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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Report on Ordination of Women (1970)

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Report on Ordination of Women (1970)

For 1973 Report click here

At its meeting in March 1967 the Board of' Theological Education took action to transmit to the Church Council the information that women who were then matriculated at one of the seminaries might request ordination. At its meeting in June 1967 the Church Council requested the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., Division of Theological Studies, to study the question of the ordination of women. This information was reported to the 1968 General Convention by the Church Council (1968 Reports and Actions, p. 156).

1. Statement by Faculty of Luther Seminary

In October 1968 the faculty of Luther Theological Seminary adopted and submitted to the Church Council the following statement regarding the question of the ordination of women:

Four sets of objections are urged against the ordination of women to the ministry: biblical, theological, practical, and ecumenical.

  1. The New testament does not confront the question of ordination of women and therefore does not speak directly to it. On the other hand, nothing in the New Testament speaks decisively against it.
  2. Although the ordination of women raises new and difficult questions, there is no decisive theological argument against the ordination of women.
  3. The practical objections, however serious, do not by themselves settle the question for Lutherans. As long as no decisive biblical or theological objections are raised, the ordination of women remains a possibility.
  4. The most serious objection is the ecumenical, that Lutherans ought not unilaterally in the present divided state of Christendom make decisions which affect all Christian churches. But inasmuch as other churches already have ordained women to the ministry, and some churches not presently ordaining women are open to discussion of its possibility, the exact weight of this objection is difficult to assess.

In view of the considerations above, we can see no valid reason why women candidates for ordination who meet the standard normally required for admission to the ministry should not be recommended for ordination.

2. Report of Study by Lutheran Council

The report of the study of the ordination of women by the Division of Theological Studies of the Lutheran Council was made to the annual meeting of the Lutheran Council in February 1970. The presidents of the four member churches had a redaction of the theological papers prepared and a copy was mailed to each pastor of the member churches in May 1970.

3. Recommendations of Study Committee

The executive committee of the Church Council appointed the following committee to study the recommendations of the report submitted to the Lutheran Council and make recommendations to the June 1970 meeting of the Church Council. The committee consisted of Dr. Bruno Schlachtenhaufen, chairman, Dr. E. Clifford Nelson. Mrs. Adolph Streng, Rev. Johan Thorson, Mrs. Erling Wold. This committee submitted the following resolutions:

Whereas, A Statement of Findings Relating to the Requested Study on the Subject of the Ordination of Women has been adopted and made available by the Standing Committee of the Division of Theological Studies, Lutheran Council U.S.A.; and

Whereas, The ad hoc Committee on the Ordination of Women concurs in the Statement of Findings; and

Whereas, The American Lutheran Church accepted the following statement in 1964 with reference to ministry:

“Since the ministerial office is not precisely defined in the New Testament, and since the duties of early officers were varied and interchangeable, and since the needs of the church down through the centuries are subject to variation, we are led to Luther’s conclusion, namely, that God has left the details of the ministerial office to the discretion of the church, to be developed according to its needs and according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.” (1964 Reports and Actions, p.140);

and

Whereas, Men and women are both resources for ministry in the church and each other in the pastoral role; and

Whereas, Women are prepared to serve and have been certified for call and ordination; therefore be it

Resolved, That the Church Council be requested to recommend to the General Convention which will meet in San Antonio in October of 1970, that women be eligible for call and ordination in The American Lutheran Church.

4. District Memorials

a. Southwestern Minnesota District Memorial-Eligibility for Ordination, Women

The Southwestern Minnesota District submitted the following memorial:

Resolved, That this district approve in principle the ordination of women.

b. Eastern North Dakota District Memorial-Eligibility for Ordination, Women

The Eastern North Dakota District submitted the following memorial:

Whereas, There are women in The ALC who have been certified for call and ordination by a theological faculty of The ALC; and

Whereas, These women are open to call and desire ordination in The ALC; and

Whereas, LC/USA has, through the Division of Theological Studies, found through study that there is no basic reason why women should not be ordained; therefore be it

Resolved, That the Eastern North Dakota District of The American Lutheran Church assembled in convention memorialize The American Lutheran Church to consider and approve the ordination of women at the 1970 Convention of The American Lutheran Church.

