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To all who are disturbed by the statement published by Dr John Kleinig, ‘Why I Changed My Mind’ – by Dr Wendy Mayer.

Dr Wendy Mayer

Dr Wendy Mayer – photo from http://earlychristianity.cua.edu/visiting.cfm

Dr Mayer is a professor of early church history, known internationally for her work on preaching. For 44 years she was an active member of the LCA. She currently resides in Washington, DC, but continues to work and worship half-time in Australia.

A description of Dr Mayer’s writings can be found here.

Re-posted with permission from the Women’s Ministry Network.


Are you condemned because you’ve come to faith as a result of teaching by pastors who happen to be women?

In my home congregation in Washington, DC, I weekly hear the Gospel preached by Pastor Karen Brau, a third generation Lutheran pastor, with a profound understanding of grace and a passion for the spiritual growth of her parishioners. In South Africa at St Peters Lutheran Church in Pretoria, on sabbatical I again heard the Gospel preached weekly by Pastor Heike, a much-loved, hard-working shepherd of a growing English-language predominantly indigenous South African community, equally loved by the aging non-indigenous German-language congregation. According to Dr John Kleinig, had I come to faith as a result of the teaching of these pastors, Christ who does not recognise the teaching of these women, would not recognise me. Indeed, even by persisting in faithfully worshipping and being active in their congregations, I, along with their destructive ‘works’, am destroyed, ruined, and ultimately condemned.

Am I condemned? The answer is a resounding ‘no!’ As a Lutheran raised in the LCA I can state this with confidence and here is why.

Because together with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530, I and Lutherans across the world, including the LCA, confess that we “cannot be justified before God by our own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith” (AC IV) and “that we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel, that is, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake” (AC V).

It is the Holy Spirit who works faith, when and where it pleases God. It is the Holy Spirit who, through the Word and the Sacraments, works faith, not human beings. Here there is no mention of gender. Indeed when I look at these key confessions of our church, I think of the theology of divine accommodation. It is we human beings whose understanding is limited. We are incapable of completely knowing God, who is beyond gender, infinite in wisdom and mercy. He became human so that we might come to know him in Christ. I ask myself, if God had come to us in human form in Australia in the 21st century when we have women prime ministers and premiers, might it not be possible that we would be reading in our scriptures ‘this is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased’?

Dr Kleinig calls us to be afraid. To be afraid that if, in the Australian Lutheran Church, women are permitted to teach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, our faith is suspect. Christ will not recognise us. We will be condemned. But condemned by whom? God? As Lutherans we affirm that it is God who ‘justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake’. Our salvation is between us and God. This is pure grace. This is why as Lutherans we can be unafraid. The Holy Spirit works faith in us when we hear the Gospel – no ‘if…’, ‘but…’, or other constraint. Salvation is not by pastor (whether male or female – thank, God!), but by grace. Grace is unconditional. To place constraints on it is to deny the Gospel and to confuse it with the Law.

This is why I am not condemned. This is why I know that I am saved. As a confessional Lutheran I can without fear listen to the Gospel and receive the sacraments from any person ordained to the Ministry – because I know that the Holy Spirit works through them, however gendered, however sinful, however flawed.

So, can we as a church come together to vote on this issue in confidence that the LCA will not be divided? The answer in this case is a resounding ‘yes!’ As a confessional Lutheran I can state this without hesitation and here is why.

Just as the LCA and Lutherans across the world confess that we “cannot be justified before God by our own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith” (AC IV), with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530 we accept, too, that “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments” (AC VII). As confessional Lutherans we can be confident that disagreement over matters that fall outside what we hold essential for the unity of the church, no matter how distressing such disagreement might be, is not church divisive. Such disagreements are a natural consequence of our limited human understanding and part of the long history of God’s church on earth. God forgives us unconditionally, and his work in the world persists. Indeed, as confessional Lutherans we can have confidence that any attempt to divide the church because of disagreements over such matters is an unacceptable confusion of Law and Gospel, which will lead inevitably to a distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something for us to take to heart – as both caution and reassurance – on both sides of the ordination of women debate.

March 2015


Dr Kleinig’s “Why I changed my mind” can be found here.
 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in theology

 

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An essay by Neal Nuske

The following letter from Neal Nuske was distributed to All Saints and Time to Soar participants.  Bruce Lockwood suggests that it is the most important document to come from All Saints. “It goes to the heart of the reason why there are two different interpretations of the same texts within the LCA.”

While it’s not short it’s worth the read.

