Monday, December 17, 2012

Slovakian Lutherans and Women's Ordination


Editor’s Note: We asked Fr. David Ramirez to comment on the LCMS dialogue with the Slovakian Lutherans. A big sticking point is the ordination of women – and all the roots and causes of that practice in that church body. Father Ramirez spent his early life in the ELCA and that experience has given him a perspective on such issues that many of us died in the wool Missourians lack.

+HRC


"As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion" -Erasmus, Adagia

A week or so ago, I was passed this link concerning our talks with the Slovakians.


Let me make a few things clear before going on. I think it is good to support and encourage other Christians around the world. I also think that it is helpful and wise to speak with respect when dealing with those with whom you disagree. It is indeed unwise to act like a bull in a china shop…but it is no better to put lipstick on a pig.

I don’t claim to know all the particulars concerning the Lutheran church in Slovakia, but, there are a few things that I do understand very well. You don’t hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures and ordain women. You don’t hold to a position really, really close to the inerrancy of the Scriptures and ordain women. The only way you ordain women is to have first given up a proper understanding of the Holy Scriptures.

I don’t mind explanations, as long as they don’t turn into excuses. It is helpful to know the circumstances and reasons why a church falls into false doctrine, but we also need to call a thing what it is. The Slovakians didn’t merely ordain women because of atheistic communism and a shortage of men. They failed to hold true to what the Scriptures clearly teach. It is no surprise that a church that ordains women also has a “different conception” of the Hexaemera.

Additionally, how low is the bar to be a “social conservative” these days? Is the material principle of social conservatism a condemnation of homosexual behavior? I assume being pro-life is included as well. I indeed praise God that these church bodies reject this wickedness. It is a point of agreement that can lead to further reflection. But we do a disservice to our neighbors not to point out the clear line of progression from women’s ordination to acceptance of homosexuality. You cannot be a supporter of women’s ordination and be a conservative in any recognizable sense. To ordain women is to capitulate to feminism and toss out the orders of creation. To ordain women is to capitulate to the liberal social agenda that afflicts not only modern Western society but the whole world. [When I read that Rev. Petersen thought we need to repent of our racism, I confess that I mumbled “white liberal guilt” under my breath, but now admit that I seem to have read him wrong and that he might be onto something.]  

To sum up my frustration: Let us please call a thing what it is. A church body that ordains women does not, by definition, hold fast to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Symbols.

Here are my specific recommendations and questions:

1. Let’s call a thing what it is. We don’t need to be nasty. We shouldn’t be nasty. However, trying to make something sound better than it is only confuses our people and gives an unclear witness to those with whom we are speaking.

2. I find it incredible that there is a church which ordains women and holds to a position on Scripture near to ours. I can understand that there may be some within the church body that hold to the Scriptures as we do and also oppose the ordination of women. Historically, and (theo)logically, the ordination of women is a symptom that shows in a church body already deeply afflicted by the cancer of bad hermeneutics. To put it bluntly, I need evidence of this situation that I consider a theoretical impossibility. There has never been a group that has ordained women and remained even remotely orthodox. Some serious gymnastics obviously must be done. So what do they look like?

3. For the sake of argument, if the ordination of women was/is undertaken for merely pragmatic reasons, what are the specific signs that they are wanting to roll this back? Are there any signs? Do they even want to change course?

4. There were those who resisted the ordination of women in Slovakia, and presumably still do. Are we in contact with those who continue to resist the ordination of women?

5. What specific steps are being taken to ensure that our people going over to Slovakia are not confused by their practice of having women “pastors”? How are our people being adequately warned and protected?

6. What do they specifically teach about the nature of the Scriptures, especially in reference to creation?

7. As you can tell, I keep on repeating the word “specific”. That was perhaps the most disappointing part of the blog post/update. Lots of meetings obviously took place, but what was discussed…specifically. I don’t expect detailed minutes, but where are we at? Where are they at and headed?