5. Recommendations of the Church Council

  • ACTION BY THE CHURCH COUNCIL:
    C70.6.96 To recommend that women be eligible for call and ordination in The American Lutheran Church.
  • ACTION BY THE CONVENTION:
    GC70.24.77 To adopt.
    (YES-560; NO-414; Abstention-1)

The Church Council recognized that, especially during the transitional period that would follow, should the General Convention approve the ordination of women, there would be many practical issues to be faced by women who will serve as parish pastors.

  • ACTION BY THE CHURCH COUNCIL:
    C70.6.99 To recommend that the seminaries give special counseling to women who may seek to matriculate at the seminaries.
  • AC'T'ION BY THE CONVENTION:
    GC70.24.78 NOT to approve.

Endnote

* The Ordination of Women, condensed by Raymond Tiemeyer, Appendix, pp. 51-53.

Notes: This 1970 statement is from the American Lutheran Church, which in 1988 merged with the Lutheran Church in America to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (approximately, 5,300,000 members). The church was influenced by the Luther Seminar faculty’s support of women’s ordination and by the Lutheran Council’s opinion that women’s ordination was an issue that could bbe either supported or denounced. The 1970 church convention approved the ordination of women 560 to 414.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Can Women Serve in the Ordained Ministry? (1973)

Introduction

The Church Council of The American Lutheran Church at its meeting on June 6, 1972, requested the general president, Dr. Kent S. Knutson, to arrange for the preparation of a paper on the ordination of women to be available for study groups in congregations. The council was concerned that congregation members have opportunity to examine and discuss the basis on which The American Lutheran Church authorized the ordination of women at its 1970 General Convention

The president asked a member of the Commission on Fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Dr. Joseph Burgess of Regent, North Dakota, to prepare a manuscript to fulfill the request of The Church Council. Dr. Burgess had presented a paper on this subject for that commission, which was included as an exhibit to the Report of the Inter-church Relations Committee to the 1972 General Convention of The American Lutheran Church (reference pages 465 to 469, 1972 Reports and Actions). It was one of five exhibits related to the issue of the ordination of women that had been developed in response to the action of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod at their 1971 Convention. Dr. Knutson reviewed the manuscript prepared by Dr. Burgess prior to his illness following the 1972 General Convention.

Reports regarding the Lutheran Council study to which Dr. Burgess refers and studies within The American Lutheran Church were published in the 1968 Reports and Actions, p. 156: the 1970 Reports and Actions,. pp.141, 326-328; and 1972 Reports and Actions, pp. 459-461,463-468.

On behalf of the Church Council, I express appreciation to Pastor Joseph Burgess for his efforts in developing this booklet.

Arnold R. Mickelson
General Secretary,
The American Lutheran Church

Can Women Serve in the Ordained Ministry?

Does a woman have any business in the pulpit? Lutherans have long assumed that pastors should be male. To many, female pastors have seemed awkward, annoying, and absurd. Suddenly, it seems, women are preaching sermons, and one is even listed on the ALC clergy roster.

Why should these developments come as a surprise? Just as women today have taken their place in all other professions, they have also studied theology and requested ordination. Within the Lutheran family, Norway led the way. Since 1938 the government has had the right to appoint women pastors if they were not rejected by the congregation. However, the first woman was ordained in 1961. Denmark permitted the ordination of women in 1947, Czechoslovakia in 1953, Sweden in 1959, France prior to 1962, and most of Germany by 1968. Well over half of the Lutherans in the world belong to churches which now have women on their clergy rolls. Outside of the Lutheran family, the major churches permitting ordination include the Reformed churches of Switzerland, Germany, and the United States, the Methodists, the United Church of Christ, the Baptists, the Disciples of Christ, and the Pentecostals. The major exceptions are the Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the Anglicans.

