Slovakian Lutherans and Women’s Ordination

Great post found on Gottesdienst Online by Pastor David Ramirez:

 

Gottesdienst 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: http://wmltblog.org.

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 Slovakia, 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 Slovakia, and 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 Slovakia 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…]

 

WMLTBLOG: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and North American Lutheran Church Leaders Meet

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

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Slovakian Lutherans and Women’s Ordination — 44 Comments

  1. Concerning parts of the WMLT blog article, “Slovakia: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession,” I’ve previously made comments on Rev. Todd Wilken’s BJS blog, “Man Up,” in Post #16 and Post #17.

  2. A person might observe that actions like the above described ordination water muddying and then the posts about it on WMLT coincidentally serve to stir up controversy with the LCMS. The controversy therefore suddenly existing, it can no longer be said the topic is not a point of controversy within the LCMS, and therefore the topic an therefore become part of Kononia. The topic was almost there before but was removed in the transition from the Task Force on Synodical Harmony document and the Kononia document.

  3. I used to be ELCA before joining the LCMS. Note that even at the age of 14, I wanted to join the LCMS because of doctrinal positions, but my mom could not because of her ties to the ALC. Unfortunately, it took the homosexuality issue to make my family jump ship. Now, I love it.

    I had to serve as acolyte during a guest woman pastor’s sermon. The Gospel text was Matthew’s call and the unclean woman. The entire sermon was about periods and how we should just accept them being there. No Jesus, no gospel… just periods, about how we should just accept periods. I mean, it was so bad. It scars me to this day thinking about it. Here was an excellent text about how Jesus calls people and bam, we had to hear about this. I am not a prude, but I felt that this was just pushing an agenda and also tacky.

    That is my experience with women ordination in a nutshell.

  4. Pastor Ted Crandall :
    “There has never been a group that has ordained women and remained even remotely orthodox.”
    (worth repeating)

    And so it shall be repeated! 😀

    But in all seriousness, it’s true. Those who hold to that view yet desire to remain in a confessional body need to be told that they cannot have it both ways, and that they need to leave if they intend to confess blatant heterodoxy. Sometimes I wonder whether or not the church (Lutheran and otherwise) needs a series on church discipline taught again.

  5. @Pastor Ted Crandall #5

    Meaning no disrespect, but this phrase seems very incendiary, and difficult to substantiate. Is there a list of every church body that has ever ordained women (and respectively, to what churchly offices– given some will ordain or order them as deacons, priests, or bishops, or only some of those churchly offices) and then corresponding longitudinal studies of their arcs of orthodoxy or heterodoxy, which tie specifically to the ordination of such women?

    I doubt it very much. And, depending on how the word “remotely” is intended, one might wonder just how far that ring of analysis is being cast. It would seem that the North American Lutheran Church is at least “remotely orthodox,” as might also be considered the Anglican Church in North America. And there are a few others one might note, as well– and while we may consider them heterodox bodies for missing some element of full orthodoxy, I do not think we can in charity insinuate that they are not “remotely orthodox.”

    We ought to be careful, not to prove too much.

  6. You have to feel sorry for the poorly taught laity and even their poorly trained leaders who have inherited hundreds of years of error. I find so many dear Christian friends who really believe whole heartedly in the inerrancy of the Bible as we do but have trusted in erring teachers who themselves were taught incorrectly. These folks really have a proper attitude willing to accept good teaching if only it were presented. While it is true that there are stubborn laity that really are in cahoots with erring teachers and wish to embrace ever more error in accordance with their own sinful nature, but many really are willing to learn truth. I often see these friends of mine seeking more teaching, for example on Christian radio or in Christian bookstores, but I think it is because they are really seeking better teaching and even just the gospel instead of ever more law, law, law. Okay, I am rambling. I am thinking of some in-laws of my in-laws who are in the Nazarene church. It is a church that ordains women because it is an odd conglomeration of merged churches. They claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, yet, there is this odd artifact of women’s ordination. They aren’t liberals like say ELCA yet nor are they really orthodox. It reminds me of those church bodies that operate by the denomination’s constitution more than their confession. Like constitution trumps confession. I guess all church bodies are vulnerable to growing more committed to the structure they have created that to the revealed truth of scripture. If all these protestants really believe in sola scripture as in each interprets for himself rather than what the reformers meant, then why do their teachers have to adhere to the denominational/current trends in interpretations of scripture? I mean maybe that is the reason for the church hopping. They are committed to truth, but can’t seem to figure out what it is? I guess I will stop now. Sorry for the rambling.

