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Monthly Archives: March 2013

President distressed with ‘unauthorised communication’

Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 11.04.48 AMOn Maundy Thursday of this Easter season, the following epistle arrived from Pr Mike Semmler, the President of the LCA.  Despite having apologised to representatives from St Stephen’s for his previous epistle, the reprimanding continues.   One can presume that this letter is intended to intimidate Synod delegates into submitting to Pr Mike’s direction from the Synod Chair.

We wonder what his reference to “have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22) would look like in a democratic Church?  For us, it would look like respect, tolerance of diversity, understanding, and lifting each other up in our difference.

Further comments will follow in a later post.

Dear Pastors, Parishioners and Synod Delegates,

At the instigation of the College of Presidents I communicate this pre-convention letter to you.

Our Synod meets in Convention under the theme ‘Where Love Comes to Life’. ‘Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth, so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart’ (1 Peter 1:22)

We have the best news ever to tell the world. It is the gospel of salvation. It is the love of God in Christ.

God in Christ who has enacted our redemption has also in his abundant graciousness given us means to spread this good news. We have communication media not dreamed of 175 years ago when Lutherans first organized worship and mission in Australia. As an example our Media Ministry now reaches a million people each week with the gospel.

It is to be regretted that unauthorised communication using the same God given technology has given rise to false expectation in regards to matters on the Convention of Synod agenda. Groundless expectation can only lead to disappointment and even anger. I refer both to the matters themselves and the constitutional process in place for synod to maintain its unity while difficult issues are under discussion.

The status of the Thesis of Agreement, the ordination of both genders and the standing of the LCA in the Lutheran World Federation will all be processed according to the ways of the Church, which accepts that Scripture is the only norm for its teaching and upon which its unity is drawn.

The Lutheran Church of Australia is a community of God’s children, not an entity reliant on legal argumentation, culture, electioneering, politics, or populist pressure, which if used to settle issues of teaching may demean the very issue being addressed. We fear God rather than people. Our unity is a gift to be celebrated. The Church studies Scripture and the pastors who are called to speak to and for the Church need to be able to give guidance to the synod on matters of theology. This is how the Thesis of Agreement came into being to bring us together. What brought us together keeps us together.

Our commitment and accountability to each other in Synod shows through in our respect, understanding and compassion for each other especially when we recognize hurt. Loving each other is a witness to our culture and society. The apostle Paul spoke to the people of Ephesus and said (Eph 1:15, 16) ‘I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers’.

For a change of teaching the synod, seeking to preserve its integrity, points us toward finding consensus. Biblical studies are required for the constitutional requirement that pastors guide delegates, in decision making. Our previous papers for the study on the ordination of male and female have not satisfied the Church. The Church has put in place an Ordination Dialogue Group which will report to the convention. The General Church Council will offer a proposal to the Synod to progress what has already begun with the Dialogue Group.

There is every reason to be positive about all serious study of the inspired Word of God.

We are charged to speak into the culture in every era, as culture does not determine the interpreting of God’s Word. It is a matter of fearing God rather than culture (1st Commandment).

The importance of how we hear God’s Word is being addressed with a beginning at a symposium (Oct 2011) with presentations from across the Lutheran world. One booklet to help understand our Lutheran approach to interpretation has been produced. Interpretation itself is not a gender issue. We have also looked at what consensus means for the LCA which for pragmatic reasons uses the minimalist constitutional requirement of at least a two thirds majority vote at synod but which does not itself guarantee consensus. What is our understanding of consensus in a confessional church? Both the matters of ‘interpretation’ and ‘consensus’ need further study and discussion. These are vital in establishing teaching in the Church.

The Church has not been preparing for the major theological issues mentioned above. What is presented for possible discussion and direction does not make it ready for decision on the subject itself.

There has been no study before the Church in this synodical period for decision on ordination. The last Convention of Synod requested the following, ‘… the General Church Council to establish a dialogue group with balanced representation from all sides of the issue, to work toward consensus within the group itself and across the Church…’. To shortcut the process would adversely affect the integrity of the Church and set an unwanted precedent for the handling of future sensitive issues.

It is recognized that divided opinion on the ordination matter is a reality and that some particularly with entrenched stances feel threatened, upset and even intimidated when addressing this teaching of our Church. In Synod we understand and have compassion for deep feelings as we continue to pray for and support each other. No-one likes protracted discussion, but it takes patience to achieve consensus across a diverse church.

We have looked to a newer generation of pastors to give their attention to this matter so that the unity of the Church may be strengthened and we can walk together informed by God’s will. That involves consensus in the Church and most importantly how we are hearing and therefore interpreting Scripture.

To demand God’s will according to us, to be enacted on our time schedule, is an approach which finds a better home in sectarianism, rather than synod. Our Synod guards against that. Lobbying also falls short of the ideals of synod as it does not provide the substance of reformation and renewal.

The Church has a teaching on the issue of ordination (Thesis of Agreement: Thesis on the Office of the Ministry VI.II) and we are studying if there is biblical permission for a change with regard to gender.

The Christian church on earth has a future. A future which waits on the Lord and his will. All things are according to his timeline. Patience finds its home in trusting him. Let Scripture teach us the patience we need to move forward together.

Looking to God’s Word when facing these issues provides an opportunity to strengthen our unity. It is not that the inspired Scriptures are unclear, but rather it is we who suffer from unclear understanding.

