On women “fully participating as laity”

Discussions are almost always fun to follow over at the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. That’s a site where folks of various Lutheran stripes come together to engage in contentious and newsy topics. I actually really enjoy the site because the contributors are usually pretty well-informed and interesting. They’ve been spending a lot of time discussing the surprising LCMS President nomination results.

While perusing the site tonight, I came across a curious comment from one of President Kieschnick’s supporters, Atlantic District President David Benke. He has a certain way of talking about issues that could probably be better described as talking near issues. I’m used to Lutherans being a bit more clear about what they believe, teach and confess. But still, like I said, it’s interesting to read. And I so admire DP Benke for engaging people with whom he disagrees and for at least giving some indication of what he believes on a given issue. Anyway, apparently the guys over there were talking about differences between the two candidates. And Benke did his thing where he sort of suggests something without coming down definitively. Here’s the comment:

Theological/practice differences in the two candidates is somewhat difficult for me to wrap a noggin around, but I’ll take a small roll of the ball:

One I see off the top is that while both men are against women’s ordination as counter to Scripture, Matt has declared it heresy and Jerry has not. I don’t know what Matt’s position is as far as women fully participating as laity; Jerry favors that.

Okay, so the heresy thing strikes me as silly. A heresy is an invention or change that is in conflict with doctrine. Women’s ordination is clearly a change and it’s clearly in conflict with our doctrine. If you don’t think it’s a change from our teaching, you’re just ill-informed.

But Benke is right that Kieschnick is the candidate who has been supported by that subset of LCMSers who desire a change in our ordination practices so that they include women. He had the support of groups that advocate for women’s ordination from the beginning. I can’t say I’ve heard many women under the age of 50 or so who care about this, but there is that older contingent that saw some concern over this issue back in the 1970s or whatever. They’d be for Kieschnick.

But I think that many women of all ages really do care about “fully participating” as laity. It’s one of my great joys as a confessional Lutheran woman that I’m taken seriously and treated respectfully by my brethren. I’ve been asked to serve on confessional Lutheran boards and write for confessional Lutheran magazines and newsletters. I’ve been asked to speak at confessional Lutheran retreats and conferences. My vocation as mother has been respected by these people, too. Whether I’m speaking with professors, church musicians, pastors or laymen, I’ve never felt like a second-class Lutheran on account of being female.

Anyway, I thought I would look into the “theological/practical” differences between Harrison and Kieschnick of women fully participating as laity in positions of responsibility.

Here’s a link to a .pdf that shows many of the women that work in key positions at LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Of the World Relief and Human Care Ministries listed, you’ll see Barbara Below, Director of Social Ministry Organizations. There’s Marie Kienker, Executive Director of the National Housing Support Corporation. Maggie Karner, Director of Life and Health Ministries. The Vice President for Fund Development at the Housing Corp is Deborah Rutt. And there are more.

And these women represent many firsts, too: The first female associate director. The first female appointee to head a synod-wide corporation. The first female head of social ministry. The first female head of LCMS Health Ministries. The first and only head of LCMS Life Ministries is a female. And all of that pales in comparison to the support Harrison has given to the deaconesses who have worked throughout his office and with partners in the cause.

As I was looking for information on President Kieschnick’s practical support of women “fully participating,” I couldn’t find any women who work for him in key positions. Near as I can tell, there aren’t any women in key positions in his office.

Isn’t that interesting? The candidate who is friendlier to women’s ordination and who we’re being led to believe is a bigger proponent of women having “full participation” actually doesn’t have any women in key positions. And the guy who we’re supposed to believe is somehow repressive about women’s role in the church is the one who actually has women serving the church with their gifts.

As I’ve said before, you couldn’t make this stuff up!


Comments

On women “fully participating as laity” — 178 Comments

  1. @Mark Louderback #149:

    You are using definitions that suit your argument, whether you’re the one who defined them or not. Can you show how your definitions are the ones that we’ve used and should use?

