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Defeat

269 yes, 145 no.  423 were registered.  That comes to around 63.6% – 4% short of the 67%.  The motion to allow both the ordination of women and men was defeated.  (67% being needed as this was deemed to a significant theological matter.)  Someone calculated that it failed by 13 votes.

We are now in the position where 37% of the church (extrapolating from the number of delegates) have authority over the other 63%. The LCA has shot itself in the foot.  Further women and men will be unable to remain in this Church, the pain being too great to continue.  Reports are that laity voted strongly in favour of women’s ordination while the clergy were not as supportive.  The clergy (many of them) are the problem in our Church.

Ex-President Mike Semmler, broke with convention and spoke from the floor, against women’s ordination.  Well, there’s no surprises there, despite his statement from previous years that people will be surprised when they learn his position.  He wanted speakers to be given more time to speak, to be able to speak again and he questioned the authority of the Chair, Bishop John Henderson.  His proposals, though time consuming, were roundly dismissed.

Thus far, there have been no initiatives from Bishop John Henderson to resolve this impasse.   (The following may contradict this earlier statement if the initiative has come from the Bishop. ) Ironically he is versed in the process of consensus making.  A motion was passed asking CTICR to prepare a theological case for the ordination of women (strange – they’ve done it twice before haven’t they?) for the 2018 Synod.  Can you believe it?  2018!  Another three years?  Already too many women and men have passed away waiting for women’s ordination.  This has been on the agenda of Synod since 2000 and another three years is unreasonable for many.

The following was tweeted by the #lcasynod folk:

We resolved to enter into a period of careful theological reflection and pastoral work to assist in maintaining unity and harmony”.

We have had generations to work on this and certainly since ‘Ordination, We’re Listening’ was established after Bishop Henderson’s installation.  Unity and harmony cannot be maintained when the minority have sway – thjs is aptly described as oppression.  Such lack of preparation is disappointing, given the open conversation we have all been encouraged to enter into.

Life in our Church does not continue as usual.  We must all consider our response.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in theology

 

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The President disallows debate on women’s ordination

Yesterday, at General Synod, the President again imposed his will on the LCA.  He has been true to his word that women’s ordination would not occur on his shift.

After the recommendation coming from General Pastors’ Conference that women’s ordination should be discussed at General Convention, that is exactly what occurred.  Pr Semmler had to allow discussion because of this resolution, but that’s all it was – a discussion.

To begin with, he gave the floor to a couple of men from the Dialogue Group on forming consensus to report on their progress, but they offered nothing to help delegates in their deliberations.  The main thing they reported was that they had to learn to listen to each other.

In the ‘discussion’ conservative pastors knew that they didn’t need to speak. This is also attested to by the fact that a conservative pastor commented to a youth on Sunday at NOVO (youth camp) that they (conservative pastors) had figured out a way to get around the women’s ordination issue.  Around 18 people spoke in favour and 3 or 4 spoke against.

After Pr Semmler distributed one of his epistles to the Church against women’s ordination, the ‘discussion’ was brought to an end with the declaration that Pr John Henderson was the successful candidate for the position of bishop (nomenclature voted on earlier in the afternoon).   (Tues morning, Greg Pietsch was announced as the new Assistant Bishop.)

The following now need to be considered as we discern how the Holy Spirit would have us act:

  • the disregard for laity,
  • the lack of transparency,
  • the refusal to debate St Stephen’s motion,
  • the refusal to allow a vote,
  • the refusal to facilitate the will of delegates,
  • the dishonest claim that “in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church”,
  • the duplicitous communication from Pr Semmler,
  • the sly sidelining of an issue that is important to the vast majority of members (not just delegates), and
  • the hypocritical use of Where Love Comes to Life as a General Convention theme.