  7. @Brad #7

    Did you read the above article I quoted? Why did you not include the ELCA on your list of groups that ordain women and are still even remotely orthodox?

    Incendiary is when a group claiming to be even remotely orthodox confuses the faithful by ordaining women. Such false teaching in action contradicts whatever pious claims the group might make about their respect for the authority of Holy Scripture — and it undermines the authority of Scripture over the group in all other matters.

  8. There were those who resisted the ordination of women in Slovakia, and presumably still do. Are we in contact with those who continue to resist the ordination of women?

    Weren’t there some folks like that in Sweden or Norway and they were punished or kicked out or something because they were against women’s ordination? I know something of that sort happened in the PCUSA. I mean, when women’s ordination is the one non-negotiable that will bring down the church’s discipline on a pastor, you know the denomination is putting the cart before the horse. If a person can disagree about important doctrines and remain, but is kicked out for resisting women as pastors, they are too committed to this world. I am thinking of Wynn Kenyon of the Presbyterian church:

    “Mr. Kenyon, who belonged to a forerunner of what is now the Presbyterian Church (USA), was an honors graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In his ordination trial he was questioned about women and said that because he believed the Bible forbade women to hold authority in the church he could not participate in an ordination ritual. But he said he would work with ordained women and wouldn’t stop his own congregation from ordaining a female elder.
    Pittsburgh Presbytery voted 147-133 to ordain him, but that decision was appealed to the highest court in the denomination. It ruled that “refusal to ordain women on the basis of their sex is contrary to the [church] constitution.”

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/obituaries/obituary-wynn-kenyon-became-beloved-philosophy-professor-after-ordination-ordeal-85401/#ixzz2FQ8ewxdj

    My point is that here is a guy that isn’t even stridently opposed to women’s ordination. He just won’t do it himself. But even that is more dissent than the fanatics will tolerate. They require unconditional subscription to the church’s decision to ordain women, but if a pastor isn’t so sure about stuff in the creed, well, hey, we all have some doubts, right? (sarcasm)

  9. @Pastor Ted Crandall #9

    Again, not meaning to offend… but if we really want to be incendiary, why not ask the question this way:

    Who is more or less remotely orthodox– the communion that corrupts the Office of the Holy Ministry by ordaining women into it, or the communion that well nigh abolishes it through exercise of “everyone a minister”?

    I have heard the charge leveled at our own Synod, that while the LCMS’ pietism has nearly destroyed the pastoral office among us through neglect and derision, at least several of the communions ordaining women still hold the Office in high regard.

    Which begs the question… who is “remotely orthodox”? A stone I cast from within my own glass house.

  10. Is it enough to claim to believe in inerrancy? What are the practices that demonstrate that one believes in the inerrancy? Is there a place for tradition as in traditional practice? Neither female ordination nor everyone a minister are biblical or traditional.

  11. @Mrs. Hume #12

    Yep– I think you’re spot on. Confession is validated by practice, or perhaps said otherwise, our faith is proven by the works which are fruits of that faith.

    Our Synod has been heterodox for a while, which I think is why there’s so much division among us. Other synods have similar problems, perhaps with a gradient scale of deviation from pure orthodoxy to pure paganism. What we’ve really put our finger on, is that the Church Militant is a mess, full of sinner-saints, from the pews to the leadership. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are a battle to be fought forever on this side of the Ressurection. It is meaningless to compare myself to anyone else, arguing that your sin is worse than my sin– we are both sinners, and so are the various synods collectively.

    So, my issue is not that female ordination is wrong– it’s in arguing for totality of heterodoxy on a particular point. Every sin we commit as individual Christians or as gatherings of Christians, is a deviation from the Word of God. We have our own sins of which we must repent, even as we gently must note the sins of others. I’m not a fan of incendiary rhetoric, except as it must be leveled against sin… starting with our own.

    Let us as a Synod re-establish our subscription to AC XIV, before we bash others for who they put into the Office we officially despise.

  12. @bitznbitez #3
    The controversy therefore suddenly existing, it can no longer be said the topic is not a point of controversy within the LCMS, and therefore the topic an therefore become part of Kononia.

    But it should not be a point of controversy in LCMS!
    It’s not an “open question”… very few things are.
    Anyone who disagrees with Scripture on this point should be considering whether they are a Christian, not whether LCMS should fall into line with their ‘pet project’.

