Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

THE CHALLENGE

I first became aware of ‘women’s ordination’ about twelve years ago. Since then I have been confronted, challenged and stirred by this issue which has not gone away. It needed to be addressed and answered, even though this was not a personal matter in that I have not felt called to serve as a pastor. I could see glimpses of the struggle and the pain of those who felt so called. Out of respect for them and their sense of call, it meant that I needed to be open to listening and learning.

In most, if not all, cases I perceived their acceptance of all other Lutheran doctrine as well as their sense of call. What personal crises this created, and continues to do so. In being true to themselves, they have no place to be. Their only choice is compromise. Does God call only women to compromise their spirituality? In the meantime, I have witnessed the media’s portrayal of such struggles within other denominations.

At this point I am wondering about the appropriateness of what seems to me to be an equal ranking of the “what” of the pastor and the “who” of the pastor (i.e. the function and the gender).

For me, the Word and Sacrament are the means whereby the Holy Spirit works; it is the Spirit who makes them efficacious. I find it interesting that in an emergency, anyone can baptize. The human agent is just the vessel through whom God works. Just how small and limited do we make God?

Would He only work though a female vessel in an emergency and at no other time?

If I look at some events spread further across my life, I think the focus has been on worship, not on the gender of the person who leads it. I find it interesting now to remember that when I was a child and we played ‘churches’, I was the pastor, reading the liturgy and the Bible, and ‘administering’ the ‘sacraments’. It never crossed my mind that this was not what the Church was modelling or teaching. Gender never entered our consciousness. Then about twenty years ago I became aware that a rural Uniting Church parish was inducting a female minister. It passed as an event of no consequence to me, other than that this was new, and that they had a need which was filled.

I have spent the last six years as a part-time student at our seminary (Australian Lutheran College, ALC). Here I had the privilege to hear a reasonable amount of dialogue on this topic, and to be challenged about my attitude. I would have to say that one subject, Ways of Interpreting Scripture, challenged me the most. I began looking at the Word from different perspectives. How refreshingly revealing that became!

Currently I attend Women’s Ministry Network meetings and events as often as possible as part of my intention to continue learning, and to understand more about the issues for women in a range of ministries.

I feel that the what in worship is higher than the who of the pastorate, and that the latter can be well served by men or women. I believe that we have been created as complementary creatures, so let the Church show that in practice.

Wendy Begg

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