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It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

Reposting the first part of Tony Jones’ article on women in the church

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I don’t take this lightly. I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously. Our eschatological hope is that the church will be one, and that we will all be united in belief, practice, and love.

But sometimes we need to separate. We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way that Jesus laid out for us. We need to divorce.

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.  Read more here.

Sadly, the secular world has discovered the gifts and talents of women decades ago, and there comes a time when enough is enough.  The time for talk is done.  The issue was settled long ago for most people. There is no good news in gender power structures.

It will be difficult for many people. It will cause broken relationships. But we have daughters, and the subjugation of women in the church needs to end in this generation.

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in sociology, theology, women's ordination

 

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Sermon on the Parameters We Prefer For Jesus to Work Under

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture - Thursday, May 16

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture – Thursday, May 16 (not when this sermon was preached) (Photo credit: LutherSeminary)

Pr Nadia Bolz Weber preaches about relaxing in Jesus’ grace. From Sarcastic Lutheran: the cranky spirituality of post-modern gal.

Audio link

Stories of churches denying your call to ministry because you fall outside the parameters of which gender is allowed to be ordained and stories of churches denying you the Eucharist because you fall outside the parameters of what kind of sexual orientation is allowed to receive the means of grace, and stories of churches denying you a place in community because you just weren’t sure if you believed in God and that falls outside the parameters of doctrinal purity – well, these kind of stories are sadly bordering on cliché around here. We hear them all the time.

So I’m really grateful that Jesus has always tended to disregard people’s preferred parameters for how he should do things, and that he always just seems to keep seeing people, touching them, healing them and then thumbing his nose at anyone who says he really should be more discerning about his cliental and his tactics.

Read more.

Audio link

 

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It takes two sides to build a bridge

The issues in the LCA are similar to that of UK Anglicans and their debate over women bishops.  Women’s ordination, of course, is inevitable in the LCA, but will Synod have clarity and strength enough to be clear that there cannot be a ‘church within a church’ where women are not recognised. The following article describes how those opposed to women bishops were intent on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.

One of our challenges is for women to even be included in the coming debate at Pastors’ Conference in 2015, which will discuss the issue and make recommendations to Synod.  It is an absurd situation to be in, equal to male parliamentarians 100 years ago voting on whether women should have the vote.

The presence of women, to ensure accountability, is essential to the integrity of any debate that decides the future of women’s participation in the LCA.  It is far too easy to ‘other’ women (used as a verb) without consulting them.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 9.43.13 PMThe Christian message is at heart about reconciliation. But the church which is supposed to proclaim and live that message has often failed to do so in its own life and example, sometimes spectacularly.

The row over women bishops in the Church of England will be seen by many as another example of this, which is why Archbishop of Canterbury designate Justin Welby – no stranger to conflict zones – was so keen to emphasise at General Synod this afternoon that the vocation of the C of E ought to be “how to develop the mission of the church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division; diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity.”

That is a right, bridge-building note to strike. But it did not work with the hardened minority. For the reality is that it takes two sides to build a bridge, and one of the difficulties of the current situation is that some opponents of full women’s ministry in the Church of England clearly want to be able to maintain a ‘church within a church’ based on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.

(more)

 
 

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Changing Church: Rev. Lori Eickmann from the ELCA

Rev. Lori Eickmann

Gather together 100 women from the LCA, ensuring that you have sampled younger generations, and listen to stories.  Some no doubt will be full of praise, but stay a while and listen to the stories of hurt, being dismissed and being sidelined.  Listen as they relate how men were lifted up for service and leadership, while their skills were overlooked in favour of more men.

It’s not just an LCA issue.  Mainstream Christian religion still struggles with finding a place for women beyond that of the kitchen.  Even those Australian denominations that do ordain women, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America still have ample stories of the glass ceiling for women.

Rev Lori Eickmann of the ELCA knows the story well, but she is grounded in the Bible and knows the discrimination does not arise from there.

From jannaldredgeclanton.com April 23, 2013

Church tradition has forgotten, ignored or repressed the feminine images of the Holy that are present in the Bible. The truth of inclusive language for the Divine is biblical. We risk impairing the witness of the good news of Jesus Christ when we try to keep God in a box. Also, female imagery for God is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition Woman Wisdom in the Old Testament and Jesus as Sophia’s—Wisdom’s—prophet or Sophia incarnate in the New Testament. Someone once said that the exclusive use of masculine names and imagery for God is the Golden Calf of this century. We must teach people that the Divine Feminine is reality and truth, and justice will flow. …

