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Pr Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop of the ELCA, interview on ABC America

Prior to Pr Elizabeth Eaton’s installation as Bishop of the ELCA in Chicago this weekend (recorded here), she gave an interview on America’s ABC TV network.  She touched on a number of topics but describes a Lutheran Church which reflects God’s unconditional embrace of everyone. We believe that the LCA is also called to witness to this astounding love and grace for all people.

Some of the interview is transcribed below.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America not only welcomes paradox (but) we embrace (it). We realise that God has created an incredibly diverse world and that diversity is a kind of a beauty and so we’re a church where everyone is welcome, we would say.  We also hold fast to this notion … that we’re loved by a God who wants to lavishly, unconditionally love every one of us. …  Since we have been loved in this way we are free then to love the world and serve the world. …

We believe that God loves us unconditionally.  God does not love us (as the Billy Joel song says) “Just the way we are”, God wants to call the best out of us.  And so in that freedom we think that we can take controversial decisions…When we say we welcome everyone, I think that’s very important. It was a costly decision for us (ordaining gay and lesbian pastors) but if it is the right decision then no cost is too high. But when we say we welcome everyone we also welcome those who disagrees with that decision.  They are fully members of our Church because we can agree on the cross of Jesus Christ. …

Lutherans have a specific way of reading the Bible.  We are not Biblical literalists – I mean, there are different lists of disciples, the mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed and it doesn’t mean that our Lord didn’t know what he was talking about, but whatever shows forth God’s love as it was revealed in Jesus Christ, that’s what key.  There’s a lot of stuff that is not as important.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Hermeneutics, sociology, theology

 

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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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Four factors behind opposition to women’s ordination

Karen Bloomquist has served until recently as Director for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation.

Further to our thoughts on how context and history influence the way we interpret Scripture, (most recent post – Patriarchy in colonial Lutheran schooling) the following more scholarly synopsis is taken from Karen L. Bloomquist‘s article on women’s ordination in the ELCA.  She speaks of four factors leading to the opposition of women’s ordination.

[3] Where there is hesitation or opposition to ordaining women, four factors typically are involved:

1. HISTORICAL LEGACIES from churches and mission societies that first established and continue to support churches here in Africa. This especially includes interpretations of the Bible and ways of being church that they have passed on, sometimes in opposition to positions of their own churches. Such interpretations deeply affect how we read Scripture to legitimize positions that may have been arrived on other grounds. As Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro has written:Whether or not to ordain woman has depended largely on the practices, visions and wish of the ‘mother church,’ as well as the local perception of leadership in society, access to theological education, and interpretation of received traditions.

2. TRADITION – what is customary in a society or a church, which of course for much of church history has not included women as pastors. Theological or biblical arguments against the ordination of women typically are lodged here. However, in the New Testament, there are many accounts in which Jesus over-turned traditions and practices of his time, especially in how he an observant Jew related to women. Similarly, Martin Luther freed people from being bound to tradition, as represented by the Catholic Church of the time, especially when tradition hindered being faithful to God’s freeing Word of the gospel. Since the Reformation, basing something on “tradition” has been theologically suspect for Lutherans.

3. CULTURE is often set forth as a reason for not ordaining women. Certainly it is important that the gospel be inculturated or contextualized in a given culture. A culture sustains a people and therefore is good, but it also can protect or legitimize sinful practices, such as excluding or abusing those who are female. Those who are abused by cultural assumptions and practices usually are not those who defend the factor of “culture.” For Christian, culture can never be the last word, but is continually being transformed in light of the gospel.

4. GENDER refers to expected roles for women and men that are constructed and reinforced through culture. This is also reflected in many passages of Scripture, in which male-dominant gender understandings prevailed in patriarchal cultures that were the context when these passages were written. The problem is that these assumptions about the relationships and appropriate roles between males and females — which are human constructions — often are mistaken as being the will of God for all time.

via Ordaining Women Goes to the Heart of the Gospel – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

 Karen Bloomquist’s four factors could be used to explain why some Australian immigrants return to live in their country of origin, but then discover that it is not the same place and often fail to make the transition successfully.  Many of them reverse their decision and return to Australia, deciding finally to be one with Australia.

An evolving culture will not always be comfortable for everybody, but it is, at least temporarily, a fact of life.  In Christian faith, our challenge (like Australian immigrants) is to find roots in that evolving culture or fade away in despair through lack of connection.  It is always our choice.

What culture have you found yourself adapting to? What has been challenging and what has been liberating?

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in history, politics, sociology, women's ordination

 

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Toward understanding the LC-MS

Under the leadership of Pr Semmler, the LCA has snuggled closer to LCMS, but records of this evolution, to our knowledge, will not be found in committee minutes or official policy.

Should be we be strengthening ties with with LCMS, or should we take another route? Bill Weiblen, a pastor, chaplain, professor and president of Wartburg Theological College, Iowa, attempts to answer these questions for the ALC in 1980, some 8 years before the ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988.  He writes on the differences between the ALC  and the ELCA. The American Lutheran Church (ALC) was one of three church that united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  A brief timeline and flowchart of both churches is listed at the end of this post.

