Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

Courageous Voices: WMN Conference 2002

More than a hundred people gathered at Concordia College on January 11th
and 12th to hear and respond to the many courageous voices which have
spoken words of encouragement and challenge, comfort and compassion as they
brought the message of the resurrection and redemption to communities over
the centuries.

The opening service on Friday night prepared us for our journey of
reflection and remembrance through a moving series of dramatic
presentations interwoven with music and prayers. We were introduced to the
witness of Argula von Grumbach (1492-?1554), the Protestant Reformation’s
first woman theologian and author, through an impassioned re-enactment of
her challenge to Catholic theologians concerning their repressive treatment
of a young student at the University of Ingolstadt who had publicly
supported the teachings of Luther.

Candles were lit as each voice from the past and present was brought before
us. We were reminded of Julian of Norwich, an anchoress remarkable for the
depth of insight and understanding in her writings; of Hulda the prophet of
Israel in 621BC, consulted by the priests and the King in 1 Kings 22:11-221 Kings 22:11-22
English: World English Bible - WEB

11 Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron, and said, Thus says Yahweh, With these shall you push the Syrians, until they be consumed. 12 All the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper; for Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king. 13 The messenger who went to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, See now, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one mouth: please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak you good. 14 Micaiah said, As Yahweh lives, what Yahweh says to me, that will I speak. 15 When he was come to the king, the king said to him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? He answered him, Go up and prosper; and Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king. 16 The king said to him, How many times shall I adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh? 17 He said, I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and Yahweh said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace. 18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Didn’t I tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil? 19 Micaiah said, Therefore hear you the word of Yahweh: I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20 Yahweh said, Who shall entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? One said on this manner; and another said on that manner. 21 There came forth a spirit, and stood before Yahweh, and said, I will entice him. 22 Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ He said, ‘You shall entice him, and shall prevail also: go forth, and do so.’

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for a message from the Lord, the God of Israel; of Angelina Igwo, our
contemporary and a leader in the Kenyan Evangelical Lutheran Church, who
chose teaching as a profession and started schools in Mombasa in
circumstances which would daunt most of us; of Hildegard of Bingen
(1098-1179), now famous for her theology of music, but respected for her
preaching which so moved those who heard her that church leaders asked for
texts of her sermons! There were many more voices from the past and the
present that were heard again and then drawn together by Merna Thamm who
said, “I have been privileged to listen to many voices along the way and I
would like to acknowledge these. ” Kathrin Koning then invited us to
acknowledge and share with each other the courageous voices which have
challenged and encouraged us throughout our lives. We thought upon these
things as we lit our candles and moved out into the world singing

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts,
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Priscilla Singh presented a thoughtful and inspiring keynote address on
Saturday morning. From her opening greeting, ” I bring you a wealth of good
wishes from the LWF Secretariat and from the millions of Lutheran women in
the communion spread in 72 countries among 133 member churches”, to her
reminder that we are a part of this “glorious cloud of witnesses past and
present” and her invitation to us to “lend continuity to women’s diverse
ministries in and through the church that we all love and cherish” she
challenged us not only to listen to the voices but to respond with equal
commitment. Priscilla compared the courage it took for Mary to say “Yes” to
God’s calling of her to give birth to the Messiah with the courage of
modern Marys who call us to confront issues of justice. Our voices should
be raised for the underside of history and not balk from the volatile, the
controversial and the political.

The ministry of the Women in Church and Society desk of the Lutheran World
Federation is very much about doing what needs to be done and can be done,
day in and day out, not waiting for an invitation but asking God for
guidance. One aspect of this work is putting gender into the agenda of the
church in church practices and also in the building of an open and trustful
community of women and men . Priscilla focused on the LWF report into
violence against women in her afternoon workshop. The document “Churches
say NO to violence against women” was based on reports from 75 teams who
were sent out from LWF into as many different countries as possible: it
recognises that violence is rife throughout the world and that it violates
the image of God in both the perpetrator and the victim. Several
governments have shown interest in this document because of the issues it
raises and suggested ways of dealing with violence.

The perfect Adelaide summer weather enhanced our outdoor morning tea and
lunch breaks in the Concordia College courtyard and allowed us to renew old
friendships and forge new ones between the sessions. Food for the body was
followed by food for the mind and spirit with the Bible study “Questions
from an Empty Tomb” where we explored the story of the women who had the
courage to go to the tomb and to overcome the protocols of the time to
reveal the truth of the resurrection.

The plethora of choices for the afternoon workshop sessions was a cause for
celebration and concern – what to choose when so much of interest was on
offer? Geraldine Avent looked at Women in the Scriptures while Alan
Cadwallader, a lecturer in New Testament at Adelaide College of Divinity,
was more specific in leading an exploration of the women in the Pauline
community. The brother and sister team of Heidi Smith and Tim Muller asked
how Lutherans talk and sing about Christ and reflected on the place of
Christ in the Trinity. Graham Harms wanted to “get it right” through
reading the Bible for what is there rather than what we hope is there and
Vic Pfitzner surveyed the key texts and issues in the debate over the
ordination of women. There were fourteen workshops in total, including
Spiritual Companioning, The Modern Quest for Spirituality, Generations
Sharing the Spirit, The Anglican Experience of Women’s Ordination, Woman
and Man, (not yet) One in Christ Jesus, Church Leadership, Educating our
Women’s Groups Lionel Otto, in From Inside Out to Outside In, who sought to
examine and understand changes and our response to them.

The peace of the evening fitted the Closing Worship where we heard again
Jesus speaking words of forgiveness and we spoke the response of faith and
received food for the journey. Robin and Dorothy Mann used their gifts to
teach us their latest song, Courageous Voices, in which they celebrated the
Courageous Voices speaking out,
Speaking in the face of fear and danger,
Trusting in the One who was to come into the world.

‘This conference was a great opportunity to reflect, understand and unite
us with those witnesses so that we speak with one voice and realize our
longings, hopes and aspirations for the Church” (Priscilla Singh). We were
blessed by the great team work which went into the planning and
organization and which made the Second Women’s Ministry Network conference
a success.

Shirley Schubert
Pilgrim Lutheran Congregation
Magill, SA

Origins of WMN

At Luther Seminary, Adelaide from April 12-14, 1991 the Facing Injustice Today Workshop was held. Amongst the resolutions from the Women’s Workshop group were the following:

  • A Women’s Support Network be established in each District that encourages and supports women to be involved on committees, decision-making bodies and in roles from which they are currently excluded at congregational, district and national level.

Read more »

A Church for All Times is a Church for Our Times

Sally Chandler delivered the keynote address at the All Saints conference in Indooroopilly, Queensland, 2/11/2012.  It is reproduced here …

GREETINGS: thank you for the invitation- privilege to be invited back and an honor to give the keynote address. I congratulate Peter and those who had the courage to resist the censorship which has been invoked on this topic. It is hard to believe that our church would restrict our basic right to freedom of speech and the right to exchange ideas on what are essentially theological and human rights issues. Trying to silence the people and prohibition has never been a very successful strategy. Read more »

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