In the United States all three major Lutheran bodies became involved in a study of this question within the Division of Theological Studies of the Lutheran Council in the USA. In 1970, at the invitation of the ALC, the presidents of these three bodies distributed a summary of this study to all of their pastors. On March 7-8, 1969, the Division of Theological Studies concluded: “In examining the biblical material and theological arguments we find the case both against and for the ordination of women inconclusive.” Therefore “a variety of practices at any given time remains possible amid common confession.” For this reason, the study pointed out, it would be unrealistic to expect individual Lutheran bodies to conform with all other Lutherans, "but it is hoped that any single church would seek to act only after consultation with fellow Lutherans and with sensitivity to the entire ecumenical spectrum.”

After this consultation within the Lutheran Council, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod continued to oppose the ordination of women, but in 1970 both The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America decided to ordain women.

How can Lutheran Churches which teach that Scripture is the Word of God disagree on the ordination of women?

Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession states: “For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.” What is decisive is the Gospel. In Scripture we read the Gospel, God’s Word to us, that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he died for our sins and was raised that we might have life.

Unfortunately some are not satisfied that the Gospel is enough. They insist that we must hold to “the Gospel and . . . .” Of course, we Lutherans have always been concerned with many points in theology, and we have even been preoccupied with the glories of theology. But when all is said and done, as Lutherans we confess that it is enough to agree on the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Nothing else is central; everything else is secondary. The ordination of women is at least several steps removed from the center. How can the question of whether or not women are to be ordained either add to or subtract from the Gospel? The Gospel is not affected by this or like matters on which Lutherans of even the same synodical body often differ. Therefore we may in good conscience agree to disagree on such matters.

But why have we not ordained women before?

Change is disturbing, but it may be necessary. The biblical writers presupposed a three-storey universe, but now we think of the universe as heavenly bodies which travel in orbits around each other. One of the weaknesses of Western civilization was its acceptance of slavery; Patrick Henry could declaim, “Give me liberty or give me death!”, but he would have been surprised if at that point his slaves had asked him for their freedom. The church has always been very much a part of its time. When Western civilization in the eighteenth century began to change its attitude toward slavery, the church also began to change, and today we consider slavery unjust. Some Lutherans in America used to consider fire and life insurance unchristian; at present very few would agree. At one time there were serious tensions between German and Scandinavian Lutherans in the United States, but in recent times these tensions have disappeared. It was not too long ago that most Lutherans in North America used theological arguments to oppose birth control.

Our forefathers in America held that women’s suffrage in church matters is unbiblical, yet around the turn of the century, as the movement for women’s suffrage in public life grew, some Lutheran churches gave women the right to vote. After the United States Constitution was amended in 1919 to permit women to vote, the rest of American Lutheranism gradually followed suit, until finally in 1969 the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod also allowed congregations to grant women voting rights

And why ordain women now? The times have changed. Women have taken their places with men in our society. They are in all occupations except those requiring great physical strength. We have learned to consider women and men equal in the body of Christ. Dare we then make absolute the attitudes toward women that were held in biblical times? Shall we quote Scripture to insist that women be veiled in church, that they be separated in balconies during worship services, that they be forbidden to cut their hair?

Does the ordination of women change the effectiveness of the Word and sacraments?

The Word and sacraments are effective without regard to the state of grace of the one who acts (this question was settled in the early church), but also without regard to the sex of the minister. The Lord’s Supper is not effective because Christ is male or because the celebrant happens to be male. We allow women to baptize in emergency situations. The Lutheran confessions declare:

Besides, the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons, as the Levitical priesthood is, but is spread abroad through the whole world and exists wherever God gives his gifts, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers. Nor is this ministry valid because of any individual’s authority but because of the Word given by Christ.

The German version continues:

The person adds nothing to this Word and office commanded by Christ. No matter who it is who preaches and teaches the Word, if there are hearts that hear and adhere to it, something will happen to them according as they hear and believe . . . (“Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” Section 26)

Luther would permit women to preach and even to administer the sacraments in cases of necessity. (We find such references in Luther’s works, Weimar Edition, 8, 424-425, 489, 497-498: 10, 111, 171; 12, 180-181; 30, 111, 524; 50, 633).

What is ministry?

