Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Boiling the Frog (or Countdown to Women Pastors in the LCMS)

An LCMS deaconess (and LCMS pastor's wife) who serves as a DCE (Director of Christian Education) in Florida, has served as a chaplain for many years at Baptist Health in Miami. She has just gotten certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains, which, in her own words, will "enable [her] to do the work of mercy providing pastoral care and spiritual support to those that God puts under [her] care."

Did you all catch that business about "pastoral care."

Is it just me, or did all you other frogs just feel the water warm up a little bit? I guess this isn't our Grandmothers' Church anymore either.

You can read the "official" district article here.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

That's the southeast. . . it's been that way for a long time. One of my mom's friends moved to NC right when dad went to the Seminary - around 20 years ago. She was a Deaconess. She showed up and the pastor asked, "Alright, so how often do you want to preach?"

The thought was abhorrent to her. . . and first. Now is a member of the ELCA Clergy in Virgina. Thus is life.

Bror Erickson said...

Disturbing it is. The Church of Sweden is celebrating 50 years of Female ordination. I translated an article about it today. In which Anne Marie Magnerus does a fine jog linking it to mass abortion, homosexuality, and every thing else that is plaguing that so called church today. For anyone who is interested, you can find it on my blog.

God's Guitar Girl said...

Having worshipped as an ELCA Lutheran all my life, I've never really been educated on the LCMS view of women, ordination, and the reasoning behind their rules, mainly because I don't know any LCMS Lutherans. As a woman who is completing Parish Lay Ministry Academy, I feel called to serve within some realm of ministry, but I do not feel called to pastor a congregation. I have attended worship for many years, off and on, where female pastors led congregations. Some were wonderful; others, "not so much." The same can be said for male pastors from my experience as well.

So I guess I'm wondering: 1) What are the reasons for the LCMS policy? and 2) What role is there, if any, for women who feel called into something other than volunteerism in the field of chaplaincy/ordained ministry, etc.?

Anyone who would like to share is welcome to drop me a comment over on my blog. I'm just curious for some information and opinions!

hn160 said...

What do you expect from pastors when they have their pictures in newsletters that want to be a Rick Warren wannabes instead of looking like a Lutheran Pastor.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


I'll be simple and brief as this is FH's blog.

1) - Because Scripture always describes pastors only as male and in the qualifications for them limits them to male.

Now, many folks in the LCMS, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy will give many different reasons or rationales (all theories) on why God chose to limit the office via Paul to men - order of creation, Christology, etc. Rather, I like to consider two ideas.

First, when we talk about pastors, no one has a "right" to be a pastor - it is something that one is called into. Therefore, any discussion of "equality" is to be avoided. No one else has a right to be my wife's husband - she picked me. . . end of case. Second, God does have gender roles. I will never give birth - simply because I am a man. That joy and wonder is fundamentally denied to me simply because of gender. Thus is life - thus is the plan of God. It happens.

2) If you were to ask me this question, I would ask two things. The more personal, less clearly theological would be why you (seemingly) diminish volunteering? Being a pastor is closed off - there are many other services that a woman can rightly and safely do. In fact, all that we do as Christians, even the simple, normal things of life are service to God. If you think in any fashion (and with that question I would want to check) that, "Boy, my service to God is only really high if I am a Pastor) -- well, you'd be wrong. In fact, you'd sound like the Roman Catholic Monks at the time of the Reformation - and I'd recommend reading Luther's "Freedom of a Christian".

Second, theologically I would advise you do distance yourself from "feelings". Pastors are called. Look at the Old Testament, look at the New - all the Prophets and all the Pastors are "called" - that the command to be a pastor comes from someone else -- it doesn't come from their feelings. That's why our Pastors are "called and ordained." Again - in your readings of Luther this is part of what he refers to as "the external Word" - the Word of God that comes to us from outside of ourselves, from another person speaking it to ourselves.

I would recommend reading Luther's "Freedom of a Christian". All my family (with the exception of my dad) are ELCA still (it's where my dad was raised) -- and seeing them, there are some things that they have forgotten in the past 40 years.

Eh. . . brief. Sorry for co-opting your blog, my fellow lover of Christ and political freedom.

Bror Erickson said...

I am in agreement with what Eric says. However I would like to add a few things. Like Scripture references. 1 Cor 14, 1 Cor. 14:33-35 (ESV)
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, [34] the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. [35] If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. and 1 Timothy 2

1 Tim. 2:11-15 (ESV)
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. [12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve; [14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [15] Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— [6] if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. [7] For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, [8] but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. [9] He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The essay I posted yesterday to my blog also shows from a woman's point of view the problem with women's ordination and what it has led to after 50 years in Sweden.

