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A letter to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA

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Bruce Lockwood from St Peters Congregation, Indooroopilly, Qld

The following is a letter from the members of St Peters and St Andrews Congregations, Qld, to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA. Information about women’s ordination has sometimes not been forwarded in congregations. If it is possible that this letter is not forwarded to key people in your congregations, would you inquire as to whether it has been received and then provide them with a copy?  Many thanks.

This letter is followed by an open letter to the LCA from Neil Nuske, Religious Ed teacher at St Peter’s College, Indooroopilly.

Dear Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA

St Peters and St Andrews Congregations wish to inform you of resolutions we have submitted to the Synod Secretary for inclusion in the Synod Reports and Synod Agenda so that you can prayerfully and thoughtfully consider these proposals beforehand.

An open letter to the LCA

from

St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly Queensland

Introduction

While attending the “Time to Soar” conference to discuss the ordination of both men and women in Adelaide, our Pastor Peter (St Peters Indooroopilly) resolved to hold a similar conference in Brisbane. The “All Saints” Conference was held on the first weekend of November 2012 in the P & F Centre and attracted nearly 60 delegates from congregations in South-East Queensland, and interstate.

At the All Saints conference delegates learnt of the significant impact the refusal to ordain women has had on the church and our educational, aged care and other institutions. Delegates learnt of the constraints it imposes on suitably qualified personnel and our outreach. We heard some disturbing stories from those affected because the LCA has not yet seen its way clear to ordain women.

The majority of Lutheran Churches worldwide ordain both men and women. Following twenty years during which time our best theological minds struggled with this issue the CTICR Final Report 2000 resolved that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA”. Therefore we conclude this is a matter of theological opinion and not a fundamental doctrine of the church.

As advocates for the ordination of both men and women, we are not disputing in any way the Doctrine of the Ministry as expressed in our Confessions. However, in keeping with the spirit of the “The Status of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” (reviewed July 2001, unedited) we consider that majority opinion at both the 2000 and 2006 Synods supporting the view that scripture and theology permit the ordination of women, demonstrates that amendments have become desirable in the course of time.

What have previous LCA synods decided?

The most recent Synod in 2009 considered the “Ordination Consensus Task Force Report 2009” From this report four (4) resolutions were proposed. Three were passed. The fourth resolution was lost. These resolutions have significant implications for the ordination of women in the LCA.

Synod 2009 Resolution 1
GCC to establish “a dialogue group with balanced representation” to work towards consensus within the group itself and across the church on the ordination of “both men and women” with reference to the published findings of the CTICR and a focus on biblical interpretation.

Synod 2009 Resolution 2
If convention authorises the ordination of women we need a preparation time before implementation.

Synod 2009 Resolution 3
Convention asks GCC, CoP, CTICR and other relevant groups in the church to note study and act where appropriate on the fourteen (14) recommendations of the Ordination Consensus Task Force.

Thus Synod 2009 resolutions 1, 2 and 3 form the platform for ongoing deliberations by the LCA on the ordination of both men and women.

Synod 2009 – The Lost Resolution
had proposed that the ordination of women be closed to debate at synod unless the General Pastors’ Conference gives clear guidance by formal recommendation.

The loss of the fourth resolution means that new resolutions for women’s ordination must be placed on the agenda and can be debated at synod without requiring a formal recommendation from the General Pastors Conference.

St Peters congregation wishes to inform you of our four Resolutions submitted to the 2013 Synod together with a proposed way forward in the spirit of the LCA website which says: “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 the church”. With this in mind we firmly believe that the voice of the people in the pews during this Synod needs to be heard anew.

St Peters congregation proposes a way forward

St Peters proposes a way forward, and a way of restoring our church to health in truth, unity and love. These proposals have been prepared with the help of past presidents, seminary lecturers, academics, pastors, chaplains, and college principals both male and female.

