Tag Archives: slavery

Free But Not Free

What if women’s ordination gets up at the coming LCA National Convention in Rochedale?

After the celebrations the next phase will be the delay before ordination.

To our knowledge there has been negligible preparation for a positive vote.  Bishop Henderson however has issued a warning that it will take some time for the LCA to prepare for WO – despite the generations of discussion.  Despite a potential positive vote women will still be in the wilderness, presumably for a number of years.

The delay will be akin to the granting of freedom to British slaves in 1833.  It took five extra years until 1838 for for “enslaved men, women, and children in the British Empire to finally became fully free after a period of forced apprenticeship following the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.” link  Despite it being a huge moral victory, 46 000 British slave owners, mainly in the West Indies, still had to be paid off for losing their slaves. link   Why is it that the oppressed are forced to pay for the institutions’ lethargy in facing issues of justice?

Ironically, the ELCA this year celebrates 45 years of women’s ordination.  Other protestant churches have also been ordaining women for many years.


Posted by on September 8, 2015 in history, women's ordination


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Civil Rights

Black college student Dorothy Bell, 19, of Birmingham, Alabama, waits at a downtown Birmingham lunch counter for service that never came, April 4, 1963. She was later arrested with 20 others in sit-in attempts. (AP Photo) From The Atlantic

This chilling photo records the racism that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks (amongst many others) were fighting against in the USA.  It is from a series entitled: 50 Years Ago: The World in 1963.

We were not so different in Australia.  In Queensland, South Sea Islanders were blackbirded (perhaps ‘kidnapping’ and ‘press-ganged’ will be understood by more people) into enforced labour in the Qld canefields during the mid to late 19th Century.  They were repatriated in 1906-08 by the Australian government.  Ref: Wikipedia.  It was slavery by another name.   Australians grew wealthy on enforced labour and on stolen land from Aboriginal people.

It’s always interesting to note the religious justifications for racism and slavery, and any injustice.  Women’s marginalisation is no different.

Those of us who work with gifted women, who have sat under the scholarship of women theologians and who have experienced the pastoral care of female chaplains and pastors, are dismayed at the continuing dismissal of women’s ordination in the LCA.  It is every woman’s civil right to be given the same respect as men.  It is difficult to believe that 50 years after the US civil rights movement, and 45 years after Aborigines were granted full Federal citizenship, that LCA women are still deemed lacking for ordained ministry.

What is it that you might do to raise awareness of the lack of recognition of women in the LCA?

Please leave your comment and suggest what people might do to bring about change.

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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in history, women's ordination


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Ancient Athens and the LCA – the similarity between women and slaves

Women washing clothes in Athens

The similarity in attitude towards slaves and women in ancient Greece is uncanny.   Despite incremental recognition for women since that time, it seems similar ancient misogynist values still apply in the Church.

Their father controlled them before they were married

Their spouse controlled them once they were married… Ref

Women had very little influence, or power in Greek society and were not highly regarded until they could produce a child…

There was a disdainful attitude to women:

Euripides from his book ‘ Meda’ writes; ‘If only children could be got some other way without the female sex! If women didn’t exist, human life would be rid of all its miseries’   Ref

… and this was congruent to the attitude towards slaves:

Most ancient writers considered slavery not only natural but necessary. Ref

It is surprising that the birthplace of democracy was so inequitable towards women. Perhaps it created the structures for millenia of misogyny and racism, or perhaps it simply bolstered attitudes that were there in pre-Grecian society.

While this astounding, prophetic, self-congratulatory society was flawed at the core, we see the same flaw in the LCA with a despicable attitude towards women. While Lutheran theology has provided a significant contribution to the modern church, the chauvinist attitude of key LCA figures will be a thing of shame in the annals of history.


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Dear Dr. Laura

Dr Laura Schlessinger

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to best follow them.

* When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

* I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

* I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

* Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

* I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

* A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

* Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

via The Dr. Laura Bits.

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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in history, theology


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Scripture: subjection or liberation

Does God call and empower us in ministry, yet not provide avenues for the use of gifts?  Where are the Scriptural precedents for God lifting up individuals yet not providing the means of ministry?

Such questions don’t seem to sit well within Christianity.  In God’s realm, ministries do not remain unused or theoretical. Ministry is about people.  It’s about responding to call.  It’s about an overwhelming urgent response in love to the conversion brought about in our own lives.  It seems to us, that while life is unpredictable, God calls to every one of us, reminding us that the harvest is great and the labourers are few.

We don’t hear God surmising that perhaps there’ll be work to do, that possibly your gifts will be used.  The conversation with God is not about waiting in line until the time is right, until we all agree that you too can be a labourer in the field. Rather, we read of a sense of urgency, where all people are called for the harvest.

In the LCA, the CTICR (Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships) has twice found that there are no theological blocks to the ordination of women, however, we find that some people still attempt to use Scripture to justify the exclusion of women from ministry.  Where there might have been pastoral leadership towards inclusivity,  we find invitations to continue the conversation on whether Scripture empowers women to pastoral leadership.