Bo Giertz, Bishop of Gothenburg, and now sainted, often mourned that with the advent of women's ordination in Sweden women were forced into one office and one avenue of service for the church, which was of no service at all. Where as before women were forced to be priests or nothing at all, women faithfully served the church in many different ways, and not all of them merely being volunteerism. (Which as Brown said is not a bad thing.) Some were deaconesses, some were teachers, social workers and so on. The LCMS offers women many ways to serve and be paid also. But women who insist on being pastors damage the church rather than help it. The church lives on the word of God and ordaining women undermines the word of God.

Anonymous said...

Well, as a former ELCA Lutheran and now a Roman Catholic the issue of women's ordination is still of interest to me.

The ELCA, like much of the Protestant mainstream has adopted the historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture and so feel justified in relying on the Scriptural texts that state that through our baptism we are all one in Christ Jesus now, there is neither male nor female and that God in His essence is neither male nor female (true, except that the humanity that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word and second person of the Trinity assumed will always be male). The ELCA also views much of St. Paul's teachings regarding the role of men and women to be culturally conditioned and no longer relevant to our time. After entering into full communion with the ECUSA it is not surprising that the ELCA is also ordaining women as bishops.

Interestingly, the WordAlone Network in the ELCA, while calling for a return to the Biblical roots of the ELCA still supports women clergy.

Because of the importance of the sacramental structure of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (as well as apostolic teaching) the male clergy are an "icon" of Christ Jesus in His church and it is doubtful whether either will ever ordain women, which would overturn that fundamental construct.

On the other hand, I think one can take the passages of "women being saved through childbearing" a bit too far. God doesn't love women specifically because they can bear children but because they are persons redeemed by Jesus Christ. Not to mention how that plays out in women who for whatever reason are not married.


Father Hollywood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Father Hollywood said...

Dear Guitar Girl:

I would add to some of the earlier comments the constant history of God's people. God, who revealed himself in masculine terms (especially in the literal personal manifestations as Father and Son), only permitted the Israelites to have a male priesthood (they were very unusual among their neighbors that they had no goddesses and conversely, no priestesses).

This understanding of a masculine pastoral office was carried into the New Testament by our Lord, who, as one of my classmates pointed out, is "the most sensitive Man who ever lived", who only chose men to give the Holy Spirit for the purpose of the authority to forgive sins (John 20) and to give the "great commission" to preach and baptize (Matt 28). Jesus was not afraid to challenge cultural paradigms, especially regarding women. This is evidence that God's prohibition of women pastors is not a passing cultural fad.

Every instance in Scripture where there is reference to the pastoral office (e.g. elder, overseer, pastor) the noun is in the masculine gender. All of Paul's passages in the pastoral epistles use exclusively masculine terms.

The Church understood this completely for nearly two millennia. Aside from a few heretical groups (like the Gnostics and Montanists) - no group claiming to be Christian ordained women until recently. Only their heretical interpretation of Scripture permitted these groups (all of whom were condemned) to ordain women.

If we believe God's Word is God's Word, we need to submit to it - even when that conflicts with our reason or desire. Such submission is the very definition of faith. We must trust that our heavenly Father knows what's best for us even when we want something different.

Pr. Erickson's point that every church that has ordained women has fallen down the slippery slope on other issues as well (and in a very short time) should also speak volumes to us. The cathedral at Uppsala, Sweden (Lutheran) was not too long ago "decorated" with pornography depicted our Lord and the apostles as homosexuals. One is hard pressed to find a church that embraces homosexuality and denies Scriptural authority that didn't start with the female ordination issue.

There is a lot more to be said here, but I just wanted to chime in. Thanks for posting, and for your thoughtful comments!

Pr. H. R. said...

At Gottesdienst we heard some great papers from folks who grew up and served in the WELS. The gist was this: the pastoral office is not Christological. The pastor does not stand "in the stead of Christ" but rather is just an extension of the duties given to all Christians.

Thus, there were copious quotations from WELS leading theologians that women "pastoring" or engaging in "ministry" is no problem - the only thing that keeps WELS back from fullfledged women pastors is their understanding of Paul's prohibition on women holding authority over men.

After hearing those papers, when I read this little story on your blog, I though, "Huh - that's WELS: woman can do pastoral ministry so long as they are not exercising "authority"."

A reminder that the Christological nature of the Office of the Ministry is the great doctrine that must be defended in our day.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...


The problem isn't just Christological in the WELS -- how can one exercise authority in the Church apart from the Pastor Office "function" - the forgiveness of sin. What other authority does the Kingdom of the Right have?

With female pastors we mix up Christology, the Two Kingdoms, we forget what Churchly Authority is - an utter mess.

William Tighe said...

Did you receive my package, Pr. Beane?

William Tighe

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Dr. Tighe:

I sure did! Thank you very much. I shot you an e-mail when I got it, I hope you received it (it's your muhlenberg address). If not, thanks once again! Bertil Gartner's essay was particularly good.