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LC-MS Removes Rev. Dr. (and Prof) Matthew Becker From Its Role of Pastors

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

Prof Matthew Becker, Valparaiso University

By now, many have heard the sad news that as of July 15 the Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker will be removed from the roster of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Rev. Becker has been an LCMS pastor for twenty six years, and is currently a Professor at Valparaiso University after having also served several years in the Concordia University System. Rev. Becker has consistently and faithfully spoken out against increasingly narrow interpretations of scripture which in recent years have been embraced by synodical officials as mandatory for any who would consider themselves to be Christian.    Ordain Women Now – an organisation within the LCMS (Read more for further detail)  Read here for Matt Becker’s record of the event.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker is an attempt to homogenise the LC-MS so that it speaks with one narrow theological voice.  However, in these changing multi-cultural and diverse societies it is just not realistic to expect that our theology will be as one.  It is realistic, however, to expect that in our journeying together our theology will grow closer.

We believe that a church should be stable and loving enough to hold differences of theology lightly, and that diversity will bring strength, not weakness.

Joining a church is not a statement that we agree with every theological stance that it may take. Rather, it is a statement that we are willing to journey together as we engage with Christ in our lives and what that might mean for our interaction with society and those around us.

The expulsion of Matthew Becker, rather than being an act of healing, is an act of self-destruction which will most likely lead to further expulsions and departures from the LC-MS.  In the end, the Gospel is not about law, it is about love and forgiving one another in Christ.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in politics

 

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The un-civil rights of Christians

bWe

(From bWe Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog)

Today in church, I felt like I was the “N” word. I am a woman. I don’t live in the First Century, but what happened then still rules my church culture today.

My soul cried out. Tears came to my eyes. I wanted to kick, scream and throw something.

(Read More)

Today the church badly needs a Christian Civil Rights Act. But don’t hold your breath. As long as Christians think they can continue to keep women from preaching and in submission to all males, they will do so.

But don’t hold your breath. As long as Christians think they can continue to keep women in submission to all males, they will do so.

 
 

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What good ole days?

While conservatives insist that the Bible would have women remain silent, (except for Sunday School and serving men), we suggest that the origins of that notion may be a little less clear.

At the same time as the following two newspapers clips (1950s) two Australian synods were negotiating very slowly towards union.   Is it surprising that the two synods did not include in their discussion the possibility of women’s ordination?  The clips demonstrate how women were treated as children at best.

The New York Mirror from the 1950s

The New York Mirror from the 1950s

The politics of the oppression of the female gender are vast and insidious.  In the first centuries after Christ women had a seat at the table of church leadership.  Christians remembered the relationships that Jesus had with women and they knew that it was not for them to keep women from pastoral leadership. 

Ah, but with the passage of time, time-worn traditions kicked in and women were once again relegated to lower status, and in some cases a status even lower than animals.

Thankfully in recent decades there is a new awareness about bullying in schools and workplace.  There is a new awareness of domestic violence, but it would be naive to say that women are given equal respect and access to power in our society.  Julia Gillard can vouch for that. 

Some time ago, at a domestic violence workshop an older man related the advice that was given to him on the day of his first marriage.  He was told by a respected elder that early in the marriage he was to give his wife a good thrashing.  When she asked what it was for he was to say, “Just so you know”.   Blood runs deep. It’s the stuff of tradition, power and even culture.  It’s the stuff of gender oppression. It is passed on easily from generation to generation.

That was just how it happened in those days.  Don’t believe it?  Talk to your elders and hear how people knew who were the wife beaters in their churches and social groups, how they didn’t talk about such things, how they couldn’t report it to the police because nothing would happen, how they thought it was somehow the woman’s fault and how “That was how it was in those days”.

Of course, misogyny is much more than wife beating – libraries have been written about the politics of gender oppression.The physical violence that was meted out towards women is for some only a few decades ago and for others it has never stopped. 

Violence against women persists today in many forms.  In our church, the Lutheran Church of Australia, misogyny is still observed in how men meet together in groups called Pastors’ Conferences, with many not even stopping to think that something is awry.  It persists in how Pastors’ Conferences will discuss women’s ordination in this current Synodical term without women even being present to provide some sort of accountability. It persists in those clergy and laity who can only read the Bible through the eyes of Law rather than Grace. It persists in how women don’t qualify for the same education at our Australian Lutheran College. It persists in how women cannot be pastors in an ailing church. It persists despite women being the backbone of our Lutheran Education system. 

