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Call me ‘apostate’

We are recently aware that some clergy and ALC students (future clergy) state that they would vote for women’s ordination if homosexuality was not an abomination.   Strange logic indeed, but of course the hope is that by blocking women’s ordination, the ordination of gay and lesbian people can also be blocked.

It is of some concern that pastors function under such reasoning.  The ethical base of such decision making is somewhat dubious. Restricting the giving of justice to one group of people because you are fearful of another group getting ahead would suggest a compromised values base and perhaps reflects a desire to manipulate one group in order to achieve aims with another group.  There is no room for continuing to support patriarchy in the name of impeding the leadership of homosexual people.  That is a debate that the LCA is yet to have, and yes, we do support the ordination of gay and lesbian peopel.  However, to delay justice to women is to deny them justice.

In response to the repeated claim that homosexuality is an abomination, it’s time that our theologically trained leadership showed a little more scholarship and wisdom.   These are people who have spent years studying Scripture.  They can do better than referring to ancient culture-bound phrases to prove their point.

Word Of A Woman reflects on this selective use of Scripture and how other texts are conveniently ignored.  Years of study at ALC should provide pastors with the theological skills to remain consistent in their use of Scripture.  Why is it not so?

I support several things the Bible calls an abomination and some it just says are wrong. GASP! Say it isn’t so!!! (I bet my friends from the beginning of the article probably also support some of these given I have seen their sideburns). That’s right lovelies, along with fully supporting my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I also support:

  • Eating shellfish
  • Having sex with a woman (you are married to) who is on her period (if she is consenting, OBVIOUSLY)
  • The menswear look for ladies (hello, Diane Keaton)
  • Kilts for the dudes
  • Cutting your sideburns
  • Re-marrying someone you divorced (I have known several couples who have done this)
  • Marrying someone new after you get divorced
  • I am decidedly pro bacon, pepperoni, honeybaked ham, carnitas and pork chops.
  • Wearing clothing with more than one type of fiber
  • I am down with crop rotation (I come from several generations of farmers)
  • There is a bunch of stuff the Bible says you can’t touch, some are kind of gross but I am cool with you touching them (for instance I am for you touching a dead pig for the purposes of playing football)
  • Tattoos, even though I don’t have any
  • Long hair for men and short hair for women
  • Women praying with their heads uncovered
  • Women teaching men and/or boys and/or other women/girls (yes, even in church)
  • Women NOT being property of either father or husband or brother or dead husband’s brother
  • I am cool with it if you don’t want to marry your rapist
  • If your husband is getting mugged and you think you can stop things by grabbing the guys junk really hard…I promise I won’t cut off your hand
  • I won’t be mad if you don’t stone your kid for dishonoring you
  • I am even good with you working on Saturday or Sunday or even paying someone else to work by serving you lunch after church (I know I do)

Here is the thing, these two guys do not follow every instruction given in the Bible. They. Just. Don’t. They interpret. They pick and they choose. And I am sure they use all sorts of things to support their beliefs. So do I. So do I. I don’t know about you but when I read scripture, some things are crystal clear, some are blurry and some are downright opaque. The clearest thing I can find is that I am supposed to love God and love people, ALL PEOPLE. No if. No until. No unless. I just don’t think Jesus gives me another option.

BONUS: DID YOU NOTICE APOSTATE LITERALLY MEANS “RUNAWAY SLAVE” IN THE GREEK. I KIND OF LIKE THAT.

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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Hermeneutics, theology, women's ordination

 

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Pr Maurice Schild writes to President Semmler

Pr Maurice Schild - ALC lecturer, 1970-2000

Pr Maurice Schild – ALC lecturer, 1970-2000

The following is a shared letter from Pr Maurice Schild to the President of the LCA.   It reacts to the increasingly hard edge against women’s ordination, which has come in the last generation or so.

