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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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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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A letter to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA

https://i1.wp.com/buchan.com.au/images/uploads/bruce_lockwood_news.jpg

Bruce Lockwood from St Peters Congregation, Indooroopilly, Qld

The following is a letter from the members of St Peters and St Andrews Congregations, Qld, to Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA. Information about women’s ordination has sometimes not been forwarded in congregations. If it is possible that this letter is not forwarded to key people in your congregations, would you inquire as to whether it has been received and then provide them with a copy?  Many thanks.

This letter is followed by an open letter to the LCA from Neil Nuske, Religious Ed teacher at St Peter’s College, Indooroopilly.

Dear Pastors and Synod Delegates of the LCA

St Peters and St Andrews Congregations wish to inform you of resolutions we have submitted to the Synod Secretary for inclusion in the Synod Reports and Synod Agenda so that you can prayerfully and thoughtfully consider these proposals beforehand.

An open letter to the LCA

from

St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly Queensland

Introduction

While attending the “Time to Soar” conference to discuss the ordination of both men and women in Adelaide, our Pastor Peter (St Peters Indooroopilly) resolved to hold a similar conference in Brisbane. The “All Saints” Conference was held on the first weekend of November 2012 in the P & F Centre and attracted nearly 60 delegates from congregations in South-East Queensland, and interstate.

At the All Saints conference delegates learnt of the significant impact the refusal to ordain women has had on the church and our educational, aged care and other institutions. Delegates learnt of the constraints it imposes on suitably qualified personnel and our outreach. We heard some disturbing stories from those affected because the LCA has not yet seen its way clear to ordain women.

The majority of Lutheran Churches worldwide ordain both men and women. Following twenty years during which time our best theological minds struggled with this issue the CTICR Final Report 2000 resolved that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA”. Therefore we conclude this is a matter of theological opinion and not a fundamental doctrine of the church.

As advocates for the ordination of both men and women, we are not disputing in any way the Doctrine of the Ministry as expressed in our Confessions. However, in keeping with the spirit of the “The Status of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” (reviewed July 2001, unedited) we consider that majority opinion at both the 2000 and 2006 Synods supporting the view that scripture and theology permit the ordination of women, demonstrates that amendments have become desirable in the course of time.

What have previous LCA synods decided?

The most recent Synod in 2009 considered the “Ordination Consensus Task Force Report 2009” From this report four (4) resolutions were proposed. Three were passed. The fourth resolution was lost. These resolutions have significant implications for the ordination of women in the LCA.

Synod 2009 Resolution 1
GCC to establish “a dialogue group with balanced representation” to work towards consensus within the group itself and across the church on the ordination of “both men and women” with reference to the published findings of the CTICR and a focus on biblical interpretation.

Synod 2009 Resolution 2
If convention authorises the ordination of women we need a preparation time before implementation.

Synod 2009 Resolution 3
Convention asks GCC, CoP, CTICR and other relevant groups in the church to note study and act where appropriate on the fourteen (14) recommendations of the Ordination Consensus Task Force.

Thus Synod 2009 resolutions 1, 2 and 3 form the platform for ongoing deliberations by the LCA on the ordination of both men and women.

Synod 2009 – The Lost Resolution
had proposed that the ordination of women be closed to debate at synod unless the General Pastors’ Conference gives clear guidance by formal recommendation.

The loss of the fourth resolution means that new resolutions for women’s ordination must be placed on the agenda and can be debated at synod without requiring a formal recommendation from the General Pastors Conference.

St Peters congregation wishes to inform you of our four Resolutions submitted to the 2013 Synod together with a proposed way forward in the spirit of the LCA website which says: “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 the church”. With this in mind we firmly believe that the voice of the people in the pews during this Synod needs to be heard anew.

St Peters congregation proposes a way forward

St Peters proposes a way forward, and a way of restoring our church to health in truth, unity and love. These proposals have been prepared with the help of past presidents, seminary lecturers, academics, pastors, chaplains, and college principals both male and female.

The four proposals have a sequence, addressing:

1.      The Theses of Agreement and the CTICR Final Report 2000
2.      The constitutional issue
3.      Our women ready to be ordained
4.      Questions of truth, unity and love

St Peters Resolutions

Resolution One

Whereas “The Status of the Theses of Agreement and other Doctrinal Statements” prepared by the CTICR and adopted by Synod in 1975 under “Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions of The Lutheran Church of Australia” states that “Should amendments (to the Theses of Agreement) become desirable in the course of time, such amendments would have to be submitted to the entire Church after thorough theological examination and discussion,” and

Whereas the LCA has commissioned the CTICR to examine the ministry and ordination of women by conducting a thorough theological examination and discussion of the key texts cited in support of the ordination of men only, namely, I Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 (Theses VI par 11) culminating in the CTICR Final Report (CTICR-FR 2000) and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 has summarised the theological arguments not only for the ordination of women but also for the ordination of men only, and presented these theological opinions to Synod, we submit that in the course of time it is now evident that two divergent interpretations of the two key texts cited in Theses VI par11 are held, not only amongst our respected theologians but also amongst the laity of the LCA, and

