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.
"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
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
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
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