Lori’s story in Birthing God (Lana Dalberg, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divineincludes this excerpt: “I felt invisible, there in church. Maybe it was because I had children—one son and one daughter—and I was seeing the world through their eyes. I had to notice that the world offers a God who, as someone wrote, ‘is somehow more like my father, husband and brother than like me.’ I began to ache for all the daughters who couldn’t see themselves reflected in the Divine. I ached for them and for myself, because I knew we were created in God’s image, but mainstream Christian religion seemed unwilling to admit that” (San Jose Mercury News, May 2, 1998).   (Lori’s story is found here)

via Changing Church: Rev. Lori Eickmann, Intentional Interim Pastor, Sierra Pacific Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

 

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Tales of a Male ‘Preacher’s Wife’

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Images from Sojourners Magazine

From Christian Piatt at Sojourners Magazine 2013

MY WIFE IS a pastor. Specifically, she’s the senior pastor of a prominent church in downtown Portland, Ore. I’m on staff too, but only part-time, and she enjoys telling people she’s my boss. Technically, I answer to the church board, but people get a laugh about the reversal of “typical roles.”

I get my share of “preacher’s wife” jokes, to which I have a handful of rote responses. No, I don’t knit or make casseroles. No, I don’t play in the bell choir. Generally, the jokes are pretty gentle, but they all point to the reality that few of us will actually talk about: We see the traditional roles of women as less important than those of their male counterparts. And so, to see a man who works from home most of the time and takes the kids to school while his wife has the “high power” job brings everything from the man’s masculinity to his ambition into question.

But regardless of the teasing I get, Amy has it a lot worse. One time, when she was guest preaching at a church in Colorado, a tall man who appeared to be in his 60s came up to her after worship. “That was pretty good,” he said, smiling but not extending his hand, “for a girl.”

Amy and I planted a church in southern Colorado 10 years ago, and we actually kind of enjoyed watching people’s expectations get turned on end when they met us. A newcomer would walk in the doors of the church and almost always walk up to me and start asking questions about our congregation.

“Oh, you’re looking for the person in charge,” I’d say. “She’s over there.” Then would come the dropped jaws and the wordless stammers as they reconfigure everything they assumed walking through the door. Amy’s even had people stand up and walk out in the middle of worship when they realize she’s about to preach.

SEX, FAITH, AND power have been long-time, if not always productive, bedfellows within organized religion. And from what I’ve seen as a “preacher’s wife,” Christianity is at least a generation behind the rest of the United States in figuring out our respective roles and limitations. Some churches would sooner shutter their doors forever than allow a woman to preach, and soon enough they’ll probably get that chance, given that the vast majority of people in seminary today are women. (more)

 

Sojourners Magazine – “Faith in Action for Social Justice”

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in theology

 

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The abyss between faith and women’s empowerment

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Paparella was horrified. “I realized, they don’t want me to think. After that, I just didn’t see how faith and women’s empowerment could be reconciled.”

This quote comes from a post entitled, “I believe you”: The Silence and the Shame of Sexual Violence in the Church, by Catherine Woodiwiss.  It reflects on how campus leaders and student Christian leaders’ masculinised view of God gave them little understanding of women’s points of view within the church.

What is it about the misogyny of the church?  Why is still ruled by the boys when most of its members are women? Why does patriarchy seem to persevere longer in the church than in society?  Is it based on such verses as Gen 3:16? …

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

It is somewhat unsettling that some take this verse, and similar others, as prescription for how women might be treated.   It’s unsettling because it reflects a view of God as domineering and lacking in compassion.  It’s unsettling that some readers of this blog take an anti-intellectual view and insist on using the hermeneutics of “it says it in the Bible so it must be true”. It’s unsettling that the heritage of Luther and The Confessions is boiled down to proof texts.  It’s unsettling that a panorama of theologians in the last century is dismissed in favour of the most basic, simplistic tool.

We don’t believe that many people hold that view of God.

It does however make sense to view this verse as sin being enacted, rather than God’s prescription for relationships.  Ruling over another person may be the language of empires, but it is not the language of relationships.

If the Church is unable to accommodate a view of women as gifted, enabled, empowered, equal and pastoral, then the Church is not a safe place for women.  Under such circumstances we could not encourage women (or those supporting them) attend LCA congregations.

For the LCA to have a future there is no alternative but absolute equality for women and men.

While this, no doubt, is shocking for some who correspondent with this blog, living with diversity should only be as shocking as visiting the local bank, supermarket, school, accountant, music shop, opticians…, for diversity in Australia’s cities and towns is a reality which is never to be reversed.  No congregation should ever be forced to call a woman and no congregation should ever be forced to call a man.

 
 

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Keeping the Church Inflated

From the Naked Pastor

inflatable church cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Only people who have worked or volunteered for churches understand this cartoon.

Only people who realize they exist to fulfill the fantasies of its leaders get what this cartoon is about.

Only pastors who finally face their exhaustion at keeping something inflated with hot air see the point.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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Women’s ordination resolution rewritten

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Ah, don’t you love the intrigue!

