Tag Archives: LCA

Yet again, no hope arising from LCANZ leadership

On Friday 18th October 2019, the General Church Board (GCB) and the College of Bishops (CoB) met “to consider how together they can best lead the church in this contested time” of whether or not to ordain women in the LCANZ.  The letter from Bishop Henderson is copied below and can be found here.  It is not hopeful.

To recap, at the 2018 Convention of Synod, when the required 67% vote for women’s ordination was not achieved, there was public grief and despair.  While some of those resisting women’s ordination publicly celebrated, most women and their supporters were devastated at how a minority on the Synod floor (40%) continue to dictate to the general Church by blocking called and qualified women from being ordained as pastors in the LCA. Synod Leadership at that time acknowledged the depth of pain in the division and promised a response in the new year.  This has not been forthcoming until the meeting on the 18th Oct – let’s say around eight months late, if ‘the new year’ meant February.  Now they promise to keep meeting on the matter in early 2020.

Last week’s meeting declared again that the Bishops and General Church Board have nothing to offer on this matter. Their do-nothing statement is not the response that was promised.

The only pastoral statement seems to be for those whom this is ‘not a particular issue’, with the statement, ‘Hang in there.’ There was no acknowledgement of the existing division, just a pretense of avoiding schism and nothing that acknowledged the despair of so many people.  On the contrary, Bishop Henderson pleads for an understanding of the bishops’ dilemma in regards to the vows they have taken.  While we do have an understanding of their dilemma, we also hoped that the bishops would acknowledge the existing division and offer leadership in this conflict, given that the LCA is caught in a constitutional quagmire due to what is now seen in hindsight as a destructive requirement to achieve a defensive two-thirds supermajority of a Convention of Synod vote on any issue that is deemed a major theological issue. (It is now apparent that, rather than preserving unity, such a supermajority is now the cause of division. Perhaps a revised supermajority of 55% might be considered for future major theological issues. God help us if we are to ever achieve equality of those members who have a gender identity other than binary heterosexuality.)

As a two-thirds majority probably will not be attained any time soon, the only hope for the Church after the last Synod was leadership from the bishops.  However, given that bishops have now committed to a hands-off approach, they have condemned the Church to a degree of despair and chaos for the foreseeable future.  Contributing to that despair is that they have not considered young generations who are hoping that their Church might demonstrate some relevance in our society.

The message of the bishops’ inability to act has been heard heard loud and clear, so now the only option is for Church membership to act, given that “in effect, it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church” .  Congregations historically have the authority to ordain, and given that various congregations have already indicated a new determination to step outside of normal due process on this matter, congregations will presumably forge the way ahead.  It’s been under discussion for two decades or more but now ironically, inaction from leadership will probably bring it about.

Some of us had expected an olive branch from the bishops with small concessions, such as special ministries that allowed some female leadership.  Presumably, these will be offered at some stage but anything less than full participation in the ministry of word and sacrament is sure to arouse deep suspicion.


25 October 2019

Post Convention message (3)

Dear members and pastors of the LCA,

Last week I wrote to you about a special joint meeting of the General Church Board (GCB) and the College of Bishops (CoB). Many responded to that message with offers of prayer, and some with advice – thank you. As I write this message after that meeting I know there will be some who will say that despite all that effort we have not made much progress. I guess if leading the LCA was a case of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, that might be the case. But we are not to behave like that (see Matthew 20:26). God brings the LCANZ together as a community of faith. It is not a completed work. We still have much to learn about doing the Lord’s work and about how to love one another with the same unconditional love God shows to each of us. We are a living, dynamic, connected community. Our God-given accountability to one another is through the law of love (see Matthew 22:37, John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:19-21). Therefore, we step down from the constant conviction that only we are ‘right’ and have a true understanding, and therefore others are ‘wrong’ and must have a false understanding. Attentive listening and appreciative enquiry helps us understand so much more than we ever imagined we could. Faith in Christ gives us the confidence and ability to respond to each other with the grace and forgiveness we so desperately need for ourselves (see Matthew 7:1-5). Praise God for being so generous with us!