[In a similar vein, I see that a brief report of the LCMS-NALC meeting is now up on the Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog with a quote from Pres. Harrison concerning their discussion on Holy Scripture, “I am extremely pleased and pleasantly surprised by the high degree of agreement we have on the Word of God.” I am no expert on Lutherans Slovakians, but I am on the NALC. Our confessions on the nature of Holy Scripture are radically different, unless incredibly huge developments have occurred overnight. Regardless, forgive me if I am underwhelmed and will remain skeptical until I see some proof. For starters let’s say, oh I don’t know, a moratorium on the ordination of women? The proof will be in the eating of the pudding…]


Further Thoughts on Temptations in Dialogue

It is always tempting to put our trust in our own skills and abilities. In dialogue this is especially true. We are tempted to think that by our influence, by others proximity to us, we will change them for the better and bring them around. In a certain sense this is true. People rub off on each other. Dialogue can produce new understanding and movement towards the truth. But this must be done appropriately. But the temptation is to jump the gun on what is appropriate. When we jump the gun we actually hamper repentance. A classic example is the woman who pines for a man that won’t commit. She is tempted to sleep with him, thinking that this will get him to commit.  

It is a similar temptation, and similar foolishness, to make it appear that we have more agreement with those we are engaged in dialogue with then we actually have. It is a temptation to gloss over serious differences because we think they are coming our way. It is tempting to blunt or eliminate the call to repentance because we are scared of scaring them off. But this is being more generous than our Lord. To love your neighbor is to tell them the truth. I am not advocating being a jerk, and we ought to be gentle with the weak. But we must call a thing what it is. We mustn’t think that God’s Word is negotiable and trust that if we just get folks close enough to us they will just fall into line. This would be a lack of trust in the Word of God.

It all comes down to parenting. Modern parenting loves exploiting diversionary tactics to get outward compliance. “No, you can’t have that or do that. But here! Look! Here’s a shiny toy that you can play with.” The “no” is barely heard and the attention and desire of the child is redirected to something properly called a bribe.

This procedure seems to be in vogue right now with dealing with women questioning why they should not be ordained or have authority in the church. It runs something like this: “You can’t be a pastor, but you can be a deaconess. You are so right to be angry that the church hasn’t had things for you to do in a leadership capacity. I understand your frustration. But look at all the cool stuff you can do as a deaconess.” This approach minimizes the sin of wanting to do that which God has forbidden. It also concedes the underlying assumptions of the feminist mindset that men and women are in competition for leadership and authority. [As a side note, this redirection turns being a deaconess into a consolation prize, which just betrays our Synod’s confusion over what a deaconess is and should do--but that is a discussion for another time.]

Redirection only solves outward compliance, and only that for a time. The feminist demanding her rights, just like the spoiled child, can only be placated for so long. Perhaps this procedure may work for a generation, we’ll see, but it does not aim for the heart. The heart needs God’s Word, what it says “no” to and what it says “yes” to.

The woman who wishes to serve God needs to hear that God made her to be a woman. She is to be a wife and a mother. That is her calling. [A woman who does not, or cannot bear children still mothers whether or not she bears children. A woman who is not married is still wifely and serves her neighbors in a womanly way.] Everything she does flows out of who she is, and how she has been created by God.

A woman is not just some cheap version of a man, doing everything he does except a few super special things like being a pastor. Unfortunately, how the Missouri Synod has started talking about deaconesses and what women are allowed do creates this impression. A woman is a very different sort of being from a man. And we ought to thank God for that! We ought to teach the women in our care to glory in how God has distinctly made them and what he has given them to be--wives and mothers and all the things that flow from this. Concerning women and authority in the church, the place to start is a very firm “No.” The true and loving word men need to speak is that women are not to have authority over men in the Church because God says so. And then we are to teach about the beautiful and wondrous creatures God has made them to be.
 
Anything less is merely kicking the can further down the road and a disservice to our neighbors.