The manipulation by Pr Semmler is so similar to that of Pres. Robert Preuss in the LCMS who took control of the St Louis seminary that used historical-biblical research to inform their thinking. (You can guess that the conservatives wanted to use Scriptural literalism as their only source of inspiration.)  That piece of history, which led to Seminex (seminary in exile) is reported in Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity by James Burkee.  The following is a review from Amazon.com

Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod follows the rise of two Lutheran clergymen – Herman Otten and J. A. O. Preus – who led different wings of a conservative movement that seized control of a theologically conservative but socially and politically moderate church denomination (LCMS) and drove “moderates” from the church in the 1970s. The schism within what was then one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States ultimately reshaped the landscape of American Lutheranism and fostered the polarization that characterizes today’s Lutheran churches.Burkee’s story, supported by personal interviews with key players and church archives sealed for over twenty years, is about more than Lutheranism. The remaking of this one Lutheran denomination reflects a broader movement toward theological and political conservatism in American churches – a movement that began in the 1970s and culminated in the formation of the “Religious Right.”

In closing we note how the resistance to women’s participation in the LCA is dominated by clergy.  The following comment from Burkee about the LCMS equally applies to the LCA, “Through (their) inability to draw lay support to the conservative movement’s delegate- and convention-focussed strategy, the movement’s Pyrrhic victory had little to do with lay support.”
 
 

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Responding to the Easter epistle from the President

Pastor Mike Semmler, President of the LCA

Pastor Mike Semmler, President of the LCA

It is seemingly not enough that the President has banned any mention of women’s ordination in The Lutheran for the last ten years, but now it seems that congregations should have no voice at all.

In the last post it was presumed that the intention of the  last letter from the President was to intimidate Synod delegates into complying with his direction from the Synod Chair.  It may seem that such a comment might be a little extreme, however, Pr Semmler knows that controlling Synod is essential to controlling the LCA.  Synod always remains a little unpredictable, so nothing can be taken for granted.   He has learnt well from LCMS conservatives who coined the aphorism: “Control the delegates and you control the synod” (Burkee, 2011, p87).

While we respect that Pr Mike Semmler has his point of view on women’s ordination, the reality is that the LCA has shown clearly that it is looking for change in this matter.  For the President to actively work against the will of the Synod suggests that he has abrogated his role of facilitating the will of the Church.

The President considers those who object to his manner of governance as unruly and as people who don’t understand process.  Mr President, we do understand process, which is why we are concerned with how you are running the debate.  The following reasons are integral to the discussion:

  • You have shown that you are against women’s ordination;
  • You have shown that you don’t wish the matter discussed (ex. Lutheran ban, sundry grumpy epistles to the Church);
  • Your understanding of ‘consensus’ bears no similarity to that of other major bodies who have conducted similar processes;
  • At Synod’s direction to “establish a dialogue group with balanced representation” you delayed in appointing a ‘consensus’ committee until 15/18 months after Synod (now numbering four (4) members) with 3 of the 4 against women’s ordination;
  • You have created distractions and establish processes that you intend to consume  six years or more;
  • You have indicated that a motion duly submitted by St Stephen’s will not be considered at General Synod;
  • At the Toowoomba Synod you indicated that absentee delegates would have their vote counted as being against women’s ordination;
  • In your letters to the Church you continue to harangue those who wish to nurture the debate on women’s ordination in the LCA;
  • You conduct selective, contradictory conversations with different individuals and groups. This manner of operating bears similarity to the manner in which LCMS President Jack Preus manipulated friend and foe to ensure support for his Presidency and the repression of foes. (Burkee, 2011, pp9-10 and other pages)
    • You have apologised to St Stephen’s representatives in your office for your previous letter to the Church but show no intention of making that apology public.  An apology given in private is no apology when the initial offense was to the whole Church;
    • You indicated to WA Pastors’ Conference that women’s ordination will not be discussed at General Synod but asserted to Pr Peter Bowmer that motions from St Peter’s, Indooroopilly and St Stephen’s will be discussed.
    • You choose to sidestep deliberations of CTICR and CSBQ by setting up further processes;
    • On the one hand you include in your statement, representing the LCA, to the Australian government on same sex marriage, “In nations that have legalised gay marriage… there has been pressure to allow group marriage, polygamy and incest between consenting adults and even in extreme cases marriage to consenting animals” but on the other hand you distance yourself from the statement holding that they were the words of a key advisor (Dr Rob Pollnitz).

Mr President, the LCA requires your role and Chair of Synod to possess an integrity and transparency that facilitates the will of membership.  While we appreciate your leadership in many respects, your legacy of resisting the leadership of women within the LCA, despite understanding the will of Synod and membership, does little to endear you to Synod or congregations.