    Walther, to whom I’ve referred in a previous post, uses heresy (derived from hairesis as a synonym of “sect” and “cult” (Essays for the Church, vol. 1, p. 116). He then goes on to apply the label “sect,” and thus, “heretic” to Romanists, United, Reformed, Methodists, and others (ibid, p. 117).

    Where you are differing from Walther, is that you are defining heretics to be those who have been put outside the Church. Walther says thus: “Heretics do not exist outside but within [emphasis added by translator] the church” (ibid., p. 117).

    So I urge again that you read these pages and pay special attention to Walther’s admonition regarding errors that do not quite cross the line into heresy: “However we should not make the mistake of thinking that such divisions are harmless. Oh, no, they are a very bad thing. A malicious separatist [one who is in error according to your definition] has no more hope of being saved than does a sectarian [a heretic according to your definition].”

    I’ll let you have the last word.

  2. Boogie #143:

    You state that you are considering making a move to the WELS: You might want to consider a few things.

    1. The corporate office is very small. There are not a lot of folks that work there. One of our young pastors told me about a time when he was a seminary student and he went to the WELS corp. office, and he just got to walk right in and talk to the SP. There wasn’t even a secretary to deal with.

    2. It can get a little monotonous at times, in terms of fighting city hall (bureaucracy), as we don’t hear about it, or they keep it quiet if there is any.

    3. The pastors, and I know a lot of them, are never talking about all of the changes that the synod is going through. Again, same old stuff, nothing new.

    4. The pastors seem to be spending too much time on preaching the Law and the Gospel and in the proper administration of the Sacraments. After that, they spend a lot of time in trying to do outreach in our neighborhoods.

    5. What can get really boring, is that you hardly ever hear about the SP or DP’s (because nothing ever changes as far as the way a Divine service should be conducted), unless you need their help.

    6. And finally; there are not a lot factions going at it over what a Lutheran service should
    be like. And, as sinners, we all need a good fight every now and then.

  3. @Perry Lund #146
    “I realize I am in the minority perhaps, but that seems like a sliding step down the path to women being elders, congregational officers and so on.”

    They passed that one, too, in 2004. 🙁
    An LCMS woman can aspire to anything but Ordination, (so far).

  4. Rev. Jacob Ehrhard,

    You are using definitions that suit your argument, whether you’re the one who defined them or not. Can you show how your definitions are the ones that we’ve used and should use?

    I know that you have said that I can have the last word on the issue, but I am curious: what exactly do you think my argument is?

    Walther, to whom I’ve referred in a previous post, uses heresy (derived from hairesis as a synonym of “sect” and “cult” (Essays for the Church, vol. 1, p. 116). He then goes on to apply the label “sect,” and thus, “heretic” to Romanists, United, Reformed, Methodists, and others (ibid, p. 117).

    I do not have that essay in front of me–all I can say is that in L& G he certainly talks about the same thing, but I did not see him using the term.

    In addition, what about Church & Minsitry theses?

    “To the Church in the proper sense of the term belongs no godless person, no hypocrite, no one who has not been regenerated, no heretic.”

    That seems clear.

    I certainly know that today, heresy is not used to refer to someone who teaches falsely, but is a Christian.

    Now, I don’t know all of what Walther has written on the subject. So I went to some random Christians. Albert Mohler, a Baptist, describes heresy as such:

    Heresy is the explicit rejection of a doctrine central and essential to the Christian faith. As theologian Harold O. J. Brown reminds us, “In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence.

    Notice–not just error. But undercutting the basis of Christianity.

    I pulled out my RC catechism. It defines heresy as such:

    Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith.

    Once again: must be believed.

    My position is not “Use my definitions!” My position is “This is how the world is using the term. We ought to do so as well.”

    Where you are differing from Walther, is that you are defining heretics to be those who have been put outside the Church. Walther says thus: “Heretics do not exist outside but within [emphasis added by translator] the church” (ibid., p. 117).

    Well, what does he mean there? That there are Christian heretics? Or rather, that heresy is something that separates Buddists from Mormons for example. One claims to be Christian, the other make no such claim.

    Do you see what I mean there?

    Look, say that I am wrong: what words would you use to describe the Methodist, what to describe the Mormon, and how would you make a distinction between the two?
    So I urge again that you read these pages and pay special attention to Walther’s admonition regarding errors that do not quite cross the line into heresy: “However we should not make the mistake of thinking that such divisions are harmless. Oh, no, they are a very bad thing. A malicious separatist [one who is in error according to your definition] has no more hope of being saved than does a sectarian [a heretic according to your definition].”
    I’ll let you have the last word.

  5. ARggghh! I wish I could edit my previous post, so I make an appeal to one of the board admins to clean it up for me! Sorry about that.

  6. @Lloyd I. Cadle #156

    That’s what I get by trying to be too cute. My “shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” comment was an attempt to say, “Don’t tell everyone–they’ll all want it,” or something like that. I hope that explains it. I wasn’t trying to shut you up.

    On another topic, do you get the impression that this thread has a lot of “attitude?” Just wonderin’.

    Johannes (Okay, you can keep posting now)

  7. Mollie :
    I can clean up your post but seriously, this is ridiculous.
    I get the impression you simply like to argue.
    Perhaps you could disagree with the folks over at First Things who are also debating heresy? Many of them disagree with your views on heresy so it might be fun for you:
    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/04/14/is-mormonism-christianity/

    I think that is a little unfair Mrs Hemingway. I’ve said specifically what my issue is–need to be clear, need to distinguish clearly between Christian and non-Christian–I’ve responded to questions and I’ve tried to be cordial.

    But, I have always understood that I am a guest of this website. So, this will be my last words. And if anyone has any further questions, they may e-mail me and ask.

  8. No cuteness allowed. That would be heretical. Just joking…

    Yeah, there’s attitude here, and I confess I am chief of sinners, so please forgive me. I think it grieves most here on BJS to see where LCMS is going. As far as WELS, thanks for the input. I know they are not without problems, as the Church is comprised of sinners. I have heard of CW being conducted at some WELS parishes, but they seem to get a BETTER handle on errant practices. Not being so “top-heavy” is certainly an asset to WELS. I wonder what WELS’ six-figure salary ratio per communicant members is compared to LCMS’.

    This is my fear: LCMS will be today’s ELCA in 20-30 yrs. May God’s will be done in July…

    By the way, thanks Norm and j for the document.

    Boogie (cute as a button, NOT)

  9. @boogie #163

    Now it’s my turn. My comment re: “attitude” was directed at no one in particular, and everyone in general.

    Your fears are well-founded.

    j

  10. Trivializing Rev. Louderback’s words to the point of accusing him that he “simply like[s] to argue” (see comment 160) is extremely inappropriate.

    In reading his comments here, it seems clear that he is making the claim that distinguishing our words is important. If you read through his comments and don’t see a possibility of those outside (or inside, for that matter) the Lutheran church coming to the logical conclusion he presents, I suggest you give it another look, and step away from trying to see it as a personal attack against “confessional” or “right-wing” Lutherans.

    I appreciate his willingness to continue the conversation in the midst of namecalling (see comment 94), being interrogated as to why he “[chose] to hold the Office in the Lutheran Church” (see comment 105, which later appeared to be treated as if it were some sort of test for him to pass [see comment 107]), and being subjected to the implication that having no one here agree with him, but rather only those who “vehemently oppose” (see comment 112) his view, this could mysteriously mean that he may be the only person on the planet who sees the proposed danger and thinks this way, despite the fact that this website is only “public” to those who check it regularly, or to those who perform regular Google searches on their own names to see if they are being discussed or criticized here or elsewhere in the enormity of the Internet.

    Rev. Louderback’s continued voice here, despite some efforts to mute or trivialize it, further proves to me that he truly cares about the subject at hand, and does not simply like to argue. I am not saying those who disagree with him have not carefully read his words, I’m simply saying that he has presented a cogent argument that should not be brushed off or ignored, let alone belittled or attacked.

    Our words are important, and I agree to the point that we should be careful in how we describe or discuss matters of heresy and heterodoxy. This is what I see in Rev. Louderback’s comments.

  11. Listen, if you guys think this conversation is fruitful, by all means continue. I reserve the right to think otherwise.

  12. Johannes #161:

    Yes, I believe that we do probably have a little bit of an attitude–at least as far as talking smack.

    My former Lutheran pastor used to always tell us not to beat up other Christians with our Lutheran theology. Lutheran theology can be so deep and profound, that most other Christians can’t match it.

    In my sinful nature, I love to debate Lutheran theology with the Baptists, Reformed (which most of them only know the five points), and the Calvary Chapel folks. We do have to be loving, or we can flat out waste folks with our Lutheran theology.

    That’s my two cents worth.

  13. @Mames,

    Your words about President Benke are most uncalled for. The internet is NOT an 8th commandment free zone. One can stridently disagree with a man without insulting him. Please reconsider how you spoke of him; a note of apology to him would also be appropriate.

  14. @Weedon #168

    Rev. Weedon–you are correct. I seconded Mames’ comments (#16), and I’m asking the webmaster to remove that posting. I was out of line–thanks for calling me to account.

    Johannes

  15. @Mark Louderback #158

    > I certainly know that today, heresy is not used to refer to someone who teaches falsely, but is a Christian.

    Heresy is false teaching. It can be held in a ‘nice’ way or an obnoxious way. A person holding a false teaching in an obnoxious way is a heretic. It’s not normally socially acceptable to name as heretic a person who holds some false teachings more or less quietly or consistent with their outward confession, but still credibly claims adherence to basic Christian doctrine. It should be perfectly acceptable to tell such a person that technically their false beliefs are heresies. It is not normally socially acceptable to call a Presbyterian a heretic if he claims to be a Presbyterian. But, he is actually a heretic. Just don’t call him one – normally.

    A person claiming to be a well-instructed and practicing Lutheran, who will not stop grinding the axe for dual predestination or making a decision for Christ, or against the Real Presence, is a heretic who might still be a Christian. His heresy is working against his faith. This person should certainly be instructed and if necessary disciplined. It might be necessary, if it comes to discipline, to label the person a heretic for the sake of the others.

    The word heretic also applies to out and out unbelievers, since false doctrine is all they have.

    The term heretic has at least three levels of use, and might be referred to as a synechdoche.

  16. Johannes,

    That would be me you need to which your request would be made.

    Speaking of this issue, I have read numerous comments by President Benke on ALPB. I would not go so far as to call his approach spineless, gutless and sissified. I would first of all call his writing style engaging, interesting and humorous. I also get what Mames is getting at though. Mollie calls it “talking near a subject.” He has an annoying way of hinting at heterodox things without actaully asserting them. Many things seemed to hidden and protected under the veil of freedom.

    Combined with President Benke’s repeated overt syncretisitc and unionistic behavior, this I would suppose leads to assertions of “sissified, spineless and gutless.”

    TR

  17. @Pastor Tim Rossow #172

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with your characterization of Pres. Benke’s postings on ALPB. I have also heard him speak, and those qualities apply equally to his speaking. I share your concern about his unionistic behavior. But, as I reconsidered the assertions of “sissified, etc.” after reading Rev. Weedon’s admonition, I regret agreeing with them. From my standpoint, I was out of line. In fact, you can make a case that it took a lot of intestinal fortitude and backbone to do what Pres. Benke did, whether you agree with him or not. That’s not the point.

    Point is, I am sorry I made that post, and I’d like it removed, if for no other reason than to save me further personal embarrassment.

    Johannes

  18. Tom,

    Thanks for the correction on “Benke.”

    I still wonder what we would call President Benke’s stye if we do not use the word “sissified?” Would we call it “troubling,” “the half-truth method,” “deceptive?” All of these I think are correct and not much nicer than “sissified.” (I’ve never met President Benke. I have had a couple of e-mail exchanges with him and I like the guy but his liberal heart flows over into his mind and his verbal communication definetly veils half-truths under the cover of freedom.) If I consistently applied the explanation of the 8th commandment I would never criticize anyone for anything and then that makes one wonder how the author of the explanation of the 8th commandment could be so harshly critical in writing of so many people.

    This is not a simple matter. Do you have any thoughts?

    TR

  19. Pastor Rossow,

    I’ll chime in with my $.02 on this. Disagree with the man all you want. Point out where you believe he is wrong. Best of all, ask him to clarify anything you think is ambiguous in his words. But do so in a way that avoids labels (“bleeding liberal heart”) and also that seeks to explain his actions/words in the kindest light.

    Let’s touch the “third rail.” His participation in the Yankee Stadium event – I hold it was wholly inappropriate and he ought never to have been there. BUT, remember that he was a traumatized man living inside of a highly traumatized city and the present fear and hurt was so huge that thinking out the implications of what he was doing was probably simply not on the radar screen at the moment. So, one can readily acknowledge the instinctive pastoral heart that put him there – the desire to speak a word of comfort – but also point out that it was a most dangerous thing to do – and ended up giving an impression that he no doubt never intended to give, and of course set off a near civil war in his Synod that ended up being hurtful and damaging not merely to himself but to many, many others as well. I disagree with Yankee Stadium; but I totally appreciate the heart of a man who would wish to speak a word of comfort in Christ at that moment.

    So my plea: passionately disagree! Argue the issues! Clarify any ambiguity! Point out the differences! But by all means, leave aside personal attacks and always, always ask one’s self if one has honestly attempted to explain the neighbor’s words and actions in the kindest way. We have that obligation.

  20. Tim,

    It is one thing to offer substantive criticism about someone’s approach, providing specific details as to why you arrive at such criticism; it’s quite another thing to hurl insults at a person in a “hit and run” sort of way. I’m not at all sympathetic to the “8th Commandment Police” who troll the internet and cry “Foul!” at every instance of criticism. At the same time, Pr. Weedon is right in noting that the internet is not an 8th Commandment free zone. We Christians need to be careful to make sure that the reproof we offer does not degenerate into mere insult, that’s all.

    I have no problem with criticizing Pres. Benke (or anyone else, for that matter, including myself), so long as that criticism is substantive and offered in the spirit of Christian love. If it’s just to get digs in, it’s useless and comes off as bitter and insulting. There can be nothing gained from such, as the criticism, whether warranted or not, is ignored outright.

    As confessional Lutherans, I think we need to be especially mindful of how we offer criticism in our synod today. I mean, what’s the charge against us? It is that we are unloving, uncharitable, and “radical meanies.” I believe that charge is downright false, but I understand why some lodge it against us. We’ll probably never be able to rid ourselves from being thusly charged, since what our accusers really don’t like about us is that we are direct in our approach and steadfast in our positions, but neither should we ignore these charges and not seek to learn from them. And when we do err, we should be Johnny on the spot to repent and seek forgiveness from those we’ve harmed, whether intentionally or not.

    And, for the record, I am not down with those who criticize this website and write it off as a site for the mere bashing of those in disagreement. Such criticism is woefully unfair and not rooted in reality, since the critical articles posted here are always focused on specific synodical happenings and always provide references to what is being offered up for analysis and substantive criticism. Neither do I think it fair to blame you or the other moderators/contributors of this site for the less-than-salutary comments which appear here from time to time. At the same time, again, we should be mindful of what our opponents say, and seek to give them as little ammo to use against us as possible. How to do that is not a simple matter, to be sure, but it is something for which we should strive.

    I don’t know how helpful any of that is, but you asked for my thoughts, so there ya go! 🙂

    Pax,
    Tom

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