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!

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