Neal Nuske at the Time to Soar conference, ALC, Nth Adelaide

The distinction between Law and Gospel: the hermeneutical touchstone and theological compass for the church

The distinction between Law and Gospel is not only the hermeneutical touchstone for Lutheran theology but also the theological compass for guiding the LCA in the future. Those who wrote our Lutheran confessions made theological and pastoral judgements about all the teachings and practices of the late medieval church by evaluating them in the light of the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Augsburg Confession Article IV). Justification by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus) was later referred to as the material principle. It crystallises the entire Christian truth. The authoritative source for this theology was Scripture (sola scriptura) which was later referred to as the formal principle. [1]

The mission of the church is clear: (i) preach the gospel (ii) baptise people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18-19 and Mark 16:15-16) and, (iii) Do this in remembrance of me – celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Matt 25: 26-30, Mark14: 22-26, Luke 22:14-21, 1 Cor 11:23-26). These commands are essential for the Office of the Holy Ministry because through these means of grace, that is, the Word and sacraments, God gives the Holy Spirit who works the gift of saving faith when and where he pleases in those who hear the Gospel (Augsburg Confession Articles IV and V). From this source springs the life of faith, hope and love, the new obedience, the life of the church (Article VI). The focus in Articles IV, V and VI is the salvific work of the Holy Trinity who chooses to work in Word and sacraments ministry.

As we reflect on the development and formulation of the Confessions it becomes clear everything previously known and experienced in the spiritual and social life of the late medieval church was consistently drawn and coherently evaluated in the light of what we now call the material principle and the formal principle. These principles are not doctrines per se. They are theological means, or auxiliary theological tools, a theological compass which enables exegetes to distinguish between Law and Gospel and rightly apply the meaning of a text to the life of the church.

 The revolution in church life

With this theological compass the reformers made radical pastoral decisions. Seven sacraments were reduced to two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The notion of theocracy, that is, the inseparable unity of church and state as was expressed in the Holy Roman Empire was rejected, leaving us with the legacy of the doctrine of the two-kingdoms which differentiates the way God works through the state and the church. Hierarchical distinctions between clergy and laity disappeared. Distinctions which formed the very foundations for the structure and wealth distribution in late medieval society were rejected. Fasting, liturgical practices, images in church buildings, marriage of the clergy, the question whether nuns could marry, plus other long established traditions were evaluated by drawing them (ducere – Latin: to lead or guide) under the guiding light of the distinction between Law and Gospel. The doctrine of justification by grace though faith in Christ was the hermeneutical touchstone, the theological compass which gave the reformers such clarity of insight, that it enabled them to make discerning judgements about the very words of Scripture. They were able to exercise pastoral judgments which shaped the future life of the church. When examining any issue they could conclude: this is necessary for salvation while this is not necessary for salvation. The process finally gave us our Confessions.

The importance of Scripture

The late medieval church read, studied, interpreted and meditated upon the Scriptures as did Luther and his fellow Augustinian monks. Scripture was regarded as the inspired Word of God. Yet Luther was terrified because in the inspired Word of God he encountered a God of judgement who caused him to despair. Luther’s view of the Scriptures was radically changed through the inner work of the Holy Spirit. He was led to see, with joyful certainty, that in the same divinely inspired text there was what he called the heart of Scripture, the doctrine of justification, the cross of Christ, the heart of God. This gave Scripture its authority. In his Bondage of the Will Luther would say: “Take Christ from the Scriptures and what more will you find in them?” In 1534 Luther audaciously said: “If our adversaries argue the Scriptures against Christ, then we will argue Christ against the Scriptures.”

The importance of the work of the Holy Trinity

In his Large Catechism Luther outlined the true purpose of the salvific work of the Holy Trinity in the Creeds:

In these three articles God himself has revealed and opened to us the utmost profound depths of his fatherly heart, his sheer, unutterable love. He has created us for this very purpose, to redeem and sanctify us. Moreover, having bestowed upon us everything in heaven and on earth, he has given us his Son and his Holy Spirit, through whom he brings us to himself. As we explained before, we could never come to recognise the Father’s favour and grace were it not for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. Apart from him we see nothing but an angry and terrible judge. But neither could we know anything of Christ, had it not been revealed by the Holy Spirit. (The Large Catechism: Creed Book of Concord {Tappert} 419: 63-65)

The primary purpose of including the three articles of the Creed is to establish a theological connection between the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Article IV) and the way God himself has revealed and opened to us the utmost profound depths of his fatherly heart, his sheer, unutterable love, thereby establishing a further connection between redemption and sanctification, based upon the Father’s favour and grace in Christ who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. There is a theological coherence in the way the reformers have organised the structure of The Augsburg Confession around this theological compass, namely, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  It can be anticipated that this theme will also be the central focus of Article V.

The importance of the office of the ministry

All throughout the Confessions we see how reliant and respectful the reformers were towards the Scriptures. In their theological perspective the Holy Trinity works through the means of grace, that is, the Word and sacraments in order to create saving faith.

To obtain such saving faith God instituted the office of the ministry that is, provided the Gospel and sacraments. Through these, as through means, God gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.  And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merits of Christ, when we believe this. (Augsburg Confession Article V)

The wisdom required in knowing what is essential for salvation

Thereafter the Reformers were confident in evaluating the inspired text by examining the meaning of various scriptural passages (formal principle) in the light of the gospel (material principle). The Scriptures must not be interpreted in ways which disregard the gospel thereby burdening consciences, and the gospel must not be understood and used to divorce the work of the Holy Trinity from the Scriptures. This enabled them to conclude: this is necessary for salvation because it is necessary for the proclamation of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone, while this church tradition is not necessary for salvation and remains in the arena of the freedom of the gospel.  A careful distinction had to be made between doing those things which were essential for the proclamation of the gospel, namely, preaching the Word and administering the sacraments, and those things which lay in the arena of the freedom of the gospel, namely human traditions (Apology Article XIV). It naturally follows that the doctrine of justification by faith must become the centre of gravity for church unity.