We cannot remain silent in the face of justice delayed (and justice denied) for women, and the manipulation of structures and democratic processes within the LCA.

Reference
Burkee, J.C. (2011) Power, Politics and the Missouri Synod

 
 

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President continues to dismiss congregations’ motions

President Semmler at the WA District Synod this last weekend announced that there would be no debate on women’s ordination at the coming General Synod.

At General Synod General Pastors’ Conference fifteen minutes has been allowed for the “Consensus Task Force” on women’s ordination to report, which allows no time for discussion. On the other hand, 30 minutes has been allowed for the presentation of “Title of President/Bishop”.  A pastor comments,

“The former business belongs to a synodical mandate while the latter was never requested by the church.  What is one to think?”

The key issue is that the President long ago overstepped his authority in stamping his personal opinion on the women’s ordination debate.  While it is true that an agenda needs to be drawn up from motions submitted from the Church general, the authority of the congregation remains central in this synodical organisation. The Church’s homepage states:

Every three years representatives of the LCA’s congregations meet for the Convention of Synod, which is our church’s primary decision-making body. Pastors provide input regarding theological matters, but in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church. Ref

Pr Semmler (President of the LCA) seeks to have it both ways.  He likes being able to declare that we have a synodical structure (“in effect it is the people in the pews, rather than church leaders, who determine the direction of our church”) while also maintaining a tight control over the working of the Church, in particular in how the debate on women’s ordination is carried out.  To do this he has stepped somewhat firmly on the motions submitted from St Stephen’s, Adelaide and St Peter’s, Indooroopilly.

Perhaps a more diplomatic approach would have been to announce that the responsible committee for the agenda has not listed the motions on Synod agenda and therefore a motion from Synod floor will be needed to reinstate them.  He has, however, no interest in encouraging the membership’s desire to have the motions reinstated.  Consequently, delegates will need to make sure, in the opening stages of General Synod, when the Chair (Pr Semmler) announces a motion seeking approval for the proposed agenda, that they quickly respond by moving an amendment to reinstate the women’s ordination motions. You will only have a moment or two to respond.

Delegates, be aware that your active presence is required at General Synod.  Please add your voice to the objections on how the Church is governed.  To do this, you will need to network and seek out those who can give the appropriate background information.

What are you doing to raise the profile of women’s ordination? Remember that each conversation raises the profile of women’s ordination in the LCA.

It is a sobering thought that even Baptists in Australia ordain women.

 

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Pr Maurice Schild writes to President Semmler

Pr Maurice Schild - ALC lecturer, 1970-2000

Pr Maurice Schild – ALC lecturer, 1970-2000

The following is a shared letter from Pr Maurice Schild to the President of the LCA.   It reacts to the increasingly hard edge against women’s ordination, which has come in the last generation or so.

President of the Church
Rev Dr Michael Semmler
197 Archer St, North Adelaide
SA  5006

Dear President Michael, and dear honoured members of the College of Presidents,

Many thanks, brother Michael, for your regular communication on synodical and other important church matters, also for your most recent epistle.  Thus you remind us again of the ordination issue and ‘the teaching of the church’.

In view of the long-lasting LCA stalemate on the question at issue, it is, in my opinion, ‘the ethics of the church’ that call for equal urgent attention.  People of good will are hurting very badly and are trying to keep faith.  Our church is suffering and is in danger of letting something become entrenched and endemic that has a perceived sharp edge of cruelty about it.  The fact that male forums and Pastors’ Conference decide whether their opinions are to be reviewed at synod and even voted on leaves one feeling that many voices cannot be heard, precisely because of the gender line – which is the very matter under question.  From outside this may well look like male structural buttressing to support male vested interests.  The problem has to this extent become ‘system immanent’, built in.  It will require bold leadership to break this open.  In this situation Luther’s word on the Galatians text deserves careful mulling over:

There we have the same faith, the same possessions, the same inheritance – everything is equal.  One could even say: He who is called as a man is a woman before God.  And she who is called as a woman is a man before God.  (LW 28,44)