Your two key leadership groups met last week to consider how together they can best lead the church in this contested time. The church faces immense external pressures. We see the statistics, read the press, and are aware of a general tide turning against Christianity. We feel it in our local places, and with it reducing numbers and resources. Society is holding Churches accountable, and deservedly so. The new compliance regime places us under stress, but we know we need to do it. In the LCA we have the added pressure of what has become a deeply divisive theological and practical issue that seems to cut to the core of our identity as Lutheran Christians. And since the Lutheran church bases itself on its theology, and prides itself somewhat on that, this is deeply painful.

As I have written before, the LCA has not changed its public position or practice on male only clergy. Yet since we don’t have internal unanimity on the matter, it is a complex situation. During their meeting your elected leaders read and listened to a range of stories and viewpoints sent in by congregations and individuals. Correspondents expressed their intent to be God pleasing and Scriptural. We are unlikely, however, to be able to reconcile the different positions represented. The leadership believes the right response to this situation is a pastoral one, praying that God will grant us further grace and time to work things through. This does not mean we do nothing. The GCB and CoB will continue to listen and grapple with the best response, and we ask you to do the same, staying within the practice and teaching of the church as you do so. The GCB has the task of ensuring proper synodical processes, and the CoB has the task of spiritual leadership. Within their remits both are working on options and possibilities. We will do our best to communicate these over the coming months, for the wellbeing, peace and order of the church. Please honour your leaders as they undertake this difficult task for our Synod.

Leaders were also conscious of the many people for whom this is not a particular issue, and certainly not a divisive one. We thank you for your faithfulness, service and prayers. Hang in there!

Leaders reminded themselves of the Five Principles of Dialogue which supported our debates through 2015 and 2018:

  • Communion: Because God has gathered us in communion with one another through his word and sacraments, we have freedom to dialogue with one another on contested matters. Strengthening this God-given communion is the goal of dialogue.
  • Trust: Because God has made us brothers and sisters in Christ, we can trust God to use our communion to build us up in love and use our differences to grow us in holiness of life.
  • Listening: Because God gives each of his children a unique perspective, we can listen to each other trusting God that as we listen we will grow in understanding of ourselves, of the other person, and of the communion that God creates.
  • Speaking: Because God gives each of his children a unique perspective, we can speak to each other trusting God that as we speak we will grow in understanding of ourselves, of the other person, and of the communion that God creates.
  • Patience: Because the communion God gives us in Christ is God’s doing and not ours, we can be patient in listening and speaking to each other, trusting that God will deepen the unity he has already given us.

We believe these principles remain useful and can continue to guide us as we seek the way forward*.

We have heard suggestions that the leadership might be trying to work around the decision of the Synod on the ordination of men only, or act unilaterally outside of Synod on this matter. In the installation rite at Convention, each Church Board member made these promises before the church:

  1.  Before God and this assembly, I ask you: Do you promise, with the help of God, to carry out your duties faithfully, in accordance with God’s word as taught and confessed by the Lutheran church? Yes, we do.
  2.  Do you promise to uphold the constitution of the Lutheran Church of Australia and carry out its decisions faithfully? Yes, we do.
  3.  Do you promise to work together in promoting the wellbeing, peace, and order of the church? Yes, we do.

Additionally, at their installation, among other vows, the Bishops made the following promises:

  1. Before God and this assembly of the church I ask you: Do you promise, with the help of God, to carry out the duties of bishop of —– faithfully, in accordance with the holy Scriptures and the confessions of the Lutheran church? Yes, I do.
  2. Do you promise to exercise the spiritual oversight of the church/district in accordance with the constitution of the church? Yes, I do.
  3. Do you promise to uphold and promote the theology and practice of public worship of the Lutheran Church of Australia? Yes, I do.
  4. Do you promise to work together with your fellow leaders in promoting the wellbeing, peace, and order of the church? Yes, I do.

These vows contain essential elements – Scripture, Confession, Constitution, along with wellbeing, peace and order. Each Church Board member, and each Bishop, does everything in their power, under God, to remain faithful to these commitments. They work sacrificially, for long hours, doing the best they can for the people of God who have entrusted them with this responsibility. They do it all under the gospel, surrounded by prayer, in the public gaze, and as transparently as they can and with full accountability.

