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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 http://www.aglorybe.com/memorial/kathleen_b.html

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.

Scripture
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.

Ministry
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.

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

 

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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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Videos supporting women’s ordination

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YouTube (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would you share your support for women’s ordination in the LCA?  Record, add tags, post to YouTube and share the link with the network.  Thanks to all those who have shared their thoughts to date.   If you don’t know how, send it to someone who can do it for you.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in theology, video

 

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A chat with Sue about Sue’s Story …”Reverend Ma’am”

Sue Westhorpe at Time to Soar conference on women's ordination, ALC, July 2013

Sue Westhorpe at Time to Soar conference on women’s ordination, ALC, July 2013

Boxhill Lutheran Church recently published the following interview with Sue Westhorpe by Pamela Richardson.  A reply by Pr Mark Tuffin will follow in another post shortly.

Several years ago I attended my first Women’s Ordination Conference where I was enlightened and inspired by stories and discussions that centered on women and their place in the Christian Church, and particularly in the Lutheran Church of Australia. So it was with anticipation that, in mid July, I, along with a number of others from Victoria, attended a Women’s Ordination Conference organised by St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Adelaide, South Australia. It was at this conference that I heard for the first time, in the seminary refectory, Sue Westhorp’s stories — a story I listened to with a mixture of sadness, anger, and pain.

Sues’ story is about her vocation to be an ordained pastor in our Lutheran Church and the sadness, struggles, and barriers she has encountered in this journey. For me, I was moved and disturbed that I could have been in St Paul’s for six years and known Sue, but have no idea of the depth of her sadness and frustration experienced on her journey. As Sue said in her opening remarks, her story is but one of many similar stories lived out by other women who have felt called to the ministry within this, our Lutheran Church.

1. Sue, how do you cope when you reflect on the fact, that here in Australia, where women are able to be whatever they choose to be, you face seemingly insurmountable barriers to fulfill the calling you have felt since childhood to be a pastor in the Church of your birth?

Well, when we’re told “no”, we adjust, and find other ways of answering the call. So I worked at St Paul’s in music, pastoral care, and adult education: a wonderful and (eventually) full-time lay position that I thought surely must satisfy the call. And yet it didn’t. There was always part of the ministry that was missing, ‘fullness’ of ministry.

So I compensated with about 10 years of service in the national church, chairing the Department of Music and sitting on the Department of Liturgics and the Commission on Worship. I planned music for three general synods, and for the last one planned all the worship. But all of this together still did not satisfy the call; and I also got increasingly frustrated with having my ideas and suggestions only taken seriously when repeated by a male committee member.

A breakthrough came with my studies in Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE. Not only was my calling affirmed, but I found new ways of doing ministry, new ways of doing theological reflection. And I was also led into new employment, currently as a palliative care chaplain in the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Without compromising who I am as a Christian or a Lutheran, this involves me in multi-faith ministry, helping people make sense of what they experience in hospital, often in their last days. Because I no longer have freedom to travel for meetings, I have had to give up my work on national LCA bodies; but I love what I am doing now.

My colleagues from other churches affirm my gifts and calling — even their humour is affirming! For example, every morning, one of the hospital cleaners greets me with “Good morning, Reverend Ma’am”! But the important thing is that I am now able to do most aspects of ministry (with the exception of consecrating the Communion elements), including preaching and leading some services such as funerals (usually at the request of those I have ministered to in their last days, or their families). And yet there is still that lingering sadness that I cannot take those final steps, and that even the work I now do cannot be within the context of my LCA church, my home.

2. Sue, in your story you mentioned your dream, that your husband Peter encouraged, of going to the wonderful “Mecca” that is “the Sem’’ to study theology. What was the initial response to your application to study there?

Very  positive. Peter Lockwood said “Yes, please come.”

3. You have spoken of “some harder times” as your studies progressed. What were they and why did they develop?

Well, in our first year, a friend and I had to fight to be allowed into the Bachelor of Theology program rather than the Bachelor of Arts in Theology then being offered to lay people. There was the time I discussed my sense of call with a final year student, and the shock of his opinion that the only call I could have had must be from the devil. There was the pain of being excluded from certain Seminary subjects that were declared reserved for pastoral candidates — with the flow-on effect in general synods and gatherings of being excluded from discussions when the ‘serious’ theological and ministry talk began.

5. Sue, having completed the Bachelor of Theology and any other requirements expected of a pastor, what respect and acknowledgement has the church and its clergy given to your knowledge and experiences?

I have the Bachelor of Theology (and my Bachelor of Music, and CPE qualifications); but I don’t have all the subjects required for a pastor. Women at Seminary were not permitted to study homiletics (how to prepare and deliver a sermon).

As for the second part of your question, there are some pastors within the church who are truly pastoral, and can deal with this area with respect and sensitivity — and that includes some on both sides of the political division over ordination.

6. Sue, how and why do you remain in the LCA despite the fact that other Lutheran women have left it because they have felt there is no place for their vocation in this our church?

This church is so much a part of my spiritual DNA, my roots, that I really cannot leave it behind. I choose to stay, even though chaplaincy colleagues have offered me “safe harbour” in other denominations that ordain women.

7. So, Sue, what are your future hopes for women like yourself in the LCA?

After the vote at the Toowoomba Synod (the majority in favour of ordination of women and men, but less than the 66% hurdle that had been set), a pastor friend remarked that the ordination of women was inevitable but it could take up to 100 years to come into effect. For the sake of other women who feel called, I hope it is sooner than that. I hope that there will soon be a way that a call to ministry in the LCA can be tested for all people, as it is now for men.

But mostly I pray that the ordination of women may be allowed in the LCA for the sake of the church and the gospel. And until it is, we shall continue to find other ways to serve.

8. Finally, Sue, what are the things and images that sustain you in this journey?

There are two images that sustain me on my journey.

The first is the image of the crucified Christ — the Christ who knows pain, who knows rejection, who knows suffering — this is the Christ I carry as I visit patients and families in my work, this is the Christ who carries me in my pain about ordination.

The other symbol comes in a wonderful gift given to me by Elizabeth Pech after the death of Pastor Herman. When she moved into a retirement village, Elizabeth gave me Herman’s home Communion set, for which I am deeply grateful. At first I left the vessels exactly the way they were — unpolished, with a hint of Herman still about them. A couple of months ago, I decided to clean them so they were ready for use. For me, this is like the maidens keeping their lamps trimmed — this is both a symbol of what I cannot yet do, and a symbol of my hope and readiness.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in sociology, women's ordination

 

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Time to Soar – registration information

Time to Soar – the theme for St Stephens’ Conference on women’s ordination

Further to the post on St Stephens’ Conference on women’s ordination, July 13-14th at ALC …

Would you consider making this Conference a priority in your calendar this year?   The networking and the planning of action could be invaluable in creating a welcoming, embracing, inclusive Church. It’s at the Australian Lutheran College (ALC) in North Adelaide.

Here are the registration details:

WO Conference brochure – general information

WO Conference brochure -Registration – print – fill in the form and return to St Stephen’s

WO Conference brochure -Registration electronic – you may choose to register electronically and submit online.

 

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