Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

GOSPEL NOT GENDER

The ministry is about the salvation of all people, not the gender of the pastor
God instituted the ministry so that people could be brought to faith through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments (Augsburg Confession 5). Pastors are servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries (1 Cor 4:11 Cor 4:1
English: World English Bible - WEB

4 1 So let a man think of us as Christ’s servants, and stewards of God’s mysteries.

WP-Bible plugin
), their office and role arising from nothing else and nothing less than God’s desire that everyone be saved (1 Tim 2:41 Tim 2:4
English: World English Bible - WEB

4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.

WP-Bible plugin
).The servanthood of pastors is gender-free
The Lutheran doctrine of the ministry directs attention away from the minister to Christ who serves and shepherds the flock through his called and ordained representatives. When disciples’ minds were preoccupied with thoughts of authority and leadership, Jesus showed that he was among them as one who serves (Luke 22:27Luke 22:27
English: World English Bible - WEB

27 For who is greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves? Isn’t it he who sits at the table? But I am in the midst of you as one who serves.

WP-Bible plugin
; John 13:14John 13:14
English: World English Bible - WEB

14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

WP-Bible plugin
). As servant first and foremost, the pastor’s role is totally gender inclusive.

Pastors represent Christ incarnate as a human, not Christ the male
Lutherans claim that the authority the pastor has is the authority of the office, which is the authority of the word of God, not the authority of the pastor by virtue of qualities such as celibacy (a major issue at the time of the Reformation) or gender (the issue now). It is the Lutheran understanding that pastors stand in the place of Christ (in persona Christi, Luke 10:16Luke 10:16
English: World English Bible - WEB

16 Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me. Whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

WP-Bible plugin
). In the incarnation Christ became fully human. Both men and women are made in the image of God, but Jesus is the image of God par excellence. The most effective way for the pastorate to reflect Jesus Christ, the true image of God, to the church, is by including both men and women in the ranks of the pastorate.

Paul’s Jewish readers
It is important to remember that Paul’s words about the silence and submission of women (1 Cor 14:34,351 Cor 14:34,35
English: World English Bible - WEB

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.

WP-Bible plugin
; 1 Tim 2:11-151 Tim 2:11-15
English: World English Bible - WEB

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.

WP-Bible plugin
) were addressed to people who were brought up as Jews. It is widely acknowledged that Paul worked first and foremost among his own Jewish people, even though he is called the apostle to the gentiles. For Jewish folk it was unthinkable for a woman even to become the disciple of a rabbi, let alone a rabbi, or teacher, in her own right. But Paul encouraged them to learn, to become disciples. Allowing them to teach would have brought the church into disrepute and hindered the spread of the gospel. Paul’s primary concern was that the good news of Jesus spread among those like himself who had been raised as Jews (1 Cor 9:201 Cor 9:20
English: World English Bible - WEB

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law;

WP-Bible plugin
); and at that time it was shameful for Jewish women to take a leading and teaching role in worship (1 Cor 14:351 Cor 14:35
English: World English Bible - WEB

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.

WP-Bible plugin
).

Paul’s words about women are the words of Paul the pastor, not Paul the apostle
At Corinth and Ephesus (Timothy was a pastor at Ephesus) it appears that women believed that the gospel freed them to join the men in leading worship. In calling them to be silent and submissive, Paul is giving pastoral advice for a specific time and place, not apostolic rules for the church of all time. First, neither text speaks of the ruling applying till Jesus returns. Secondly, when the word translated as to permit is used elsewhere in the New Testament, it applies only to one off situations (eg Mark 5:12,13Mark 5:12,13
English: World English Bible - WEB

12 All the demons begged him, saying, “Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them.” 13 At once Jesus gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they were drowned in the sea.

WP-Bible plugin
cf 1 Cor 14:341 Cor 14:34
English: World English Bible - WEB

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.

WP-Bible plugin
; 1 Tim 2:121 Tim 2:12
English: World English Bible - WEB

12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness.

WP-Bible plugin
). The same is true here; the command only applies for the time being and to avoid offence (Augsburg Confession 28). In the same way, the apostles and the Holy Spirit prohibited the early church from eating meat with blood in it (Acts 15:28,29Acts 15:28,29
English: World English Bible - WEB

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.”

WP-Bible plugin
), another command designed to protect Jewish sensitivities, a command whose force lapsed after a short time. And thirdly, each of the texts we have traditionally used to forbid women from becoming pastors speaks of acceptable behaviour for Jewish-Christian believers at the time of writing (see especially 1 Tim 2:91 Tim 2:9
English: World English Bible - WEB

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;

WP-Bible plugin
). Sensitivities are totally different as we enter the 21st century. Today people are offended by practices that exclude women from positions in society at large and in the church. These practices restrict the gospel’s free course.

The spirit continues to break down barriers
Males and females are equal before God, because they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28Genesis 1:26-28
English: World English Bible - WEB

26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

WP-Bible plugin
). Paul says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female (Galatians 3:28Galatians 3:28
English: World English Bible - WEB

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

WP-Bible plugin
). But the social implications of this biblical truth are only worked out slowly and painfully. Greeks (foreigners) were made equals of the Jews at the time of the New Testament (Acts 15), the slave trade ended in England in the late eighteenth century thanks to Wilberforce and Pitt, and the 20th century saw the emancipation of women. The Holy Spirit leads the church into all truth (John 16:13John 16:13
English: World English Bible - WEB

13 However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.

WP-Bible plugin
).

