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In response to Doug

Tanya and others at Synod 2013

Tanya Wittwer (fourth from the left)

Tanya Wittwer writes in reply to Doug, in the last post.

In a comment on a previous posting, Doug asked Karin, “Karen what do you mean God Him/Herself . Where do you get that idea from God is a she (sic). Yes you would like that wouldn’t you.”

None of the names and words we have for God can describe the totality of God, and perhaps none accurately describe any of the characteristics of God. The love of God is surely of a totally different dimension than love we can know as human beings.  The strength of God bears no relation to human strength. So all we have are metaphors.

Just a week or two back, the lectionary Gospel for the day included one of Jesus’ images for a searching God: the woman searching for the lost coin.  The church has had no difficulty in the images either side of this one (Luke 15:3-10 the caring shepherd, Luke 15:11-23 the waiting father), but the image of Luke 15:8-10 is rarely found in artwork, prayer or language for God.

The Hebrew Scripture reinforces the idea that God is beyond gender, with the words for the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh) and for God’s visible presence (Shekinah) being feminine terms. It is unfortunate that the English language does not make it easy for us to talk about God in language that avoids gendering.

One strong biblical feminine image is that of God the birthing creator.  In Isaiah 42:14, God says, “like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant,” and in Deuteronomy 32:18b “You forgot the God who gave you birth.” Often feminine and masculine images of God are found side by side, as in Job 38:28,29. Other passages portray God as the mother feeding her young, caring for her young children, cleaning us, clothing us, wiping away our tears (Isaiah 66:13). Matthew and Luke report Jesus’ longing to gather God’s people, as a hen gathering her chickens under her wings.

The incarnation was into a male body. But Jesus’ gender does not limit the Word to male embodiment.  The Word became human to save all humanity, and call all humanity into the reality of God’s reign, where we are united as one in Christ regardless of gender (Galatians 3:28).

One of the difficulties of the church having used only male language for God is that it seems many forget that our words reflect only images of God, and instead fall into the idolatry of creating God in the image of man.  Male naming and identification becomes part of legitimating the oppression of women.  Scripture tells us that “God created the earth creature [adam] in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created: male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 – my translation). An important aspect of my pastoral work is inviting women to know clearly that they, too, are created in God’s image.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Hermeneutics, theology, women's ordination

 

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Tanya remembers

Tanya Wittwer remembers when women were ordained ten years back in 2013.

 

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Women’s Ministry Network page – Version 2

Women's Ministry Network image

Women’s Ministry Network image

The Women’s Ministry Network webpage has been redesigned, thanks to Isabel Mason and Tanya Wittwer.  The site, is still a work in progress but, as a webpage is an evolving thing, additions will continue over coming months. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that it corresponds roughly with International Women’s Day, a day that seems to go mostly unnoticed in the LCA.

There are significant resources on the new website that provide the theology and history of the debate on women’s ordination in the LCA.  There are study-guides, conference galleries and women’s stories from Biblical days and today, as well as current news.  These stories need to be heard for us all to understand the importance of acknowledging women’s faith and spirituality, as well as their leadership and wisdom.  The days are gone when women are seen simply as an adjunct to men.

It’s a great resource and worth coming back to.  Bookmarking the site may be the way to go.

Here’s the site, one more time.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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When should congregations refuse to play the conservative game? Reflections on Gen.Synod 2006

Martin Luther

Luther worked within the structures of the Catholic Church to convey his understanding of Scriptures, but when continually hitting immovable walls conscience dictated his actions. Perhaps the LCA has operated from fear that conservative congregations would break from the LCA if women’s ordination was approved.  Little thought, however, has been given to the possibility that moderate congregations would break away after suffering the closing down of the discussion.

When is it time to step away from an abusive Church?  How long should congregations suffer the manipulation of democratic processes?

The following is Tanya Wittwer’s reflection after General Synod in 2006.  The despair she expresses from that time is evident again in our Church as we lead up to General Synod in April of 2013.  There is significant expectation of change.  Members and congregations of this Church are not content to forever suffer diversions and stalling.

From the beginning of the proceedings it was apparent that the leadership had decided to keep a tight lid on Synod.  The first woman to speak asked that one of the two nominees for the position of President share his vision for the church, prior to the election; the incumbent had just delivered his report and it seemed reasonable to be able to at least have heard from each of them.  This request (repeated by another woman the following day) was immediately denied.