The General Church Board and the College of Bishops are committed to continue to listen and explore ways of engaging the church on our unity in Christ and our way forward together. They affirm the need for all members of the LCA to reflect God’s love and to respect each other as priceless and cherished children of God, brothers and sisters whom Christ gave his all to redeem.

The GCB and the CoB plan to meet together again in early 2020 to continue this task. In the meantime they will listen and pray, explore options, and engage in gentle, caring and bold leadership – this all takes time, and we thank you for your patience. While this may disappoint the hope some of us have for a decisive and speedy resolution, we knew that last week’s meeting could only be a step along the way. Like the people of Israel finding their way to the Promised Land, we confess we still have a way to go.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
Adelaide, 25th October 2019
On behalf of the members of the LCA General Church Board and the College of Bishops.

* For further information you may also reference the LCA’s Standards of Ethical Behaviour


Posted by on October 26, 2019 in politics, theology, women's ordination


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High stakes in October 2018 at the LCA General Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Theocracy or Democracy?

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee. National Museum of Australia.

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee – co-founder in South Australia. National Museum of Australia.

The National Museum of Australia reports on the passing of legislation in South Australia granting women the vote and the right to stand for Parliament on 18 December 1894.  That makes it over 122 years that South Australia was the first electorate in the world to give equal political rights to both men and women.  This is even more surprising when remembering that it was only 14 years earlier, in 1880, that women were permitted to undertake degrees ref.  The systemic/structural barriers to women’s participation in colonial Australia are hard to imagine from this vantage point. Sadly we have their echoes in the Lutheran Church of Australia today.

Today the Lutheran Church of Australia (with its historical home in South Australia), is among the last in the world to recognise women as equally gifted and equally capable of pastoral leadership. The following was one of the arguments against women’s suffrage on the Museum’s page.

Many parliamentarians felt that women were not emotionally or intellectually capable of properly participating in politics. Others also felt that women were stepping outside their traditional roles and that giving them the vote would undermine a husband’s position in the family. Ref

The social restrictions on women were broad and central to all existence.  The restrictions were based on a foundational belief that women were incapable of taking part in society on the same basis as men, and were often based on fear that women would compete with men.  Rather than face any competition they chose to legislate against women’s participation.

In the 19th century, Australian women had very few legal rights. Once married, these rights were further limited as they were transferred to her husband. Married women surrendered all property to their husbands and any wages earned. Husbands were the sole legal guardian of any children from a marriage and could remove them from a mother’s care at any time, even bequeathing their care to other people in their will.

Before the 1870s, women were not able to file for a divorce and, even after legislation was changed in the 1880s, it was still difficult. Rates of abandonment were high and deserted women were usually forced to find paid work that paid up to two thirds less than a man for doing the same job.

Without the support of a trade union they often suffered unsafe and unregulated working environments in the sweated clothing trades. Trade unions resisted women’s involvement in the workforce, believing it would drive down rates of pay for men.

This 19th Century reasoning sounds rather like the arguments today against women’s ordination.  However, today in the LCA, we’re not even playing by the same democratic rules of the 19th Century.  It takes much more than 50% of the vote of the people for  women’s ordination and clergy have a disproportionate voice and vote.  Clergy have often proudly asserted that the LCA is not a democracy.  Instead we have to suffer the condescension of the system and its clergy who have deemed that laity should not have an equal voice nor vote at the national Synod.

Isn’t it time that the LCA debate whether it wishes to stay a theocracy (def: a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission) or whether it wishes to work as a democracy, respectfully valuing the voice of the laity?


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Richard Rohr: learning from midrash

Richard Rohr reminds us of the ‘yes and no’ approach to Bible study, learned from Jewish tradition, where it was called midrash.  In community we learn from each other and respond to invitations to go in different directions by those in our midst.