For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere (The Augsburg Confession Article VII).

 

The connection between the hermeneutical touchstone and preaching

For these reformers it was a matter of seeing clearly how a God of judgement and grace revealed himself and spoke a Word of Law and Gospel. The Holy Spirit is not only the author of the Word, the divinely inspired, inerrant sacred text (formal principle), but is also the witness to the cross of Christ in the Word (material principle). When the doctrine of justification for Christ’s sake through faith resonated in the proclamation of those ordained into the office of the ministry, when a clear distinction was made between Law and Gospel, then this indicated that God was at work in Christ through the Holy Spirit creating saving faith and producing good fruit and good works. When the distinction between Law and Gospel did not resonate in the proclamation of those ordained into the office of the ministry, then no matter how much reference was made to God and the inspired word, the end result was: another Christ was being preached. (2 Cor 11. 14)[2]

The hermeneutical compass

The reformer Melanchthon would show how the doctrine of justification worked as a theological compass for the reform movement in The Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article IV Justification. On that basis he writes:

All Scripture should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises. In some places it presents the law. In others it presents the gospel of Christ: this it does either when it promises that the Messiah will come and promises forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life for his sake, or when in the New Testament, the Christ who came promises forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life. By Law, in this discussion we mean the commandments of the Decalogue.  (Apology IV 5, 6)

The two schools of thought in the LCA regarding ordination: the male-only interpretation of Article V; and, the gender inclusive interpretation of Article V

Diverse ways of interpreting and applying the same texts can result from a common affirmation that Scripture is the ‘divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God and the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life’ (Article II, LCA Constitution). Clearly, affirming the formal principle, does not guarantee consensus, as is all too clear in our LCA when we think of the two schools of thought regarding the ordination of women.

These two schools of thought do not result from a fundamental difference about the divine inspiration of the written and inerrant Word of God as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life. This is evidenced in all the written material produced over the past thirty years. We can see a mutual and abiding love and a deep respect for the Word. The diligence and humility that has marked our exegetical journey through the Word examining this matter has been extraordinary in its depth, detail and scope.

Inseparable from the formal principle, yet in clear distinction from it, is the central message of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the cross of Christ, the joyful certainty of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. Later Lutheran theologians would refer to it as the material principle. The Augsburg Confession Article V tells us God instituted the Office of the Ministry thereby providing the gospel and the sacraments in order that we may obtain this saving faith. At this point we do not find any difference in the two schools of thought in our LCA. Both agree that the Office of the Ministry is a gift from God for the purpose of proclaiming the Word and administering the sacraments in order to obtain justifying faith. There is mutual consensus about the centrality of the cross in the two schools of thought.

The Augsburg Confession Article V and Thesis VI paragraph 11

In addition to Augsburg Confession Article V Office of the Ministry, the Theses of Agreement VI par 11 utilises two texts 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2: 11-14 to support a male-only view on ordination. These texts are not referred to by the reformers throughout the Lutheran Confessions: The Augsburg Confession (1530) The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531) The Smaldcald Articles (1537) The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (1537) The Small Catechism (1529) The Large Catechism (1529) The Formula of Concord 1577). This is significant. Their central concern was not a gender issue in relation to the office of the ministry [3] but a pastoral theological issue: how does a person obtain this justifying faith they so eloquently described in Article IV, the kind of faith which brings forth the good fruit and good works they so eloquently praised in Article VI. Their answer is: Article V. The focus of Article V is the salvific work of the Holy Trinity, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit through the Word and sacraments.

In referring to two texts (1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2: 11-14), Thesis VI par 11 is pointing to a scriptural foundation for the historic practice of male-only ordination by tracing it back to St Paul and Christ: in prohibiting the ordination of women the church is understood to obey a command of Christ. In the view of the male-only ordination school of thought, these two texts are to be interpreted as necessary theological additions to Article V. In this view, these texts are utilised to determine how Article V is to be understood and interpreted throughout the whole of Christendom. The formal principle is deeply respected in the way these texts, along with other passages, are quoted (Summary of arguments for the ordination of men only CTICR Final Report 2000).

Implications for the parish life of the LCA: the male-only school of thought

Thesis VI Par 11 is necessary for the ordination of male-only school of thought. It is a sine qua non, an indispensible and essential ingredient. There cannot be any compromise on this theological issue because: if a female is ordained then the Church has acted in disobedience to Christ. Furthermore, in this view a female pastor will desecrate the body and blood of Christ when she attempts to consecrate the bread and wine. In this view, a female pastor cannot properly or validly nurture the faith of the faithful because her ministry is invalid due to her disobedience to Christ’s command.  Indeed, in ordaining a woman, the church itself is acting in a way that is disobedient to Christ’s command.

For this reason the LCA Ordination Consensus Task Force Report 2009 was asked to research and investigate the validity of a believer’s faith if it is nurtured by female clergy (Recommendation 9c. 4). That such a question should be asked indicates that, in the male-only school of thought, the Holy Trinity cannot condone the ordination of a female pastor and will not work in a salvific manner through her ministry of Word and sacrament.