The ordination question was clearly established as something to be debated from opposing sides, rather than an issue that could be discussed collegially.  On the Monday evening of Synod there was an “information evening” at which two seminary professors had been chosen to speak for 25 minutes – one presenting the position that only men could be ordained, and the other responding.  Unfortunately it was the No position that established the parameters of the “information” presented.  In the format chosen and the time limit given there was no opportunity to address bigger questions of Biblical interpretation, or faithful decision-making.  The chair contributed negatively to the debate, with a long, heavy-handed introduction, and unhelpful remarks.

The chair had been clear in his direction that only Scriptural and theological issues were to be addressed, but this did not prevent some of the anti-lobby using manipulative anecdotes and sweeping statements to support their arguments.  The style of “debate” meant that there was no opportunity to respond to these.  When the chair declared that only those waiting to speak would be given an opportunity, and no more were to go to the microphones, the balance was such that the final five speakers were against the ordination of women.  The chair urged people to abstain from voting if they had any doubts at all, or if they thought the time was not yet right.  Then the votes were cast.

I felt surprisingly free.  I felt free to leave the LCA, and join another denomination.  The reaction surprised me, but it felt as if the part of the race I needed to run was complete, and it was time to hand the baton over.  I was overwhelmed by the people – many of them strangers – who thanked me for my words, and shared their sadness.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, I had moved to a position of feeling free … to stay, at least for a while. To stay and to support others in being the church we believed we needed to be, even if this meant pushing boundaries. The nice, polite, official way of doing things seemed unhelpful; maybe now is the time to forget being “good.” We need to name clearly the legalistic turn in our church. We need to work against the pressure being applied by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). We need to find ways to proclaim more loudly God’s inclusive grace.

via GENERAL LCA SYNOD 2006 — “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) | Women’s Ministry Network – Tanya Wittwer (6 October 2006)

 
 

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“The Authority of Scripture, Women’s Ordination and the LCA”

The Journal of Lutheran Ethics, ELCA,

carries a concise summary of the women’s ordination debate in the LCA, including the history and hermeneutics brought by the different sides.  The author, Tanya Wittwer, is a doctoral candidate at Flinders University in South Australia, holds a Master of Divinity From Wartburg Seminary in Iowa and is Master of Public Health Coordinator, University of Adelaide.  She points out the manipulation that has occurred by the ministry-for-men proponents.

Excerpts are included below.  For the full article, including papers and references from many sources, click here.

7] Those that argue that Christ established the office of ordained ministry do so on the basis of passages such as Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23. There appears to be no acknowledgement that these “establishment” verses may be being used to justify existing practice based in tradition rather than providing a clear mandate for ordained ministry. Those that would argue for the office of ministry having been developed in the early church would look to, for example, Acts 15, Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 4:11 for evidence of an emerging (and diverse) ministry structure. This discussion seems not to have been part of the ordination debate.[8] The study of the ordination issue has focussed on the two verses used as the basis for the prohibition paragraph in The Theses of Agreement rather than using as the starting place the witness of Scripture regarding ordained ministry. I surmise the reason for this is the assumption of consensus regarding the office of ministry.

[10]…However, there have been persistent hermeneutical differences between those engaged in the discussion, and it could be argued that these have been shaped by the ideological positions held prior to any Scriptural study.

[11] Significant voices in the debate have argued from what they maintain to be a literal (but not Biblicist) understanding of Scripture. The subordination of women is an implicit assumption for many. Other significant voices uphold a viewpoint that the Gospel is central to all interpretation and that allowing the text to speak implies a contextual reading. Many of the same people would suggest the Holy Spirit remains active in the development of the church and its theology.

[13] While the official line has been maintained that all discussion in the church on the matter of the ordination of women has been on the basis of Scripture, the reality is that it has been a discussion nested in political strategem.  Many decisions about process have been less than transparent. Those nominated by the church to provide leadership in matters of theology voted by a two-thirds majority – after a long process of study and discussion – that Scripture permits the ordination of women. However, when the General Synods of 2000 and 2006 were asked to discuss and vote on the issue there was silence about the work of the CTICR and the impression continues to be given that they did not reach a decision. A task force was established by the General Church Council following a resolution of the 2006 Synod, “to determine and implement strategies for promoting greater consensus on the matter of the ordination of women” but the report of the task force to the 2009 Synod seems to suggest that the previous study and discussions were ignored.

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Posted by on November 6, 2010 in Hermeneutics, politics, theology

 

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