Whereas there now are two entirely different theological opinions in the LCA regarding the long-held public doctrine of the church in reference to the question of the ordination of women (Theses VI par 11) we conclude scripture itself is not clear on the matter that men only should be ordained and that women should be prohibited from ordination, and

Whereas these two different theological opinions concerning 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and I Tim 2:11-15 have different implications for doctrine and practice within the LCA, we conclude Theses VI par 11 needs to be amended because, as CTICR-FR 2000 states: all teaching must be consistent with what is confessed as the clear teaching of scripture. Yet scripture is not clear on this issue, and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and,

Whereas The Augsburg Confession states “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) and,

Whereas Lutheran theology affirms God has instituted the Office of the Ministry and the efficacy of the ministry of word and sacrament is in no way due to the gender of a pastor who is ordained, but solely due to the work and power of God the Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier, working through those servants who proclaim the apostolic gospel  (AC V) in the church through the ministry of word and sacrament, and

Whereas the gospel, which is central to the ministry of word and sacrament, cannot be negated by ordaining women into the Office of the Ministry, ordination is therefore a matter of practice reflecting pastoral sensitivity to a particular historical tradition and cultural context which may vary between Lutheran Churches and within Christendom, rather than a fundamental doctrine of the church

Be it resolved

that Synod commission the CTICR to amend or delete Theses VI par. 11 in order to reflect the majority conclusion of the CTICR that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, that this amendment be submitted to the next Pastors’ Conference and General Synod for review and ratification.

Resolution Two

Whereas the Constitution ARTICLE Xll. ALTERATIONS TO CONSTITUTION part 1 states that “The Church at a convention of the General Synod may amend, alter, add to or repeal any of the rules, except Article ll. and Article Xll.1, which shall be considered fundamental and unalterable in their intent and meaning”, it therefore follows that all other parts of the Constitution may be subject to alteration when justified, and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA therefore

Be it resolved

that Synod request the Constitutions Committee amend ARTICLE V. THE MINISTRY  Item 1. second sentence to read:  For this purpose it shall receive into its Ministry by ordination, or by colloquy for ministers ordained elsewhere, any person whose qualifications for the office have been established and who…

Resolution Three

Whereas God in love and wisdom has called women to be pastors and gives them to the LCA to serve in the ministry of word and sacrament, and

Whereas women who are unable to follow this call of God towards the path of ordination have experienced significant pain and in some cases a crisis of faith

Be it resolved

that the LCA no longer rejects this gift from God but accepts God’s generous gift of love and ordains these women to serve as pastors in the LCA

Resolution Four

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 concluded by majority that: “scripture and theology permit the ordination of women in the LCA” and, The Augsburg Confession states “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) and

Whereas the CTICR-FR 2000 Part D addresses the theological and pastoral implications of the commission’s conclusion under the headings – The question of truth; The question and unity; and The question of love

Be it resolved

that with prayer and thanksgiving the Lutheran Church of Australia harnesses all of God’s gifts bestowed on us including the CTICR, the LEA, The Lutheran, the pastors of the church and the leaders of the congregations to inform and guide all members of the LCA in questions of TRUTH, UNITY and LOVE and encourage one another in our understanding and experience of how the ordination of women can enhance the ministry and outreach of the church and the proclamation of the gospel.

If you wish to receive a copy of the full explanation and background to these resolutions please email: Church.Office@stpeters.qld.edu.au and you will be forwarded a copy.

___________________________

St Andrews Resolution

With permission from St Andrews Lutheran Church Brisbane City Congregation we also include for your consideration their resolution advocating full membership of LWF:

Be it resolved

that the Lutheran Church of Australia in this anniversary year applies for full membership in the Lutheran World Federation.

__________________________

Summary of an open letter to the LCA from Neal Nuske

In a recent open letter to the Presidents of the LCA, Neal Nuske, Teacher in Charge of Study of Religion at St Peters Lutheran College addresses two theological issues which have been seen by some as stumbling blocks in the movement towards the ordination of women and men.

The first issue relates to the validity of a believer’s faith if nurtured by female clergy and the validity of the consecration of the elements by a female pastor. For Neal the issue is that “concerns about gender, are replacing that particular distinctive accent in Lutheran theology which locates the work of the Holy Spirit at the center of our theology of Word and Sacrament. In so focusing upon gender, the key concepts of sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus are being marginalized and displaced.”

He asks; “How does the gender of a pastor compliment and strengthen the forgiveness of sins? Or, conversely, how does the gender of a pastor desecrate and destroy the seal of the free forgiveness of sins?” He concludes that “gender is not the factor which effects the forgiveness of sins and legitimizes the words of institution. Neither does gender desecrate Christ’s body and blood.”