The four proposals have a sequence, addressing:

1.      The Theses of Agreement and the CTICR Final Report 2000
2.      The constitutional issue
3.      Our women ready to be ordained
4.      Questions of truth, unity and love

St Peters Resolutions

Resolution One

Whereas “The Status of the Theses of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” prepared by the CTICR and adopted by Synod in 1975 under “Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions of The Lutheran Church of Australia” states that “Should amendments (to the Theses of Agreement) become desirable in the course of time, such amendments would have to be submitted to the entire Church after thorough theological examination and discussion,” and

Whereas the LCA has commissioned the CTICR to examine the ministry and ordination of women by conducting a thorough theological examination and discussion of the key texts cited in support of the ordination of men only, namely, I Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 (Theses VI par 11) culminating in the CTICR Final Report (CTICR-FR 2000) and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 has summarised the theological arguments not only for the ordination of women but also for the ordination of men only, and presented these theological opinions to Synod, we submit that in the course of time it is now evident that two divergent interpretations of the two key texts cited in Theses VI par11 are held, not only amongst our respected theologians but also amongst the laity of the LCA, and

Whereas there now are two entirely different theological opinions in the LCA regarding the long-held public doctrine of the church in reference to the question of the ordination of women (Theses VI par 11) we conclude scripture itself is not clear on the matter that men only should be ordained and that women should be prohibited from ordination, and

Whereas these two different theological opinions concerning 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 have different implications for doctrine and practice within the LCA, we conclude Theses VI par 11 needs to be amended because, as CTICR-FR 2000 states: all teaching must be consistent with what is confessed as the clear teaching of scripture. Yet scripture is not clear on this issue, and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and,

Whereas The Augsburg Confession states “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII) and,

Whereas Lutheran theology affirms God has instituted the Office of the Ministry and the efficacy of the ministry of word and sacrament is in no way due to the gender of a pastor who is ordained, but solely due to the work and power of God the Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier, working through those servants who proclaim the apostolic gospel  (AC V) in the church through the ministry of word and sacrament, and

Whereas the gospel, which is central to the ministry of word and sacrament, cannot be negated by ordaining women into the Office of the Ministry, ordination is therefore a matter of practice reflecting pastoral sensitivity to a particular historical tradition and cultural context which may vary between Lutheran Churches and within Christendom, rather than a fundamental doctrine of the church

Be it resolved

that Synod commission the CTICR to amend or delete Theses VI par. 11 in order to reflect the majority conclusion of the CTICR that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, that this amendment be submitted to the next Pastors’ Conference and General Synod for review and ratification.

Resolution Two

Whereas the Constitution ARTICLE Xll. ALTERATIONS TO CONSTITUTION part 1 states that “The Church at a convention of the General Synod may amend, alter, add to or repeal any of the rules, except Article ll. and Article Xll.1, which shall be considered fundamental and unalterable in their intent and meaning”, it therefore follows that all other parts of the Constitution may be subject to alteration when justified, and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA therefore

Be it resolved

that Synod request the Constitutions Committee amend ARTICLE V. THE MINISTRY  Item 1. second sentence to read:  For this purpose it shall receive into its Ministry by ordination, or by colloquy for ministers ordained elsewhere, any person whose qualifications for the office have been established and who…

Resolution Three

Whereas God in love and wisdom has called women to be pastors and gives them to the LCA to serve in the ministry of word and sacrament, and

Whereas women who are unable to follow this call of God towards the path of ordination have experienced significant pain and in some cases a crisis of faith

Be it resolved

that the LCA no longer rejects this gift from God but accepts God’s generous gift of love and ordains these women to serve as pastors in the LCA

Resolution Four

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, The Augsburg Confession states “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII) and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 Part D addresses the theological and pastoral implications of the commission’s conclusion under the headings – The question of truth; The question and unity; and The question of love

Be it resolved

that with prayer and thanksgiving the Lutheran Church of Australia harnesses all of God’s gifts bestowed on us including the CTICR, the LEA, The Lutheran, the pastors of the church and the leaders of the congregations to inform and guide all members of the LCA in questions of TRUTH, UNITY and LOVE and encourage one another in our understanding and experience of how the ordination of women can enhance the ministry and outreach of the church and the proclamation of the gospel.

If you wish to receive a copy of the full explanation and background to these resolutions please email: Church.Office@stpeters.qld.edu.au and you will be forwarded a copy.

___________________________

St Andrews Resolution

With permission from St Andrews Lutheran Church Brisbane City Congregation we also include for your consideration their resolution advocating full membership of LWF:

Be it resolved

that the Lutheran Church of Australia in this anniversary year applies for full membership in the Lutheran World Federation.

__________________________

Summary of an open letter to the LCA from Neal Nuske

In a recent open letter to the Presidents of the LCA, Neal Nuske, Teacher in Charge of Study of Religion at St Peters Lutheran College addresses two theological issues which have been seen by some as stumbling blocks in the movement towards the ordination of women and men.

