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Theocracy or Democracy?

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee. National Museum of Australia.

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee – co-founder in South Australia. National Museum of Australia.

The National Museum of Australia reports on the passing of legislation in South Australia granting women the vote and the right to stand for Parliament on 18 December 1894.  That makes it over 122 years that South Australia was the first electorate in the world to give equal political rights to both men and women.  This is even more surprising when remembering that it was only 14 years earlier, in 1880, that women were permitted to undertake degrees ref.  The systemic/structural barriers to women’s participation in colonial Australia are hard to imagine from this vantage point. Sadly we have their echoes in the Lutheran Church of Australia today.

Today the Lutheran Church of Australia (with its historical home in South Australia), is among the last in the world to recognise women as equally gifted and equally capable of pastoral leadership. The following was one of the arguments against women’s suffrage on the Museum’s page.

Many parliamentarians felt that women were not emotionally or intellectually capable of properly participating in politics. Others also felt that women were stepping outside their traditional roles and that giving them the vote would undermine a husband’s position in the family. Ref

The social restrictions on women were broad and central to all existence.  The restrictions were based on a foundational belief that women were incapable of taking part in society on the same basis as men, and were often based on fear that women would compete with men.  Rather than face any competition they chose to legislate against women’s participation.

In the 19th century, Australian women had very few legal rights. Once married, these rights were further limited as they were transferred to her husband. Married women surrendered all property to their husbands and any wages earned. Husbands were the sole legal guardian of any children from a marriage and could remove them from a mother’s care at any time, even bequeathing their care to other people in their will.

Before the 1870s, women were not able to file for a divorce and, even after legislation was changed in the 1880s, it was still difficult. Rates of abandonment were high and deserted women were usually forced to find paid work that paid up to two thirds less than a man for doing the same job.

Without the support of a trade union they often suffered unsafe and unregulated working environments in the sweated clothing trades. Trade unions resisted women’s involvement in the workforce, believing it would drive down rates of pay for men.

This 19th Century reasoning sounds rather like the arguments today against women’s ordination.  However, today in the LCA, we’re not even playing by the same democratic rules of the 19th Century.  It takes much more than 50% of the vote of the people for  women’s ordination and clergy have a disproportionate voice and vote.  Clergy have often proudly asserted that the LCA is not a democracy.  Instead we have to suffer the condescension of the system and its clergy who have deemed that laity should not have an equal voice nor vote at the national Synod.

Isn’t it time that the LCA debate whether it wishes to stay a theocracy (def: a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission) or whether it wishes to work as a democracy, respectfully valuing the voice of the laity?

 

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This woman may have just saved your life

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia – 26th Sept 2016

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne just may have altered the course of humanity, having determined how to destroy six superbugs without antibiotics. Superbugs have been described as a fundamental threat to global health.  Currently antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill around 700,000 people each year, “but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.” reference

Shu Lam may have just saved your life, or that of your grandchildren and reduced the suffering of generations.  It is clear that humanity cannot afford to ignore the gifts of women.  Without Shu Lam it is possible that humanity would have been destined to struggle with super bugs for hundreds of years.

Women’s ordination is no longer a theological issue. It is anthropological. Even if the Bible was clear that women could not be ordained, we would have to assert that women’s gifts cannot be ignored, neither in academia nor ecclesia.  Human intelligence and experience of female wisdom, brilliance and compassion already declares that any objection to women’s ordination is a cultural and political phenomena.

Political allegiance is a weird phenomena and reflects poorly on the individual.  Some Trump supporters recently found nothing objectionable to a list of invented moral and criminal breeches on the part of Trump.  Their primary and only concern was that of getting Trump elected.  Similarly, those objecting to women’s ordination are stuck in a vortex of contradictory information on the role of women. While working with women’s leadership in every day life they revert to age-old patterns of male dominance when they walk in the church on Sundays.

