Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

Ordination of women in the LCA – Yes or No?

Introduction

On July 24 and 25, 1998, a symposium was held at Luther Seminary (now Australian Lutheran College), Adelaide, South Australia on the question whether also women should be admitted to the public office of the ordained ministry of word and sacrament. The aim of presentations and workshops at this event was to clarify issues in the debate at present being conducted in the Lutheran Church of Australia, under the guidance of the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations (CTICR). There was no intention to reach any conclusions during the symposium.

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1 Corinthians 14:33b-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women

Peter Kriewaldt, Geelong North, Vic

It goes without saying that Jesus elevated the status of women. He regarded them as equal members of the community and encouraged them to study the Scriptures. Jesus broke with Judaism, which did not allow women to learn God’s word.

Therefore it is highly significant that Jesus entrusted the oversight of the church to men only, and that the apostles appointed only males leaders in the church. Indeed, Paul says that women are to be silent in the churches, not speak, be in submission, and not teach or have authority over the male leaders. Clement of Rome, writing in the first century, records that Jesus gave precise instructions to his apostles how only proven men should continue the office of the Ministry after the apostles died (1 Clement 42:1-4).

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Paul, the Mission to Jews, and Women in the Churches

Victor C. Pfitzner, Luther Seminary

Consensus and dissent: an historical preface

The ‘Theses on the Office of the Ministry’, adopted in 1950 by the Joint Intersynodical Committees of the two Lutheran churches prior to union (1966), reflected a solid consensus. A woman could not be called into the office of the public ministry (Theses of Agreement VII, 11; DSTO 1989: A13). Scriptural support for this position was supplied by simple reference to 1 Corinthians 14:34,351 Corinthians 14:34,35
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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and 1 Timothy 2:11-141 Timothy 2:11-14
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11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience;

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. Exegetical notes and theological argumentation were not necessary; there was no controversy on the matter.

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1 Timothy 2:11,12: Total Ban or Local Restriction?

Peter F. Lockwood, Luther Seminary

Introduction

From the time of the early church 1 Timothy 2:8-151 Timothy 2:8-15
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8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. 9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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has been widely regarded as a clear prohibition of the ordination of women. That is the official position of the LCA. In raising the issue of women’s ordination afresh, our church’s theology commission is eager to reexamine the relevant texts, treating them with due seriousness as the authoritative word of God for church and society today. When Lutherans read the Bible we are committed to asking two questions: What does this text say, and what does the text mean for us today? First the text has to be explained and understood. This is the task of exegesis. Then it has to be applied to the current situation in church and society. This is the task of hermeneutics. We resist the widespread practice of lifting texts out of context and applying them without reflection to the issues and questions of today. The Bible is not a reservoir of proof texts to bolster personal positions.

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A Contribution from the Lutheran Confessions in the Discussion on the Ordination of Women

Pastor Andrew Pfeiffer, Luther Seminary

Introduction

Rarely, if ever, has a case been made for or against the ordination of women solely on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions. Scripture is the absolute authority in the Lutheran Church. The Confessions have a secondary and supportive authority, rather than a primary and foundational one.

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The Abuse and Use of the Distinction Between Law and Gospel in the Debate on the Ordination of Women

John G. Strelan, Port MacQuarie, NSW

Our starting point is the opening sentence of the article on law and gospel in the Formula of Concord:

The distinction between law and gospel is an especially brilliant light which serves the purpose that the word of God may be rightly divided and the writings of the holy prophets and apostles may be explained and understood correctly.

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The Ordination of Women and the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity

John W. Kleinig, Luther Seminary

Do we realise what we would be letting ourselves in for if we ordained women? In his book What will happen to God?, W. Oddie makes this provocative claim (26):

Women’s ordination. . . is thought of by many of those most committed to achieving it as a means of installing immovably, in the permanent structures of the church itself, a permanent shift in the Christian tradition : to ordain women as priests will be to change at its foundations our idea of God. And this is no intemperate and unfounded accusation but. . . an ambition coolly announced by the most substantial feminist writers. It may be that this ambition should be achieved; but it is right that Christian people should at least know what many of those who are seeking to bring about the change really intend.

He holds that the main change would be to the teaching on the fatherhood of God. This would, of course, result in the radical reconstruction of many other areas of doctrine.

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The Development of Doctrine and the Ordination of Women

Dr Mark Worthing, Luther Seminary

Some time ago I was reading an article advocating the ordination of women which left me somewhat troubled. It was not the idea of women serving in a ministry of Word and Sacrament that concerned me – that is, I believe an open question at present and one that needs to be addressed. What concerned me, rather, was what appeared to be an incidental remark concerning the historic position of the church on this question. Conceding that the Church does not appear to have ordained women in the past, it was suggested that the church had been in error and upholding a sinful practice for the last two millennia by restricting the office of Word and Sacrament to men.

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Post-modernism, Feminist Theology, the Authority of Scripture, and the Issue of the Ordination of Women

Norma Koehne, Warnambool, Vic

Introduction

The issue of the ordination of women, which is now being widely discussed in the L.C.A., is one that I, as an educated lay person, see as touching on one of the key concepts of the Reformation, the sola scriptura. Where does the church find its doctrine, its evaluation of current philosophical trends, its grappling with social issues? Not from the current and fleeting trends, but through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, from scripture itself. I was appalled when I recently heard that a theologian was supposed to have said that the Holy Spirit can speak to us from feminist ideas and the feminist movement. As we look at some of the fundamental ideas of the feminist movement you will understand this reaction.

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The Leadership Role of Women in the Early Eastern Church

Wendy Mayer, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane

Before we can tackle the issue of leadership by women in the early church there are several issues that need to be dealt with. The first and most important is that history is almost always written by the dominant party, with the consequence that what survives has a strong bias towards the winner’s point of view. It is also an inescapable fact that the Christian factions that have been dominant in both east and west for these past two millennia have been patriarchal (that is, male dominated) and that we therefore necessarily observe women throughout the history of the church largely through the eyes of men. In addition to these factors, there is also the problem that what was said is not necessarily what was done. In other words, not only is the evidence usually written by men from the winning factions in Christianity (that is, those who followed the Nicene creed), but what is written often represents only their opinion of what should have occurred and does not necessarily reflect reality.
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