The post is lengthy and possibly imposing.  May I suggest you read the conclusion at the end of the quoted article.  To whet your appetite the following is an extract from that paragraph, “It is the mark of totalitarianism in both religion and politics to insist on monolithic understanding to suppress dissent.”

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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There are times when we need to help make it better

It is not enough to say that one day women will be ordained in the LCA. Many of us have recited that tenant of faith for decades. As Christians we desire to live out God’s will, to be God’s hands in this world, and to bring reconciliation and justice.  What might that mean for me in regards to women’s ordination?

Bishop Burnside, from the ELCA, recalls a time as a child when, on being bullied, his father simply told him to stand his ground and stand up to the bullies. On later witnessing his son being bullied he went to his rescue and said, “Bruce, I am sorry!”

This is the last paragraph from Bishop Burnside’s YouTube Video

There are times when we can’t stand up for ourselves and we have to rely on others to stand with us. We can’t just say that one day it will be better for those who are victimised or brutalised or bullied. There are times when we need to help make it better. As a Christian I believe that Jesus teaches that there is a place in his kingdom where there is a preference for those who are victimised, those who are oppressed, those who are brutalised and there is a place in this kingdom for those of us who stand with them, so I call on you to not just believe that one day it will be better but to help make it better.

Bishop Burnside talks not just about victims of bullying, but also about those who are oppressed and brutalised. Women, in being dismissed as not fit for ordination, continue to be minimised, oppressed  and brutalised!  It is time that we said, “We are sorry!” However, it doesn’t end there. The consequence of a genuine apology is that we promise to do something or to change our ways.

What is it that each of us need to do today as a result of our apology for how the LCA has treated women?

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in sociology, theology

 

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“The Authority of Scripture, Women’s Ordination and the LCA”

The Journal of Lutheran Ethics, ELCA,

carries a concise summary of the women’s ordination debate in the LCA, including the history and hermeneutics brought by the different sides.  The author, Tanya Wittwer, is a doctoral candidate at Flinders University in South Australia, holds a Master of Divinity From Wartburg Seminary in Iowa and is Master of Public Health Coordinator, University of Adelaide.  She points out the manipulation that has occurred by the ministry-for-men proponents.

Excerpts are included below.  For the full article, including papers and references from many sources, click here.

7] Those that argue that Christ established the office of ordained ministry do so on the basis of passages such as Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23. There appears to be no acknowledgement that these “establishment” verses may be being used to justify existing practice based in tradition rather than providing a clear mandate for ordained ministry. Those that would argue for the office of ministry having been developed in the early church would look to, for example, Acts 15, Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 4:11 for evidence of an emerging (and diverse) ministry structure. This discussion seems not to have been part of the ordination debate.[8] The study of the ordination issue has focussed on the two verses used as the basis for the prohibition paragraph in The Theses of Agreement rather than using as the starting place the witness of Scripture regarding ordained ministry. I surmise the reason for this is the assumption of consensus regarding the office of ministry.

[10]…However, there have been persistent hermeneutical differences between those engaged in the discussion, and it could be argued that these have been shaped by the ideological positions held prior to any Scriptural study.

[11] Significant voices in the debate have argued from what they maintain to be a literal (but not Biblicist) understanding of Scripture. The subordination of women is an implicit assumption for many. Other significant voices uphold a viewpoint that the Gospel is central to all interpretation and that allowing the text to speak implies a contextual reading. Many of the same people would suggest the Holy Spirit remains active in the development of the church and its theology.

[13] While the official line has been maintained that all discussion in the church on the matter of the ordination of women has been on the basis of Scripture, the reality is that it has been a discussion nested in political strategem.  Many decisions about process have been less than transparent. Those nominated by the church to provide leadership in matters of theology voted by a two-thirds majority – after a long process of study and discussion – that Scripture permits the ordination of women. However, when the General Synods of 2000 and 2006 were asked to discuss and vote on the issue there was silence about the work of the CTICR and the impression continues to be given that they did not reach a decision. A task force was established by the General Church Council following a resolution of the 2006 Synod, “to determine and implement strategies for promoting greater consensus on the matter of the ordination of women” but the report of the task force to the 2009 Synod seems to suggest that the previous study and discussions were ignored.

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Posted by on November 6, 2010 in Hermeneutics, politics, theology

 

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Elizabeth Platz – The ELCA’s first female pastor celebrates 40 years

Pr. Elizabeth Platz on her ordination       www.elca.org/archives

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz is celebrating 40 years of ordained ministry in the ELCA on Nov 22, 2010.  She has served her entire ministry at University of Maryland campus pastor.

“I came to it slowly,” she said. “Never underestimate the persistence of God.”

Another link to Elizabeth A. Platz and the anniversary.

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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in politics, sociology

 

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