Pastor David Ramirez

10 comments:

  1. For what it is worth, I've read Dr. Collver's comments and then this, Rev. Ramirez's post and I don't really understand what the problem is.

    As far as I know, The LCMS is not in any way condoning false doctrine and practice, but is reaching out to various Lutheran bodies around the world who are increasingly looking to The LCMS for sound theological education and resources.

    Are we really willing to say "no" to contacts simply because we do not agree with some practices within certain church bodies?

    I think we might be taking our zeal for purity to an extreme that is not justified by the situations.

    I can never understand the "we can't talk to you because you are not pure enough in your doctrine for us to talk to you" approach.

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  2. Did you read what I wrote?

    I know that you are an intelligent man and would appreciate your commentary, but you have set up an absurd strawman that in no way reflects what I have actually said or my position.

    Seriously, go back and consider what I actually said because you obviously have not understood it and seem to be reacting against something else that is not present in my post.

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  3. Also, unless I misunderstood Father David, is he actually asserting that we should not encourage women who wish to serve their Lord in a church vocation to do so, but tell them their vocation is to be wife and mother?

    I find this quite disturbing, given the long and distinguished history of women serving Christ and His people in a church vocation, traced all the way back to the ancient office of widows and deaconesses, etc.

    I think the whole approach bears rethinking and, frankly, it strikes me that, for the most part, the post is motivated by fear and insecurity.

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  4. David, I read what you wrote, that is why I said what I said. I think it would be better to respond to what I said rather than simply insist I did not read your post or, in spite of my intelligence, didn't understand.

    I'm not the only one who has found your comments here to be, at the very least, confusing.

    I welcome your clarification.

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  5. Pastor McCain, at the cost of mixing metaphors rather horribly, I would be humbly obliged if you would teach a little more on widow and deaconess as New Testament offices. I am only an egg and as such have understood widowhood as being more of a Stand, and deaconesses past and present to hold a loosely defined historical exigency. Honestly, I don't know what to make of this and would like to hear the qualified people talk about it.

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  6. I thought Loehe invented the current Deaconess program and services we have now. Not a bad invention, i.e. Philadelphia Lutheran Deaconess Hospital, but no long historical bibilical tradition, if we're not really talking about working Nuns.


    In Acts they picked 7 men to wait on the tables of the widows. It's just an example and no order, but it gives us insight into just how male any authority in the church was/is.

    Lois and Eunice taught Timothy as a child and that is held up to us as someting all mothers should do. They did this at home as part of their daily duties. We are often told that fathers should teach the catechism to their families. I would imagine that there was/is a coming of age rite when young males move into the situation of male-only teaching. But having an order in the church that is focused on our opportunities for and acts of mercy (visiting Bethesda), Lutheran hospitals and health clinics, can't be bad. If it is a female only order, then a female can have authority over other females and children.

    But, men must be included in the church's focus on mercy, and we must avoid the situation where a female Deaconess has authority over a male Deacon. Deacons and Deaconesses are the ones who serve food at the table. The Clerical Deacon works at the altar to serve food (Bread of Life) to the people. And because they were constantly afoot visiting those in need, they made great messengers as well, passing along messages that the sick had missed in church, or to diplomats traveling in and out of the country (Phillip and Stephen' remarkable witnessing).

    When it comes to thinking about deacon/deaconesses, ad fontes is my motto; along with my old archivist motto of respect de fonds (respect for original order). Deacon is a term and office that has been a catch-all.

    It happens that those who showed mercy in the church were the most visible in the community and the easiest to catch and kill during persecutions. They were always out witnessing and feeding. Look, there goes one now.

    Now, when health services kill babies for almost any reason, now when schools teach Greek/western type philosophies and no Christianity, now is the time we need our deacons/deaconesses the most. We need to have our own birthing centers where we save babies who are in physical trouble, rather than just kill them. We are going to need church nursing homes that don't do euthanasia. We are needed now, as separate from our worldly environment, to do our work of Christian mercy.

