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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

Screen shot 2013-03-21 at 8.02.29 PM

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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Leigh Newton posts to YouTube

Leigh Newton holds that social media is an important way to bring about women’s ordination in the LCA.  A few days ago he recorded a video which included reference to his experience of women seminarians and pastors from Wartburg Theological College, Dubuque, Iowa, where his wife studied for her M.Div and many of our older pastors were trained.

Would you consider making your own video and uploading it to YouTube? Women’s ordination has suffered because of fear within the LCA, and fear does not reflect the vote at Synod or the massive support around Australia amongst laity and clergy for women to be ordained.   The more we speak up, the less any fear is experienced as being real, and the closer women’s ordination will be.

We cannot delay until another Synod or wait another generation.  Ordain women in April!

 

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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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In my lifetime – my mantra and mission

Marybeth Redmond, Vermont Public Radio

Women’s ordination is a real issue in the Catholic Church, especially in the U.S.A.  The love that parishioners have for nuns suggests that this issue will not disappear.

The following story (link), from Vermont Public Radio, and partly a reflection on Father Roy Bourgeous, is another story of calling to ordained ministry. The link has an audio recording of the article.

(Host) For writer, journalist and commentator Marybeth Redmond, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has restimulated feelings of heartache, not for the Pontiff himself, but for a friend of hers who met the wrath of this church hierarchy.

(Redmond) A heartfelt postcard arrived in my mailbox recently.  On its cover – a photograph of a Catholic school girl dressed in her plaid uniform with hand raised high, as if to say “pick me.” On the chalkboard behind this earnest youngster are scrawled the words, “who wants to be a priest?”

I grinned upon seeing it, but winced as well.   Appropriate humor from my friend, Father Roy Bourgeois, in light of his present circumstances.  On the postcard’s reverse side he had penned, “Thanks for your good support at this challenging time.  You give me hope in the struggle.”

In 2008, Father Roy was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s reign. Then last October, Father Roy was dismissed by his religious society of 40-plus years, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, for refusing to recant his public position on the right of women to be ordained priests. Most likely pressure from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forced Maryknoll’s hand.

I recall a lunch conversation with this humble, soft-spoken priest a few years back.  We sat overlooking Lake Champlain eating crepes on a breathtaking day.  Father Roy was in town to speak at the Unitarian Church atop Church Street in Burlington about his decades-long campaign to close the School of the Americas, a military camp in Fort Benning, Georgia with a history of training Latin American militias in torture.

At that time, colleagues were advising Father Roy to stay a one-issue activist, so as not to dissipate his message of non-violent protest to close the S-O-A.  But his conscience was advising him otherwise-as a male clergyman-to decry sexism and discrimination against women in his own church.  To Father Roy, this was a matter of justice, and silence for him was complicity.  He wanted my opinion.  I listened carefully as he spoke, sure I was witnessing history unfold.

Maybe Pope Benedict didn’t personally demand Father’s Roy’s excommunication, but he certainly set up and supported the system that led to the ultimate decision.  I am immensely sad that this church I still call home definitively rid itself of a faithful, 75-year-old man who has trekked across this country with messages of peace and inclusion for decades.  At the same time, that Catholic Church has kept in its fold cardinals and bishops who protected priests responsible for the sexual abuse of children.  The irony is astounding.

I myself recall as early as 8 years old, having a compulsion to serve others, to bring mercy, to deliver words of hope – to become a priest.  I was told this vocation was closed to me forever because of gender-despite my own stirrings of conscience.

This day, I took Father Roy’s Catholic school girl postcard to my refrigerator where I can peer at it each day.  In my lifetime, becomes my mantra and mission now.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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Pr Mike Semmler announces his retirement

LCA-mike

President Rev Mike Semmler

Pr Mike Semmler has just announced that he will not stand again for the position of President of the LCA.

It is difficult to believe that this era of staunch resistance to women’s ordination may be over (2000-2013).  While there may always be people who are distressed by the idea of women’s ordination (though other churches’ experience is that concerns fade once people experience the pastoral care of women), there was no more an important position than that of President of the LCA in opposing women’s ordination.  The position was used to delay, stifle and ignore discussion in the CTICR and in the national journal, as well as cling to the Church’s ‘current position’, repressing further debate, thereby clinging to the current position.  How was change ever going to come unless there was open debate?

Of course, it remains to be seen who will stand for the position, but Synod delegates would presumably be twice shy about who it elects to this position, which, we have learnt, is an incredibly powerful one in guiding or sidelining issues within the Church.

Please include the election of our national president in your prayers.

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16 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2013 in politics, women's ordination

 

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