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Lutheran Church in Chile makes it a LWF full house in South America and the Caribean

There is reason to celebrate when all Lutheran World Federation (LWF) churches in Latin America and the Caribbean now ordain women.
We were listening to RN (ABC Radio) this afternoon which was reflecting on soldiers returning from WW1. It was around the time that workers were agitating for a 40 hour week.  It related how the media labelled the workers as traitors when striking for a reasonable length to the working week. There wouldn’t be many today who would begrudge workers a 40 hours week, but for the wealthy and the wielders of power it was a threat.
While freedom of speech is a necessity for a democracy, you have to wonder at the freedom of the Murdochs of that time to spread their fear and conservatism that angrily opposed the workers who were doing their best to eek out a living in tough times.
We continue to long for recognition of women in the Lutheran Church of Australia, knowing that, women’s ordination will quickly be forgotten as a divisive issue.
Roll on General Synod 2015.
All LWF Member Churches in Region Now Welcoming Women as Ministers – See more at: http://www.lutheranworld.org//news/lutheran-church-chile-ordains-first-woman-pastor#sthash.QcIMVk1V.dpuf
All LWF Member Churches in Region Now Welcoming Women as Ministers – See more at: http://www.lutheranworld.org//news/lutheran-church-chile-ordains-first-woman-pastor#sthash.QcIMVk1V.dpuf
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Invitation from Pr John Henderson, Bishop

Pr John Henderson invites members to write to The Lutheran

Pr John Henderson, Bishop,  invites members to write to The Lutheran

We have been invited to write to The Lutheran with our views on women’s ordination.  You can imagine the many conservative pastors that will put pen to paper with their distinctive perspective on things religious, so it is useful that the voice of the membership is heard in this discussion.  Without that voice it will seem like the voice of conservative pastors is the only one out there, even though most LCA members are in favour of women’s ordination.

It is the voice of conservative pastors which is loudest against women’s ordination, and it is also that voice which is most strident and most intolerant of diversity within the LCA.

Don’t be a stranger.  Write to the Lutheran.  Express your thoughts on why women’s ordination is vital in your context.  While we don’t wish to compete in a letter writing competition and while letters cannot all be printed, it is vital that local voices are expressed in The Lutheran and heard by our Bishop.

Please be a part of this discussion.  Don’t leave it to others. Express your dreams and longings and leave your imprint on the LCA.

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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in sociology, theology, women's ordination

 

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Nothing compassionate about conservatism – it’s about certainty

Women’s ability to vote in society, and thus be recognised as more competent than children, is a relatively new phenomena (table below), but still incomplete.  The dates are inaccurate when it comes to indigenous peoples of some of these countries.

  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland
  • 1931 Spain
  • 1944 France
  • 1945 Italy
  • 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
  • 1949 China
  • 1950 India
  • 1954 Colombia
  • 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
  • 1962 Algeria
  • 1963 Iran, Morocco
  • 1964 Libya
  • 1967 Ecuador
  • 1971 Switzerland
  • 1972 Bangladesh
  • 1974 Jordan
  • 1976 Portugal
  • 1989 Namibia
  • 1990 Western Samoa
  • 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
  • 1994 South Africa
  • 2005 Kuwait
  • 2006 United Arab Emirates
  • 2011 Saudi Arabia
We live in heady days! The recognition of women has made great progress over the last century.  We might be excused for thinking that full recognition of women will soon be realised, but another perspective is that the lingering abuse of women, the ownership of women, their lack of legal status and their enforced submissiveness has persevered for far too long.
Conservatives resist changes to the status quo. They call it tradition and endow it with reverence. They defend tradition, despite the inequities that it delivers. They resist every new position of leadership for women, including women’s ordination, but then you’ll hear the term ‘compassionate conservatism’ – a misleading framing.  Rather than indicating that conservatives are compassionate, it indicates a strategic surrender to irreversible advancements that once were strenuously resisted.  Conveniently they forget about each of the lost battles.  It’s been a long time since a conservative reminisced about the glory days of slavery, or the halcyon days when women couldn’t vote in the LCA.  In that way they aim to bolster their credibility for resisting the next step towards equality.  Their current cause is to resist women’s ordination, but they have resisted:
  • women voting at congregational meetings (1966)
  •  women being delegates at Synod (1981)
  • women being a member of church boards and committees (1984)
  • women being included in the guidelines for reading lessons in worship (1984)
  • women assisting in the distributing of Holy Communion (1989)
  • women being lay assistant as an alternative to elder (1990)
  • being chairperson of a congregation (1990)
  • women being synodical chairperson (1998)
  • women lay-reading (2003)
Conservatives are forced to give ground again and again, their causes being transient and ethereal, vapourising as society realises that for 10 000 years of civilisation women have been denied fair treatment.  There is nothing compassionate about conservatism.   Its focus is resistance – resistance to mutuality, to questioning, to open two-way conversations.  It’s about absolute certainty while retreating to the next fortress to be defended.  It’s about fear and sometimes even hatred.  You cannot embrace women in one context and fear and hate them in another.  Consider the women-hating theology of Jack Schaap in his fundamentalist Baptist church in Indiana.  Not surprisingly he has been dismissed from his parish because of his affair with an underage girl who came to him for abuse counseling.
If we are simply products of our past, it might be understandable that so many men (and women) relegate women to subservience. There’s so much that supports a theology of domination. Consider the Danvers Statement (1987) which forms the basis of the fundamentalist renewal of misogyny in U.S. Christian churches. Consider the long history of violence towards women, justified and maintained by our legal systems. Consider the hatred shown towards women in the witch trials throughout Europe and the USA around the 15th century. Consider the theologians that formed the foundation of our theology (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther):

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 CE). He wrote to a friend:
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman……I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546) (this link leads to other misogynist quotes):
“If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.”

