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High stakes in October 2018 at the LCA General Convention

Women’s ordination is again on the agenda at the LCA national general convention in Sydney (Oct 2018).  It’s been around for generations and has repeatedly been turned down, needing to achieve two-thirds of the vote at General Convention.

While many have already left the LCA in search of a more tolerant and inclusive denomination there may be huge ramifications in October if the LCA again refuses to ordain women.

When Lutheran school teachers from Australia and NZ met in Adelaide (2017), one of the guest speakers was Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber from the ELCA (USA).   She was an inspirational speaker, providing encouragement for those struggling to remain within this denomination that has persisted in excluding women from leadership.

It’s humorous to recount that when she visited Australia on an earlier occasion, certain conservative clergy sneered at the thought that Nadia might have something to offer them in the way of preaching.  After all, she’s just a woman.  No, she’s not just a woman. She is a gifted woman with a powerful story, who brings many gifts because she is a woman.   She is a woman who happens to be clergy and she has a well-honed ability to preach the good news of God coming to live amongst us.  Coming to share God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s justice, God’s compassion  – all for those struggling in life in one way or another.

The response to Nadia Bolz-Weber was remarkable.  Many people were moved to tears and after her presentations the applause persisted and persisted. She answered questions that related some despair on the matter of women’s ordination.  No doubt there were individuals present who didn’t believe that women should be ordained, but we believe the response was an indication of what the people of the LCA think.

Australia’s contentious same-sex marriage survey was acted upon by Parliament in 2017.  Majority approval resulted in new legislation – contentious, yes, but that’s how it has to be to retain social stability. The alternatives are abusive and elitist, where those with power rule over those who have been marginalised.

There must be more evident democratic processes within the Church.  The majority view of the people should be enshrined in Church legislation. Currently an oligarchy and less than 40% of those voting at Synod, and logically (and generally speaking) the oldest and most conservative sector of the Church, have imposed their theology and their world view on the rest of the denomination – a recipe for revolution.  While some might argue that we have a theocracy that rules and protects our constitution, this is a fallacious argument as Church funding and the means for its very existence comes from individuals and congregations which ultimately can choose to withdraw that support.

Assuming no change of the voting proportion at the General Convention this year, these are the results of this theocratic gerrymander:

  • young people, other individuals and families gradually disappear from congregations and committees. (It has been happening for a long time.) Gradually, members, along with children and grand-children see no reason to continue to support a denomination that does not reflect God’s love or Biblical scholarship.
  • some progressive Church leaders leave the LCA, unable to remain in a denomination that pays no heed to God’s word on this matter. No one wants to live the rest of their life in a denomination that has lost its way.
  • with the loss of these individuals and families, the Church inevitably becomes more conservative and more out of touch with society.
  • some progressive congregations choose to break away from the LCA, no longer able to support an institution that continues to deny the need for democratic representation.
  • as the Church continues to lean right and away from social norms, rather than having more influence throughout its supposed faithfulness, the Church has less credibility in the manner it attempts to reveal God’s grace.
  • with the continued absence of women from leadership and reinforced male perspectives on relationships and power, the structures of domestic violence are strengthened.
  • women’s voice is reduced at all personal and committee levels of congregations, districts and national governance.
  • women are increasingly confined to gender-roles within the Church as men are lauded and women are disempowered.
  • the Church experiences a pious subjugation of women, with Scripture being used as a tool of subjugation, not dissimilar to the manner in which slavery was justified. Southern Baptist theologies come to mind.
  • general LCA theology leans further to the right on all matters, further alienating members who are engaged with society and grappling with evolving issues of justice and compassion.
  • the ensuing legalism and entrenched conservatism will have the LCA creeping closer to the sect-like Missouri Synod, and further away from the ELCA.
  • the decline of the LCA increases as congregations close.
  • the voice of the LCA becomes less significant on all matters.
  • the LCA becomes a small, insignificant denomination that retains just members who have been indoctrinated into a socially conservative view of the world, such as the Amish or Mennonites.

Without women’s ordination, without engaging with today’s issues and without something a little closer to democratic representation, the death or torpor of the LCA is assured.

On the other hand the LCA might embrace God’s ongoing creation and revelation, ordain women and have a decent go at speaking and living God’s word.

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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in theology, women's ordination

 

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Theocracy or Democracy?