It follows from this approach that the good fruit and good works so eloquently described in Article VI cannot be nurtured by the Spirit of God because the Spirit of God cannot act in disobedience to the command of Christ. Therefore the fundamental importance of ordaining males only for this school of thought cannot be underestimated because the office of the ministry loses its validity when a female is ordained.

Furthermore, in this view the parishioners of a female pastor do not obtain the faith so eloquently described in Article V. They are not freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith. They are not received into favour with God. Their sins are not forgiven on account of Christ and their faith in Christ is not imputed as righteousness in the sight of God. God does not give her parishioners the gift of the Holy Spirit through the gospel and the sacraments. In this view, if an ordained female pastor baptises a child, then the baptism of that child is invalid because her Word and sacrament ministry are invalid on account of her disobedience to Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot disobey a command of Christ.

For this school of thought it is a matter of conscience and obedience to the command of Christ (Recommendation 6 SECTION 4 E). Consequently, male-only ordination is necessary for the ministry of salvation, the office of the ministry, because the efficacy of Word and sacrament ministry is annulled by disobedience to Christ’s command. In this view the material principle is not distinct from, but dependent upon the formal principle, that is, obedience to the written Word of God as recorded in the two texts cited in Thesis VI par 11 is required. In summary, the work of Christ is conditional upon obedience to the word of Christ as understood by this school of thought. A specific way of interpreting 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2: 11-14 defines what it is that must be obeyed.

At this point in time, it is not a matter of in statu confessionis for those who belong to the school of thought which advocates the ordination of women because the ordination of women is regarded as a matter of church practice and belongs to adiaphora. In this school of thought the validity and efficacy of the office of the ministry are dependent solely upon the work of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit alone through the Word and the sacraments.

However, if it is maintained that Thesis VI par 11 must be regarded as having the same status as the Creeds and Confessions for the future of the LCA, in other words as an article of faith by which the church will stand or fall (in statu confessionis), then we have entered new territory because, in the view of the male-only school of thought, Thesis VI par 11 is essential for both the validity and the efficacy of the office of the ministry. The ordination of males-only thereby becomes a third mark of the presence of the true church in the world.

The matter would certainly need re-examination because it discloses a fundamental difference between the two schools of thought which the search for consensus could never overcome or ignore as a core issue. The CTICR certainly would need to discuss such a theological development. The key question for the LCA is: Is Thesis VI par 11 necessary for the ministry of salvation, that is, for obtaining the faith and good works so eloquently referred to in Article V?

Implications for the parish life of the LCA: the gender inclusive school of thought

The formal principle is also significant for that school of thought in our LCA which supports the ordination of both men and women. The same respect, diligence and care for the meaning of the Scriptures are evident. (Summary of arguments for the ordination of women CTICR Final Report 2000 and, The Case for the Ordination of women – A Summary adopted by CTICR 26 May 2006.  In this 2006 document, Paragraphs 4-7 specifically deal with the foundational texts referred to in Thesis VI par 11. )

While it is clear that the two schools of thought both confess the ‘divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God … as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life’ (Article II, LCA Constitution) nevertheless, the difference between the two schools of thought can be seen in their respective exegetical conclusions and their application for the life of the LCA.

These two texts are to be interpreted in the light of the whole Scripture, which is the inspired Word of God. Christ and the gospel he proclaimed are the heart and centre of the Scriptures. Their purpose and goal is that sinners be justified. For that reason Christ instituted the office of the ministry and calls people to serve as pastors in the church. To argue in this way is not to reduce Scripture to gospel alone, but to make the gospel and its proclamation the basis for the church’s practice (CTICR 2006 par 7).

In this school of thought St Paul’s statements are interpreted as pastoral statements for a particular context. They are not understood as a command of Christ for all times and places (CTICR2006 par5). Consequently, the validity and efficacy of the ministry of Word and sacrament are not dependent upon the ordination of men only, that is, dependent upon the gender of the ordained pastor, but solely dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit who works where and when he wills in those who hear the Law and the Gospel proclaimed, the message of justification by grace through faith in Christ.  The salvific work of the Holy Trinity is not conditional upon the specific interpretation of what it means to obey this command of Christ held by the male-only school of thought (1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2: 11-14).

When all Scripture is interpreted within the compass of the formal principle and the material principle, it is seen that the salvific work of the Holy Trinity is conditional only upon: (i) preaching the gospel (ii) baptising people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and, (iii) celebrating the Lord’s Supper – “Do this in remembrance of me”. In this school of thought the weight falls on these commands which are essential to the Office of the Holy Ministry because through these means of grace, the Word and sacraments, God gives the Holy Spirit who works the gift of saving faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel (Augsburg Confession Article IV and V).

Thesis VI Par 11 is not necessary for the ministry of salvation in this school of thought. It is not an indispensible and essential ingredient for the office of the ministry. If a female is ordained then the Church remains faithful to its Lord. In this view a female pastor will not desecrate the body and blood of Christ when she consecrates the bread and wine. In this view, a female pastor properly and validly nurtures the faith of the faithful.  The good fruit and good works so eloquently described by the reformers in Article VI will be nurtured by the Spirit of God because the Spirit of God acts in conformity to the command of Christ to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. The office of the ministry of an ordained woman does not lose its validity and efficacy.