Women as Jesus’ true disciples
Numerous texts make it clear that Jesus shocked his contemporaries by his equal treatment of women (eg Mark 7:24-30; 14:3-9Mark 7:24-30; 14:3-9
English: World English Bible - WEB

24 From there he arose, and went away into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He entered into a house, and didn’t want anyone to know it, but he couldn’t escape notice. 25 For a woman, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, having heard of him, came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by race. She begged him that he would cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord. Yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 He said to her, “For this saying, go your way. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 She went away to her house, and found the child having been laid on the bed, with the demon gone out. 3 While he was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard— very costly. She broke the jar, and poured it over his head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, saying, “Why has this ointment been wasted? 5 For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, 300 denarii was about a years wages for an agricultural laborer. and given to the poor.” They grumbled against her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying. 9 Most assuredly I tell you, wherever this Gospel may be preached throughout the whole world, that which this woman has done will also be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

WP-Bible plugin
; Luke 10:38-42Luke 10:38-42
English: World English Bible - WEB

38 It happened as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.” 41 Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

WP-Bible plugin
; John 4:27-42; 11:17-27; 20:16-18John 4:27-42; 11:17-27; 20:16-18
English: World English Bible - WEB

27 At this, his disciples came. They marveled that he was speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What are you looking for?” or, “Why do you speak with her?” 28 So the woman left her water pot, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything that I did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to him. 31 In the meanwhile, the disciples urged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” 33 The disciples therefore said one to another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Don’t you say, ‘There are yet four months until the harvest?’ Behold, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit to eternal life; that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you haven’t labored. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman, who testified, “He told me everything that I did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” 17 So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia 15 stadia is about 2.8 kilometers or 1.7 miles away. 19 Many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Therefore Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet will he live. 26 Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, he who comes into the world.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rhabbouni!” which is to say, “Teacher!” 17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t touch me, for I haven’t yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers, and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her.

WP-Bible plugin
). But far more than that: when the male disciples failed to understand the central role the cross was to play in Jesus’ ministry, and thought of discipleship as leading to positions of honour and glory, it was the women who understood that discipleship meant total self-giving in service to God and the neighbour (Mark 8:34-38Mark 8:34-38
English: World English Bible - WEB

34 He called the multitude to himself with his disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

WP-Bible plugin
; see Mark 12:41-44; 14:3-9Mark 12:41-44; 14:3-9
English: World English Bible - WEB

41 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and saw how the multitude cast money into the treasury. Many who were rich cast in much. 42 A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, Literally, lepta . Lepta are very small brass coins worth half a quadrans each, which is a quarter of the copper assarion. Lepta are worth less than 1% of an agricultural worker’s daily wages. which equal a quadrans coin. A quadrans is a coin worth about 1/64 of a denarius. A denarius is about one day’s wages for an agricultural laborer. 43 He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “Most assuredly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, 44 for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.” 3 While he was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard— very costly. She broke the jar, and poured it over his head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, saying, “Why has this ointment been wasted? 5 For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, 300 denarii was about a years wages for an agricultural laborer. and given to the poor.” They grumbled against her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying. 9 Most assuredly I tell you, wherever this Gospel may be preached throughout the whole world, that which this woman has done will also be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

WP-Bible plugin
). Women alone followed Jesus all the way to the cross (Mark 15:40,41Mark 15:40,41
English: World English Bible - WEB

40 There were also women watching from afar, among whom were both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and served him; and many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

WP-Bible plugin
); the men fell away and hid behind locked doors. Only women are said to serve Jesus (Mark 1:31; 15:41Mark 1:31; 15:41
English: World English Bible - WEB

31 He came and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. 41 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and served him; and many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

WP-Bible plugin
) in imitation of Jesus who served by giving his life as a ransom for all (Mark 10:45Mark 10:45
English: World English Bible - WEB

45 For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

WP-Bible plugin
). The benefits of the service that Jesus offers to all people by dying on the cross are received in the service that is offered at the table of the Lord, which in turn flows into the table service (community service) offered by the women. The three forms of service are an inseparable whole. To say that women may not officiate at the table of the Lord is to separate the inseparable. Here Mark is showing that women are qualified to carry on the ministry of our Lord in all respects.

Enhancing the ministry
If women could be ordained, the pool from which pastors are drawn would grow considerably. Also, it has been shown time and time again that when men and women are engaged in a common vocation (a mixed school staff, for example), communication and cooperation, resolving conflicts and sharing gifts for the benefit of the community, are far more in evidence than when the workforce are all of one sex. And finally, whereas it is said that the church offers ample opportunities for lay women to contribute their gifts and ministry to others, the public ministry of preaching and sacramental administration is denied them. More importantly, the church, consisting of young and old, and men and women, is denied their ministry and is the poorer for it.

Peter Lockwood

Women's Ministry Network is powered by Wordpress | WordPress Themes