Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tradition, Female Deacons, and Where is This Leading?

What you're seeing in this photograph is a Lutheran pastor (to the right) and three Lutheran deacons to his left. Yes, Lutheran deacons, and double yes, the third person from the left is a woman deacon.

At this point, if you belong to a Missouri Synod congregation, you may be shaking your head and clicking your tongue and sighing: "Oh, those ELCA Lutherans!"

But wait! These are LCMS ministers - all four. Yes, that's right, you are looking at a female minister in the LCMS wearing an alb and stole. Women deacons not only have the blessing of Concordia Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Kingsport, Tenn., as well as the Rev. Paul Becker, but also of the Mid-South District of the LCMS. I know of no opinion one way or the other from anyone at the synodical level, though this may simply be due to the fact that this is a recent development.

You can read it yourself (as well as see the picture) in the Mid-South District's newsletter. Click on the July-August link on this link. There is also a discussion about this situation at this Mid-South layman's blogsite.

The fact that we have licensed female deacons wearing stoles fits in nicely with my earlier posts on tradition. This is not going on in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or traditional continuing Anglican communions - nor is it happening in the faithful traditionalist Lutheran communions that have retained traditional polity (bishop, priest, and deacon) and refuse to ordain women. There are several such church bodies in communion with the LCMS. Only in church bodies that are bereft of tradition will you have the incongruity of conservatism, confessionalism, AND vested women deacons.

Of course, women are forbidden by Scripture to serve as deacons (e.g. see 1 Tim 3:12), and even the Greek word diakonos is in the masculine gender. But the Mid-South District can simply point to the LCMS's embrace of a female diaconate in the form of the modern synodical deaconess program. They can also point to the CTCR's benediction of women "elders" (noting that many congregations simply call their elders "deacons") - and in doing so, they can make the argument that just as an "elder" is not an elder (presbuteros) in the biblical sense, so too is a female "deacon" not a deacon (diakonos) in the biblical sense. Thus, this is an adiaphoron, a matter neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture - hence it falls within the realm of evangelical freedom. Besides, it has long been a widely-held interpretation of LCMS theologians that biblical deacons are in fact ordained pastors. And if this is the case, a woman "deacon" is no problem at all, given that she is unordained.

The LCMS approach to the roles of men and women avoids tradition, and pays scant lip service to the order of creation. Instead, we adopt a legalistic and biblicistic approach that says a women can do anything except preach and administer sacraments. Anything up to that line is okay, since the Bible has made only the ordained ministry out of bounds to women. Further, since our synod has no synodwide understanding of the diaconate, and since lay "deacons" are not ordained ministers in our synodical understanding, of course a women can serve in this capacity - so long as she is not exercising the functions of the ordained pastorate.

Furthermore, since neither the Bible not the confessions prohibit a woman from wearing a white robe with a brightly colored piece of fabric worn diagonally across her shoulders, there is nothing to complain about. Nor is there any biblical prohibition against a woman wearing a black shirt with a white collar. This too would be a matter of evangelical freedom.

And if tradition is not to be consulted, they are correct!

A traditionalist will certainly argue from Scripture that a woman may not be consecrated as a deacon. But he will also argue that this is a repugnant innovation in the practice of the Church, that the Church has never interpreted Scripture in such a way as to sanction vested female ministers - whether ordained to the presbyterate or consecrated to the diaconate. To a traditionalist, having women vest in masculine ecclesiastical garb and take on functions of the ministry (even granting the technicality that she is not ordained) is simply not done. We don't have to argue about bylaws, constitutions, and mission statements. We don't have to wade through pages and pages of clever biblical exegesis, nor must we consult the Book of Concord. It is simply not done, it has not been done, and it shall not be done. There is no need for discussion or infighting about it any more than we ought to entertain a motion on the floor of the convention to consider admitting new persons to the Trinity.