As for Galatians 3, it took the church 18 centuries to see the radical earthly human rights implication of ‘neither slave nor free’, and that it wouldn’t and won’t do to simply go on quoting Ephesians 6:5 (‘Slaves obey your masters with fear and trembling’) at those who were/are deprived of rights and cruelly treated by the powerful. The very context thus suggests that ‘neither male nor female’ also implies more than spiritual sameness and unity.  Certainly, the real and down to earth implication of ‘neither Jew nor Greek’ is what the whole of Galatians is so polemically all about.  (If only the church had been alert and bold when they started applying the infamous ‘Arian paragraph’ in its very midst in our time.  No Jewish person could then be considered for ordination!  The disasters of going back to pure literalism for whatever reason, when the relevant vital implications of the Gospel have once been realised (as with Peter, Wilberforce, historical exegesis and church order), are enough to haunt the mind).

At this late stage, when a convincing, clear and compelling case against the ordination of women has not been made, an air of unreality has come up on the one hand; and among those still concerned, who haven’t lost interest, the matter is seen very much as an un/fairness issue.  Ordination of women takes nothing away from us males, nor from anyone; but it gives, and is additive to the cause of communicating the Gospel, it is explication of the fundamental ecclesial fact that women too are fully members of the priesthood of believers.  In the community of Jesus it can never be beneath the dignity of office or of high doctrine (if it were this) to attend to these matters of ethics, humanity and the ecclesiality of the baptised (this may be vastly different in other faiths, or even in papism). But we appear to be acting as if things were QED (Ed: “quod erat demonstrandum” – meaning ‘the matter has been proven’) when they are not.  In my opinion, we tend to act and speak – and need to stop acting and speaking – as if …

As if the exegesis of Scripture allowing for ordination of women has to be wrong;

As if the historical record were completely black on white over ‘200 years’ (as if nothing were known of Junia and Romans 16, leave alone a lot of later evidence);

As if the matter can be overcome by delay, and by discouraging open discussion as in The Lutheran (where, among the last letters permitted on the issue, one by your truly (but authors’ names were suddenly not printed!) very briefly indicates something of full female church involvement in early times);

As if the considered and reconsidered majority opinion of the LCA’s CTICR can simply be set aside.

Our context, I have no doubt you agree, demands anything but indifference.  We live in a land that is apparently largely deaf to the Word of God, a land that has been termed ‘the most godless place under the sun’ (Breward). The LCA needs to focus its efforts accordingly and to use all the people God gives us.  This religious situation could well constitute the precise context for the bold application of Luther’s other pertinent statement:

If the Lord were to raise up a woman for us to listen to, we would allow her to rule, like Hulda.

He has raised quite a few, and it is  hurting the Body to have them held silent.

The late moment, our mission in situ, and the hermeneutic embedded in Luther’s understanding of the Word of God in Scripture together represent what must be a pretty urgent call for the relevant change and the exercise of a good conscience in promoting it.  My reference to Luther refers especially to his Prefaces to the writings of the Bible, as well as a piece like How Christians should regard Moses (LW 35).  One difficulty we face is a kind of patterning which emerged with Kavel and Fritzsche, i.e. being divided or in tension over problems that had already been dealt with elsewhere (rightly so.  Who is concerned among us today as to what they even were, yet issues of chiliasm and scriptural- ‘apostolic’ legalism in matters of church order kept Lutherans in our land divided for so many decades); it seems that ordination of women may be another such matter.  Our Augsburg Confession should protect us: it’s great ‘satis est’ (Ed: ‘it is enough) makes clear what the determinative marks of the church are.  Others are not to be added thereto – for the sake of the Gospel and church unity.

I humbly submit these thoughts for your kind consideration and wish you well, in all ways, in your calling and work of leadership and guidance in the Church of God.

Yours sincerely and fraternally,

Maurice Schild     (7th October 2012)

(Ed: Emeritus Lecturer, ALC, 1970-2000)

 

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Pr Mike Semmler announces his retirement

LCA-mike

President Rev Mike Semmler

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

 

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Pr Semmler speaks

Clergy will have received the latest letter from Pr Semmler.  Included in his letter are eight paragraphs about the process towards women’s ordination.

So we are quite clear and that there are no false expectations on the matter of both women and men, …

Isn’t General Synod meant to be the regular time when the Church comes together to discuss and reconsider matters of importance?  If the Chair of Synod already has decided various matters, shouldn’t a point of order be announced and the Chair be reminded of due process?

