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High stakes in October 2018 at the LCA General Convention

Women’s ordination is again on the agenda at the LCA national general convention in Sydney (Oct 2018).  It’s been around for generations and has repeatedly been turned down, needing to achieve two-thirds of the vote at General Convention.

While many have already left the LCA in search of a more tolerant and inclusive denomination there may be huge ramifications in October if the LCA again refuses to ordain women.

When Lutheran school teachers from Australia and NZ met in Adelaide (2017), one of the guest speakers was Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber from the ELCA (USA).   She was an inspirational speaker, providing encouragement for those struggling to remain within this denomination that has persisted in excluding women from leadership.

It’s humorous to recount that when she visited Australia on an earlier occasion, certain conservative clergy sneered at the thought that Nadia might have something to offer them in the way of preaching.  After all, she’s just a woman.  No, she’s not just a woman. She is a gifted woman with a powerful story, who brings many gifts because she is a woman.   She is a woman who happens to be clergy and she has a well-honed ability to preach the good news of God coming to live amongst us.  Coming to share God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s justice, God’s compassion  – all for those struggling in life in one way or another.

The response to Nadia Bolz-Weber was remarkable.  Many people were moved to tears and after her presentations the applause persisted and persisted. She answered questions that related some despair on the matter of women’s ordination.  No doubt there were individuals present who didn’t believe that women should be ordained, but we believe the response was an indication of what the people of the LCA think.

Australia’s contentious same-sex marriage survey was acted upon by Parliament in 2017.  Majority approval resulted in new legislation – contentious, yes, but that’s how it has to be to retain social stability. The alternatives are abusive and elitist, where those with power rule over those who have been marginalised.

There must be more evident democratic processes within the Church.  The majority view of the people should be enshrined in Church legislation. Currently an oligarchy and less than 40% of those voting at Synod, and logically (and generally speaking) the oldest and most conservative sector of the Church, have imposed their theology and their world view on the rest of the denomination – a recipe for revolution.  While some might argue that we have a theocracy that rules and protects our constitution, this is a fallacious argument as Church funding and the means for its very existence comes from individuals and congregations which ultimately can choose to withdraw that support.

Assuming no change of the voting proportion at the General Convention this year, these are the results of this theocratic gerrymander:

  • young people, other individuals and families gradually disappear from congregations and committees. (It has been happening for a long time.) Gradually, members, along with children and grand-children see no reason to continue to support a denomination that does not reflect God’s love or Biblical scholarship.
  • some progressive Church leaders leave the LCA, unable to remain in a denomination that pays no heed to God’s word on this matter. No one wants to live the rest of their life in a denomination that has lost its way.
  • with the loss of these individuals and families, the Church inevitably becomes more conservative and more out of touch with society.
  • some progressive congregations choose to break away from the LCA, no longer able to support an institution that continues to deny the need for democratic representation.
  • as the Church continues to lean right and away from social norms, rather than having more influence throughout its supposed faithfulness, the Church has less credibility in the manner it attempts to reveal God’s grace.
  • with the continued absence of women from leadership and reinforced male perspectives on relationships and power, the structures of domestic violence are strengthened.
  • women’s voice is reduced at all personal and committee levels of congregations, districts and national governance.
  • women are increasingly confined to gender-roles within the Church as men are lauded and women are disempowered.
  • the Church experiences a pious subjugation of women, with Scripture being used as a tool of subjugation, not dissimilar to the manner in which slavery was justified. Southern Baptist theologies come to mind.
  • general LCA theology leans further to the right on all matters, further alienating members who are engaged with society and grappling with evolving issues of justice and compassion.
  • the ensuing legalism and entrenched conservatism will have the LCA creeping closer to the sect-like Missouri Synod, and further away from the ELCA.
  • the decline of the LCA increases as congregations close.
  • the voice of the LCA becomes less significant on all matters.
  • the LCA becomes a small, insignificant denomination that retains just members who have been indoctrinated into a socially conservative view of the world, such as the Amish or Mennonites.

Without women’s ordination, without engaging with today’s issues and without something a little closer to democratic representation, the death or torpor of the LCA is assured.

On the other hand the LCA might embrace God’s ongoing creation and revelation, ordain women and have a decent go at speaking and living God’s word.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in theology, women's ordination

 

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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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ELCA Elects Their First Female National Bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA's first female national bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA‘s first female national bishop

From Huff Post

From all accounts Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA is a remarkable and extraordinary pastoral leader.  It is thus very surprising that Elizabeth Eaton, current Bishop of Cleveland, has been appointed as Bishop of the ELCA by an astounding margin and is the ELCA’s first female national bishop. Elizabeth Eaton won the vote 600 to 287.

The USA now has a female as bishop of the Episcopal Church and ELCA, which are in full communion with each other.  It is heartening to know these significant churches have wisdom to embrace change and thus offer a prophetic voice to the world.

The LCA, meanwhile, is in the formative moments of a genuine conversation on women’s ordination, after installing Bishop John Henderson.  The Bishop is meeting with St Stephen’s congregation this Sunday afternoon at 1pm (Sunday 18th August, 2013), Wakefield St, Adelaide, SA.

more

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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What war on women?