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee. National Museum of Australia.

Women’s Suffrage League secretary, Mary Lee – co-founder in South Australia. National Museum of Australia.

The National Museum of Australia reports on the passing of legislation in South Australia granting women the vote and the right to stand for Parliament on 18 December 1894.  That makes it over 122 years that South Australia was the first electorate in the world to give equal political rights to both men and women.  This is even more surprising when remembering that it was only 14 years earlier, in 1880, that women were permitted to undertake degrees ref.  The systemic/structural barriers to women’s participation in colonial Australia are hard to imagine from this vantage point. Sadly we have their echoes in the Lutheran Church of Australia today.

Today the Lutheran Church of Australia (with its historical home in South Australia), is among the last in the world to recognise women as equally gifted and equally capable of pastoral leadership. The following was one of the arguments against women’s suffrage on the Museum’s page.

Many parliamentarians felt that women were not emotionally or intellectually capable of properly participating in politics. Others also felt that women were stepping outside their traditional roles and that giving them the vote would undermine a husband’s position in the family. Ref

The social restrictions on women were broad and central to all existence.  The restrictions were based on a foundational belief that women were incapable of taking part in society on the same basis as men, and were often based on fear that women would compete with men.  Rather than face any competition they chose to legislate against women’s participation.

In the 19th century, Australian women had very few legal rights. Once married, these rights were further limited as they were transferred to her husband. Married women surrendered all property to their husbands and any wages earned. Husbands were the sole legal guardian of any children from a marriage and could remove them from a mother’s care at any time, even bequeathing their care to other people in their will.

Before the 1870s, women were not able to file for a divorce and, even after legislation was changed in the 1880s, it was still difficult. Rates of abandonment were high and deserted women were usually forced to find paid work that paid up to two thirds less than a man for doing the same job.

Without the support of a trade union they often suffered unsafe and unregulated working environments in the sweated clothing trades. Trade unions resisted women’s involvement in the workforce, believing it would drive down rates of pay for men.

This 19th Century reasoning sounds rather like the arguments today against women’s ordination.  However, today in the LCA, we’re not even playing by the same democratic rules of the 19th Century.  It takes much more than 50% of the vote of the people for  women’s ordination and clergy have a disproportionate voice and vote.  Clergy have often proudly asserted that the LCA is not a democracy.  Instead we have to suffer the condescension of the system and its clergy who have deemed that laity should not have an equal voice nor vote at the national Synod.

Isn’t it time that the LCA debate whether it wishes to stay a theocracy (def: a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission) or whether it wishes to work as a democracy, respectfully valuing the voice of the laity?

 

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Mixed news on women’s ordination in the Lutheran church around the world

While 80 % of LWF member churches ordain women, the Lutheran Church in Latvia decides to rescind it’s practice of ordaining women. This sounds surprisingly like the Australian Presbyterian Church some decades back.  The opening sentences of two separate articles are listed below.

Namibian Lutheran pastor Rev. Lyauvika Nashuuta distributes the sacrament at the closing worship of the 2015 international Global Young Reformers’ Network workshop in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/Marko Schoeneberg

Namibian Lutheran pastor Rev. Lyauvika Nashuuta distributes the sacrament at the closing worship of the 2015 international Global Young Reformers’ Network workshop in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/Marko Schoeneberg

“Survey affirms move towards a more inclusive ministry

“(LWI) – More than 80 percent of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches ordain women to the ministry of word and sacrament, a recent survey shows.

“The findings indicate that 119 of the 145 LWF member churches or 82 percent across the seven regions ordain women, compared to 77 percent in 2012. In four of the seven regions—Central Western Europe, Nordic countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America—all of the churches ordain women. … (more)

The Lutheran Church of Australia, which excludes women from ordained ministry, has chosen not to become a member of the LWF.

Latvian Synod rescinds its inclusion of women in ministry

“On 3 June the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) voted in favor of a motion to change its constitution, restricting service in the ordained ministry to men only. … (more)

No information is given on the background to the decision.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in theology

 

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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.

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

 

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The fragile of stance of fundamentalism

While this site has been in support of women’s ordination we cannot remain silent on how the LCA currently treats LGBTQs. The Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions has been studying the issue for some years, which indicates that there are plenty of nuances and Biblical threads to unravel. Choosing particular verses from Scripture will surely find evidence that homosexuality is wrong but then there’s plenty of other texts of terror in there as well.  We need time to work out how to decipher such texts.