Of course, it is a biblical matter - but it goes beyond a few proof texts. Rather, this is a reflection of the order of creation. Even granting that (for now) she may not preach and say Mass, she is still acting in some kind of spiritual leadership. This is what the stole signifies. She is exercising spiritual authority. Her stole is a confession concerning what is acceptable for women to do - and it reflects a typical Missouri mindset that scours the Bible and scans the Confessions, but remains largely silent regarding the fathers of the Church.

This is where a "traditionalist" and a strict "confessionalist" (one who does not consider tradition) will clash. The traditionalist says the burden of proof lies on those who want female deacons. Otherwise, you can't have them. The confessionalist will place the burden of proof on the traditionalist, and in the absence of a Bible verse or a passage from the Book of Concord, it's a matter of liberty.

A traditionalist looks around himself at others in the Church Catholic. What does she do? What has she done? By contrast, a strict confessionalist has tunnel vision, viewing everything not prooftexted in the Bible and Book of Concord as a matter of freedom. Our congregation can do anything it wants without a care in the world what the rest of synod, the rest of churches in fellowship with our synod, nor the rest of the historic jurisdictions of the Church do or have done. This attitude is really sectarianism. Only a restoration of a traditional ethos will supplant this mindset and end this confusion and dreadful diversity of doctrine and practice in our synod.

So, where is this leading? To take a view of history is to see the trajectory. In the course of a few years, the LCMS has changed its mind and allowed for women voters, women representatives at synods, women acolytes, women congregational leaders, women elders, deaconesses, and now licensed and vested women deacons. We can see where this is headed.

I wonder how long it will be before some of our partner churches in the world, many of whom have an all male threefold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon, will end fellowship with the LCMS. A woman wearing a stole in, say the Russian or Latvian Lutheran churches would be a scandal, an absolute scandal! These churches have suffered at the hands of the Lutheran World Federation for taking a stand against having women bishops, priests, and deacons. One wonders how long they can remain in fellowship with a church like the LCMS that allows women this place in the holy ministry.

Licensing women for diaconal work, having her wear an alb and a deacon's stole is simply not done. It is wrong - even if she is not technically a deacon in the biblical sense. How do I know this? To paraphrase Jesus Loves Me, "Tra-di-tion tells me so!"

27 comments:

David Clapper said...

Your post leads to another thought ... where do traditionalist Lutherans go when the LC-MS is no longer tolerable? Maybe we can take a cue from traditionalist Anglicans and become a North American province of (say) the Lutheran Church of Latvia.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear David:
I like the way you think! If I had the opportunity to place myself under the episcopal supervision of Bishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, I would jump at the chance.

We may well find ourselves in America looking to the Africans, Russians, and Baltic Lutherans for episcopal oversight. These people are true heroes of the faith. They know what it means to be Church.

Who knows how all of this will shake out? Fortunately, we are in the hands of a merciful God.

stagiare said...

fthr hlwd,

This is not true. While a grave mistake was taken at this photo shoot, this female is not a deacon.

If you contact the Mid South District the whole story in its entirety can be revealed.

Yes it is an embarrasment and fuels the fire for a host of condemnation but she is not a deacon. This reply to your post is not in support of anything but reporting the truth.

Because of the grave nature of what has been posted I would urge you to get the whole story.

It is not innocent but unbelievably stupid what happened that day. Please check with the source.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Stagiare:

That's curious, because the newsletter of the Mid-South District says she is a deacon. There is a photograph of the woman wearing an alb and a deacon's stole.

I don't know what else to conclude when I see a bird that waddles and quacks.

Even if she is not a deacon and this was a terrible mistake on the part of the newsletter editor, why is a woman wearing an alb in the first place - let alone, wearing a stole!

My goodness. I'm not sure which is worse: 1) consecrating female deacons, or 2) being so ignorant of tradition as to put a lay woman in an alb and stole.

Either way, this illustrates perfectly why we need to restore tradition. The Mid-South District is hardly alone in thumbing its nose at tradition, and even boasting of its anti-traditionalism.

They owe the entire church an explanation. (The burden is not on me to run around and get the "whole story." They published the article and posted it to their website). I'll look forward to reading it (it oughtta be good) in the next exciting issue of their district newsletter.