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  7. I've had several Slovak friends and important people in my life. I liked them and they were always surprised when I'd say, "Isn't your name Slovak?" Bomba, Dinda, Buja, etc. They are remarkably staunch in clinging to the Lutheran faith against all that the Hapsburgs and Jesuits could throw at them. I have sympathy.

    If there is an opening, a willingness to talk about and not around a false doctrine, I'm all for it. Are they humbly approaching us, already aware that years of communism/feminism have deformed their church? Have they said they don't know how to lovingly and respectfully demote, deauthorize their women who have acted as pastors and have exercized authority over men?

    Have they humbly sought our help in making what is wrong right? Or do they just want to use us, i.e., our expertice at teaching, for their own purposes and ignore our great discomfort with their broken order.

    The LCMS and the WELS went through just such a process over a 125 years ago, where the Missouri Synod so thoroughly convinced the WELS of the need for pure doctrine, that they have resisted the sins of the 20th century better than Missouri did.

    So, it's not out of the question that Missouri could do the same with many churches. But, just like with cohabitation and marriage. The sin must stop before we can talk of scheduling a marriage. First stop cohabitating/authorizing women to do what the man must do, and then we can talk some more.

    You all Slovaks are such friendly, pleasant folk, surly you know what is the Biblical thing to do, and you didn't survive the Hapsburgs and Jesuits just to fall prey to the Unitarian/Universalists who were also among you and rejected since the first days of the Reformation.

    Losing your Augsburg faith by breaking with the pure faith of the Bible, is the same as if the Universalists had won and your fathers in the faith had lost almost 500 years ago. You know very well what is happening in other Evangelical state churches, you hate it, and you're here now talking with us to find the right way.

    Well, here it is, we do have it, but you will need to stop now breaking the Bible by keeping misauthorized women in callings they do not have. You must stop cohabitating with the Universalists.

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  8. At the Steadfast site, someone went into some detail about how communism affected the Lutheran Slovak Church. It was the communists that made them ordain women. I can only ask, how many female priests did the communists get the Orthodox to ordain? The previous Patriarch of Moscow was thoroghly hated (such an awful word, but the right one for this) and many were convinced he was an apparachnik and a spy for the government. God bless his memory and may this not be true, but his death sliced through a huge Gordian knot in Russian Orthodoxy. There were also Roman Catholics behind the iron curtain; how many priestesses did the communists make them ordain?

    It was international Lutheran groups that carrot sticked the poor Slovaks into doing what no other catholic christians were doing under communism. And, if in 1989 there had been priestesses among the orthodox or catholics, how many seconds (not minutes) do you think it would have taken to route them out. They all would be so deep down in a muddy convent for the rest of their lives they will never see the sun again. But, there weren't any, were there. The communists couldn't even get their own appointed apparachnik Patriarchs to make such a basic error.

    The Evangelical State churches in Europe are all over these little, survivor churches. And, they are loaded with state money, but less every year. Over a million Evangelicals stopped paying the Kirchensteuer last year. Same with the Romans, and they were surprised by it.

    So, it is good that those who have the true faith are there to hold up the lamp in the dark and to ring a bell to call any believers, the remnant that God always has. We show them the stark comparison between the Word of God and the Word of men.

    But, let's forget the excuses. Other Chritians held tight on women's ordination, we would expect Evangelical Catholics to do the same.

    One last comment. Religious organizations were a primary mark for communist infiltration and for sending spies around the world at these ecumenical meetings. I won't even mention Angela Merkel's father's role in this sordid business. Oh, did some one mention Merkel's father?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horst_Kasner

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  9. I actually received my ordination from as a minister. Although I do agree that becoming officially ordained takes years of study and commitment, which I have under my belt, but I do not think it is fair to call everyone out that applies for online ordination. I have worked very hard to get where I am. Many people may not take it serious, but for those of us who do, it is truly a wonderful thing!
    get ordained online


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