… synod will hear from the ‘newer voices’ of the study group to look at the issue as called for by the Church at the 2009 Convention.

Actually, Synod 2009 called for a process of consensus to be initiated. Nominating five male clergy to discuss the matter does not fulfil synod’s expressed intention to initiate a consensus process.   Here is an explanation of consensus from Wikipedia.

The teaching of our Church with relevant texts is set out in the document Theses of Agreement Section A, VI Thesis of the Ministry paragraph 11.

Any discussion on this matter at any level in the Church is bound to address this matter on the basis of the Scriptures.  We acknowledge the Scriptures as “the divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word of God, and as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life’ (Article II, LCA Constitution).

Dr Jeff Silcock (ALC Associate Dean [Research] and chair of CTICR) reflects on this type of language: “At the beginning of the CTICR’s deliberations (approx mid 1980’s) it was decided that any decision by the church would be taken solely on the basis of scripture and theology. Looking back, perhaps this was a bit naive. How can you grapple with scripture and theology without taking into account the experiences of people and of culture?  You can’t abstract cultural, experiential and hermeneutical issues from the texts.  These things play a part in determining the position we adopt – at least initially. ”

Dr Silcock concluded by suggesting that, in view of the difficulty and uncertainyy of the key passages used to prevent women from being ordained, the LCA should, at the very least, change the status of the prohibition against the ordination of women from doctrine (Theses of Agreement)  to opinion.

The word ‘inerrant’ cannot be found in The Confessions and the word ‘infallible’ cannot be attached to The Confessions.  We need more scholarly tools than simply reading Scripture.  However, the use of such language carries significant influence at synod, and it is understandable why Pr Semmler would wish to use its emotional leverage.

The current teaching must be clearly understood by all before any judgement can be responsibly made on a presentation which may claim to disagree with the present stand.  There is no alternative but to address the issue on Scripture and to earnestly hear what God has to say about his gift of this office to the Church.

Isn’t it strange, therefore, that Pr Semmler has ignored the Church’s theological reference body, the CTICR, which, after years of study and discussion, twice came to majority findings that there is no theological impediment to the ordination of women?

The question is ‘How are we listening to Scripture?’ That was the theme for a symposium convened at Tanunda in 2011, generously sponsored by the LLL with presentations by theologians from across the Lutheran World which still awaits addressing by our own Church.

Be assured we continue to have a teaching in the LCA which is practised at this time.  To question our understandings can be a positive way of strengthening ourselves for the future.

Pr Semmler wants to console Lutherans that there is unity of teaching and doctrine in the LCA.  Despite his best of intentions, there is no unity within the LCA, but this should not be a cause of concern in our multi-cultural society.  We are already a Church of great diversity but we are larger than our differences.

Teachings such as this are not decided on a populist vote or by the culture or by lobbying or by feelings or ‘inner calls’.  Only the Scriptures are inspired.  The lack of clarity in hearing scripture is from us the hearers of God’s Word.

Does this sound like a Chairperson who is dedicated to facilitating the will of the people? We are long past the time when we need to be told that the answers will be found in Scripture. The truth is that the Scriptures say nothing definitive about women’s ordination.  The continued parroting of such pieties should be seen as ideological framing designed to invoke the pieties of others and a “strict father model” of the church. (Such framing has been studied in depth by George Laker and the Rockridge Institute.  Read free .pdf version of “Thinking Points” here. )

The process requires the Church (usually the Commission on Theology or another appointed group) to present a position/study to the General Pastors Conference (and usually also through District Pastors Conferences) to give guidance to the synod (1/3 pastors and 2/3 lay delegates) before any such decision is put to the vote.

We don’t mind the fact that Pr Semmler is opposed to women’s ordination.  That is an opinion that each of us have the right to hold.  We don’t pretend that it is possible or desirable to have complete consensus on all things theological.  We are not even opposed to Pr Semmler maintaining the deception that he is an independent arbiter on the matter. We are opposed however to his obfuscation of issues pertinent to women’s ordination and the declaration that women’s ordination will not happen ‘on (his) shift’.  This is an abuse of the trust that synod has endowed him with, which has ramifications across the whole LCA, and which will be played out in coming years, long after he has left the Presidency.

 

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