It is shameful that our institutional Church, so proudly proclaiming grace as central to its creed and doctrines, manages to shield God’s grace from women when it comes to pastoral leadership.  

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in history, sociology, women's ordination

 

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ELCA Elects Their First Female National Bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA's first female national bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA‘s first female national bishop

From Huff Post

From all accounts Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA is a remarkable and extraordinary pastoral leader.  It is thus very surprising that Elizabeth Eaton, current Bishop of Cleveland, has been appointed as Bishop of the ELCA by an astounding margin and is the ELCA’s first female national bishop. Elizabeth Eaton won the vote 600 to 287.

The USA now has a female as bishop of the Episcopal Church and ELCA, which are in full communion with each other.  It is heartening to know these significant churches have wisdom to embrace change and thus offer a prophetic voice to the world.

The LCA, meanwhile, is in the formative moments of a genuine conversation on women’s ordination, after installing Bishop John Henderson.  The Bishop is meeting with St Stephen’s congregation this Sunday afternoon at 1pm (Sunday 18th August, 2013), Wakefield St, Adelaide, SA.

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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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Why women shouldn’t be “burdened” with the vote: 1915

The arguments against the full participation of women in society are intriguing. This anti-women’s suffrage poster, from 1915,  places full female participation in society in opposition to male participation, as if one will cause the downfall of the other. In fact, ironically, that argument is no more true than within today’s male-only ordination, which has forced many women out of the Church over many years.

The poster’s patronising arguments are not so different to those of today, when women are told that they are not made of the right stuff.

Why women shouldn’t be “burdened” with the vote: 1915 – Boing Boing.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in politics, sociology

 

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A reply to Pr John Kleinig

 

australian lutheran college

Australian Lutheran College, Nth Adelaide

Pr John Kleinig, who is possibly the LCA’s key figure in opposing women’s ordination, has had a significant influence over Seminary (male) students, and therefore over the LCA.   His influence at ALC, along with that of Pr Andrew Pfeiffer, is highly strategic within the LCA, in the continued denial of women’s call to the ordained ministry.

While Kleinig is a highly respected theologian in traditional quarters, his loyalty to Luther’s courage of questioning Catholic status quo has no such credibility.   Kleinig has little enthusiasm for the Protestant tradition of grappling with continued revelation of Gospel truth.  Rather, his approach is one of elevating and delving deeper into tradition, focussing on fatherhood, and in doing so, hoping to find reason that contemporary Christians should forego modern means of worship and changing attitudes to groups in society.  Kleinig, not unlike the Amish, clings to traditions from ages past and gives them a status that Luther surely never intended.  Sadly, he has done a disservice to the LCA in its struggle to maintain relevance with contemporary society and its ever decreasing numbers in congregations and support for mission.

The following paper, Is the ordination of women church divisive? shows Kleinig’s approach to doctrinal matters and how he works for unity with Catholic tradition rather than honour those women who are called to serve as pastors within the LCA.

The reprinted paper below has my comments interspersed.

IS THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN CHURCH DIVISIVE?

John W Kleinig (date unknown)

1.     Confessionally speaking, it is true that those who advocate the ordination of women are not heretics. They may teach false doctrine, but they do not deny the Triune God and so sever themselves from the body of Christ.

K+M: No, those advocating women’s ordination do not teach false doctrine. In 1999 the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships (CTICR) found, with a 2/3 majority, after a decade of study, that there was no theological objections to the ordination of women.  Again in 2006, with a 2/3 majority they reached the same conclusion.

2.     They do not thereby deny the teaching of our Lutheran confessions, but they do reject the confessional basis of the LCA as contained in the TA. On this level such a move would be divisive, for it would separate those who are committed to this as the confessional and legal basis for the LCA and its ministry from those who had departed from it.

K+M: Each denomination which has ordained women has stories to tell of the threats of church division prior to the event.  The reality is, when women are ordained, that they become a blessing for the church, often in the context of male systemic and domestic violence, and opponents are mostly won over.