Ministry is servanthood. What this means is spelled out in those famous Gospel passages calling for men to humble themselves, not to be served but to serve, and acted out in the washing of Peter’s feet.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:8-12).

We find similar references in Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:1-11. Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7). We are to be like him, pouring ourselves out for others, like a slave having no rights, never lording it over others ( l Peter 5:3). As slaves we have no other authority, no other appeal, than that of the Gospel.

Does the ministry of the ordained differ from the ministry of all other Christians?

The ministry rings a different bell in our ears. The Lord has given particular gifts to particular people for the sake of his church. These particular people are within the church, but at the same time they have a responsible relationship to the other members of the church. Their function is to study and know the Word of God (though this does not exempt the other members from being well-grounded in the Word). Ordained pastors use the Word of God to equip and inspire the pilgrim people on their march. Ordained clergy do not exercise power over the church in the way authorities do in political life, for they have no other authority, no other claim, than that of the Gospel. Like Christ, who never did his own will, but was obedient even to death on the cross, they are servants, emptying themselves for others. Persons in the ordained ministry are servants of the Word, and their power is only that of pointing to and exemplifying the Word.

In the New Testament the lists describing these particular ministries differ and are incomplete (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28-31; Eph. 4:11-12). No ministry corresponding precisely to contemporary Lutheran concepts of "the ministry of the Word and sacraments” appears. The church has felt free to drop certain of these ministries, and to expand and add others. All of this indicates that the church is free to use diverse models of the ministry as times change. Whenever a particular need is met by particular people pointing to and exemplifying the Word, their function is an authentic model of the ministry.

What then is ordination?

Ordination is not defined in Scripture. The Confessions once call ordination a sacrament, but this is immediately limited to the Lutheran understanding of the ministry of the Word (“Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” 13, 10-12). The New Testament does speak of “the laying on of hands,” but Lutherans have not been divided over methods, rites, or ceremonies of ordination.

The power of the keys, the phrase used for the authority to declare forgiveness of sins, does not belong “to the person of one particular individual, but to the whole church . . . for the same reason the church especially possesses the right of vocation” (“Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” Sections 24-26). Therefore the basic issue with ordination is: has this person been “regularly called” by the church? (“Augsburg Confession”14) To be “regularly called” means that the church is led by the Holy Spirit to recognize that God has equipped certain people to apply his Word to particular needs. Nothing in the church’s power of the keys prevents a woman from being “regularly called.”

But the New Testament says: “Women should keep silence in the churches.”

The opponents of women’s ordination stress three passages, which were all written by the Apostle Paul:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head - it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman; ( for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:3-16)

Whatever final conclusion is drawn as to the meaning of this passage, it is clear that women are prophesying and praying in public, and that men and women are defined as being interdependent (vv. 11-12). (The question is simply whether women cover their heads.) The context shows that Paul is defending the decorum of his time. Women are to be veiled in public. His arguments to support this can hardly be considered more timeless than the veiling itself, which today we think was only part of that time.

First: (v. 3) in one sense God is the head of Christ, for Christ was obedient to his Father, but in a very profound sense Christ is God himself, the creator of heaven and earth (Col 1:16). Just as Paul’s statement here about Christ can only be used with great care, so his declaration that “the head of a woman is her husband” must be carefully restricted to only the marriage relationship, which in Ephesians 5:21 is described in very modern terms: “Be subject to one another” (See also Col. 3:18-19; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).

Second: (v. 7) Paul can hardly mean that woman was not made or is no longer in the image of God, for this would conflict with Genesis 1:26-27, which asserts that both men and women are made in the image of God.

Third: (v. 10) this verse is much discussed. Perhaps the angels are guardians of the created order, perhaps the woman should be veiled so that men are not distracted by her hair and God alone is glorified during worship, and perhaps the veil, which also represents the covering of man’s glory before God, is called “authority” because it symbolizes woman’s new authority to pray and prophesy. What is certain is that Paul is arguing for veiling; the rest is uncertain.

Fourth: (vv. 7, 14) when the Gospel reaches a distant land where the men wear long hair, is it necessary for them, for the sake of the Gospel, to cut their hair? Is short hair a timeless decree from God?