Look around your congregation.  Who is missing? What age-group is not there? Given the current age-profile of your congregation what is your prediction for the date of its closure?  Is it more important that you maintain your political stance on women’s ordination, or that you embrace the texts of inclusivity?

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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in politics, theology

 

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Prayer Vigil for Women’s Ordination at St Stephen’s

PRAYER-VIGILSt Stephen’s Lutheran Church, 152 Wakefield Street, Adelaide, has a prayer vigil on the day of the debate on women’s ordination (Friday 2nd October, 2015).  Sorry for the late notice.  It will be held from 9am until 7pm.  Consider joining the vigil to pray for our Church, for our women, for our leadership and for delegates from around Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to St Stephen’s Working Party on Women’s Ordination for organising the day.

Further news, (thanks, Jeff): Doctor Andrew Pfeiffer has been elected Assistant Bishop.  The politics of that is interesting.  Doctor Pfeiffer went to Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, USA (a seminary of the Lutheran Church – MIssouri Synod), to study for his doctorate.  Ever since, he has strongly opposed women’s ordination.  While at this stage he does not exercise much influence on this matter, in our opinion it is not healthy to sit too close to the LC-MS, which has removed clergy from their role of pastors for publicly supporting the ordination of women. Matthew Becker example  (Type “LCMS” into the search field of this blog – top right – for more on LCMS.)

Then there’s this official tweet today: “ requested that CTICR study the scriptural and theological understanding of subordination and the role of male headship in marriage”.  Sigh!  Male headship?  Are we really that out of touch with our world?   What a huge waste of energy!   CTICR studies its subject matter in fine detail and there will be months and months of discussion and debate.  It would seem more appropriate to be discussing how the LCA might offer leadership against the obscenity of The Coalition and Labor’s common platform of stopping the boats, or on climate change.

Synod has agreed to commit more resources to keeping children safe – a good initiative against domestic violence!   We understand that some people are maintaining that it’s still okay to hit children.  Ah, well!  Change comes slowly, but you knew that, especially if you are a woman in the LCA.

The #lcasynod Twitter feed today has mostly been official updates.  If you are at Synod your perspectives via Twitter would be appreciated.  Just include the following: “#lcasynod”  (without the quotation marks)

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in politics

 

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LCA Synod kicks off

twitter

The LCA Synod has begun in Rochedale, Qld.  We have just checked the Twitter feed and found only a little activity. The two main hashtags are #lcasynod and #wherelovecomestolife  It seems that the only live-feed from the convention is from worship services. This is difficult to understand. In these days of connectivity it would have been very helpful for the nation to be able to observe the key discussions and debates.

If you are at the convention those of us at home would all appreciate it if you would share your experiences via Twitter.  These may include information on the events, quotes from speakers and developments on the women’s ordination discussion and debate.  We understand at the moment that the only vote on the matter may be in regards to getting a consensus on Scriptural interpretation.  This seems to imply that Bishop John Henderson has decided that a vote would still be too divisive.  Correct us if we are wrong.  *** ADDITION*** (1st Oct, 2015) Jeff, in comments below, indicates that this is incorrect.  In his comment he also indicates that there may be a move from the floor asserting the debate on WO is unconstitutional.  Pastor John will give his understanding if the issue is raised. (Thanks, Jeff.)

For those of you who are present in Rochedale may the Holy Spirit guide your deliberations.

We wait with bated breath in hope for something constructive to come from our national convention.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in politics

 

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LC-MS Removes Rev. Dr. (and Prof) Matthew Becker From Its Role of Pastors

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

By now, many have heard the sad news that as of July 15 the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker will be removed from the roster of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Rev. Becker has been an LCMS pastor for twenty six years, and is currently a Professor at Valparaiso University after having also served several years in the Concordia University System. Rev. Becker has consistently and faithfully spoken out against increasingly narrow interpretations of scripture which in recent years have been embraced by synodical officials as mandatory for any who would consider themselves to be Christian.    Ordain Women Now – an organisation within the LCMS (Read more for further detail)  Read here for Matt Becker’s record of the event.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker is an attempt to homogenise the LC-MS so that it speaks with one narrow theological voice.  However, in these changing multi-cultural and diverse societies it is just not realistic to expect that our theology will be as one.  It is realistic, however, to expect that in our journeying together our theology will grow closer.