Furthermore, in this view the parishioners of a female pastor obtain the faith the reformers so eloquently describe in Article IV. They are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith. They are received into favour with God. Their sins are forgiven on account of Christ and their faith in Christ is imputed as righteousness in the sight of God. God gives her parishioners the gift of the Holy Spirit through the gospel and the sacraments. In this view, if an ordained female pastor baptises a child, then the baptism of that child is valid because her Word and sacrament ministry is validated by Christ, and the Holy Spirit works through the command of Christ to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.

The Augsburg Confession Articles IV, V and VI are understood to be theologically coherent and consonant not because of a teaching about ordination but because of the focus upon the salvific work of the Holy Trinity who chooses to work through the Word and sacraments freely justifying parishioners for Christ’s sake in those who hear the Gospel. What brings about the difference in the two schools of thought is the role which the formal principle and the material principle play in the formation of exegetical and pastoral conclusions. This is the issue that needs to be re-examined.

Some conclusions

This issue is of such significance that it should be a matter that is returned to the CTICR for examination. The work of the CTICR thus far has been helpful, enlightening as well as satisfactory because it has revealed to all of us how our theologians clearly respect the formal and material principle throughout their work, even though they arrive at different exegetical conclusions which have significantly different pastoral implications for the life of the LCA. It has made us aware of a critical matter for the whole church to prayerfully consider.

Those who have already worked so diligently and respectfully on behalf of the LCA must be given an opportunity to evaluate their work once more in view of the question:

Is the view of ordination expressed in Thesis VI par 11 necessary for the ministry of salvation, the proclamation of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments?

It is clear Thesis VI par 11 expresses the historic tradition of the church in that it is utilised in support of the ordination of males only. It is also clear it was necessary for the union of the two Lutheran Churches in 1966. It now has become clear that the CTICR2000 Final Report and the subsequent Synods have revealed there are two schools of thought in the LCA which have arrived at different exegetical conclusions. These conclusions have significantly different pastoral implication for the life of the LCA. Our best theological minds from a cross-section of the membership of the LCA, both male and female, should be given this work to do. The CTICR not only fulfils those criteria because it has such a combination of theological expertise and a cross-section from the membership of the LCA. This is also a matter for consideration at all Pastors’ Conferences and District Synods because it concerns the future identity and direction of our LCA.

Finally, the supporters of the school of thought which advocates the ordination of men and women and who formulated the Resolutions put forward by St Peters believe that these Resolutions are consistent with making a distinction between the formal principle and the material principle for Lutheran hermeneutics. They are also consistent and in harmony with The Augsburg Confession Articles IV, V and VI. They emphasise the connection between the work of the Holy Trinity and the office of the ministry in Articles IV, V and VI. They distinguish between Law and Gospel when applying 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2: 11-14 to the life of the LCA and do so in the light of the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. They propose nothing at all that is contrary to the Lutheran Confessions. They are also respectful of LCA Constitutional processes which are synodical.

Consequently, it is not necessary for salvation that the LCA ordains males only for the office of the ministry. The validity and efficacy of the ministry of Word and sacrament in the LCA are not dependent upon the gender of the ordained pastor. Therefore a change can be implemented with regard to the practice of ordination in the LCA which is mindful and respectful of the importance 1 Cor 14: 33b-38 and I Tim 2: 11-14 have had for church order in the 1st century and throughout the history of the Christian Church including the various synods of the Lutheran Church which came to Australia. The resolutions are particularly mindful of the importance these texts had for those synodical discussions which led to the formation of the LCA in 1966.

These resolutions are not formulated on the basis of any feminist philosophy or sociological factors inherent in contemporary culture. They evidence no abandonment of scriptural authority. On the contrary a clear distinction is made between the formal principle which appreciates both the clarity and the complexity of the textual evidence, and the material principle. The resolutions also presuppose the centrality of the doctrine of justification for the life of the church which always requires us, as it did the reformers before us, to answer the fundamental question: What is necessary for salvation? In our time the same question appears in the form:

Is the view of ordination expressed in Thesis VI paragraph 11 necessary for the validity and efficacy of the ministry of salvation as formulated in The Augsburg Confession Article V?

How that question is answered will determine whether or not consensus is possible.

Neal Nuske


[1] Throughout this essay wherever the terms material principle and the formal principle are used, they will carry these meanings.

[2] The wisdom and capacity to make this distinction does not reside in the gender of the pastor.

[3] The gender issues confronting the reformers were significantly different and quite radical: celibacy in the priesthood and monastic orders, marriage and the priesthood, and, whether or not monks and nuns from the various monastic orders could marry.

 

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Thanking God for the preaching of Nadia Bolz Weber

Hey, gentlemen Pastors, try to beat this sermon!  It’s from Nadia Bolz Weber from the ELCA.  It doesn’t come more gutsy than this.