President of the Church
Rev Dr Michael Semmler
197 Archer St, North Adelaide
SA  5006

Dear President Michael, and dear honoured members of the College of Presidents,

Many thanks, brother Michael, for your regular communication on synodical and other important church matters, also for your most recent epistle.  Thus you remind us again of the ordination issue and ‘the teaching of the church’.

In view of the long-lasting LCA stalemate on the question at issue, it is, in my opinion, ‘the ethics of the church’ that call for equal urgent attention.  People of good will are hurting very badly and are trying to keep faith.  Our church is suffering and is in danger of letting something become entrenched and endemic that has a perceived sharp edge of cruelty about it.  The fact that male forums and Pastors’ Conference decide whether their opinions are to be reviewed at synod and even voted on leaves one feeling that many voices cannot be heard, precisely because of the gender line – which is the very matter under question.  From outside this may well look like male structural buttressing to support male vested interests.  The problem has to this extent become ‘system immanent’, built in.  It will require bold leadership to break this open.  In this situation Luther’s word on the Galatians text deserves careful mulling over:

There we have the same faith, the same possessions, the same inheritance – everything is equal.  One could even say: He who is called as a man is a woman before God.  And she who is called as a woman is a man before God.  (LW 28,44)

As for Galatians 3, it took the church 18 centuries to see the radical earthly human rights implication of ‘neither slave nor free’, and that it wouldn’t and won’t do to simply go on quoting Ephesians 6:5 (‘Slaves obey your masters with fear and trembling’) at those who were/are deprived of rights and cruelly treated by the powerful. The very context thus suggests that ‘neither male nor female’ also implies more than spiritual sameness and unity.  Certainly, the real and down to earth implication of ‘neither Jew nor Greek’ is what the whole of Galatians is so polemically all about.  (If only the church had been alert and bold when they started applying the infamous ‘Arian paragraph’ in its very midst in our time.  No Jewish person could then be considered for ordination!  The disasters of going back to pure literalism for whatever reason, when the relevant vital implications of the Gospel have once been realised (as with Peter, Wilberforce, historical exegesis and church order), are enough to haunt the mind).

At this late stage, when a convincing, clear and compelling case against the ordination of women has not been made, an air of unreality has come up on the one hand; and among those still concerned, who haven’t lost interest, the matter is seen very much as an un/fairness issue.  Ordination of women takes nothing away from us males, nor from anyone; but it gives, and is additive to the cause of communicating the Gospel, it is explication of the fundamental ecclesial fact that women too are fully members of the priesthood of believers.  In the community of Jesus it can never be beneath the dignity of office or of high doctrine (if it were this) to attend to these matters of ethics, humanity and the ecclesiality of the baptised (this may be vastly different in other faiths, or even in papism). But we appear to be acting as if things were QED (Ed: “quod erat demonstrandum” – meaning ‘the matter has been proven’) when they are not.  In my opinion, we tend to act and speak – and need to stop acting and speaking – as if …

As if the exegesis of Scripture allowing for ordination of women has to be wrong;

As if the historical record were completely black on white over ‘200 years’ (as if nothing were known of Junia and Romans 16, leave alone a lot of later evidence);

As if the matter can be overcome by delay, and by discouraging open discussion as in The Lutheran (where, among the last letters permitted on the issue, one by your truly (but authors’ names were suddenly not printed!) very briefly indicates something of full female church involvement in early times);

As if the considered and reconsidered majority opinion of the LCA’s CTICR can simply be set aside.

Our context, I have no doubt you agree, demands anything but indifference.  We live in a land that is apparently largely deaf to the Word of God, a land that has been termed ‘the most godless place under the sun’ (Breward). The LCA needs to focus its efforts accordingly and to use all the people God gives us.  This religious situation could well constitute the precise context for the bold application of Luther’s other pertinent statement:

If the Lord were to raise up a woman for us to listen to, we would allow her to rule, like Hulda.

He has raised quite a few, and it is  hurting the Body to have them held silent.