Yes, And. by Richard Rohr

Yes, And. by Richard Rohr

Jewish Midrash

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I think we learned the Sic et Non approach in the early Christian period from our Jewish ancestors. They called it midrash. Midrash was a different way of coming to truth. It was simply where you get together and look at Scripture in an open—but faith-filled—way: It could mean this; it could mean that. It might challenge you in this direction; it might invite you in that direction. [1]

Jewish midrash extrapolated from the mere story to find its actual spiritual message. We all do the same when we read anyway, but Jesus and his Jewish people were much more honest and up front about this. Fundamentalists pretend they are giving the text total and literal authority, but then it always ends up looking like what people in that culture would want to believe anyway. (Remember, good Bible Christians in the U.S. Confederacy and in South Africa were quite sure the Scriptures justified oppression and enslavement of black people.)

To take the Scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Serious reading of Scripture will allow you to find an ever-new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition. [2]

[1] From Sic et Non; Yes, And webcast recording (MP3 download)

[2] Adapted from Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations, p. x

Gateway to Silence:
Yes . . . and . . .

Of course, we make the association with women’s ministry (or lack thereof) in the Lutheran Church of Australia, in which this blog’s authors reside.   Decades of Bible study on this matter within our communion surely have given understanding that literal use of Scripture to prove various church position erodes its power to transform people. “Let darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness (be) our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.

We can live with each other. In fact, we must. We are family – a family of diverse experience and world view. We can love each other and not pretend that we are identical. We are, after all, not so different to the sit-coms that have family seated around the Christmas table, rubbing up against each others prejudices and making faux pas to be laughed about in coming years.

By loving each other in our difference, we will grow together toward places yet unimagined.  God’s work is surely not complete – there is more in store for each of us.


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Why St Stephen’s Congregation Support the Ordination of Women

St Stephen’s has published a document explaining why it supports women’s ordination.

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the late Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball, Suncreek UMC

Why St Stephen’s Support the Ordination of Women

The Bible and Lutheran theology endorse the ordination of women (‘Final report on the ordination of women’, CTICR, 1999), and the overwhelming majority of Lutheran churches in the world ordain women.

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), and the Bible gives clear evidence that women served in both of these offices, among others (e.g. Ex 15:20; Judg 4:4; 2 Kgs 22:14; Isa 8:3; John 20:17,18; Acts 18:26; 21:9; Rom 16:1,3,7; 1 Cor 11:5). This continued in the early church until the church started to exclude women from the ministry in the fourth century.
Texts used previously in the LCA to exclude women from such activities as leading Bible studies, lay reading, voting at congregational meetings, and chairing congregations (1 Cor 14:33–36 and 1 Tim 2:11–15) are now used only to exclude women from the public ministry. A contextual understanding of these passages shows they have to do with none of these matters. Rather, they express Paul’s sincere concern that worship be conducted decently and in good order (1 Cor 14:40), so that people can be built up in faith and love, a priority that has been expressed variously throughout the history of the church.

Pastoral Care
Some people prefer to confide in a woman rather than a man regarding pastoral concerns, or regarding specific pastoral issues. While laity also provide pastoral care, when this care connects with the church’s public worship and witness it has an additional dimension. Ordaining women as well as men enhances and extends access to pastoral care within the context of the means of grace.

For Lutherans the heart of the ministry consists of the pure proclamation of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments, in order to draw people to Christ and to sustain them in faith (Augsburg Confession 5), not the gender of the pastor.
Continuing to insist on an all-male pastorate perpetuates a requirement that is not biblical and undermines and subverts the gospel.
With both men and women as pastors, the ministry as a whole more truly represents and reflects Jesus Christ, the true image of God, who in his humanity has embraced the whole human race.

The members of St Stephen’s long for the day when the LCA joins those churches that have acted on the conviction that ordaining women is a vital part of our being faithful to the Gospel.


Posted by on December 1, 2013 in theology, women's ordination


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Call me ‘apostate’

We are recently aware that some clergy and ALC students (future clergy) state that they would vote for women’s ordination if homosexuality was not an abomination.   Strange logic indeed, but of course the hope is that by blocking women’s ordination, the ordination of gay and lesbian people can also be blocked.

It is of some concern that pastors function under such reasoning.  The ethical base of such decision making is somewhat dubious. Restricting the giving of justice to one group of people because you are fearful of another group getting ahead would suggest a compromised values base and perhaps reflects a desire to manipulate one group in order to achieve aims with another group.  There is no room for continuing to support patriarchy in the name of impeding the leadership of homosexual people.  That is a debate that the LCA is yet to have, and yes, we do support the ordination of gay and lesbian peopel.  However, to delay justice to women is to deny them justice.