Blogger Marg Mowczko, from her blog, “New Life,” makes the connection with racism:

I find it difficult to believe that discrimination on the basis of race has been declared immoral and illegal in Australia (and other western-style nations) only in my lifetime. Moreover, it is shocking to me that previous generations often used Scripture to condone ignorant and hateful attitudes of racial prejudice and racial superiority. …

I also find it difficult to believe that in contemporary Church life, women are still discriminated against on the basis of gender. Women are excluded from many ministries that involve public speaking, teaching or leadership. … It bothers me that some Christians use Scripture to condone and support discrimination and prejudice against women in ministry.

via Race and Gender Discrimination in the Church.

In summary, two points.

  1. Jesus was radically inclusive.  Women were in his inner circle.  They were right there in the middle of his story.  He called them to serve. They were instrumental in bringing his good news to the rest of us. In ministry and faith there were no men or women, there were only followers of Jesus.  In Christ there was no east nor west, slave nor free … .  Today, in Christ there is no east nor west, slave nor free …
  2. Scripture has been used to justify putting others in their place, for keeping slaves under subjection and still today for keeping women out of the pulpit.  In contrast, the New Testament makes a big deal of unity, diversity and inclusion. Non-Jews were included as the children of God, including the despised Samaritans; prostitutes and tax-collectors were among the most intimate with Jesus, and Jesus directed his disciples to carry the good news to ‘all nations’.

How might you support women in your congregation?  What network can you build so that the issue gains a higher prominence in your congregation?  What action can you take in your community?

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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in history, theology


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Imagine That – from Matthew Becker’s blog, Transverse Markings

LCMS church logo

from: Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes: Imagine That.

Imagine that you are the young daughter of a female slave who lives in Colossae in the year 450. Unlike some other religious traditions that do not allow slaves to be members, the Christian churches accept slaves into their fellowship. You worship Jesus, in part, because he “had taken the form of a slave” and was beaten and crucified, as so many rebellious slaves had also been… Read more.

Imagine that you are a young adult, the Lutheran daughter of a former slave owner who lives in South Carolina in the year 1868. Read more.

Imagine that you are the high-school-aged daughter of an LCMS pastor in 2011 and you think that God may be calling you to become a pastor Read more.


Consider following Matthew Becker’s (an LCMS pro-women’s ordination pastor/associate professor of theology) blog, Transverse Markings: One Theologian’s Notes

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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in history, theology


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Women’s ordination and slavery – It’s easy to spot injustice and oppression in history

Slaves in the hold of a transport ship

It seems unlikely that in a few generations many will support today’s LCA notion that women cannot be called and equipped by God for ministry. The rest of the Church will look back in sadness and regret that women were so poorly treated. They will wonder at the inhumanity of the Church and, most likely, consider that they would never have participated in such systemic oppression of women.

As support for this hypothesis, we want to look at the way scriptural passages were used to support the notion of slavery. It is sad that so few people opposed this theology for hundreds of years, resulting in the dehumanising and deaths of countless thousands of people.

1. Slavery was divinely sanctioned by the patriarchs

Noah’s curse upon Canaan (Gen. 9:24-27) (the first appearance of slavery in the Bible) was a prophesy of the black African’s destiny.

Abraham is our godly example.  He was a great slave-owner. He received, possessed, and willed slaves to his children as property.  The Scripture says that the Lord blessed Abraham by multiplying his slaves (Gen 24:35), and an angel commanded the slave, Hagar, to return to her mistress (Gen 16:1-9), which “clearly support(ed) the fugitive slave law.” Hopkins (1864, 76-77)

Joseph saved many people from starvation because God commanded him to, “buy the people and the land, making them slaves to Pharoah.” (Gen 47: 15-25) (Stringfellow, in Elliot, 472)

2. Slavery was incorporated in Israel’s national constitution

God allowed two categories of slaves:  1. They were allowed to take foreigners as slaves and to will them to their descendants (Lev. 25:44-46).  2. Hebrews could will themselves and their families into slavery for a limited period of time. (Ex. 21 and Lev. 25)

3. Slavery was approved by Jesus and the apostles

Despite living amidst the brutality of slavery in the Roman Empire, Jesus and the apostles were not reported as speaking out against the practice. “It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that slavery is contrary to the will of God. … We accept the Bible terms as the definition of our slavery, and its precepts as the guide of our conduct.” (Pro-slavery Arguments, 1852,107-08)

Amongst other Biblical proof-texts, 1 Cor. 7:20-24 speaks clearly (Stringfellow), “as the Lord has called every one so let him walk”.

4. Slavery is a merciful institution

Through the practise of slavery, “millions of Ham’s descendants,” who otherwise “would have sunk down to eternal ruin,” have been, “brought within the range of the gospel influence.”  Hodge says (in Elliot, 848), “If the … course of abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were (sic) wrong.”


The style of hermeneutic is similar to that applied to opposing women’s ordination.

There can be no justification for denying women the opportunity to respond to their call. When Scripture is used to justify an abusive position it reflects poorly on the hermeneutic, the scholar and the Church.


Elliott, E.W., ed (1969) Cotton is King and Pro Slavery Arguments… New York, Negro Universities Press (originally published 1860)

Hopkins, J.W. (1864) A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical View of Slavery from the Days of the Patriarch Abraham, to the Nineteenth Century, New York, W.I. Polley and Co.

Pro Slavery Arguments: Several Essays (1969) (orig published 1852), New York, Negro Universities Press.

Swartley, W.M. (1983) Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women, Herald Press, Scottsdale PA, USA.

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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Hermeneutics, history, theology


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