The late moment, our mission in situ, and the hermeneutic embedded in Luther’s understanding of the Word of God in Scripture together represent what must be a pretty urgent call for the relevant change and the exercise of a good conscience in promoting it.  My reference to Luther refers especially to his Prefaces to the writings of the Bible, as well as a piece like How Christians should regard Moses (LW 35).  One difficulty we face is a kind of patterning which emerged with Kavel and Fritzsche, i.e. being divided or in tension over problems that had already been dealt with elsewhere (rightly so.  Who is concerned among us today as to what they even were, yet issues of chiliasm and scriptural- ‘apostolic’ legalism in matters of church order kept Lutherans in our land divided for so many decades); it seems that ordination of women may be another such matter.  Our Augsburg Confession should protect us: it’s great ‘satis est’ (Ed: ‘it is enough) makes clear what the determinative marks of the church are.  Others are not to be added thereto – for the sake of the Gospel and church unity.

I humbly submit these thoughts for your kind consideration and wish you well, in all ways, in your calling and work of leadership and guidance in the Church of God.

Yours sincerely and fraternally,

Maurice Schild     (7th October 2012)

(Ed: Emeritus Lecturer, ALC, 1970-2000)

 

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Letter from Pr Neal Nuske to LCA governing committees

Pr Neil Nuske

Pr Neil Nuske – Time to Soar conference, ALC, July 2012

Dear WO supporter,

Following the All Saints conference in November 2012, a steering group was formed to advocate women’s ordination in the LCA.

One of the steering group members, Neal Nuske, sent an open letter (below) to the GCC, ALC, COPs and BLEA expressing his personal concerns over the theological direction of some sections of the LCA. His letter is attached.

Neal has given his permission for the letter to be openly discussed amongst all members and forums of the LCA.

KInd regards

Carole Haeusler
All Saints steering group, Queensland

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Just Sayin’

Just making clear!  The last post required deep commitment to get to the end, so we include William Weiblen’s conclusion again.  His criticism of LCMS (in the previous post) is the same criticism that we make of LCA hierarchy today.   The hierarchy follows a strict father model, similar to the LCMS and pretends that the LCA has one voice.  The ‘strict father’ leadership believes there is only one view of the world and one theology, thereby ignoring the others in the family.

We were going to highlight what is relevant for the LCA today, but we decided it was obvious enough. (Reminder: The ALC was one of the synods that merged to form the ELCA)

Conclusion

Lutheran Self-Criticism

Another area that deserves consideration expressing some of the differences between the ALC and LCMS is that of how we are able to critically look at ourselves.  Each of us legitimately proceeds from our own confessional self-understanding and identification, but ALC people believe there is a sharp divergence either in the willingness or capacity of the LCMS rigorously to be self-critical.

It is the mark of totalitarianism in both religion and politics to insist on monolithic understanding to suppress dissent, to discredit premises which undergirds the lives of others.  to protect constituents from other points of view, to entrust guidance to an oligarchy, and to be fearful of religion.   When ALC teachers use language patterns suggesting that repentance encompasses the whole of life, that means ruing not only moral infidelity but doctrinal inflexibility. ALC  people are not seeking thereby to destroy the truth, they only want to say that all human formulations have a tentativeness within them.  They do not want Christian doctrine to become the occasion for idolatry.  Our trust is in God not in human formulations about God.

Lutherans have freely criticized others. They have postured themselves as ‘guardians’ of the truth – but they err on two counts; they have been loveless in their relationships and they have used truth as a dividing rather than a uniting tool.

Criticism from without will always have some effect.  It may reinforce prejudices already in control or it can generate honest review which eventuates in change.  But the desired condition is that critical self-analysis emerge from within.  To have that, a church must not only obey believe in the Reformation, but carry through the continuing reformation of the body of Christ.  Without this, churches becomes sects. While conscious of our own flaws, we would charitably suggest that the LCMS has much to learn in this respect.  The best of both worlds would bear much fruit if we would have vigorous evangelical, academically rigorous self-analysis as a natural part of each church.