What war on women

Putting the lie to equality

Those who stand against the equality of women within the Church use language such as this: (Cyber Brethren link)

God’s good order does not envision nor permit women to exercise the ministry of “headship” in the family, nor the ministry of oversight involved in the offices of the priesthood and episcopate as they are understood and practiced by Anglicans. This is in no way detrimental to women for God has an equally significant, different, and complementary ministry for women in the family and in the Church.

While there is no reason to doubt their intent, there is significant reason to doubt their logic.  While they propose that a ‘complementary ministry’ (a term commonly used in the US), is ‘equally significant and different’, and  ‘is in no way detrimental to women’, that view takes no account of the violence committed against women throughout broader society.  The graph above relates American statistics, demonstrating that female deaths from domestic violence far surpasses deaths from Afghanistan and Iraq.  Women are still treated violently in Western society, let alone Middle Eastern society.  The philosophical foundation of conservatism is the same in opposing women’s ordination and maintaining subservience in the home.

Why are such statistics instructive when discussing women’s ordination?  Opposition to women’s ordination does not arise simply from a literal reading of Scripture, it also arises from social mores and traditions that have long placed women somewhere down the social ladder.  It would be a challenging philosophical contortion to attempt to support equal opportunity in the work place while denying women ordination.

While conservatism may be a healthy anchor for the ship in a storm it has much to answer for in resisting justice issues throughout the ages.

 
 

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The scarves of General Convention

Many delegates and visitors to General Convention demonstrated their support for women’s ordination by the wearing of green and purple scarves.  Perhaps you will see these scarves in congregations around Australia, and perhaps you will also see the wearing of small green and purple ribbons.

Wear them with pride and be a visual reminder to those who govern the LCA that the voice of members will not be silenced with roughshod treatment.  It is for the sake of the Gospel that we persevere.  One day soon, women pastors will minister to us and to the Church, when we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

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Photo by Helene Schultz

Remaining photos from the LCA Synod Galleries, however, there are further photos on the WMN blog.

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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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Women’s Ordination to be debated at General Convention

For today just the bones.

General Pastors’ Conference last week discussed the topic of women’s ordination. There was a small majority vote that Pastors Conference recommends to General Convention that women’s ordination be discussed.

Today, Monday 22nd April, at approximately 3:30pm Adelaide time, women’s ordination will be discussed.

Your prayers are appreciated for a transparent and forward looking debate ‘where loves come to life’.

 

 

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Women of the Bible

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The following brochure has been prepared by the All Saints group on behalf of the LCA clergy and laity who support the ordination of women in the LCA For further information on the theological arguments for women’s ordination and motions submitted by St Peters and St Andrew’s for the 2013 LCA General synod please go to www.wmn.org.au

The brochure is a summary of CTICR, 2005. ’A Case for the ordination of women and men’, Lutheran Journal of Theology, 39/1,37-56.

A4 Women of the Bible    Women of the Bible A3

As we seek the will of God for the role of women in the church, let us consider the witness of scripture as a whole. The sacred texts of the OT and NT record stories of many women who actively worked for the kingdom of God, who were given authority over men, and who proclaimed the gospel of Jesus. Here we highlight examples of women who acted confidently in particular situations and who fulfilled roles similar to those taken by men. 1.  More: Women of the Bible

A4 Women of the Bible    Women of the Bible A3

 

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Responding to the Easter epistle from the President

Pastor Mike Semmler, President of the LCA

Pastor Mike Semmler, President of the LCA

It is seemingly not enough that the President has banned any mention of women’s ordination in The Lutheran for the last ten years, but now it seems that congregations should have no voice at all.

In the last post it was presumed that the intention of the  last letter from the President was to intimidate Synod delegates into complying with his direction from the Synod Chair.  It may seem that such a comment might be a little extreme, however, Pr Semmler knows that controlling Synod is essential to controlling the LCA.  Synod always remains a little unpredictable, so nothing can be taken for granted.   He has learnt well from LCMS conservatives who coined the aphorism: “Control the delegates and you control the synod” (Burkee, 2011, p87).

While we respect that Pr Mike Semmler has his point of view on women’s ordination, the reality is that the LCA has shown clearly that it is looking for change in this matter.  For the President to actively work against the will of the Synod suggests that he has abrogated his role of facilitating the will of the Church.

