated at synod without requiring a formal recommendation from the General Pastors Conference.
St Peters congregation wishes to inform you of our four Resolutions submitted to the 2013 Synod together with a proposed way forward in the spirit of the LCA website which says: “Pastors provide input regarding theological matters, but in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of the church”. With this in mind we firmly believe that the voice of the people in the pews during this Synod needs to be heard anew.
St Peters congregation proposes a way forward
St Peters proposes a way forward, and a way of restoring our church to health in truth, unity and love. These proposals have been prepared with the help of past presidents, seminary lecturers, academics, pastors, chaplains, and college principals both male and female.
The four proposals have a sequence, addressing:
1. The Theses of Agreement and the CTICR Final Report 2000
2. The constitutional issue
3. Our women ready to be ordained
4. Questions of truth, unity and love
St Peters Resolutions
Whereas “The Status of the Theses of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” prepared by the CTICR and adopted by Synod in 1975 under “Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions of The Lutheran Church of Australia” states that “Should amendments (to the Theses of Agreement) become desirable in the course of time, such amendments would have to be submitted to the entire Church after thorough theological examination and discussion,” and
Whereas the LCA has commissioned the CTICR to examine the ministry and ordination of women by conducting a thorough theological examination and discussion of the key texts cited in support of the ordination of men only, namely, I Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 (Theses VI par 11) culminating in the CTICR Final Report (CTICR-FR 2000) and
Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 has summarised the theological arguments not only for the ordination of women but also for the ordination of men only, and presented these theological opinions to Synod, we submit that in the course of time it is now evident that two divergent interpretations of the two key texts cited in Theses VI par11 are held, not only amongst our respected theologians but also amongst the laity of the LCA, and
Whereas there now are two entirely different theological opinions in the LCA regarding the long-held public doctrine of the church in reference to the question of the ordination of women (Theses VI par 11) we conclude scripture itself is not clear on the matter that men only should be ordained and that women should be prohibited from ordination, and
Whereas these two different theological opinions concerning 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 have different implications for doctrine and practice within the LCA, we conclude Theses VI par 11 needs to be amended because, as CTICR-FR 2000 states: all teaching must be consistent with what is confessed as the clear teaching of scripture. Yet scripture is not clear on this issue, and
Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and,
Whereas The Augsburg Confession states “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII) and,
Whereas Lutheran theology affirms God has instituted the Office of the Ministry and the efficacy of the ministry of word and sacrament is in no way due to the gender of a pastor who is ordained, but solely due to the work and power of God the Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier, working through those servants who proclaim the apostolic gospel (AC V) in the church through the ministry of word and sacrament, and
Whereas the gospel, which is central to the ministry of word and sacrament, cannot be negated by ordaining women into the Office of the Ministry, ordination is therefore a matter of practice reflecting pastoral sensitivity to a particular historical tradition and cultural context which may vary between Lutheran Churches and within Christendom, rather than a fundamental doctrine of the church
Be it resolved
that Synod commission the CTICR to amend or delete Theses VI par. 11 in order to reflect the majority conclusion of the CTICR that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, that this amendment be submitted to the next Pastors’ Conference and General Synod for review and ratification.
Whereas the Constitution ARTICLE Xll. ALTERATIONS TO CONSTITUTION part 1 states that “The Church at a convention of the General Synod may amend, alter, add to or repeal any of the rules, except Article ll. and Article Xll.1, which shall be considered fundamental and unalterable in their intent and meaning”, it therefore follows that all other parts of the Constitution may be subject to alteration when justified, and
Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA therefore
Be it resolved
that Synod request the Constitutions Committee amend ARTICLE V. THE MINISTRY Item 1. second sentence to read: For this purpose it shall receive into its Ministry by ordination, or by colloquy for ministers ordained elsewhere, any person whose qualifications for the office have been established and who…
Whereas God in love and wisdom has called women to be pastors and gives them to the LCA to serve in the ministry of word and sacrament, and
Whereas women who are unable to follow this call of God towards the path of ordination have experienced significant pain and in some cases a crisis of faith
Be it resolved
that the LCA no longer rejects this gift from God but accepts God’s generous gift of love and ordains these women to serve as pastors in the LCA
Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, The Augsburg Confession states “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII) and
Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 Part D addresses the theological and pastoral implications of the commission’s conclusion under the headings – The question of truth; The question and unity; and The question of love
Be it resolved
that with prayer and thanksgiving the Lutheran Church of Australia harnesses all of God’s gifts bestowed on us including the CTICR, the LEA, The Lutheran, the pastors of the church and the leaders of the congregations to inform and guide all members of the LCA in questions of TRUTH, UNITY and LOVE and encourage one another in our understanding and experience of how the ordination of women can enhance the ministry and outreach of the church and the proclamation of the gospel.
If you wish to receive a copy of the full explanation and background to these resolutions please email: Church.Office@stpeters.qld.edu.au and you will be forwarded a copy.
St Andrews Resolution
With permission from St Andrews Lutheran Church Brisbane City Congregation we also include for your consideration their resolution advocating full membership of LWF:
Be it resolved
that the Lutheran Church of Australia in this anniversary year applies for full membership in the Lutheran World Federation.
Summary of an open letter to the LCA from Neal Nuske
In a recent open letter to the Presidents of the LCA, Neal Nuske, Teacher in Charge of Study of Religion at St Peters Lutheran College addresses two theological issues which have been seen by some as stumbling blocks in the movement towards the ordination of women and men.
The first issue relates to the validity of a believer’s faith if nurtured by female clergy and the validity of the consecration of the elements by a female pastor. For Neal the issue is that “concerns about gender, are replacing that particular distinctive accent in Lutheran theology which locates the work of the Holy Spirit at the center of our theology of Word and Sacrament. In so focusing upon gender, the key concepts of sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus are being marginalized and displaced.”
He asks; “How does the gender of a pastor compliment and strengthen the forgiveness of sins? Or, conversely, how does the gender of a pastor desecrate and destroy the seal of the free forgiveness of sins?” He concludes that “gender is not the factor which effects the forgiveness of sins and legitimizes the words of institution. Neither does gender desecrate Christ’s body and blood.”
Regarding the sacrament, he explains, “There are only two parts to a sacrament, the sign and the Word. We cannot add gender. In the New Testament the Word is the added promise of grace. The promise of the New Testament is the promise of the forgiveness of sins as the text says ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’. This promise is neither consecrated nor desecrated on account of the gender of a pastor. The promise is not desecrated and useless if a female pastor consecrates the elements.
Neal reminds us that the sacraments are useless without faith “for the Holy Spirit works through the sacraments, not through the gender of the pastor. A faith that acknowledges God’s mercy is alive and well. The gender of the pastor does not make faith secure or alive.”
Finally he draws our attention to the Formula Of Concord: Affirmative Theses: Confession of the Pure Doctrine of the Holy Supper against the Sacramentarians which states 3. Concerning the consecration we believe, teach, and confess that no man’s work nor the recitation of the minister effect this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but that it is to be ascribed solely and alone to the almighty power of Jesus Christ.
The second issue addressed by Neal is the interpretation of certain passages in scripture namely1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1Tim. 2 11-14. He concludes that “Christ cannot contradict Himself; therefore Paul’s commands were pastoral and contextual in their intent, for a specific time and place but not universal in their intent.”
Synod Delegate St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly