Thursday, December 9, 2010

Follow-up to Women's Ordination and LCMS Partner Churches

I guess my little blog post of Tuesday has upset some folks in both the SELK and LCMS. The LCMS Director of Church Relations--Assistant to the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod read my post and then sent a message to a SELK pastor: "I hear SELK is going to ordain women." The SELK pastor then sent an email response, copied to dozens of individuals in both the LCMS (dps, sem profs, me, others) and SELK, that read as follows:

First of all: our Bishop was "teed off" that you did not contact him directly.

I had passed your e-mail on to him and he is as embarrassed as I am about what is being said about SELK in our sister church. I immediately translated Becker's article into German so that the Bishop and others in the Kirchenleitung can have full access and a better understanding of this stuff. The Bishop will likely give an official response to MB.

The article bristles with mistakes and unproven assumptions.

1:  It was not "a special Synod of the SELK" in Hesse-North. Rather it was a district convention in SELK. At the end they did not pass a resolution calling for the introduction of women's ordination. Rather their vote was a personal response to the presentations made, like "how do you feel about it?"

I know, that's embarrassing enough! But since when do we vote in district conventions about what doctrine is to be valid in the church at large?

2:  It is true that the majority of professors in Oberursel is in favour of the ordination of women; one (Dr. da Silva, the Brazilian) is opposed, another (Dr. Klän) believes it to be "possible" according to his reading of New Testament evidence, but he also believes that the Church is at liberty to decide either way.

3:  Absolutely wrong is the assertion that "many of the seminarians" are in favour; the contrary is true, by far most of the students are opposed -- God be praised.

4:  On what factual evidence does Becker base the assertion: "Clear majorities in the SELK"  favour women's ordination?  Fact is, the Church in convention has at least 7 times (in words: seven times!!)  rejected the introduction of women's ordination. Our problem is that the proponents of WO keep coming back to every pastoral conference and to every general synod.

5:  It is right to point out that to change the SELK constitution (including Art. 7) a 2/3 affirmative vote is needed. Never once has even a simple majority for WO been achieved -- except recently that odd vote in the district convention in northern Hesse.

6:  Here I want to place my personal opinion, which is shared by many of the SELK clergy young and old: Should a general synod of the SELK ever get to a   2/3 vote in favour of WO, that would mean the end of SELK as we know it! Even many of the proponents know that, they are aware  of  this danger --  and for that reason even some of them will not vote in favour of WO.

7:  Last point -- Becker calls the consultation process on WO "cordial, civil, evangelical, fraternal and serious". How does he know that? Was he part of this process -- or did he have some Wikeleaks informant who gave him the inside lowdown?

The consultation process was (perhaps) necessary, but it was at times difficult, heart wrenching and extremely time consuming. An east / west divide became evident in our church. The mission outreach of SELK in Germany and its confessional witness to the nation almost came to a standstill -- because we were so caught up in discussing internal church problems. Relationships have suffered; friendships broke down. All because the WO proponents held on to the issue like a dog biting his bone.

My conclusion: The church at large and many members in the parishes are just fed up and sick and tired of what in most congregations is a non-issue.

I hope I did not bore you with my comments. But I just did not want to
pass up this opportunity to react to Matthew Becker.

Sincere fraternal Advent greetings from
[name deleted]

Here's what I wrote in response:
Dear Pr.-----,
My blog does not "bristle with mistakes and unproven assumptions."

There is no difference in meaning between "a special synod of the SELK in Hessen-Nord" and "a district convention of the SELK in Hessen-Nord." In our churchbody it is common to say "a convention of the LCMS in Washington" or "a district of the Synod in the Northwest."

I did not write that that synod passed a resolution calling for the introduction of the ordination of women. I wrote "At the end of the day 20 delegates indicated their support for the introduction of women pastors in SELK, seven were opposed, and two abstained."

I indicated that there is not unanimity on this issue at Oberursel. I'm pleased that a majority of professors there favor the ordination of women. This is my theological position, too.

I have been told by students who have studied at that seminary that "many of the students favor the ordination of women." The key word here is "many." I didn't write that "most" are convinced of this. How many does there have to be to be accurate with the word "many?"

The SELK has in convention rejected the proposal to ordain women. That is true. But look at the numbers of those voting for and against. Look at the faculty of the seminary. Look at the informal vote in Hessen-Nord. There are "majorities" that favor the change, but not a 2/3 majority of the SELK as a whole.

I know about the process from the official news releases, from the downloadable collection of documents, from personal reports. From these materials and reports the process seems to me to have been "cordial, civil, evangelical, fraternal, and serious." I didn't include the words "easy," "quick," or "pain-free." At least the SELK has been having a decade-long process. That is non-existent in the LCMS, which was one of my points.

Fraternal greetings,
Matthew Becker


  1. Here's the latest response posted on the Gottesdienst Online blog: A Useful Discussion.

  2. Matt, you need to be excommunicated from the LCMS.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    If you wish to express such a serious desire in this public forum, at least have the courtesy and courage of identifying yourself.