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

2013-03-24 NBW Sermon <—click here to listen along.

the first bit

Because these people of the Holy Week story are we people.  And we people are the likes of which God came to save.  God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only an improved, doesn’t make the wrong choices kind of people.  There is no improved version of humanity that could have done any differently. So go ahead. Don’t wait until you think your motivations are correct.  Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does).  Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows.  Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves…we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen.

 
 

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Allowing the LCA to repent

Edgar Mayer (from Facebook)

Edgar Mayer (from Facebook)

Dr Edgar Mayer shares his wisdom on the dilemma facing the LCA – women’s ordination in an paper entitled, Allowing the LCA to Repent (a doc).

He commences by quoting Dr Dean Zweck.

So what is the problem?  It’s a problem of great complexity, but the bottom line is that neither we ourselves, not anyone else, is going to hear the Word unless there is repentance. The first part of the Isaiah reading is actually a gracious invitation as well as stern reminder that it is time to repent. The time is now:

Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

The history of the Christian movement shows that renewal always begins with repentance. ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ cried John the Baptist in the wilderness (Matt 3:2). ‘Repent, and believe in the good news,’ are the first words on the lips of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. ‘When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent”, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance’—so states thesis one of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses.  We want our church to turn around, but nothing will change until we ourselves ‘turn around’—which is what the Hebrew word for repentance actually means. ‘Let them return to the Lord,’ says the prophet, ‘that he may have mercy upon them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’

The following is Edgar’s summary of his paper.  The full paper can be found here.

  1. Nothing will change unless we repent.
  2. The LCA is built on the constitutional demand for unanimity in doctrine and uniformity in practice which leaves not much room for repentance because any repentance and ensuing change would threaten the LCA’s mandated unanimity and uniformity.
  3. In spite of our constitution and forty years of dedicated effort the LCA has not really achieved unanimity and uniformity in a whole range of theological matters, e.g.: creation issues, the role and authority of women in congregation and church both in terms of worship and leadership, the material and formal principles of Scripture, associate membership in the Lutheran World Federation and membership in the Australian Council of Churches …
  4. The General Synod in 2006 has brought us to a crisis point because even after two synodical votes (2000, 2006) our denomination remains split right down the middle when it comes to the question of women’s ordination which means that according to the LCA constitution we are now officially living in “sinful unionism” with ourselves.
  5. Since there is a growing awareness that another ten or twenty years of church debate would not help us to reach consensus in this matter, the way forward seems to be either to separate from each other or change our constitution to acknowledge and allow for the current diversity.
  6. Lutherans do not propose that there is a divinely mandated church structure. There can be varied denominational struc­tures depending on what serves congregations best. However, there can be no domineering leadership or coercion in faith matters because individual believers remain captive to the Word of God and for them “it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience”. Any leadership can only lead by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason and then pray that the Holy Spirit works his own conviction in the hearts of the hearers.
  7. The Theses of Agreement and the Document of Union themselves may be able to move the LCA forward forty years after her inception. There is an acknowledgement in these writings that according to Lutheran theology church unity is not based on oneness in doctrine and practice but oneness in Christ. First and foremost all Christians belong to the one church of Jesus Christ (una sancta) through their one faith in Christ. Then only as a secondary step Christians may consider forming denominations which in accordance with the basic oneness of Christians may accommodate some diversity within a given framework, i.e. the framework of the Lutheran Confessions, without creating the false impression of unanimous agreement in everything.
  8. We have to have a constitutional basis which allows for repentance and change. We have to have a constitutional structure which allows pastors and congregations to follow their conscience and obey the will of God. One option would be to organize ourselves as a Federation of Congregations or Federation of Districts which would then develop diverse streams of Lutheran expression within the one Federation. Other options can be considered.
  9. On our knees we will find unity.
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Letter from Pr Neal Nuske to LCA governing committees

Pr Neil Nuske

Pr Neil Nuske – Time to Soar conference, ALC, July 2012

Dear WO supporter,

Following the All Saints conference in November 2012, a steering group was formed to advocate women’s ordination in the LCA.

One of the steering group members, Neal Nuske, sent an open letter (below) to the GCC, ALC, COPs and BLEA expressing his personal concerns over the theological direction of some sections of the LCA. His letter is attached.

Neal has given his permission for the letter to be openly discussed amongst all members and forums of the LCA.

KInd regards

Carole Haeusler
All Saints steering group, Queensland

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One woman’s reply to the College of Presidents

love

In our last post, we published one woman’s letter to the College of Presidents (Lutheran Church of Australia).  She received a considered response from the President, Pr Semmler, which we are not publishing as we do not have permission.  In response to Pr Semmler’s reply the woman wrote her own reply below.

TO THE COLLEGE OF PRESIDENTS       September 2012

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust Him and he will act..Psalm 37 v5

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your reply to my letter. I really appreciate your concern in the conversation about ordaining women in God’s mission in the LCA. I sense that you personally feel reluctant to favour ordaining women. I feel that I can add some helpful insights in the journey of women as I am now fairly old (!)   and have actually collected anecdotal data on the journey on which God sent me. My experiences may help you younger men understand how some things in our Lutheran Church came to be.  May the Holy Spirit give me wisdom and discretion as I write.