We have had ample time to consider women’s ordination and we see that a few verses condemning women to servitude are not the key theme for women at all in the Bible.  In fact there is a very strong narrative of women providing pastoral and prophetic leadership in New Testament days.

Kim Davis, the USA official who refused to grant marriage licences to gay couples, uses Scripture passages to justify her stance, although she is currently serving time in prison for her refusal to enact USA law. The following old West Wing clip shows the shaky ground we are on when throwing Scripture verses around.  A thorough exegesis is required on any delicate matter.  What verses do you choose to use?  What verses do you choose to ignore?

The video has been re-badged as an answer to Kim Davis thinking.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in theology

 

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The growing list of Lutheran churches ordaining women

In 2012, we first posted the incomplete list of Lutheran Churches which ordain women. We have now updated the list but it is still a long way from being complete. Can you help us?

 

1926 The Netherlands – Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Nederland ordains female priests
1927 Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany accepts Pfarrhelferinnen (Assistants to Priests), 1930s woman Vicars. In Eastern part of  Germany women took over more and more as actual priests during WW2, and remained so after  the war.
1930(estimation) Germany – Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover
1960 Women priests in West Germany and 1978 total equality with male priests.
Before 1938 Lutheran Church in Austria Vicars
1948 Denmark – Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark
1948 The Lutherans in Schlesia
1951 Slovakia — The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession
1960 Sweden – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden
1961 Norway – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norway
1964 Belgium – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium
1970’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
1974 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland
1986/88 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
1988 Indonesian Lutheran Church
2000 The Church of Pakistan ordained its first women deacons. It is a united church which dates back to the 1970 local merger of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestants
2000 USA (South Carolina) – ordained women at its inception
2001 Ethiopia – Ethiopian Lutheran Church ordains women
2002 Central African Republic
2004 Taiwan – Lutheran Church of Taiwan ordains first women pastors
2005 Zambia – Zambian Lutheran Church ordains first female pastors.
2006 Norway – Evangelical Free Church of Norway (a nationwide Lutheran Church) ordains its first female pastors.
2008 – The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  15 out of the 16 LWF member churches in the Latin American and Caribbean region now ordain women – dates yet to be determined
2009 Mexican Lutheran Church
2009 Cameroon Lutheran Church.
2011 The South Andhra Lutheran Church (SALC) in India ordained its first women pastors on 12 January
2012 Cameroon – Evangelical Lutheran Church ordains first women ministers.
2014 Lutheran Church in Chile ordains its first woman pastor. Link Link2

It is our understanding that in 2000 over 90 Lutheran Churches worldwide ordained women.  We are waiting confirmation of details.

Women Bishops (some of them)
1993 Church of Norway – First woman bishop Link
1997 Church of Sweden – Christina Odenberg
2001 Evangelical Church of Bremen – Margot Käßmann
2003: The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (GCEPC) USA — Nancy K. Drew
2007: Evangelical Lutheran Church in CanadaSusan Johnson
2009 Great Britain – First woman bishop of Lutheran Church of Great Britain is consecrated
2009: Evangelical Church in Central GermanyIlse Junkermann
2010: Evangelical Lutheran Church of FinlandIrja Askola
2011 Hong Kong – Jenny Chan installed as Bishop of Lutheran Church of Hong Kong
2011: North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran ChurchKirsten Fehrs
2011: Evangelical Church of WestphaliaAnnette Kurschus, titled praeses
2012: Church of IcelandAgnes M. Sigurðardóttir. Link1  Link2 (in language)
2012: Church of DenmarkTine Lindhardt
2012 ELCA Alaska Synod installs first woman bishop
2013: Evangelical Lutheran Church of AmericaElizabeth Eaton

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in sociology, theology

 

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Jimmy Carter on how male church leaders have overwhelmingly interpreted Scripture

President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter

Some cultures are humble enough to acknowledge that they have exploited, abused and murdered indigenous peoples.

Some churches have the honesty to admit that their actions have been abusive and that they have not done the will of God.

Some men are able to stand outside their gender privilege and proclaim the injustice of how women are treated.

Jimmy Carter, you are a blessing to all humanity.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in theology, women's ordination

 

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