In response to the repeated claim that homosexuality is an abomination, it’s time that our theologically trained leadership showed a little more scholarship and wisdom.   These are people who have spent years studying Scripture.  They can do better than referring to ancient culture-bound phrases to prove their point.

Word Of A Woman reflects on this selective use of Scripture and how other texts are conveniently ignored.  Years of study at ALC should provide pastors with the theological skills to remain consistent in their use of Scripture.  Why is it not so?

I support several things the Bible calls an abomination and some it just says are wrong. GASP! Say it isn’t so!!! (I bet my friends from the beginning of the article probably also support some of these given I have seen their sideburns). That’s right lovelies, along with fully supporting my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I also support:

  • Eating shellfish
  • Having sex with a woman (you are married to) who is on her period (if she is consenting, OBVIOUSLY)
  • The menswear look for ladies (hello, Diane Keaton)
  • Kilts for the dudes
  • Cutting your sideburns
  • Re-marrying someone you divorced (I have known several couples who have done this)
  • Marrying someone new after you get divorced
  • I am decidedly pro bacon, pepperoni, honeybaked ham, carnitas and pork chops.
  • Wearing clothing with more than one type of fiber
  • I am down with crop rotation (I come from several generations of farmers)
  • There is a bunch of stuff the Bible says you can’t touch, some are kind of gross but I am cool with you touching them (for instance I am for you touching a dead pig for the purposes of playing football)
  • Tattoos, even though I don’t have any
  • Long hair for men and short hair for women
  • Women praying with their heads uncovered
  • Women teaching men and/or boys and/or other women/girls (yes, even in church)
  • Women NOT being property of either father or husband or brother or dead husband’s brother
  • I am cool with it if you don’t want to marry your rapist
  • If your husband is getting mugged and you think you can stop things by grabbing the guys junk really hard…I promise I won’t cut off your hand
  • I won’t be mad if you don’t stone your kid for dishonoring you
  • I am even good with you working on Saturday or Sunday or even paying someone else to work by serving you lunch after church (I know I do)

Here is the thing, these two guys do not follow every instruction given in the Bible. They. Just. Don’t. They interpret. They pick and they choose. And I am sure they use all sorts of things to support their beliefs. So do I. So do I. I don’t know about you but when I read scripture, some things are crystal clear, some are blurry and some are downright opaque. The clearest thing I can find is that I am supposed to love God and love people, ALL PEOPLE. No if. No until. No unless. I just don’t think Jesus gives me another option.



Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Hermeneutics, theology, women's ordination


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Invitation from Pr John Henderson, Bishop

Pr John Henderson invites members to write to The Lutheran

Pr John Henderson, Bishop,  invites members to write to The Lutheran

We have been invited to write to The Lutheran with our views on women’s ordination.  You can imagine the many conservative pastors that will put pen to paper with their distinctive perspective on things religious, so it is useful that the voice of the membership is heard in this discussion.  Without that voice it will seem like the voice of conservative pastors is the only one out there, even though most LCA members are in favour of women’s ordination.

It is the voice of conservative pastors which is loudest against women’s ordination, and it is also that voice which is most strident and most intolerant of diversity within the LCA.

Don’t be a stranger.  Write to the Lutheran.  Express your thoughts on why women’s ordination is vital in your context.  While we don’t wish to compete in a letter writing competition and while letters cannot all be printed, it is vital that local voices are expressed in The Lutheran and heard by our Bishop.

Please be a part of this discussion.  Don’t leave it to others. Express your dreams and longings and leave your imprint on the LCA.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on September 15, 2013 in sociology, theology, women's ordination


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It takes two sides to build a bridge

The issues in the LCA are similar to that of UK Anglicans and their debate over women bishops.  Women’s ordination, of course, is inevitable in the LCA, but will Synod have clarity and strength enough to be clear that there cannot be a ‘church within a church’ where women are not recognised. The following article describes how those opposed to women bishops were intent on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.