3.     Ecumenically, it would be divisive in two ways. It would separate the LCA from the church catholic and the orthodox tradition from the early church until modern times. We would therefore move away from those churches which adhered to that tradition and align ourselves with unorthodox Protestant groups. We would ourselves forfeit the right to be catholic and become a sect. We would, of course, thereby separate ourselves from those Lutheran and Protestant churches which continued to uphold the orthodox teaching on ministry and the catholic practice of it.

K+M: It seems to me that this is the crux of Kleinig’s objection.  It is his heart-felt conviction that the Catholic tradition is something that we need to return to.  The question for the rest of us is whether or not we wish to become Catholics or adhere to the tradition that Luther laid out before us.

4.     It would inevitably lead to divisions within each congregation of the LCA. Every call meeting would lead to a battle between those who wanted to call a woman and those who did not. If a congregation did appoint a woman as a pastor, those who conscientiously rejected her authority would either have to leave or stay away from any services led by her. Every woman pastor would constantly face theological challenges to her authority from her opponents and so need to justify her position in the congregation.

K+M: The experience of other churches is that initial reservations are mostly overcome in the first few years through the pastoral care that these women give in times of need.

She in turn would be unable to exercise proper pastoral authority to maintain the divine unity of the congregation.

K+M: Pastoral authority is not male authority.  It is that given by the crucified Jesus, based on love and forgiveness.  Gender logic is a strange thing.  It is exclusive language, deeming women to ‘otherness’ and thereby disallowing them any right of reply.  ‘Otherness’ can play no part in Christianity.  It may play a part in patriarchy, tradition and conservatism, and certainly does play a part in sexism, racism, and homophobia, but it can never play a part in Christianity, where Jesus lays his life down for each of us in order that we are all brought to the fullness of new life and empowerment in the risen Christ.

5.     It would be liturgically and sacramentally divisive. Those who rejected the ordination of women would not in good conscience receive the sacrament from a woman pastor. They would therefore be excluded by the church from the sacrament and the fellowship created by participation in it. If they did receive the sacrament from her, they would do so with a bad or uneasy conscience, for they could not be sure that the sacrament was valid, since, for them, it had not been administered as Christ had commanded. They would therefore be deprived of its comfort and subject to the accusation and condemnation of the evil one.

K+M: Once again other churches would beg to differ. In the end the issue is not a liturgical or sacramental division but one of culture and tradition.  There are endless stories from those who can attest to the comfort received and the grace conveyed through women clergy.  The matter is an experiential one, where one at a time we experience Christ through the witness of a woman in a pastoral position, and one at a time are convinced of God’s calling to women.

6.     It would be synodically divisive. If a woman became a president, all the pastors who opposed the ordination of women would either refuse to recognise her or leave that district. People who rejected the ordination of women could not participate in any synodical service where a woman was giving the absolution, preaching, or presiding at communion. It would lead to the withdrawal of congregations from synod and the establishment of independent congregations – perhaps even districts- opposed to this doctrine and practice.

K+M: While there are many clergy who oppose women’s ordination, this is in no small way due to the influence that Kleinig and Pfeiffer have had at ALC over many years.  I understand that Kleinig has considerable charisma and influence, which would make it challenging for any student to resist his influence over years. It is interesting to note that Pfeiffer was theologically progressive before studying at Fort Wayne Lutheran Seminary, Missouri Synod, in the USA.  On his return to Australia, his theology was that of the conservative Missouri Synod.

Kleinig was also ‘outed’ on the anti-women strategies used when one of his letters to a Missouri Synod group was published on the internet, revealing the manipulation that had occurred at Pastor’s Conference in 2006.

It is not surprising that there may be synodical division, but Kleinig and Pfeiffer will need to take some responsibility for that.  Congregational withdrawals from the LCA may be inevitable.  If we ordain women some congregations may withdraw, and if we refuse to ordain women some congregations may withdraw.  We will need to deal with that, but as the years pass members will find the grace of God is conveyed as efficaciously as before and perhaps, even more so because the majority of our membership are women, who often communicate more deeply with another woman.

There should be no compromise on women as presidents or bishops.  To do so is having a bet each way on God’s grace.  If there is no objection to female clergy there can be no objection to female presidents.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.  We’d love to get your comment.

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Posted by on November 12, 2010 in sociology, theology

 

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