As we celebrate this Easter we will see once more that Love comes to life in the sacrifice of Christ. We live under his cross with his open tomb providing our path to life eternal.

 

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Thanking God for the preaching of Nadia Bolz Weber

Hey, gentlemen Pastors, try to beat this sermon!  It’s from Nadia Bolz Weber from the ELCA.  It doesn’t come more gutsy than this.

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

2013-03-24 NBW Sermon <—click here to listen along.

the first bit

Because these people of the Holy Week story are we people.  And we people are the likes of which God came to save.  God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only an improved, doesn’t make the wrong choices kind of people.  There is no improved version of humanity that could have done any differently. So go ahead. Don’t wait until you think your motivations are correct.  Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does).  Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows.  Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves…we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen.

 
 

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Aside
Roman Catholic Activists in Rome

Father Roy Bougeois poses with (l-r) Deacon Donna Rougeux, Priests Ree Hudson and Janice Sevre-Duszynska in front of the Vatican, October 17, 2011.

Some senior leaders are willing to pay an enormous price in order that women might follow their calling. Roy Bourgeois was excommunicated and expelled from the priesthood for consistly advocating the ordination of women.  It is ironic that the Catholic Church, the most patriarchal of all churches, finds no theological objections to women’s ordination, just that of tradition.

“It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate. Wikipedia

It would seem that this is also the case with the LCA, given that the CTICR comes to a similar position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Roy Bourgeois tells his story – N.Y.Times

 
 

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Tanya remembers

Tanya Wittwer remembers when women were ordained ten years back in 2013.

 

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Rob Bell Comes Out for Marriage Equality

The arguments in support of GLBT people are the same ones in support of recognising women in the Church. Note the sentence, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work.”

Bell (a popular American preacher, and as reported in Huffington Post) went on to say that while it used to be fair to equate evangelicals with social conservatism, that assumption no longer holds true. More pointedly, he said, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

via Greg Carey: Rob Bell Comes Out for Marriage Equality.

Social conservatism is always looking backward.  It is forever clinging to what may have served us well in the past.  Sometimes that anchor will serve us well, however, sometimes that anchor keeps us remote from new understandings, progress, compassion and from society itself.  Conservatism, in its insistence on looking backwards, is often heartless.  In the LCA a rigid, heartless insistence on the exclusion of women from ministry has given our Church a rigid, legalistic exterior, despite the majority support for women’s ordination. Sadly the President’s repression of discussion on the issue has been destructive on several fronts, including on those who continue to leave the Church.

It is time to repent, to turn around.  It is time to listen to the still, quiet voice and embrace those we have shunned, those who have no voice – for that is the way of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in sociology, women's ordination

 

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Senior Lutheran Pastors and Theologians Affirm Women’s Ordination

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Senior Lutheran pastors and theologians affirm the ordination of women in a brochure shared with congregations in the LCA around Australia. It’s a key moment in the women’s ordination debate that Pr Semmler doesn’t want us to have. The full brochure can be found here. A VISION-Women’s ordination in the LCA which details the vision for women’s ordination coming from conferences in Adelaide and Brisbane in 2012.

The following Senior clergy shared their vision:

Rev Geoff Burger, President, LCA WA District (2000-2008)
Rev David Christian, President LCA WA district (1993-1999)
Rev Dr Joe Strelan, Past Vice President LCA, served on CTICR, Emeritus lecturer ALC
Rev Timothy Jaensch, President LCAQD (2000–2009)
Rev Lionel Otto, Past Vice President LCA (1990-2000) and President, LCA NSW District (1990-2005)
Rev Reinhard Mayer, President LCAQD (1974-1985)
Rev John Vitale, President, LCAQD (1993-2000)
Rev Dr Ulf Metzner, DTh (Heidelberg), former Director of LCA World Mission Board,
served on CTICR, Committee on Theology, former lecturer ALC and Sabah Theological seminary

The following Lutheran Theologians also shared their support:

Rev Dr Richard Strelan, Associate Professor NT and Early Christianity, University of Queensland, LCA pastor
Rev Dr Russell Briese, Chaplaincy coordinator Griffith University, Lecturer, School of Theology, Australian Catholic University, pastor St Paul’s, Beaudesert
Rev Dr Maurice Schild, Lecturer Lutheran Confessions & Church History, Luther Seminary (1970-2000), served on CTICR, Department of Liturgics, Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue, Commission on Social Questions, LWF Asian Programme of Advanced Theological Studies
Rev Dr Norm Habel, Professorial Fellow, Flinders University, recognised Old Testament scholar, author of international theological publications and major biblical works, pastor of LCA
Rev Dr Vic Pfitzner, Emeritus Lecturer and former Principal of ALC

This brochure is published by the All Saints group on behalf of the LCA clergy and laity who support the ordination of women in the LCA.
The pastors who have prepared these statements have agreed to their publication and dissemination. For further information on the theological
arguments for women’s ordination and motions submitted by St Peters and St Andrew’s for the 2013 LCA General synod please go to Women’s Ministry Network – www.wmn.org.au.

Senior Lutheran pastors affirm the ordination of women

 

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A Vision: Women’s Ordination in the LCA

The following excerpt, from a brochure, published on behalf of the All Saints and Time to Soar groups of laity and clergy who support women’s ordination, has just been distributed to serving and retired pastors throughout Australia.  A VISION-Women’s ordination in the LCA.

 

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