Dr Edgar Mayer shares his wisdom on the dilemma facing the LCA – women’s ordination in an paper entitled, Allowing the LCA to Repent (a doc).
He commences by quoting Dr Dean Zweck.
So what is the problem? It’s a problem of great complexity, but the bottom line is that neither we ourselves, not anyone else, is going to hear the Word unless there is repentance. The first part of the Isaiah reading is actually a gracious invitation as well as stern reminder that it is time to repent. The time is now:
Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
The history of the Christian movement shows that renewal always begins with repentance. ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ cried John the Baptist in the wilderness (Matt 3:2). ‘Repent, and believe in the good news,’ are the first words on the lips of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. ‘When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent”, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance’—so states thesis one of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. We want our church to turn around, but nothing will change until we ourselves ‘turn around’—which is what the Hebrew word for repentance actually means. ‘Let them return to the Lord,’ says the prophet, ‘that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’
The following is Edgar’s summary of his paper. The full paper can be found here.
- Nothing will change unless we repent.
- The LCA is built on the constitutional demand for unanimity in doctrine and uniformity in practice which leaves not much room for repentance because any repentance and ensuing change would threaten the LCA’s mandated unanimity and uniformity.
- In spite of our constitution and forty years of dedicated effort the LCA has not really achieved unanimity and uniformity in a whole range of theological matters, e.g.: creation issues, the role and authority of women in congregation and church both in terms of worship and leadership, the material and formal principles of Scripture, associate membership in the Lutheran World Federation and membership in the Australian Council of Churches …
- The General Synod in 2006 has brought us to a crisis point because even after two synodical votes (2000, 2006) our denomination remains split right down the middle when it comes to the question of women’s ordination which means that according to the LCA constitution we are now officially living in “sinful unionism” with ourselves.
- Since there is a growing awareness that another ten or twenty years of church debate would not help us to reach consensus in this matter, the way forward seems to be either to separate from each other or change our constitution to acknowledge and allow for the current diversity.
- Lutherans do not propose that there is a divinely mandated church structure. There can be varied denominational structures depending on what serves congregations best. However, there can be no domineering leadership or coercion in faith matters because individual believers remain captive to the Word of God and for them “it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience”. Any leadership can only lead by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason and then pray that the Holy Spirit works his own conviction in the hearts of the hearers.
- The Theses of Agreement and the Document of Union themselves may be able to move the LCA forward forty years after her inception. There is an acknowledgement in these writings that according to Lutheran theology church unity is not based on oneness in doctrine and practice but oneness in Christ. First and foremost all Christians belong to the one church of Jesus Christ (una sancta) through their one faith in Christ. Then only as a secondary step Christians may consider forming denominations which in accordance with the basic oneness of Christians may accommodate some diversity within a given framework, i.e. the framework of the Lutheran Confessions, without creating the false impression of unanimous agreement in everything.
- We have to have a constitutional basis which allows for repentance and change. We have to have a constitutional structure which allows pastors and congregations to follow their conscience and obey the will of God. One option would be to organize ourselves as a Federation of Congregations or Federation of Districts which would then develop diverse streams of Lutheran expression within the one Federation. Other options can be considered.
- On our knees we will find unity.
- A letter to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA (katieandmartin.wordpress.com)
- Letter from Pr Neil Nuske to LCA governing committees (katieandmartin.wordpress.com)
- Pr Maurice Schild writes to President Semmler (katieandmartin.wordpress.com)