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A response to the interview with Sue Westhorpe by Pr Mark Tuffin of Boxhill LCA

This post has been removed.

Pr Mark Tuffin had not given permission to have his work republished, with it being meant only for the congregational magazine.  We apologise for the distress caused.

Please contact Pr Mark directly if you wish to make further comments.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in theology, women's ordination

 

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A chat with Sue about Sue’s Story …”Reverend Ma’am”

Sue Westhorpe at Time to Soar conference on women's ordination, ALC, July 2013

Sue Westhorpe at Time to Soar conference on women’s ordination, ALC, July 2013

Boxhill Lutheran Church recently published the following interview with Sue Westhorpe by Pamela Richardson.  A reply by Pr Mark Tuffin will follow in another post shortly.

Several years ago I attended my first Women’s Ordination Conference where I was enlightened and inspired by stories and discussions that centered on women and their place in the Christian Church, and particularly in the Lutheran Church of Australia. So it was with anticipation that, in mid July, I, along with a number of others from Victoria, attended a Women’s Ordination Conference organised by St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Adelaide, South Australia. It was at this conference that I heard for the first time, in the seminary refectory, Sue Westhorp’s stories — a story I listened to with a mixture of sadness, anger, and pain.

Sues’ story is about her vocation to be an ordained pastor in our Lutheran Church and the sadness, struggles, and barriers she has encountered in this journey. For me, I was moved and disturbed that I could have been in St Paul’s for six years and known Sue, but have no idea of the depth of her sadness and frustration experienced on her journey. As Sue said in her opening remarks, her story is but one of many similar stories lived out by other women who have felt called to the ministry within this, our Lutheran Church.

1. Sue, how do you cope when you reflect on the fact, that here in Australia, where women are able to be whatever they choose to be, you face seemingly insurmountable barriers to fulfill the calling you have felt since childhood to be a pastor in the Church of your birth?

Well, when we’re told “no”, we adjust, and find other ways of answering the call. So I worked at St Paul’s in music, pastoral care, and adult education: a wonderful and (eventually) full-time lay position that I thought surely must satisfy the call. And yet it didn’t. There was always part of the ministry that was missing, ‘fullness’ of ministry.

So I compensated with about 10 years of service in the national church, chairing the Department of Music and sitting on the Department of Liturgics and the Commission on Worship. I planned music for three general synods, and for the last one planned all the worship. But all of this together still did not satisfy the call; and I also got increasingly frustrated with having my ideas and suggestions only taken seriously when repeated by a male committee member.

A breakthrough came with my studies in Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE. Not only was my calling affirmed, but I found new ways of doing ministry, new ways of doing theological reflection. And I was also led into new employment, currently as a palliative care chaplain in the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Without compromising who I am as a Christian or a Lutheran, this involves me in multi-faith ministry, helping people make sense of what they experience in hospital, often in their last days. Because I no longer have freedom to travel for meetings, I have had to give up my work on national LCA bodies; but I love what I am doing now.

My colleagues from other churches affirm my gifts and calling — even their humour is affirming! For example, every morning, one of the hospital cleaners greets me with “Good morning, Reverend Ma’am”! But the important thing is that I am now able to do most aspects of ministry (with the exception of consecrating the Communion elements), including preaching and leading some services such as funerals (usually at the request of those I have ministered to in their last days, or their families). And yet there is still that lingering sadness that I cannot take those final steps, and that even the work I now do cannot be within the context of my LCA church, my home.

2. Sue, in your story you mentioned your dream, that your husband Peter encouraged, of going to the wonderful “Mecca” that is “the Sem’’ to study theology. What was the initial response to your application to study there?

Very  positive. Peter Lockwood said “Yes, please come.”

3. You have spoken of “some harder times” as your studies progressed. What were they and why did they develop?

Well, in our first year, a friend and I had to fight to be allowed into the Bachelor of Theology program rather than the Bachelor of Arts in Theology then being offered to lay people. There was the time I discussed my sense of call with a final year student, and the shock of his opinion that the only call I could have had must be from the devil. There was the pain of being excluded from certain Seminary subjects that were declared reserved for pastoral candidates — with the flow-on effect in general synods and gatherings of being excluded from discussions when the ‘serious’ theological and ministry talk began.