We believe that a church should be stable and loving enough to hold differences of theology lightly, and that diversity will bring strength, not weakness.

Joining a church is not a statement that we agree with every theological stance that it may take. Rather, it is a statement that we are willing to journey together as we engage with Christ in our lives and what that might mean for our interaction with society and those around us.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker, rather than being an act of healing, is an act of self-destruction which will most likely lead to further expulsions and departures from the LC-MS.  In the end, the Gospel is not about law, it is about love and forgiving one another in Christ.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in politics

 

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Female archbishop of Sweden announced

How often does conversation in Australian Lutheran circles turn to personal ancestry in Germany, Sweden and other northern European countries?  These connections seem to be revealed with sincere pride.

It is one more point of irony in the LCA, when countries of origin have, in the main, moved ahead many years ago with women’s ordination. Note the final sentence in the article from AsiaOne News below:

Sweden follows in the footsteps of other Lutheran churches in the US, Canada, Germany and Norway which have appointed female leaders.

Source – AsiaOne News

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

STOCKHOLM – The Church of Sweden announced on Tuesday that it had elected a woman as its leader for the first time in the institution’s history.

The Bishop of Lund, Antje Jackelen, won 55.9 per cent of the votes from the 324-strong ecclesiastical college and will replace the current archbishop Anders Wejryd.

“I’m a little dazed and grateful for the support I got,” she told news agency TT.

The 58-year-old bishop is married to a priest and has two children.

Jackelen, who was ordained in 1980, said it was not so strange for the church to choose a woman leader.

“It doesn’t come as such a surprise,” Jackelen said. “We have had female priests for over 50 years.”

About two thirds of Swedes are members of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, which separated from the state in the year 2000.

Sweden follows in the footsteps of other Lutheran churches in the US, Canada, Germany and Norway which have appointed female leaders.

“It was about time,” Anders Wejryd told TT.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in politics, women's ordination

 

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The bitter truth

Just as in the case of slavery, women’s suffrage or anti-Semitism, those people currently blocking women in the LCA from ordination (or perhaps their descendants) will one day claim that they weren’t to know any better.  They will assert, just as those who apologise for the torture of Galileo in his support for the Copernican understanding of the Solar System, that the level of knowledge in society was insufficient for them to understand how much they had erred.

It seems to us that no-one can know all things and so ignorance should not be condemned.  However, in Jesus we have the principle of love, which guides who we are, what we say and how we act.  This principle guides us in how we interact with our loved ones and adversaries.  It is a principle that would have us embracing each other in our hurts and disagreements.  It is a principle that would have us working to respect and build up our adversaries, while clinging to our own beliefs.  If we cannot do this what can we take from Jesus, apart from personal piety?  If that’s what it is to be Christian, we shall be called shallow indeed.

The small clip from Intelligence Squared makes the point succinctly.

Here is the full debate on whether the Catholic Church is a force for good.  Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry argue passionately that the Catholic Church is not a force for good.  They are both atheists and argue convincingly that the Catholic Church has much to answer for.  We’ll leave it to the reader to find relevance for the LCA

If the Church is to be a force for good it needs to be leading the way, reconciling adversaries, living with difference, living with tension, accepting contradictions, embracing multiculturalism, embracing different metaphors for the Creator God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and living with different perspectives on the place of women within the LCA.

We cannot hope that this issue will disappear.  It’s not going to happen.  Would Jesus tell his sisters to be silent?  There is only one option.

Equality will continue to be an issue until it is so complete that it ceases to be an issue.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in politics, sociology, women's ordination

 

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