One of our challenges is for women to even be included in the coming debate at Pastors’ Conference in 2015, which will discuss the issue and make recommendations to Synod.  It is an absurd situation to be in, equal to male parliamentarians 100 years ago voting on whether women should have the vote.

The presence of women, to ensure accountability, is essential to the integrity of any debate that decides the future of women’s participation in the LCA.  It is far too easy to ‘other’ women (used as a verb) without consulting them.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 9.43.13 PMThe Christian message is at heart about reconciliation. But the church which is supposed to proclaim and live that message has often failed to do so in its own life and example, sometimes spectacularly.

The row over women bishops in the Church of England will be seen by many as another example of this, which is why Archbishop of Canterbury designate Justin Welby – no stranger to conflict zones – was so keen to emphasise at General Synod this afternoon that the vocation of the C of E ought to be “how to develop the mission of the church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division; diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity.”

That is a right, bridge-building note to strike. But it did not work with the hardened minority. For the reality is that it takes two sides to build a bridge, and one of the difficulties of the current situation is that some opponents of full women’s ministry in the Church of England clearly want to be able to maintain a ‘church within a church’ based on non-recognition, non-collaboration, non-acceptance, and in some cases non-communion.



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Letter to the Bishop


Dear John,

Now that you are our elected Bishop, there are a few things we expect of you.
We expect you to love God.
We expect you to love the church, and this small part of it, the LCA.
We expect you to know that we are deeply flawed, and deeply deeply loved and forgiven.
We expect you to stay grounded in your faith, your family, your friends, so that you can weather the difficult times we will cause, and know when you need time out, so you do not lose perspective.
We expect you to pray.
We expect you to know that we are praying for you.

Alongside these things we are also hopeful.
We hope you will know (usually) when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to speak.
We hope you will know (usually) when it’s time to wait and when it’s time to act.
We hope you will know much joy in your work with us, enough that when it’s time to leave the work aside, you will be glad you took on this challenge.

With love,


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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in pastoral


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Choosing hell over a misogynist heaven


We would not worship a God who is misogynist.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t matter what verses anyone may provide as proof – it just doesn’t make sense that God is misogynist.

We are not interested in arriving in heaven to find that women somehow have a different role. We would refuse to participate with cliques, patriarchs, theocracies, boys’ or girls’ clubs or tradition.

We are interested in equality before God.

But, you insist, the Bible doesn’t allow leadership from women.  While we disagree, we do concede that there are verses that can be used to sustain an argument to support your thesis. So, how do we arrive at consensus on this divisive issue?  We don’t, for the time being – we should just live with each other, despite the tension. Agree to disagree. Grow together, over the generations.

This issue need not divide us, like the many other issues that we rarely highlight, but on which we disagree.  For instance, we rarely talk about or expect miracle healing, speaking in tongues, the handling of scorpions (Luke.10.19), the drinking of poison and the handling of snakes (Mark 16:18)… and so on.  They are contentious and too strange, too divisive or too confusing.

Then there’s the ‘texts of terror’ in the Old Testament that we can’t attribute to the will of God. We just don’t believe that God condoned the terror in the Old Testament: the slavery, the abuse, the rape, the murder, the racism …  We don’t name the violence for what it is.  We avoid the issue.  It need not divide us.

We have a God who is much larger than we imagine: more loving, more compassionate, more gifting, more affirming, more justice-centred than we might ever imagine.  Let’s not bicker on our understanding, for, by any measure, our understanding will presumably be sadly incomplete.

Whatever the reason, the LCA, in its youthful almost adolescent years, has clung to simplistic Biblical understandings and literal translations.  Increasingly over the years, many of us have confessed certain things but experienced a growing unease with the position of the Church. It is time to bring our beliefs and theology into harmony.  It is time to embrace a larger theology, a larger view of God and a larger view of each other.

It is with thanks that we celebrate the installation of Bishop John Henderson, who has declared that his ministry will be one of listening. Only in allowing space for voices to be heard is there any possibility that the LCA will be able to respond faithfully to the issues of today, and the concerns of those who come its doors.

Reference and inspiration    Bishop Desmond Tutu



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