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High stakes in October 2018 at the LCA General Convention

Women’s ordination is again on the agenda at the LCA national general convention in Sydney (Oct 2018).  It’s been around for generations and has repeatedly been turned down, needing to achieve two-thirds of the vote at General Convention.

While many have already left the LCA in search of a more tolerant and inclusive denomination there may be huge ramifications in October if the LCA again refuses to ordain women.

When Lutheran school teachers from Australia and NZ met in Adelaide (2017), one of the guest speakers was Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber from the ELCA (USA).   She was an inspirational speaker, providing encouragement for those struggling to remain within this denomination that has persisted in excluding women from leadership.

It’s humorous to recount that when she visited Australia on an earlier occasion, certain conservative clergy sneered at the thought that Nadia might have something to offer them in the way of preaching.  After all, she’s just a woman.  No, she’s not just a woman. She is a gifted woman with a powerful story, who brings many gifts because she is a woman.   She is a woman who happens to be clergy and she has a well-honed ability to preach the good news of God coming to live amongst us.  Coming to share God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s justice, God’s compassion  – all for those struggling in life in one way or another.

The response to Nadia Bolz-Weber was remarkable.  Many people were moved to tears and after her presentations the applause persisted and persisted. She answered questions that related some despair on the matter of women’s ordination.  No doubt there were individuals present who didn’t believe that women should be ordained, but we believe the response was an indication of what the people of the LCA think.

Australia’s contentious same-sex marriage survey was acted upon by Parliament in 2017.  Majority approval resulted in new legislation – contentious, yes, but that’s how it has to be to retain social stability. The alternatives are abusive and elitist, where those with power rule over those who have been marginalised.

There must be more evident democratic processes within the Church.  The majority view of the people should be enshrined in Church legislation. Currently an oligarchy and less than 40% of those voting at Synod, and logically (and generally speaking) the oldest and most conservative sector of the Church, have imposed their theology and their world view on the rest of the denomination – a recipe for revolution.  While some might argue that we have a theocracy that rules and protects our constitution, this is a fallacious argument as Church funding and the means for its very existence comes from individuals and congregations which ultimately can choose to withdraw that support.

Assuming no change of the voting proportion at the General Convention this year, these are the results of this theocratic gerrymander:

  • young people, other individuals and families gradually disappear from congregations and committees. (It has been happening for a long time.) Gradually, members, along with children and grand-children see no reason to continue to support a denomination that does not reflect God’s love or Biblical scholarship.
  • some progressive Church leaders leave the LCA, unable to remain in a denomination that pays no heed to God’s word on this matter. No one wants to live the rest of their life in a denomination that has lost its way.
  • with the loss of these individuals and families, the Church inevitably becomes more conservative and more out of touch with society.
  • some progressive congregations choose to break away from the LCA, no longer able to support an institution that continues to deny the need for democratic representation.
  • as the Church continues to lean right and away from social norms, rather than having more influence throughout its supposed faithfulness, the Church has less credibility in the manner it attempts to reveal God’s grace.
  • with the continued absence of women from leadership and reinforced male perspectives on relationships and power, the structures of domestic violence are strengthened.
  • women’s voice is reduced at all personal and committee levels of congregations, districts and national governance.
  • women are increasingly confined to gender-roles within the Church as men are lauded and women are disempowered.
  • the Church experiences a pious subjugation of women, with Scripture being used as a tool of subjugation, not dissimilar to the manner in which slavery was justified. Southern Baptist theologies come to mind.
  • general LCA theology leans further to the right on all matters, further alienating members who are engaged with society and grappling with evolving issues of justice and compassion.
  • the ensuing legalism and entrenched conservatism will have the LCA creeping closer to the sect-like Missouri Synod, and further away from the ELCA.
  • the decline of the LCA increases as congregations close.
  • the voice of the LCA becomes less significant on all matters.
  • the LCA becomes a small, insignificant denomination that retains just members who have been indoctrinated into a socially conservative view of the world, such as the Amish or Mennonites.

Without women’s ordination, without engaging with today’s issues and without something a little closer to democratic representation, the death or torpor of the LCA is assured.

On the other hand the LCA might embrace God’s ongoing creation and revelation, ordain women and have a decent go at speaking and living God’s word.

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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in theology, women's ordination

 

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St Andrews, Brisbane, requests information from women seeking to serve the LCA as ordained ministers

From a letter from St Andrew’s, Brisbane. 12th Jan 2018

Hello, and happy new year.

I’m forwarding a request from Shiron Dixon, chair of St Andrews congregation in Brisbane. Since 2015, St Andrews has graciously hosted Brisbane meet-ups for supporters of women’s ordination. St Andrews is about to enter a period of Pastoral vacancy.

The congregation is prayerfully considering whether it may delay its call process pending the outcome of the General Synod, in the hope that they could then consider both female and male candidates in this process. To help them make this decision they are gathering information about women who may apply for entry into the clergy of the LCA should the 2018 General Synod adopt this change of practice.