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church . What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached? (1 Cor. 14:33b-36)

In 1 Cor.11:5 Paul does not object to women speaking in public, but only to women speaking with their heads uncovered. However, as the context in 1 Cor. 14 shows, he confronts disorder in Corinth; for the sake of order in Corinth only two or three prophets are to speak (v. 29), one male prophet is to be silent when another begins (v. 30), and the women should be silent. But what is the extent of their “silence”? Are they allowed to sing and speak the liturgical responses? Are they allowed to pray? Are they allowed to speak their minds through a vote? Is this a law for all places and times?

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; (also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formeYet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with modesty. (1 Tim. 2:8-15)

Women are to be sensible, silent, and submissive! Are we to hold the line against braided hair, pearls, and gold ornaments? As soon as there are males over twenty years of age in a class in church, may no woman teach - not even indirectly through questions? How are we to reconcile v. 14, that woman is to be subordinate because Adam was not deceived but Eve was, with Romans 5:12-14, which speaks of sin beginning with Adam? And does Paul really mean in v. 15. that only mothers will be saved?

Did the coming of Christ change the relationship between man and woman?

Although we continue to struggle with the old age, in Christ’s new age all relationships are being transformed.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28. See also 1 Cor. 11:10-11 above.)

In context this radical passage refers to baptism, but to be baptized into Christ means that both the religious and the social spheres are changed. All of life is changed. Nor does this passage refer exclusively to a glorious future to come. The resurrected Christ is effectively working now through Word and sacraments to transform life; in Christ we “have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Cor. 3:9-11. See also 2 Cor. 4:8-11, 5:17.)

To be sure, in the early Church many refused to take the phrase “neither Jew nor Greek” seriously. The early church debated the question as to whether the church should be more “Jewish” than “Greek” (Acts 15). The terrible tragedy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. removed Jewish contact with the church to such a degree that the question no longer was a critical one. Finally this meant that not only “religious” but also “social” and “physical” distinctions (circumcision/uncircumcision) were considered unimportant. It took centuries for the church to assimilate the second pair of opposites, “neither slave nor free.” We may excuse her, for there are New Testament passages which seem to support remaining “as you are” (1 Cor. 7:17-24; Philemon 16). Yet would any one of us today dare to use the New Testament to prove that merely the “spiritual” distinction between slave and free has been abolished’? The third pair of opposites, “neither male nor female,” is also no longer decisive “in Christ.” Biological differences like circumcision and sex continue within the Christian community as a matter of course (for example, Paul’s discussion of marriage in 1Corinthians 7), but uncircumcision is transformed (Ephesians 2: l5; 3:6) and the original equality of woman with man is restored (in Greek Paul shifts away from the exact parallelism of the other two pairs of opposites so that for the third he can quote from the Greek version of Gen. 1:27).

Women in the Old Testament were not considered members of Israel, but their status was continually changing as the laws were revised and improved. A few were even prophetesses (Exod. 15:20, see also Micah 6:4; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Neh. 6:14), and Deborah was a judge as well.

In contrast to all of this, women in the New Testament enter the church by the same rite as men. A woman was the first to see our resurrected Lord, women were the first to be told of our Lord’s resurrection, and they were the first to be commanded to tell others of our Lord’s resurrection (John 20:16; Mk. 16:7; Matt. 28:7; Luke 24:22-23). In this way they fulfilled a major function in the history of salvation. They proclaimed the Gospel as prophetesses (Luke 2:38; Acts 2:17, 21:9; 1 Cor.11:5. See also Rev. 2:20), they served as deaconesses (Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 3:11), and Priscilla and Aquila, Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 16:3), “expounded the way of God more accurately” to Apollos (Acts 18:26).

To be sure, Jesus and the twelve apostles were male. But this was to be expected in the social context of the first century. Today we understand that Jesus Christ is the true image of God (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10), and also true man (completely human) and not simply true male.