It’s interesting to note that ordination is not a mandate of scripture so we are all still commanded to “Go and tell”. We used to do that a lot … women and men. Some still do.

I’ll take you back in time to the  early 1960’s. I  attended  Concordia Seminary, State Teachers’ College and University. After graduating the Lutheran Church called me to New Guinea. I was excited as my Dad had been a missionary in New Guinea and I had had a heart for mission for some years. The church sent me to Melbourne to study Linguistics so I could learn the local language and do translation. Then I would be off to New Guinea, my first job as a teacher! My future Husband also had a call to New Guinea, and we planned to go to New Guinea and get married after a year or two. Teachers were urgently needed  in N.G.and the Lutheran Church asked us to consider marrying before we went to N.G. so we could be housed together and teach in schools nearby. So we married, went to New Guinea where we each had a full time teaching position so going to work each day.  When pay day arrived my husband was paid and I was not paid. On querying where my pay was I was told, “You are just a wife and we don’t pay wives”.  On the one hand I was dumbfounded  but on the other hand I was young, I loved my job and believed that God had called me to bring the message of love to people,  who only a few years before had been cannibals.  I taught full time for two years with no pay and then part time while having a family. The Government of New Guinea paid the Lutheran Church my salary, as they did for all registered expatriate teachers, but the Lutheran  church has never passed that money on to me.

I am recounting this to illustrate the status in which women were held  in  the Lutheran Church. This was the social structure in a culture which coloured the attitude of Lutheran churches before union, and then after union. So women in Australia weren’t ordained. Women were not considered worthy and somehow we didn’t challenge it as we should have. We were all very  keen for union to happen and that was our focus. We were sure that after union Women would soon be ordained in Australia. Many of us were carrying out pastoral duties.

My parents were criticized for sending me to Concordia boarding College for  a secondary education because, as a girl, I should stay home and help look after my 4 younger brothers. We did not have high schools in the country towns. That was the culture.

God was shaping me. I didn’t rebel against the Lutheran church but perhaps we should have been more questioning. I’ve always trusted God to sort it/us out,  but sometimes God expects us to be proactive as we are given wisdom and understanding.

I recall as a child, witnessing a woman being excluded from a Lutheran Church because she did not have a hat to wear. She looked as if she could not afford a hat and, as a child, that impacted on me … I still feel quite uncomfortable when people tell me that was not an isolated incident of women being rejected  because they had no hat. I hope other denominations accepted these women. That was our culture, not God’s love.

Another illustration of the status of women was when a friend of mine became pregnant to her fiancé in the early 1960’s. She had to stand up in front of a large city congregation to confess etc.  HE didn’t have to even though he was part of it.  I still cringe when I recall how women were victimised in our Lutheran culture. Culture drove Theology and Church laws.

Have you read the Deaconess History Book? There are so many sad stories.

We women were made so totally compliant with what men said and did, it’s hard to imagine why. In some cases we were far too compliant as we were much too afraid to report sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviours until recent years. There are some still not reported. That certainly is not God’s will . Just power!  I recall the questioning of the validity of a person’s faith if that faith had been nurtured by a woman.

Fortunately,  I have a pretty positive attitude,( although at times I did feel “put down”), as well as a fantastic husband who always encouraged me to follow my professional dreams. And God has always been acting for me and in me. The Holy Spirit sustained me and gave me wisdom and Jesus paid the price for me…Praise God.

As well as a culture of shaping me and other women, God was shaping the attitudes of men who witnessed arrogance and were ashamed. Now I notice that many men , including pastors, have been influenced by what they have seen and want to correct the behaviours. So  many  men have told me of their embarrassment over the bullying of women within the Lutheran culture.  With God giving us guidance, we can move away from that behaviour and follow the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 11:11-12….in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Jesus valued women : at the foot of the cross the men fled and the women stayed to minister:    Mary, the first apostle, was told by Jesus to go and tell :  Mary, the sister of Martha, was invited by Jesus to study with him in contrast to the culture of the time which had only men studying: the Samaritan woman was valued and went and told.

I was interested to read again what Sasse said back in 1971. Thank you for including it. As well as being a teacher and music teacher I am also a qualified teacher /librarian. I am therefore qualified in research procedures and practices. I have done a search to verify what Sasse says of Pope John and can not find any  Primary Sources  which would be able to verify the alleged incident with Dr. Gertrude Heizelmann  and Pope John. I am at present working for Brisbane Catholic Education so I have access to Catholic Data. The only reference we can find is what Sasse himself wrote which , of course, is a secondary source with no primary credibility. We are wondering if he was perhaps there and heard Pope John say this, but we can’t find any evidence of that. It doesn’t fit Pope John’s profile but that  would not rule it out if we could find a primary source.   May be Sasse was indulging in some “story telling” embellishing a little to make a point. We find this in research when we have to distinguish Primary from Secondary Sources.  It is interesting that Sasse points to the fact that Jesus included women in the  order  of  ministry. I have researched Dr. Gertrude Heizelmann  and found her to be an interesting, positive and gifted woman. The ordination of women is a topic of interest  in the Catholic church where  nearly 200 women have been ordained.