Only in the LCMS. God help us!

longeyemoose said...

you make a number of good points. I would question though whether a "confessionalist" is a confessional lutheran. The Confessions point to the Fathers -- tradition -- frequently. It seems to me the folks you coin "confessionalists" are in fact American Evangelicals in Lutheran garb.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Longeyemoose:

Indeed, the Confessions are chock full of tradition and the fathers, and strictly speaking, a confessional Lutheran *should* be the same as a *traditionalist* Lutheran, but I see some pretty important differences - at least in the way self-described confessional Lutherans approach the faith.

I think you make a point that the blame for this lies with American neo-Evangelicalism - which we seem to suck in by osmosis.

An example can be found over at Rev. Paul Beisel's blog http://www.lcmspastor.blogspot.com/ his latest post on contraception at http://lcmspastor.blogspot.com/2006/09/marital-abstinance.html - which is a case in point.

The Church has *always* taught birth control to be sinful. Always. Across all denominational lines, universally, and in its catholicity. This teaching is indeed rooted in scripture, though you will search in vain for "condom" in your concordance.

This tradition was handed over from ancient times, through the Reformation, beyond the enlightenment, and only in the 1930s did some in Christendom challenge the tradition. In the 1960s, we saw the cultural acceptance of "the pill" - and the Protestant churches (who are less influenced by tradition) sided with the sexual revolution and no longer held contraception to be sinful.

Fast forward to today.

Beisel's post has been met with stern reproaches for him to dig up some Bible verses to prove the point (as though it were the Church's ancient position, and not the position of secular modernism, that has the burden of proof). Even when it is pointed out in an informative post by Rev. H.R. Curtis (who posts to Beisel's blog) that this tradition from ancient times has been carried on by Luther, Chemnitz, Walther, and even Walter Meier in the 20th century - the approach of some confessional Lutherans is "I don't care about tradition, I don't care what these theologians say, I don't care what the consensus of the Church Catholic is - show it to me in the Bible." This was certainly not Luther's approach.

We're talking here about genuine tradition - not fairy tales about Purgatory or relics of the True Cross. We're talking about tradition that does not contradict scripture, tradition that did not worm its way into the Church's teaching over centuries to the detriment of the Gospel.

Interestingly, if contraception were mentioned in the Augsburg Confession or the Formula of Concord, the confessional Lutherans would have conceded the point and not asked for proof texts from the Bible.

I found it interesting that Rev. Curtis appeals both to Scripture and tradition (church history) - whereas the proponents of contraception do not mention church history or the fathers in their arguments. It seems that Curtis is mirroring the approach of the confessions themselves, whereas some (not all) of those who argue against him are adopting the methodology of the Baptists.

We Lutherans have an entirely different approach to tradition than the Reformed. But a lot of confessional Lutheran arguments seem entirely identical to the Reformed. This should give them pause.

A lot of confessional Lutherans seem a lot more "confessional Lutheran" than Luther himself as well as the authors of the confessions themselves!

At very least, a lot of the reformers (including Luther) would be deemed "Romanizers" by many confessional Lutherans of today - that is, they would, if they knew more Church history than they do. I guess sometimes ignorance is bliss!

Thanks for posting, you've given me some great food for thought!

Steven G. said...

This is from a memo from President Lampe regarding this article:

"I have been in contact with Pastors Paul Becker and Jack McWhirter, both of whom assure me that Frauke Darnell knows her limitations and that she is not and has no intention of preaching or administering the sacraments. She is taking the class because she wants to be trained to use her gifts primarily in ministry to the sick and dying.


I have informed Pastor McWhirter that Frauke can continue to take the class as a parish assistant, but he needs to clarify for her that her status is not a deacon. He has assured me he will take care of this and has sent me a letter to that effect. The District Office will also receive a ministry agreement spelling out what Frauke's duties are as a parish assistant."