The first issue relates to the validity of a believer’s faith if nurtured by female clergy and the validity of the consecration of the elements by a female pastor. For Neal the issue is that “concerns about gender, are replacing that particular distinctive accent in Lutheran theology which locates the work of the Holy Spirit at the center of our theology of Word and Sacrament. In so focusing upon gender, the key concepts of sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus are being marginalized and displaced.”

He asks; “How does the gender of a pastor compliment and strengthen the forgiveness of sins? Or, conversely, how does the gender of a pastor desecrate and destroy the seal of the free forgiveness of sins?” He concludes that “gender is not the factor which effects the forgiveness of sins and legitimizes the words of institution. Neither does gender desecrate Christ’s body and blood.”

Regarding the sacrament, he explains, “There are only two parts to a sacrament, the sign and the Word. We cannot add gender. In the New Testament the Word is the added promise of grace. The promise of the New Testament is the promise of the forgiveness of sins as the text says ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’. This promise is neither consecrated nor desecrated on account of the gender of a pastor. The promise is not desecrated and useless if a female pastor consecrates the elements.

Neal reminds us that the sacraments are useless without faith “for the Holy Spirit works through the sacraments, not through the gender of the pastor. A faith that acknowledges God’s mercy is alive and well. The gender of the pastor does not make faith secure or alive.”

Finally he draws our attention to the Formula Of Concord: Affirmative Theses: Confession of the Pure Doctrine of the Holy Supper against the Sacramentarians which states 3. Concerning the consecration we believe, teach, and confess that no man’s work nor the recitation of the minister effect this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but that it is to be ascribed solely and alone to the almighty power of Jesus Christ.

The second issue addressed by Neal is the interpretation of certain passages in scripture namely1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1Tim. 2 11-14. He concludes that “Christ cannot contradict Himself; therefore Paul’s commands were pastoral and contextual in their intent, for a specific time and place but not universal in their intent.”

The full text of Neal’s Open Letter can be found on: http://www.katieandmartin or by e-mail to: Church.Office@stpeters.qld.edu.au

Bruce Lockwood

Synod Delegate St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly

 
 

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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

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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From the LCA Hermeneutics Symposium – an extract from Prof. Kit Kleinhans

Kit Kleinhans – professor of religion and department chair, Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa

Professor Kit Kleinhans, from the ELCA, was one of the guests invited to speak at the LCA Hermeneutics Symposium in the Barossa Valley, October 2011.  The following, with permission, is extracted from her presentation.  It was published in the Lutheran Theological Journal, May 2012.

It is precisely in the process of interpreting and applying our Lutheran confessional heritage in new contexts that reason and experience play a role, not as external sources sitting in judgement over the Scriptures and the Confessions but as important resources for us in our theological work.  Luther himself did not exclude the legitimate use of reason and experience in interpreting the Scriptures.  Luther’s appeal at the Diet of Worms in 1521 to ‘scripture or clear reason’ is not an isolated instance but a recurring reference in his writings.  Luther does not acknowledge reason as an independent authority equal to the Scriptures.  Rather, his point is that Christian teaching need not be found verbatim in the Scriptures but can be arrived at by rational deduction from the Scriptures (homoousios being a case in point). I think this approach is appropriate for the Confessions as well.  Reason, while never in and of itself a warrant for doctrine, is useful – even essential – in the interpretation and application of the Scriptures and Confessions in new contexts.

Lutherans will not always agree with each other.  Thus one of the core points of the Confessions for the global Lutheran communion is the satis est of Augsburg Confession VII.  Except for those times when an issue rises to the level of status confessionis, different interpretations need not signify a loss of our heritage or a rejection or diminution of our commitments to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.  Rather, new interpretations and applications can be profound embodiments of the Lutheran heritage in new and changing contexts.

‘The law says “Do this,” and it is never done’. For the sinner, this is a word of judgement.  Let me suggest that for the church as an institution, as an ‘earthen vessel’, this may be understood as a word of encouragement.  The Lutheran church is not finished yet. God is not finished with the Lutheran church yet.  As American practical theologian Loren Mean puts it, ‘God is always calling us to be more than we have been’. The question is not “What would Jesus do?’  That we already know from the cross.  The question rather is ‘What would Jesus have us do in order that the good news be heard and that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven?’

I close with the words of the hymn writer Fred Pratt Green:

“The church of Christ in ev’ry age, beset by change but Spirit led,
“Must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.

Reference: The complete presentation by Kit Klein .pdf

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Hermeneutics, theology

 

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