Does the Bible describe a divine order of creation in which women are subject to men

The term “orders of creation” means that God the Creator continues to uphold his creation (for example, nature, justice, marriage, and the state). Unfortunately the case made for orders of creation is often unclear and extreme. “Orders” are understood in a static sense, as if for all time God had determined a set pattern. Yet even the static approach to “orders” is not consistent, for those holding it do not require us to obey the natural order given in Genesis 1:29-30 to eat plants instead of animals, which then in Genesis 9:2-4 is amended to permit meat but not the blood, and in Acts 15:20, 21:25 is specifically applied to the Gentiles. And is the command to “be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 1:28 to be carried out in an absolute sense?

God’s ordering activity is dynamic. He is not a Creator who made a clock-like universe, wound it up, and then left it. Just as in his saving work God is conditional, judging if men disobey, restoring if men repent, so God continues to create. He continues to order his world in changed situations. When man fell, God allowed meat but restricted the blood. Man and woman were created free and equal within a harmonious world (Gen. 1:27-31), but after the fall man was subject to struggling with nature, and woman to childbirth and man’s rule. (Gen. 3:16-19.) In spite of this, Deborah (Judges 4:4) ruled - and even as a married woman!

In the New Covenant the original cosmos is not only restored but also transformed by being in Christ. Women are no longer subordinate to men, but men and women are “subject to one another” in Christ (Eph. 5:21), interdependent in Christ (1 Cor.11:11-12), joint heirs in Christ (1 Pet. 3:7), and equal in Christ (Gal. 3:28). In Romans 16:2 the deaconess Phoebe is described as “a helper of many and of myself”; the word “helper” in this verse is the noun form of the verb translated “be over, rule” in 1 Thess. 5:12 and 1 Tim. 5:17. In the New Covenant neither a female church leader, nor a woman president of the United States, nor a matriarchal society is considered to be against God’s will.

Does the ordination of women make any practical difference?

Yes and no. It is difficult to be so certain. Already women are ministering in ways that cover almost every function of the ordained ministry. They teach, lead in worship, counsel, organize and administer, baptize (every Christian nurse has done this), evangelize, study the Bible and lead in its study, write books of devotion and theology, encourage all in the faith, criticize and admonish, and serve with kindness and humility. And they preach regularly on the mission fields, in Sunday school worship services, in hospitals, in classrooms, in meetings in their homes. Yet they do not preach in our pulpits! They head, sometimes, the whole religious education effort in a congregation or school. They assist in Holy Communion. Women are involved in every major decision made in a congregation. They are an inspiration of every stewardship program, the vanguard of every evangelism effort, the real workers in projects in the community, certainly the major work force in education.

Surely to add preacher from the pulpit and celebrant at the Lord’s Supper to women’s list of service opportunities is significant, but does it require of women any different talent or power or right that they do not already perform in the name of the Gospel?

I suspect that women will continue to choose marriage as their chief vocation, and as in the case of professions of law and medicine a relatively small percentage will prepare for the ordained ministry.

But practical differences? A few perhaps. A young woman who desires to be a pastor must consider seriously the effect of marriage on that vocation. Her duties to her husband and family would make her ministry a bit different from that of a man. She will remain a woman - and this may limit her effectiveness in some areas (whom she can effectively counsel) and increase it in others (as in her relations to women and in counseling areas that are difficult for a male pastor to handle). Just as a man may not be completely effective, because he is a man, so a woman may be limited by her womanhood.

In short, there are practical difficulties in the ordination of a man as well as in the ordination of a woman. These must be taken into account, but they are inconsequential when compared with the basic question, “Will ordaining women distort or lessen the Gospel?”

The answer is “no.” Then what does hinder us?

Women can serve in the ordained ministry.

Notes: This 1973 paper by Joseph Burgess was commissioned by the American Lutheran Church (which in 1988 merged with the Lutheran Church in America to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) as a study guide to help the church membership understand why the 1970 decision to ordain women was made. Burgess reiterates that “a relatively srnall percentage [of women] will prepare for the ordained ministry,” a belief expressed in many of the statements in this book. In many of the churches that first decided to ordain women, only a handful of women actually applied. Unforseen, however, was the drastic increase in the number of female ministers during the late 1970s and 1980s. Today, in fact, men and women students are about equal in number in many seminaries.



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