I have posted the entire memo here. http://thoughtsofsteven.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_thoughtsofsteven_archive.html

While stagiare is correct that she is not a deacon but a parish assistant, I have to say is "a rose called by any other name still a rose". Also I agree with you Father H. the ignorance of tradition as evidenced by having a lay woman wearing an alb and stole is staggering.

Steven G. said...

Here's that website again:

http://
thoughtsofsteven.blogspot.com/
2006_07_01_thoughtsofsteven_archive.html

Latif Haki Gaba said...

The published material on this situation leaves one with the question of what the duties of even the male deacons are. I am not jumping to any conclusions or accusations, just curious. If we are assured that the female deacon will not be preaching or celebrating the Sacraments, does that mean the other deacons will be doing these things? LHG

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Steven:

Thanks for forwarding this information, and thanks for your reporting this on your blog.

I find all of this disturbing on a number of levels: first, it exposes the failure of oversight in a congregational polity. The DP himself seemed unaware that a woman was being consecrated as a deacon, the those responsible didn't even bother to let him know before publishing it in the district newsletter (assuming that this is an accurate account of how all of this went down - I can't help but be a little jaded at "official" explanations once the whistle has been blown). What kind of "episkope" is this?

Second, there is an assumption that all is set right by simply changing the lady's title from "deacon" to "parish assistant." Whatever the nomenclature, she is still taking the same classes and is still exercising some form of "ministry" to the sick and dying. Is this not diaconal (or even pastoral) work? What is the nature of this kind of "ministry"? I can't imagine being on my deathbed and being sent a person who cannot hear my confession, absolve me, give me the sacrament, nor give pastoral care. What the heck is left? Why isn't the Church dispatching pastors to the sick and dying? Are there that many Lutherans on their deathbeds that no pastor in Tennessee can hop on the interstate? I'm baffled.

If this is all the church can do for a dying person, I'll stick with what George Carlin says he would like in the hospital: TV, morphine, and ice cream. I certainly do not want a woman minister showing up in her alb and stole - whether you call her a parish assistant, Stephen minister, deacon, deaconess, prophetess, priestess, or pastor. No thanks, just keep the mint chocolate chip coming and give me my breviary!

Finally, this is a perfect illustration of the limits of confessional Lutheranism that marginalizes tradition. Show me anywhere in Scripture or the Lutheran confessions that says a woman may not wear an alb and stole and visit people in the hospital. Hence, the stock Lutheran answer is this is a matter of evangelical freedom. But once again, to a Lutheran traditionalist, this is simply vile - even without a proof text from the Bible or quote from Luther to make it so. This is just not done - like eating peas with a spoon or belching at the table. I don't need a prooftext to tell me that such things are wrong.

This whole sad episode is yet another encroachment of feminism on the Church, not to mention the logical consequences of a low view of the ministry as well as the superstition that ordination confers nothing.

This may not be a popular opinion, but I am entitled to it (until and unless such dissent lands me in a secret 8-01A tribunal - all I have to say is thank God we don't have a Guantanamo Bay District in the LCMS).

And just as a postscript, while I'm bothered by the Mid-South District's emphasis on non-traditional worship and non-traditional approach to the office of the holy ministry, my congregation was sposored by the Mid-South District after Katrina. They were very generous in their time and treasure, and we are grateful for the sacrifices of the faithful who kept our church and school alive when we were in dire straits.

There were many Mid-South District members who came to New Orleans to help with rebuilding. Many of them came to services at Salem, and a lot of them thanked me with tears in their eyes because of our traditional worship and hymnody. Many of them told me independent of one another that they miss the reverence that used to be in their own churches. I suspect many of the faithful are scandalized by what goes on, but are either cowed into silence, or don't know how to react.

Let us keep all the faithful in our prayers, even as they see their Gospel-centered traditions slipping away one by one only to be replaced by crass feminism and entertainment.

Father Hollywood said...

Latif:

Take a look at this link from the Mid-South District...

http://www.mid-southlcms.com/Congregations/DeaconScope.htm

It explains that deacons may perform word and sacrament ministry without ordination (the 1989 Witcheta Convention is cited as the enabling legislation, which Dr. Marquart quipped was the "Witcheta Amendment to the Augsburg Confession").