The President considers those who object to his manner of governance as unruly and as people who don’t understand process.  Mr President, we do understand process, which is why we are concerned with how you are running the debate.  The following reasons are integral to the discussion:

  • You have shown that you are against women’s ordination;
  • You have shown that you don’t wish the matter discussed (ex. Lutheran ban, sundry grumpy epistles to the Church);
  • Your understanding of ‘consensus’ bears no similarity to that of other major bodies who have conducted similar processes;
  • At Synod’s direction to “establish a dialogue group with balanced representation” you delayed in appointing a ‘consensus’ committee until 15/18 months after Synod (now numbering four (4) members) with 3 of the 4 against women’s ordination;
  • You have created distractions and establish processes that you intend to consume  six years or more;
  • You have indicated that a motion duly submitted by St Stephen’s will not be considered at General Synod;
  • At the Toowoomba Synod you indicated that absentee delegates would have their vote counted as being against women’s ordination;
  • In your letters to the Church you continue to harangue those who wish to nurture the debate on women’s ordination in the LCA;
  • You conduct selective, contradictory conversations with different individuals and groups. This manner of operating bears similarity to the manner in which LCMS President Jack Preus manipulated friend and foe to ensure support for his Presidency and the repression of foes. (Burkee, 2011, pp9-10 and other pages)
    • You have apologised to St Stephen’s representatives in your office for your previous letter to the Church but show no intention of making that apology public.  An apology given in private is no apology when the initial offense was to the whole Church;
    • You indicated to WA Pastors’ Conference that women’s ordination will not be discussed at General Synod but asserted to Pr Peter Bowmer that motions from St Peter’s, Indooroopilly and St Stephen’s will be discussed.
    • You choose to sidestep deliberations of CTICR and CSBQ by setting up further processes;
    • On the one hand you include in your statement, representing the LCA, to the Australian government on same sex marriage, “In nations that have legalised gay marriage… there has been pressure to allow group marriage, polygamy and incest between consenting adults and even in extreme cases marriage to consenting animals” but on the other hand you distance yourself from the statement holding that they were the words of a key advisor (Dr Rob Pollnitz).

Mr President, the LCA requires your role and Chair of Synod to possess an integrity and transparency that facilitates the will of membership.  While we appreciate your leadership in many respects, your legacy of resisting the leadership of women within the LCA, despite understanding the will of Synod and membership, does little to endear you to Synod or congregations.

We cannot remain silent in the face of justice delayed (and justice denied) for women, and the manipulation of structures and democratic processes within the LCA.

Reference
Burkee, J.C. (2011) Power, Politics and the Missouri Synod

 
 

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Aside
Roman Catholic Activists in Rome

Father Roy Bougeois poses with (l-r) Deacon Donna Rougeux, Priests Ree Hudson and Janice Sevre-Duszynska in front of the Vatican, October 17, 2011.

Some senior leaders are willing to pay an enormous price in order that women might follow their calling. Roy Bourgeois was excommunicated and expelled from the priesthood for consistly advocating the ordination of women.  It is ironic that the Catholic Church, the most patriarchal of all churches, finds no theological objections to women’s ordination, just that of tradition.

“It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate. Wikipedia

It would seem that this is also the case with the LCA, given that the CTICR comes to a similar position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Roy Bourgeois tells his story – N.Y.Times

 
 

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Senior Lutheran Pastors and Theologians Affirm Women’s Ordination

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Senior Lutheran pastors and theologians affirm the ordination of women in a brochure shared with congregations in the LCA around Australia. It’s a key moment in the women’s ordination debate that Pr Semmler doesn’t want us to have. The full brochure can be found here. A VISION-Women’s ordination in the LCA which details the vision for women’s ordination coming from conferences in Adelaide and Brisbane in 2012.

The following Senior clergy shared their vision:

Rev Geoff Burger, President, LCA WA District (2000-2008)
Rev David Christian, President LCA WA district (1993-1999)
Rev Dr Joe Strelan, Past Vice President LCA, served on CTICR, Emeritus lecturer ALC
Rev Timothy Jaensch, President LCAQD (2000–2009)
Rev Lionel Otto, Past Vice President LCA (1990-2000) and President, LCA NSW District (1990-2005)
Rev Reinhard Mayer, President LCAQD (1974-1985)
Rev John Vitale, President, LCAQD (1993-2000)
Rev Dr Ulf Metzner, DTh (Heidelberg), former Director of LCA World Mission Board,
served on CTICR, Committee on Theology, former lecturer ALC and Sabah Theological seminary

The following Lutheran Theologians also shared their support:

Rev Dr Richard Strelan, Associate Professor NT and Early Christianity, University of Queensland, LCA pastor
Rev Dr Russell Briese, Chaplaincy coordinator Griffith University, Lecturer, School of Theology, Australian Catholic University, pastor St Paul’s, Beaudesert
Rev Dr Maurice Schild, Lecturer Lutheran Confessions & Church History, Luther Seminary (1970-2000), served on CTICR, Department of Liturgics, Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue, Commission on Social Questions, LWF Asian Programme of Advanced Theological Studies
Rev Dr Norm Habel, Professorial Fellow, Flinders University, recognised Old Testament scholar, author of international theological publications and major biblical works, pastor of LCA
Rev Dr Vic Pfitzner, Emeritus Lecturer and former Principal of ALC

This brochure is published by the All Saints group on behalf of the LCA clergy and laity who support the ordination of women in the LCA.
The pastors who have prepared these statements have agreed to their publication and dissemination. For further information on the theological
arguments for women’s ordination and motions submitted by St Peters and St Andrew’s for the 2013 LCA General synod please go to Women’s Ministry Network – www.wmn.org.au.

Senior Lutheran pastors affirm the ordination of women

 

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