The president’s newsletter just received advice that the GCC resolution on the ordination of women has been changed:

(from the President’s Page 10th April)
It has been noted that a draft proposal for Synod agenda item 2.4 Report from the Consensus on Women’s Ordination Dialogue Group was incorrectly printed on pg 28 of the Book of Reports. Please replace this with the correct proposal as follows:

2.4 BE IT RESOLVED that the Church:

  • receive the progress report of the Ordination Dialogue Group;
  • supports continued study of the matter of hermeneutics (the interpretation of scripture) arising from the October 2011 symposium on this topic;
  • supports study of what consensus means, for the sake of unity in the LCA as a confessional church
  • request GCC to ensure that a report with recommendations be presented to both GPC and the next Synod

Here is what the earlier version said:

2.4 BE IT RESOLVED that the church adopt the following approach to the question of the ordination of both genders:

  • Receive the interim report of the Dialogue Group studying consensus on this issue
  • Request the Dialogue Group continue their work
  • Address the hermeneutic question arising from the a symposium convened by the Church in October 2011
  • Study and present to the Church what ‘consensus’ means in our confessional church.
  • On completion of the above, place the matter before either the Commission on Theology and Inter-church Relations, or another group of theologians of the Church as appointed by the College of Presidents in agreement with the General Church Council, for study by the pastorate and the laity of the church and as per the Syndocal process place it back on the agenda of synod if that is the wish of the Church.

The revised motion seems to indicate, amongst other things, that the Dialogue Group is to be terminated and that the side-stepping of CTICR is to end. Note how the reference to CTICR or another group of theologians has been deleted.  Pr Mike Semmler for some years has side-lined CTICR when it does not bring down recommendations that he supports.  He has therefore done his best to minimise their impact.

It seems to us that the President’s advisors have pulled him into line.  Perhaps the time has come for them when enough is enough.   Who knows?

 

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Rob Bell Comes Out for Marriage Equality

The arguments in support of GLBT people are the same ones in support of recognising women in the Church. Note the sentence, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work.”

Bell (a popular American preacher, and as reported in Huffington Post) went on to say that while it used to be fair to equate evangelicals with social conservatism, that assumption no longer holds true. More pointedly, he said, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

via Greg Carey: Rob Bell Comes Out for Marriage Equality.

Social conservatism is always looking backward.  It is forever clinging to what may have served us well in the past.  Sometimes that anchor will serve us well, however, sometimes that anchor keeps us remote from new understandings, progress, compassion and from society itself.  Conservatism, in its insistence on looking backwards, is often heartless.  In the LCA a rigid, heartless insistence on the exclusion of women from ministry has given our Church a rigid, legalistic exterior, despite the majority support for women’s ordination. Sadly the President’s repression of discussion on the issue has been destructive on several fronts, including on those who continue to leave the Church.

It is time to repent, to turn around.  It is time to listen to the still, quiet voice and embrace those we have shunned, those who have no voice – for that is the way of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in sociology, women's ordination

 

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President continues to dismiss congregations’ motions

President Semmler at the WA District Synod this last weekend announced that there would be no debate on women’s ordination at the coming General Synod.

At General Synod General Pastors’ Conference fifteen minutes has been allowed for the “Consensus Task Force” on women’s ordination to report, which allows no time for discussion. On the other hand, 30 minutes has been allowed for the presentation of “Title of President/Bishop”.  A pastor comments,

“The former business belongs to a synodical mandate while the latter was never requested by the church.  What is one to think?”

The key issue is that the President long ago overstepped his authority in stamping his personal opinion on the women’s ordination debate.  While it is true that an agenda needs to be drawn up from motions submitted from the Church general, the authority of the congregation remains central in this synodical organisation. The Church’s homepage states:

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. Ref

Pr Semmler (President of the LCA) seeks to have it both ways.  He likes being able to declare that we have a synodical structure (“in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church”) while also maintaining a tight control over the working of the Church, in particular in how the debate on women’s ordination is carried out.  To do this he has stepped somewhat firmly on the motions submitted from St Stephen’s, Adelaide and St Peter’s, Indooroopilly.

Perhaps a more diplomatic approach would have been to announce that the responsible committee for the agenda has not listed the motions on Synod agenda and therefore a motion from Synod floor will be needed to reinstate them.  He has, however, no interest in encouraging the membership’s desire to have the motions reinstated.  Consequently, delegates will need to make sure, in the opening stages of General Synod, when the Chair (Pr Semmler) announces a motion seeking approval for the proposed agenda, that they quickly respond by moving an amendment to reinstate the women’s ordination motions. You will only have a moment or two to respond.

Delegates, be aware that your active presence is required at General Synod.  Please add your voice to the objections on how the Church is governed.  To do this, you will need to network and seek out those who can give the appropriate background information.

What are you doing to raise the profile of women’s ordination? Remember that each conversation raises the profile of women’s ordination in the LCA.

It is a sobering thought that even Baptists in Australia ordain women.

 

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