(This link was posted by a visitor to Stephen G.'s blog).

This is, once more, the result of "thinking outside the box" - that is, being contrary to Godly and evangelical tradition instead of in submission to it. We see history as something to worm our way around instead of operating in continuity to it. We see tradition as an impediment to the Gospel instead of its vehicle. We view the church fathers in the same way as petulent teenagers see their own dads. How pathetic is that? Will these "boomers" ever grow up? One would think teenage rebellion would finally end with the receeding hairline and prescription to Viagra.

On the one hand, when we do have an ordination, we are careful to follow all sorts of traditions: the laying on of hands, the red stoles, the chanting of Veni Creator Spiritus, the DP exercising traditional episcopal authority, etc. But on the other hand, we conclude that ordination itself is merely a quaint custom, a tradition that may well be dispensed with.

But then again, our untraditional ministers of word and sacrament (at least until the sticker on their license expires) wear (at least some times) traditional ecclesiastical garb, and our pastors don't seem to understand that women may not be deacons.

We're a very confused synod.

And then we wonder why people go elsewhere.

Der Bettler said...

I suspect many of the faithful are scandalized by what goes on, but are either cowed into silence, or don't know how to react.

I can tell you from my Mid-South District experience that it's both. We're cowed into silence and we don't know how to react. I was a lay delegate to this year's convention and it opened my eyes up more than a thousand blog posts could do. It's one thing to read about much of what goes on, but to see it in person nearly brought me to tears. The convention went like a pep rally, and when some tried to inject a little rational thought and a dose of restraint to the discussion, they were openly mocked. It's something I won't soon forget.

Father Hollywood said...

Der Bettler:

I'm so sorry to hear of your experience. It troubles me deeply, and also angers me to hear such things. People's faith is being toyed with, and the convention method of running the Church reduces it to a sporting contest. The winners get to spike the ball and do a victory dance, the losers lick their wounds and hope for good draft picks next season.

But this isn't a game.

The mockery is especially troubling. My dear friend Rev. Hans Andrae has a similar story. (He is the translator of the last chapter of Bo Giertz's Hammer of God, and is a faithful retired ELCA pastor who is terribly distressed at all of the goings on in that church body). Hans told me of how he stood up in a church convention to defend the inerrancy of the Bible, and people laughed at him. They laughed at, and mocked, this faithful pastor for defending God's Word. I know he won't soon forget it either.

Just remember, our dear blessed Lord was mocked on the cross as well.

I will continue pray for you and for the faithful in our synod who are being treated this way by bureaucrats drunk on the false religion of Change.

The Lord is still the Lord of the Church. We live by faith, and not by sight. Those aren't just platitudes, but comfort from God's Word in a time when God's Word is mocked.

Steven G. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steven G. said...

I could not agree with you more about sending someone to the sick and the dying who can not absolve them or commune them, but then again Luther did say that fellow Christians can absolve one another and who needs a Pastor to commune you we are all ministers remember. We are indeed a confused synod.

Norma said...

"where do traditionalist Lutherans go?"

Hmm. Now maybe some of you understand the frustration of women, wondering if there is any place for us?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Norma, I was going to reply to you here, but rather than make it a response, I'm going to make it a separate post. You raise a great point, and it needs some discussion.

Thanks!

saxoniae said...

We could become the Missouri District of the Lutheran Church - Canada (formly part of the LCMS and still in fellowship ... so far).

Me said...

OMG and the world hasn't ended, yet? The hand of god hasn't smitted the entire LCMS for this evilness that is woman in an ordained role of leadership.

Grow up LCMS men and join the 21st century. Your fear of leaving the Dark Ages is sickening.

Former LCMS ordained teacher

Anonymous said...