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274 CE):
“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”

We are not, however, simply products of our past.  We have the God-given intellect to analyse cultural traditions and decide what is helpful or destructive.  We have a wealth of scriptural scholarship that allows us to go beyond a fundamentalist proof-texting.  We have the ability to listen and to learn from the stories of women denied access to ordained ministry. We can jointly envision and mould a future where women are empowered to share in the leadership and create the welcoming, embracing church that we want it to be.

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‘The Chrysalids’ speaks to the LCA

Sometimes fiction speaks truth.

The following is from the final chapter of The Chrysalids, when the rescuer from the more advanced civilisation comes to rescue those who the fundamentalists seek to destroy because they are different,

‘Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled – they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature. Who, then, were the recent lords of creation, that they should expect to remain unchanged?

‘The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken.  The idea of completed man is the supreme vanity; the finished image is a sacrilegious myth.

‘The old people brought down Tribulation, and were broken into fragments by it.  Your father and his kind are a part of those fragments .  They have become history without being aware of it.  They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted – a place among the fossils….’

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in sociology

 

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Tradition Today: Male and female, he created them

Strange that when George W. Bush was turning the clock back for the US, John Howard was also building conservatism in Australia.  In addition, the UK’s New Labour all too quickly answered the call from the US to support them in invading Iraq. Religious fundamentalism does not walk altogether out of step with conservative politics.

While the political pendulum was clearly to the right in the ‘noughties’, post Sept 11th 2001, it is interesting to see the growth of religious fundamentalism in Islam and Christianity.  More surprisingly, however, Judaism, also shows the same swing towards conservatism, where there is a new drive for complete separation of men and women in transportation, shopping centers and even the public streets.

At the same time, amongst progressive Jews, there is a much greater participation in Judaism amongst women, possibly as a result of greater access to education.  Not unlike Christianity.

It is ironic that most of us, even conservatives, when viewing a different religion, see this passion to separate women from men to be misguided at best. When it comes to our own religion, however, some of us devoutly look back to various scriptures to justify our own conservatism and misogyny.

We seem easily able to accept the benefits of technological change, with fancy cars, wide-screen TVs and internet, but when it comes to relationships in times of trauma and change we often cling to the old sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, the worthy and the unworthy.  In this modern world, however, where women are acknowledged as equally gifted, it is strangely disconnected to insist that women do not have God’s blessing for ordained ministry.  In a society where women are increasingly leaders in our secular world, it is rather limp to consent to such leadership but not to accept their pastoral leadership in the Church.

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in sociology

 

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The need for adaptive leaders in the LCA

Photographer: Arvind Balaraman FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The LCA has traditionally been loathe to step into the public sphere and become political, forgetting that silence is as political as speaking out. Silence quietly supports things as they are and the noisiest speaker on an issue. The LCA has been lazy on issues of justice, thereby participating in oppressing different groups throughout the years.  Towards the end of the Cold War, we heard little from the Church on the moral imperative for nuclear disarmament, but much on the right to life. Where is the LCA voice on global warming? What does the LCA have to say on the rapid loss of species, environmental degradation and dwindling water supplies? Perhaps the silence in connecting with the world arises from when German immigrants in two world wars were marginalised by the rest of the nation, making us akin to the conservative German Missouri Synod in the US and dis-similar to the progressive Scandinavian based Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

We are a socially conservative Church. This is not healthy for our place in Australian society, for  conservatism becomes our branding.  Sadly, in Australia, it was not pre-union Lutherans who advocated equality for women. It was not the LCA who led the way among Australian Christian churches in encouraging female lay leadership, female delegates at a national level, female lay reading of Scripture, and so on.  Rather, the LCA has usually aligned itself with conservative social politics. We have emphasised a focus on Scripture but we have downplayed our engagement with the world.  By focussing just on what we heard from the voice of Jesus in Palestine we deny the voice of Jesus among the outcasts of today, the addicted and those of other sexualities.  Likewise we perpetuate the crucifixion of Jesus when women are told that their call to ordained ministry is not genuine.

Luther was key in uncovering the astounding grace in the Scriptures: grace that liberates, and grace that inspires discipleship and justice.  The LCA, however, while proudly claiming its birthright has accommodated grace into its own image.

Bonhoeffer, presumably while reflecting on what discipleship meant in the face of a brutal Nazi world-view, reflected on how cheap grace had become.

Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost!

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Bonhoeffer could have been talking about the LCA. Cheap grace is ours to laud and dispense but there is no cross.  Here grace is free with few consequences. In contrast, costly grace, as described by Bonhoeffer,  requires your whole life, discipleship, doing justice, even martyrdom. In short, grace demands a response, a repentance that has us engaging on those fronts where the hurt is greatest.  Mary MacKillop,  famously said, “Never see a need without doing something about it”.   Her revolutionary schooling of poverty-bound children reflected an intuitive understanding of costly grace.

In a Church that has aligned itself with socially conservative values it is not surprising that the LCA is lacking leaders who are able to manage change arising from a progressive society.

John Menadue, a former Australian public servant and diplomat, in a paper on refugees for the Centre for Policy Development, says,

We don’t need charismatic or authoritarian leaders to make the ‘right’ decisions for us. We need adaptive leaders who can help us all support necessary but hard decisions. We need leaders of such quality across our whole community who can appeal to the better angels of our nature.

LCA members do not need managing or manipulating.  Neither does the LCA need its leaders and clergy to decide direction or programmes.  Congregations and members of the LCA need leaders who are gentle, humble, and wise enough to perceive and facilitate the will of the Church.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on October 30, 2010 in politics, sociology, theology

 

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