Could you please either respond yourself by completing the linked Questionnaire below, or forward this email to a woman you know who has, or has had, a sense of call to ordained ministry in the LCA? Shiron requests responses to secretary.standrewsbne@gmail.com by 25 January 2018 if possible. CVs are also welcome but not required at this stage.

Yours in Christ,
Kathy Matuschka
Coordinator
Altogether In Ministry (AIM)
Please use this link to complete a questionnaire.
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in theology

 

CTICR consultations on the doctrinal statement for the ordination of both women and men.

The CTICR is now working with the request of the last Convention to prepare a doctrinal statement supporting the ordination of both women and men. They are currently running ‘consultation’s’ around Australia and New Zealand to move beyond their first draft. This last weekend there was a consultation at Blair Athol and Glenelg in South Australia. Many clergy were present, some of whom wanted to argue down women’s ordination or the process, despite facilitation stating that it was not a forum for argument.
The statement was limited because of the need for diplomacy within the CTICR and did not clearly reflect the Convention request. Rather, it appeared to provide fodder for further debate, starting from the current theological position.
One would have thought that the Convention request required the CTICR to present the clear gospel mandate for equality amongst God’s children. There is rich material that those supporting women’s ordination might have drawn on. If CTICR is compromised because of its membership, then a sub-committee or another body should be given the task to provide the necessary material for the LCA to journey into a rich future.

While the rhetoric of having patience is used, that is from the lethargic perspective of the comfortable.  It is not the perspective of those who are distressed and/or have left the LCA.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in theology, women's ordination

 

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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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Bishop Shelby Spong on prejudice

Bishop John Shelby Spong

The time has come for all Christians to decide whether a person can follow Christ and still maintain his or her homophobic prejudices. I do not believe that is possible. Deep down all of us know this to be true. The decision is not both/and; it is either/or. We can either follow Christ or maintain our prejudices. There can be no compromise. The contending positions are mutually exclusive. There must be no wavering. Leviticus 18 and 20 cannot be allowed to remain in the lexicon of Christian behavior. It is also no longer a morally defensible argument for hierarchical figures to protect the destructive homophobia of some leaders and church members in order ‘to preserve the unity of the church.’ A church unified in prejudice cannot possibly be the Body of Christ. Can anyone imagine a church preserving its unity by tolerating slavery in its midst? Is there any difference between that situation and tolerating homophobia? Any prejudice based on who a person is, his or her very being as a child of God, cannot be a part of the church’s life. Quoting Leviticus to justify our prejudices is no longer an option. ref

Having looked at Lev 18 and 20 again we are horrified at the death sentences handed out for charge after charge. Such barbarity is not what Christianity is founded on. Christianity is founded on Jesus’ love and sacrifice. One cannot decide to focus on select Old Testament verses and then ignore the rest.  If you choose to focus on verses of death, then your religion is one of death and is to be regarded as abhorrent.

Bishop Shelby Spong’s Facebook post might equally apply to women in the church. “Any prejudice based on who a person is, his or her very being as a child of God, cannot be a part of the church’s life.”  There is no option but embracing all as children of God, with no qualifying clauses.

The LCA has been able to ignore certain abhorrent statements from Luther – it now has to declare unequivocally and urgently that women should be at the centre of its very being.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in theology

 

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?

Save

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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in politics, theology

 

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Mixed news on women’s ordination in the Lutheran church around the world

While 80 % of LWF member churches ordain women, the Lutheran Church in Latvia decides to rescind it’s practice of ordaining women. This sounds surprisingly like the Australian Presbyterian Church some decades back.  The opening sentences of two separate articles are listed below.

Namibian Lutheran pastor Rev. Lyauvika Nashuuta distributes the sacrament at the closing worship of the 2015 international Global Young Reformers’ Network workshop in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/Marko Schoeneberg

Namibian Lutheran pastor Rev. Lyauvika Nashuuta distributes the sacrament at the closing worship of the 2015 international Global Young Reformers’ Network workshop in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/Marko Schoeneberg

“Survey affirms move towards a more inclusive ministry

“(LWI) – More than 80 percent of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches ordain women to the ministry of word and sacrament, a recent survey shows.

“The findings indicate that 119 of the 145 LWF member churches or 82 percent across the seven regions ordain women, compared to 77 percent in 2012. In four of the seven regions—Central Western Europe, Nordic countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America—all of the churches ordain women. … (more)

The Lutheran Church of Australia, which excludes women from ordained ministry, has chosen not to become a member of the LWF.

Latvian Synod rescinds its inclusion of women in ministry

“On 3 June the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) voted in favor of a motion to change its constitution, restricting service in the ordained ministry to men only. … (more)

No information is given on the background to the decision.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in theology

 

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