5. Sue, having completed the Bachelor of Theology and any other requirements expected of a pastor, what respect and acknowledgement has the church and its clergy given to your knowledge and experiences?

I have the Bachelor of Theology (and my Bachelor of Music, and CPE qualifications); but I don’t have all the subjects required for a pastor. Women at Seminary were not permitted to study homiletics (how to prepare and deliver a sermon).

As for the second part of your question, there are some pastors within the church who are truly pastoral, and can deal with this area with respect and sensitivity — and that includes some on both sides of the political division over ordination.

6. Sue, how and why do you remain in the LCA despite the fact that other Lutheran women have left it because they have felt there is no place for their vocation in this our church?

This church is so much a part of my spiritual DNA, my roots, that I really cannot leave it behind. I choose to stay, even though chaplaincy colleagues have offered me “safe harbour” in other denominations that ordain women.

7. So, Sue, what are your future hopes for women like yourself in the LCA?

After the vote at the Toowoomba Synod (the majority in favour of ordination of women and men, but less than the 66% hurdle that had been set), a pastor friend remarked that the ordination of women was inevitable but it could take up to 100 years to come into effect. For the sake of other women who feel called, I hope it is sooner than that. I hope that there will soon be a way that a call to ministry in the LCA can be tested for all people, as it is now for men.

But mostly I pray that the ordination of women may be allowed in the LCA for the sake of the church and the gospel. And until it is, we shall continue to find other ways to serve.

8. Finally, Sue, what are the things and images that sustain you in this journey?

There are two images that sustain me on my journey.

The first is the image of the crucified Christ — the Christ who knows pain, who knows rejection, who knows suffering — this is the Christ I carry as I visit patients and families in my work, this is the Christ who carries me in my pain about ordination.

The other symbol comes in a wonderful gift given to me by Elizabeth Pech after the death of Pastor Herman. When she moved into a retirement village, Elizabeth gave me Herman’s home Communion set, for which I am deeply grateful. At first I left the vessels exactly the way they were — unpolished, with a hint of Herman still about them. A couple of months ago, I decided to clean them so they were ready for use. For me, this is like the maidens keeping their lamps trimmed — this is both a symbol of what I cannot yet do, and a symbol of my hope and readiness.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in sociology, women's ordination

 

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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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One woman’s letter to the College of Presidents

Hope___Breast_Cancer_Awareness_by_allentattoo

The following letter, which was sent to the LCA College of Presidents, expresses one woman’s story and her desire for women’s ordination.  Her story makes plain that the issue is no longer about theology. Current generations clearly long for men to remove the barriers to women’s pastoral leadership.

The College of Presidents
August 2012

I pray…that…words may be given me…Eph. 6:19 (Ed: Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel)

Some helpful advice given to me on retirement was;- maintain an influence in your area of expertise. My area of expertise is teaching but particularly from the mission perspective of Christ’s final command on earth. God’s love has led me into mission and I am amazed at the words and ideas I am given.

When I was not expected to live in 2003 with a serious infection, there was a shortage of Lutheran pastors and so no one available,  so I needed to be a pastor to myself during a long stay in hospital. God was with me all the way (as was my wonderful husband and family and prayer groups all over Australia in different denominations). God worked in me with love and brought healing and even enabled me to minister to staff in the hospital. In an extremely difficult time God was awesome! I was given that experience so I could advocate for women pastors one day. How I would have loved a woman pastor when I was so sick. I feel so sad for women who are dying without that support.

When I had recovered some months later a friend said to me “God has prepared you for jobs to do so you better be ready for what is set for you”.

God has given me people to care for,  but one thing I have been led to is the  Lutheran Women’s Ministry Network because I have felt the aching need for women pastors(there are not enough men to start with!). A German trained woman pastor friend and I presented a paper on Women’s Ordination in Tanunda in the late 1960’s and it was enthusiastically received by both pastors and nonpastors.

Last year when I had cancer a lovely woman pastor came to me in hospital and what a wonderful Spirit filled time that was. I was so happy to meet her again at the TIME TO SOAR Conference in Adelaide in July…..what a blessing! May God grant this blessing to more women.