 

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Toward understanding the LC-MS

Under the leadership of Pr Semmler, the LCA has snuggled closer to LCMS, but records of this evolution, to our knowledge, will not be found in committee minutes or official policy.

Should be we be strengthening ties with with LCMS, or should we take another route? Bill Weiblen, a pastor, chaplain, professor and president of Wartburg Theological College, Iowa, attempts to answer these questions for the ALC in 1980, some 8 years before the ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988.  He writes on the differences between the ALC  and the ELCA. The American Lutheran Church (ALC) was one of three church that united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  A brief timeline and flowchart of both churches is listed at the end of this post.

The post is lengthy and possibly imposing.  May I suggest you read the conclusion at the end of the quoted article.  To whet your appetite the following is an extract from that paragraph, “It is the mark of totalitarianism in both religion and politics to insist on monolithic understanding to suppress dissent.”

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Time to Soar Conference

Time to Soar conference in session

St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide, sponsored a women’s ordination conference on July 13-14th, entitled “Time to Soar”.  While the President enacts a ban on the discussion of women’s ordination in “The Lutheran”, the Conference demonstrated that many people are wishing to talk about it. How can a church pretend to have a process discussing how to deal with women’s ordination without having a public discussion?

While there were approximately 120 from around Australia at the Conference, many others were unable to attend.  Dr Vic Pfitzner (emeriti – Luther Seminary Principal) and Dr Peter Lockwood (ALC lecturer) both were key speakers, but perhaps the most powerful presentation was by Sue Westhorp, who told the story of how she has lived with her call to ordained ministry since childhood.

Like many people my age I grew up in a post-feminist world.  There was nowhere else that told me that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do when I grew up – except the church.  I had that childhood sense of wanting to be a pastor that’s not really unique – practising at home, preaching to the toys or my younger siblings – and I thought, “I’d really like to be a pastor one day”. Then I realised that the church doesn’t actually allow women to be pastors. … But I’ve had encouragement from others and recognition of my gifts and abilities, the gifts and abilities that God has given me, plus a strong desire to serve in this way.

Readers are reminded that “The Lutheran” was barred from publishing paid advertisements for the Conference, leaving some church members feeling dis-empowered and angry that their Church decides for them what they can and can’t read.

It is something special to hear someone’s story.  One of those present expressed the thought that although they had theologically agreed for a long time with the ordination of women, they had never heard a women’s story before.  After hearing Sue’s story they understood something of her depth and giftedness, and were even more convinced that the church needs the ordination of women.

Readers may be interested to know what our Church holds dear as represented on the LCA homepage.

The LCA is (a) ‘synodical’ church, meaning that every congregation ‘walks together’ with every other congregation, every district with every other district, and every department or agency with every other one. We’re not isolationist; we support each other and grow together as one church. At the same time we recognise that every congregation is a unique expression of our church and we value and celebrate our diversity. So, while all congregations adhere to the LCA constitution, they are free to exercise their own interpretations of the LCA’s mission and ministry objectives.

Every three years representatives of the LCA’s congregations meet for the Convention of Synod, which is our church’s primary decision-making body. 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 our church.

Wow!  This could be an embracing, grace-filled church. “The people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of the church” – we assume that we’ll all be reminded of this at the next General Synod.

What is the message that you, in your congregation, hear from our Church? Is it grace, welcome, acceptance and tolerance or is it something else?

 

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Twitter Feed at Time to Soar Conference

The Time to Soar conference has begun.  We are working on getting the Twitter feed up and running.  We hope that you are able to monitor the feed and add your questions and comments.

If you are a Tweeter you can follow or contribute to conference happenings on Twitter via @TTSLCA  (hashtag #ttslca).  We will have some other social media opportunities up and running as well. More information coming.

 
 

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