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.