On Sunday I was saddened to find that 3 more  (45 years old & younger) families in leadership positions left our Lutheran Congregation to a denomination which recognises God’s call to women and men. Lutheran Congregations keep losing  people in this age bracket as they study God’s word and the reality becomes obvious to them. I do praise God who calls women and men and inspires churches who will ordain them. I am sad that the LCA is losing these wonderful women and men.

There is not one Scripture in the Bible that forbids women from preaching, but on the contrary, there are many verses that encourage both men and women to preach the Gospel.I don’t need to expand on this as you all spent more time at the Seminary than I did. Anyway, spreading God’s love is too urgent an issue, to argue about permission when Jesus’ command is clear.

In his letter of August 10th Mike mentions culture and, while it has been Lutheran culture in Australia to have “men only” pastors I believe God is asking us to put aside that cultural belief and obey the command of “Preach the Gospel” Only Satan wins when we maintain our culture of restricting women.

The call to me from God, to be a Christian teacher, has always been so clear and borne such fruit that I know that when God calls women and men to be pastors it is clear to them too. Walking through our busy  Shopping Centre this week the thought came to my mind  “ALL these people…who is bringing God’s love to them?” The immediate answer was “Probably nobody”. How sad that we, the LCA, are closing doors by excluding women from being Preachers of the Gospel.

I have 2 cousins who are pastors. One of them is a man so the LCA ordained him. The other is a woman so she had to leave the LCA to be ordained, although she still has a heart for the LCA. I enjoy her emails recounting the exciting opportunities God gives her as a pastor and also the way the church she is serving is growing because God is blessing her preaching of the word.

I have a son and daughter both called to be pastors. The LCA ordained my son but my daughter will need to go to another denomination, at this point in time, to be ordained. They both serve the same God and God is blessing both of them as they go and tell.

God called me to mission as a young person. We had a lovely woman pastor in our town when I was a child and she was an inspiration.

I spent time in the remote highlands in New Guinea where, as a woman I needed to participate the same as a man…teach, preach etc. for the Lutheran Mission.

In Australia God’s call to me was mostly teaching until I was called as part of a small team, to establish a mission congregation and school in a city. Again, this was no time to opt out of leading worship and sacraments just because I was a woman. God was leading people to us so we all needed to respond and do what had to be done.

I am pleased to read on the LCA homepage “in effect it is people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church”. I have sometimes felt that we were being told what to think but this is a God pleasing statement and gives me hope.

One thing that has been puzzling me is why we can’t advertise our Women’s Ministry Conferences in the Lutheran like other things  such as Travel, Funerals, Wine etc. We are happy to pay for the advertisements like the others do. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next conference. Praise God!

 

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in politics, women's ordination

 

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Speaking from experience

Sophia escapes – by the naked pastor

We quote a senior pastor of the church.  He responds to a number of issues raised.

Those supporting women’s ordination have been accused of impatience, that their protests have been untimely and that they should wait for the process to play itself out.  Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebhuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that equality is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in any action that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from lack of equality. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of women with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see,  that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I had also hoped that those between the poles of the debate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for women’s ordination. I have just received a letter saying, “All Lutherans know that the Church will ordain women eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.  Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of people willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of equality and transform our pending LCA elegy into a creative psalm of gender equality. Now is the time to lift our Church policy from the quicksand of gender injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

I have talked to several people who have said that they believe women should be ordained. However, they don’t want to fight the issue because it’s merely a distraction and there are more pressing matters such as saving the lost. Others say they don’t want to risk offending Lutherans in other parts of the world. Even others add that we should let the consensus process play itself out. They always end with their belief that the church will eventually ordain women so let’s just not worry about it now.

You will see certain church leaders trying to paint those, who wish for women’s ordination to happen now, as taking an extreme position that is out of harmony with the rest of Lutheranism. However, though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?  Perhaps the LCA is in dire need of creative extremists.

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of many, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for this century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than equality, I beg God to forgive me.

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Love Builds Up

Megan Greulich

Megan Greulich is the editor of Mutuality magazine and the membership coordinator for CBE. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she bakes special occasion cakes and volunteers with her church’s youth group.