Well "Me", it seems former is appropriate. No person has a right to ministry. One is rightly called or they aren't. The Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit said that he did not permit a woman to have any authority over a man. Basic Heurmeneutics teach that the simplest understanding of a passage is the correct understanding. What part of no don't you get?

Sadly, most churches have no discipline these days. But of course, LCMS refused to discipline Benke and Kiesnick. So should we be surprised. WELS is looking better all the time.

Chris said...

Sorry to comment on such an old post (I found it because people keep turning up at my blog searching for "lcms ordain women", and in checking the Google results I ran across this post), but I wanted to add a clarifying comment. In response to the question "why is a woman wearing an alb in the first place": the alb is the traditional garment of all baptized Christians. In the LCMS congregation I grew up in, girl acolytes wore the alb alongside boys. There's nothing scandalous about Christians wearing the garment of their baptism.

You might object to the stole (and the theology behind it). I believe you're missing the forest for the trees on that point. But no exception can reasonably be taken to women wearing albs alone.

Father Hollywood said...

Hi Chris:

No problem. Actually, the alb is a clerical vestment. In fact, it's specifically a eucharistic vestment - it's really not proper for pastors to wear it outside of the celebration of Mass.

In former times, confirmands would wear a white choir gown as a symbol of baptism (as infants wore white baptismal gowns).

Traditionally, albs were never used for this purpose. Things changed after Vatican II, as Rome permitted girls to be acolytes (another untraditional practice which the Lutherans copied). Also, the "cassock alb" began to replace the traditional cassock with alb over top - which turned the alb further into an "all purpose church garment" for clergy and laity alike.

I don't disagree with you that having laymen of both sexes wearing albs is the current practice, and also that baptism is invoked to explain it, but I disagree that it is traditional.

By definition, traditions are inherited, not simply started to accomodate modern worldviews (like feminism, for instance).

Thanks for writing, and it's nice to see old discussions come back again!

Chris T. said...

Well, things are a bit murkier than that. The alb developed from a garment many Romans wore (as did the chasuble and other garments, so that's not definitive). And it's not clear that clerical albs were differentiated early on from the garments wore at baptisms — in fact, in my understanding it's quite the opposite. The garments were similar for a relatively long time. The cassock and alb may have developed into garments for servers and, concurrently, servers came to be exclusively from at least the minor orders, but to my knowledge, minor orders and ordained servers have never been a part of Lutheran tradition, or at least haven't been for a very long time.

In any case, you're incorrect on a number of things in your comment. That priests (or pastors) cannot wear the alb outside of Mass doesn't mean it's clerical, just that it's a liturgical garment. And albs are certainly not eucharistic garments, as they're worn at a wide variety of liturgical celebrations, chiefly at the Hours when celebrated publicly or (sometimes) in choir.

The idea that girl servers is wrong is just silly. It has no connection to the Pauline passage LCMS folks usually use to "prove" women shouldn't be ordained. In fact, that passage ought to bar women from being Sunday School teachers, teachers at LCMS colleges, being the bosses of men in any synodical charity, publishing house, or other institution, and a huge variety of other things. But of course, Synod couldn't function without the gifts of women in those roles. Denying them "ordination" to a pastorate outside the apostolic succession is a gross misreading of Paul. If you were willing to stand on the tradition of the Western church, you'd have a somewhat stronger argument. The Biblical case is flimsy and falls apart — once you've gotten to worrying about female servers, you're really stretching the text out of all recognition.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Chris:

You're absolutely right that all of our clerical vestments were originally secular garments worn by first century Romans - such as the chasuble (which was not unlike a rain pancho).

However, the fact that these were once secular vestments isn't really relevant today. For example, it would be goofy to have everybody coming to church wearing chasubles and clerical collars - although we could do the Protestant thing and appeal to *nuda Scriptura* - the Bible doesn't say we can't do it, so it's okay).

Actually, the cassock isn't a clerical vestment, but rather a clergyman's coat over which a surplice was worn for serving in the church at non-eucharistic services.