At the moment I find there is SO much work in the LCA in mission in Australia.  A few weeks ago I was so happy to praise God when the Catholics asked me to lead a liturgy as no one was available…now isn’t that a miracle! ( I attained Catholic Accreditation some time ago through Australian Catholic University  but they also recognised the Concordia Seminary Studies which I did). God is wonderful to find a way for Jesus’ mission to go on regardless of  men’s restrictions and the way our culture colours our understanding of what Jesus is telling us to do. God, the source of ALL life and love, has given us his infallible word . I meet so many people who crave God’s love and forgiveness.

In this context, I listen to the voice of God  through  Scripture as I listen to the pain filled voices of women who hear God’s call to ministry but find their path blocked. I call on the Spirit for wisdom. “Jesus does not crush the weak or quench the smallest hope” Matthew 12:20.  The Gospel embraces the call of Christ that all children of God are commissioned to proclaim the message of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. How many souls are being kept out of heaven because WE didn’t embrace that call.

I was excited, Mike, to read on your President’s page Sept 5th that you are promoting Social Justice Sunday as the Gender Commission Mandate explores the inclusive ministry in all its forms within all NCCA members.

I have received a copy of John Kleinig’s email of 2006 in which he refers to lobbying retired pastors in and around Adelaide to come to synod to vote against women’s ordination in 2000.  Sources indicate that they are again being lobbied for synod 2013.  I can only pray to God that we open our hearts to HIS will to have souls with  God in heaven and ordain the women and men  called to do this in the Lutheran Church.

I’ve had cancer twice (2 different sorts), and golden staph once but God always bounces me back as a new creation to be an ambassador for Christ. The Spirit gives me such joy.  I’ve tried twice to retire from teaching but I’m led back to teach children of God’s love. I’m in a Catholic School now after many years in Lutheran Schools. Even though congregations (both Lutheran and Catholic) are depleting, God’s word is being taught in Christian Schools (Lutheran, Catholic and many others). What a huge undertaking. We need social justice for the oppressed who have no hope of hearing and learning about God’s love and Jesus’ atonement unless women and men are allowed to tell them. Thankfully other denominations are growing.

I am including a review of “Half the Sky”, by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn a book I was given by a woman pastor friend. Mike I am sending you a copy of the book. The action research illustrates the urgency of our task here on earth, and concludes the best clue to a church’s growth and development is the status and role of women in the church.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in politics, women's ordination

 

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What if Jesus had a wife?

Jesus wife papyrus

Jesus wife papyrus

We in the LCA place great emphasis on scholarly reference to Scripture, so it is surprising that, amongst some, there is a resistance to the outcomes of scholarly research on Scripture.  Some weeks ago in the news was the announcement of a Coptic ancient papyrus that includes Jesus referring to “my wife”, with another section of the fragment, containing the phrase “she will be able to be my disciple”.  The Vatican declares it a fake (more a statement of faith than rigour of research) but what if it’s not?  Scholars are constantly researching those books that didn’t make it into the canon for clues to how we might interpret the Scriptures, so isn’t this new source at least worthy of consideration?

If we insist that Jesus was not married, why is that so important to us?  Would it rock our faith if it turned out to be true?  If perhaps Jesus was married would that change our theology?   What might it mean for how we viewed women in the church?   The whole of Christendom is influenced by Augustine and Aquinas who had a very limited understanding of gender, but what might their theology of gender have been if they knew that Jesus had a wife?  How would that have affected us?

Whether Jesus had a wife seems less than central to our Christian faith, but it would certainly give cause for reflection on our current relegation of women to the margins of the church.

__________

 Added 13th Nov – From the work of Karen King, a professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who presented the findings at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome. Reference

Portrait of Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her so...

Portrait of Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her sons Daniel and Henry, 1848.

Early Christians didn’t agree about whether they should marry or remain celibate, and the earliest claim Jesus didn’t marry is from 200 A.D., King said.

“One of the things we do know is that very rarely in ancient literature was the marital status of men discussed,” King said in a conference call with reporters. “Silence in marital status is normal.”

Only women were identified in terms of family relationships, as someone’s sister, mother, or wife, King said. The question of whether Jesus married came up later when people wanted to use him as a model for their lives, she said.

Added 13th Nov –  Further reference to Augustine’s understanding of gender – Elizabeth Cady Stanton

You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman… I have been traveling over the old world during the last few years and have found new food for thought. What power is it that makes the Hindoo woman burn herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband? Her religion. What holds the Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons perpetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion/ Man, of himself, could not do this; but when he declares, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ of course he can do it. So long as ministers stand up and tell us Christ is the head of the church, so is man the head of woman, how are we to break the chains which have held women down through the ages? You Christian women look at the Hindoo, the Turkish, the Mormon women, and wonder how they can be held in such bondage…

Now I ask you if our religion teaches the dignity of woman? It teaches us the abominable idea of the sixth century–Augustine’s idea–that motherhood is a curse; that woman is the author of sin, and is most corrupt. Can we ever cultivate any proper sense of self-respect as long as women take such sentiments from the mouths of the priesthood? ―

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in sociology, theology, women's ordination

 

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