“But 1 Corinthians 14 says that women should be silent in churches…right?” It was a shy question from a high school student, in the middle of a church fundraising supper. I had been chatting with this student and his family, and his father mentioned how the Bible passage had come up in discussion at their home a few days earlier. “I believe that women can be preachers. In fact, a woman pastor performed my wife’s and my wedding ceremony more than twenty years ago,” the father said to me as the mother nodded in agreement. “But we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I didn’t know what to say to my son when he read those verses. Maybe you can help us understand.” The father, mother, and son all looked at me with tentative but curious faces.

We launched into a great discussion about the cultural context of the Corinthian church, about the surrounding verses in the letter, and about Paul’s approval of women leaders in other sections of his writings (check out these resources on 1 Corinthians 14 for more information). I love these kinds of conversations. I was so inspired by this family’s honesty, humility, and willingness to ask tough questions.

As we chatted, I watched the mother. While she said very little, I noticed how her eyes began to brighten. She even gently leaned forward in her chair—a sure sign, in our understated Minnesotan subculture, that she was getting excited. I recognized it because it matched my own response when I first heard egalitarian Bible interpretations. It was hope. And relief.

But then another young man at our table decided to jump into the conversation. Interrupting me, he very assertively declared, “All I know is that God will use women leaders only when the men aren’t doing their job and stepping up.”

His words, delivered in such stark contrast to the kind and gracious manner of our conversation up to that point, surprised me. And they stung. I looked across the table at the mother. “Wait…what?” She said under her breath. She slumped back into her chair. “Where does the Bible teach that?” I tried pressing the man. But he had no interest in dialoguing. “It’s there,” he responded gruffly, authoritatively.

“There is no teaching anywhere in the Bible that women are God’s second choice.” I said this more to the mother than to the young man. Yet the damage had been done, and the conversation was effectively over.

Jesus help us, is the simple but passionate prayer I find myself silently saying whenever I think about this encounter. For whatever reason, our conversation made that assertive man very uncomfortable. So he merely repeated—unquestioningly regurgitated, actually—an unbiblical teaching he had heard at church all his life. In his effort to silence the dialogue, he held no concern for what his words communicated to that mother, or to me, the only other woman involved. His lack of empathy, his lack of love, deflated the mother at our table that night, inflicting a subtle but very real wound on a sister in Christ.

Why is it that so often in our conversations about God we are the most unlike God? It is a humbling realization that we are all susceptible to this lack of empathy in our interactions with one another. I could recount many times in which I responded to a complementarian out of pride and anger, more in an effort to silence a conversation, or be right, than to come alongside and support a brother or sister in Christ who is on a journey. But Paul, over and over, warns about this. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 8. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” he insists in Galatians 5:6 emphasis added. And, just one chapter before those tricky verses in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul so beautifully contends that even if he possesses spiritual gifts, all knowledge and wisdom, and faith that can move mountains, without love he is nothing. These are familiar verses to us, and yet sometimes the most familiar ones are the most difficult to live out.

Jesus help us. Jesus help me. May our conversations, as egalitarians and complementarians alike, be marked by love.

via.

What are your thoughts on paying attention to a few verses in order to understand what Jesus is saying to us today?

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Is Women’s Leadership in the Church a Primary Issue?

Mimi Haddad from Sojourners,

suggests that the answer is often, ‘No’, with the primary issues being understood as “those that focus on the gospel, evangelism, and the leading of the lost to Christ”.

Haddad tells the story of Emily, who is alienated by the church’s attitude to women and consequently loses her faith.  She asserts that, “One’s biblical position on gender clearly advances or diminishes the good news of the gospel”.

When people find the presentation of faith as illogical and unjust they re-examine Scripture and find that, “The differences between egalitarians and complementarians (those who support a male model of authority) run deeper than a difference in interpretation or personal preference. Egalitarians and complementarians present differing worldviews, and this is why so many of us challenge gender-hierarchy as God’s ideal”.

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) of which Mimi Haddad is president,” is devoted to showing individuals like Emily — who have left the church, or who refuse to marry, or who have joined other religions — that scripture does not extend authority to men just because they are male. Rather, leadership and service is the product of God’s gifting, one’s intimacy with God, and one’s moral choices”.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in sociology

 

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