Regarding the sacrament, he explains, “There are only two parts to a sacrament, the sign and the Word. We cannot add gender. In the New Testament the Word is the added promise of grace. The promise of the New Testament is the promise of the forgiveness of sins as the text says ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’. This promise is neither consecrated nor desecrated on account of the gender of a pastor. The promise is not desecrated and useless if a female pastor consecrates the elements.

Neal reminds us that the sacraments are useless without faith “for the Holy Spirit works through the sacraments, not through the gender of the pastor. A faith that acknowledges God’s mercy is alive and well. The gender of the pastor does not make faith secure or alive.”

Finally he draws our attention to the Formula Of Concord: Affirmative Theses: Confession of the Pure Doctrine of the Holy Supper against the Sacramentarians which states 3. Concerning the consecration we believe, teach, and confess that no man’s work nor the recitation of the minister effect this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but that it is to be ascribed solely and alone to the almighty power of Jesus Christ.

The second issue addressed by Neal is the interpretation of certain passages in scripture namely1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1Tim. 2 11-14. He concludes that “Christ cannot contradict Himself; therefore Paul’s commands were pastoral and contextual in their intent, for a specific time and place but not universal in their intent.”

The full text of Neal’s Open Letter can be found on: http://www.katieandmartin or by e-mail to: Church.Office@stpeters.qld.edu.au

Bruce Lockwood

Synod Delegate St Peters Lutheran Church Indooroopilly

 
 

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ALL SAINTS – women’s ordination conference

Logo for ALL SAINTS and Time to Soar conferences. Image by Ray Kempe

St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Indooroopilly hosted the ALL SAINTS women’s ordination conference this last weekend.  Around 60 LCA members from Qld, Vic and S.A. attended with many pastors.

It seems in Qld that LCA membership quietly ignores the decrees that emanate from certain offices in S.A.  Women regularly preach in a number of churches (which also happens, by necessity, in various congregations around Australia), and women fill various LCA positions as chaplains and counsellors, serving God who showers grace upon grace. Up until now, Qld has had many women and men supportive of women’s ordination but no group or congregation that found hope enough to form a group to take action about the way women are excluded from pastoral leadership in our Church.

That has changed!  Stand-by for action.

While we respect those who don’t support women’s ordination, we don’t support their wish to impose their minority will on the rest of the Church.  We are a mature and broad Church that can tolerate diversity under the Confessions.  We will not tolerate narrow thinking that excludes people who may be different to the mythical orthodox Lutheran.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in politics, women's ordination

 

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Motion on Women’s Ordination to General Convention 2013 from St Stephen’s

St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wakefield St, Adelaide

The move towards women’s ordination continues in the Lutheran Church of Australia. It must be acknowledged that St Stephen’s Lutheran Church has been providing significant initiative for many years with their motions going to General Convention over the years and the organisation of the Time to Soar conference in July this year.  The most recent initiative is the following motion, which has been sent to be included in the proceedings for the next General Convention next March.

It would be useful if there were multiple motions that congregations, from around Australia, submitted to General Convention, particularly if the wording was such that they couldn’t all be amalgamated into one motion. If you are considering lodging motions please be aware that proposals from congregations must be emailed to the Synod Secretary at Debbie.venz@lca.org.au by 15 November 2012. Get them in early to avoid any motions getting ‘delayed’ in the in-tray.

Consider sharing this blog address to inform your network of St Stephen’s motion ahead of the General Convention next year.

Consider also taking action in any way that is open to you.  Women’s ordination will not happen by itself, but depends on many people doing what they need to do. Have you thought about writing a letter to the College of Presidents? – cop@lca.org.au    We understand that there is considerable support amongst District Presidents for women’s ordination but that their voice is not heard, given the seniority of Pastor Semmler.

Here’s the wording of St Stephen’s motion:

Given that the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Commission on Theology and inter-Church Relations (CTICR) has reached a majority agreement that the Bible and the teachings of the church permit the ordination of women to the pastoral office in the Lutheran Church of Australia;
 
and, given that prior to the 2000 National Convention of Synod, the CTICR and General Church Council stated that, “On balance scripture and theology permits the ordination of women”;
 
and, given that a simple majority of delegates at both the 2000 and 2006 General Conventions of the Lutheran Church of Australia voted in favour of the ordination of both men and women to the pastoral office;
 
and, given that, in our view, the ministry of the church is diminished by preventing women from serving Jesus Christ through the ordained ministry;
 
and given that there are theologically qualified women in the Lutheran Church of Australia who have received God’s call to the ordained ministry, and have had their personal call and fitness for ministry recognised by many;
 
be it resolved that the General Convention of the Lutheran Church of Australia approve the ordination of women to the pastoral office.

It may be late for inclusion in the blog, but here is the Facebook link for the All Saints conference on women’s ordination at St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Indooroopilly, Qld.  It’s THIS weekend starting Friday night, continuing through Saturday.

 

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in politics, women's ordination

 

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