And once again, the alb was *not* used traditionally for the clergy during the praying of the hours, nor for the laity to wear in choir. It is a eucharistic vestment - as any pre-Vatican II text clearly points out. Post-Vatican II (with the conciliar trashing of many traditions and subsequent Lutheran and Protestant aping) the alb became a catch-all garment. Just because it is done, and commonly done, doesn't make it "traditional."

As far as prohibiting girl "servers" (itself an untraditional office, as traditionally, those assisting the celebrant are deacons, subdeacons, crucifers, etc) being *silly* - it was considered not only *silly* but was prohibited for nearly 20 centuries. This is part of our problem - we are guilty of what C.S. Lewis calls "chronological snobbery" - we think we know so much better than our ancestors. I don't believe we do. One look around at the state of the Church catholic today should confirm that reality.

If we reject tradition (which Lutherans certainly do not, see Augsburg Confession 15, as well as the conclusion), we can do absolutely anything not specifically prohibited by the Bible (which is a very un-Lutheran, Protestant approach).

Furthermore, to reject tradition (e.g. the Book of Concord) as an interpretive lens through which to read scripture, one can make scripture say anything (e.g. some fundamentalists have woman "pastors" and see no contradiction to scripture).

I agree that Holy Scripture prohibits women from serving in any number of offices that they are routinely permitted in the LCMS. There are situations in which women (in their "ministries") exercise spiritual headship even over their own husbands - something which violates scripture, tradition, and the order of creation.

At my congregation (which is for good or for ill LCMS) we don't have female "servers" - rather we have altar boys (acolytes). Nor do we have female elders (which are essentially functional deacons). Nor do our lay officers of any stripe wear albs. Nor are women permitted to exercise spiritual oversight over men. We strive for fidelity not only to scripture, but to Western Catholic tradition - especially as written in the Book of Concord.

I can't speak for other congregations, but I know in the LCMS you can find heavy metal, polka, and cowboy services, a Lenten sermon series on how to have better sex, rollaway altars, clowns, pastors officiating at the altar in street clothes, non-pastors officiating at the altar, women in the pulpit, women congregational presidents, lay readers of both sexes, altar girls, female eucharistic "ministers" and various other practices which are deviant from tradition, both in the catholic sense and in the more narrow Lutheran tradition.

Once again, though the Bible may not prohibit any of these things - at least explicitly - we only need to look around at other American Lutherans and liturgical Christians to see where this disdain for the past and for tradition leads: lesbian "pastors," sexually perverted "bishops," higher criticism, baptisms not in the name of the Trinity, the changing of the creeds, and even a denial of the resurrection of our Lord.

I believe it important to cling tenaciously to the anchor of ecclesiastical tradition, and as AC15 points out, we Lutherans don't (at least according to our confessions) reject traditions unless they have been corrupted to the point of obscuring the Gospel. Having women wearing albs is a manifestation of the twin errors of egalitarianism (in the form of anticlericalism) and feminism.

Thanks again for your insights - this is the kind of debate that makes blogging fun and informative!

Chris T. said...

As in many things, "traditional" depends on where you draw the line. I commend to you this article in the (pre-Vatican II) Catholic Encyclopedia on albs:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01251b.htm

The surplice may have taken over the place of the alb in the middle ages, but the revival of the alb is not un-traditional.

A bit odd to find Missouri Synod pastors resting not on the authority of their own church, but on the Roman church that was trashed not only in my home congregation (mostly by lay people) but by official documents of the Synod. Why not join the Roman church? Otherwise, you're engaging in the same difficult work of bringing tradition, Scripture, conscience, and other elements into personal decisions that the rest of us make!

In any case, I wish you the best — many blessings!

Father Hollywood said...

Sorry, Richard. I deleted your post. You were doing fine at first, but you broke the posting rubric above:

"Intelligent comments from ladies and gentlemen are always welcome."

Calling people who disagree with you "gay," playing the race card, and "Godwinning" don't advance the discussion.

Kathy said...

AT our LCMS church the women who graduate from the 2 year program become parish assistants, while the men become deacons. The duties are different, the women getting to do much less than the men.