Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

TIME FOR A NEW SONG

Sing a new song unto the Lord‘ Psalm 96.

Not only do we accept new songs to worship the Lord, we are encouraged to use new and enriching ways of praising Him and spreading the good news of our great God.

Over the years, we have seen women of great faith and abilities using their God-given talents in His worship and service. And we have seen them unstinting in their faithfulness and devotion in caring for all types of humans in need!It was while Lutheran clergy were re-evaluating attitudes in connection with God’s will for health and healing, in body as well as soul, that, in connection with my New Testament studies, I became fully convinced about the role of women in the Church, including ordination for those who experience the deep call for Ministry.

It was then that Peter’s quotation from the prophet Joel on Pentecost Day really ‘grabbed’ me:

I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will proclaim my message (Joel 2:28,29Joel 2:28,29
English: World English Bible - WEB

28 “It will happen afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. 29 And also on the servants and on the handmaids in those days, I will pour out my Spirit.

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If that doesn’t put women on an equal par with men in this field, what does? My question now is: why should the infusion of the Holy Spirit be so much more superior in men than in women?

I have often pondered the fact that all the seminarists were and are entirely under male influence and masculine points of view during their five to six years of training and preparation for ordination. This despite the fact that the Church has more female members than male!

When we came to Blackwood in the early seventies, an occasion arose when I was moved to ask our then-current pastor,

‘Have you ever considered that on judgement day the Lord may accuse you of having kept the good news of His salvation and His many blessings from countless people through your hard attitudes in relation to the ordination of women?’

‘Wouldn’t happen! Never!’ he replied very forcefully.

Soon afterwards, on our overseas tour in 1973, I was impressed by the number of ordained Lutheran women in Scandinavia and Germany. We were guests of Pastor Werner Fehlberg, who was in charge of the beleaguered Lutheran parish in Leipzig City, in communist East Germany. He had as his assistants a young ordained man and the ordained Frau Pastor Gerlich. I was most impressed by her manner as she went about her duties, always gracious and helpful, never officious, completely dedicated. And no-one so much as turned a hair, leave alone make any remarks! She instructed the young, preached the sermon, visited the sick and presided at the Lord’s Supper. The acceptance and gratitude of all she served, parishioners and outsiders alike, was palpable. And I could feel for my mother-in-law, coping with her traditional, rather chauvinist pastor-husband, when she exclaimed,

Den Apostle Paul, den hasse ich!’ (I hate that Apostle Paul!)

Watching Frau Pastor Gerlich fixed my attitude to the rightness and need of ordination of women, reinforced many times by further studies and by the backing from Lutheran pastors and Lutheran laypeople in Australia.

The newly-risen Lord had been deserted by his male disciples and followers. It was the women who were witness to His astonishing resurrection and hurried to spread the news to one and all. Jesus did not say to them,

‘Stop! Wait for the men! You aren’t allowed to be apostles. So, silence — all of you!’

I feel deeply for those gifted, fully qualified Lutheran women who feel the earnest call to open and accepted ministry, but the doors remain closed. Can this be God’s perfect will? Sex discrimination is an affront to positive community thinking, and we now have general laws against such implementation. So, isn’t there a weighty argument against our Church’s established attitudes and age-old practices?

Ruth Fehlberg

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