  13. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I think it is important to see what Dr. Collver actually said in his blog post (see http://wmltblog.org/2012/11/slovakia-the-evangelical-lutheran-church-of-the-augsburg-confession-2/ ). After discussing the difference between the LCMS and the Slovakian Lutheran church on the matter of woman’s ordination, Collver writes:

    Despite these differences, these churches maintain a strong sense of Lutheran identity in the face of persecution and incredible challenges. There is much for the Missouri Synod to learn from churches that faced persecution under communism, especially as religious liberty is under increasing attack in the United States. Additionally, these churches may benefit from conversation with the Missouri Synod as they try to maintain their Lutheran identity (holding fast to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions).

    Although there are differences that may prevent the Missouri Synod from entering into pulpit and altar fellowship, it is also important for the Missouri Synod to engage in conversation where we are able to do so — for the mutual benefit of all involved, as we seek to confess the truth of the Reformation to the world.

    I don’t see any endorsement of the women’s ordination error in this or other statements by Collver.

    I agree that we could learn many things from Lutherans who tried various ways of being faithful in an aggressively secular state–we don’t have to “learn” from their errors. I agree with Collver that we may be of some assistance to churches like the Slovakian church, as they try to dig out from the influence of their communist past. We don’t have to be in altar and pulpit fellowship in order to assist them work toward the truth in doctrine and practice, and the same can be said of the AALC, the NALC, or any others.

    We can follow the example of C.F.W. Walther here. In August Suelflow’s biography of Walther, Servant of the Word, he spends an entire chapter (pp. 189-222) on the topic of Walther’s leadership in church relations between the LCMS and other Lutheran church bodies.

    Suelflow explains how Walther invented the “free conference”, which was a place for essays and theological discussions for interested parties from churches not in fellowship. The “Congress on the Lutheran Confessions” that was started by Robert Preus was modeled after this idea, and it still meets every year in the Spring. Walther’s LCMS also used “colloquies,” i.e., formal theological discussions between LCMS and other Lutheran churches not in fellowship, in order to determine differences and similarities. Finally, Walther helped lead the development of the “Synodical Conference,” which was a federation of North American Lutheran churches that were in fellowship.

    You also need to remember that the first objective of the LCMS is that: “the Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall . . . work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies.” (Constitution Article III,1). Bylaw 3.3.1.1.2 states that the President of the synod is the “chief ecumenical officer of the Synod.” “Work . . . toward” means there is a lot of preliminary work before fellowship is declared; it doesn’t happen overnight. The LCMS is not “anti-ecumenical,” it just has some very stringent requirements for “fellowship”, i.e., stringent compared to most others.

    Regarding the Slovakian church, it has definitely been a “church in exile.” Before World War One, it was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, which was militantly Roman Catholic. This particular church was founded after World War One, as Slovakia became an independent state with some religious freedoms. Then after the Second War, it came under the tyrannic rule of communism.

    In February 1948, the communists accomplished a coup d’etat in Czechoslovakia. In 1949 priests throughout the country were placed under arrest. 1951-52 saw “purges” within the Communist party, with those thought to be bourgeois-minded executed.

    It was no accident, then, that women were first ordained in this church in 1951, while the purges were going on. You might say that the communists held a gun to the head of this church, in order to accomplish their purposes. In 1964 there were 15 ordained women, out of ca. 250 pastors. In 1971, the first woman was assigned to a full pastorate (like our sole pastorate position). By 1989, there were 30 women who had been ordained. Communist rule ended in 1989, and the country was divided in 1992. I don’t know the number of women pastors now. (see E.T. Bachmann and M.B. Bachmann, Lutheran Churches in the World [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989], 307-309). This church is also a charter member of World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Conference of European Churches (see ibid.); all associations which it joined while under communist rule.

    The WCC and LWF aggressively promote women’s ordination in their partner churches. This has not endeared them to the Orthodox family of churches, who joined the WCC because they wanted to be “ecumenical,” not socially-radical.

    Where they can, the WCC and LWF bribe and threaten poor or weak Lutheran churches. “Bribe” means if you accept women’s ordination, you can get some of the WCC and LWF grant money (which comes from the tax money of the European state churches). “Threaten” means if you stop ordaining women, you will lose the grant money you already are receiving from the WCC or LWF.

    So you see that the WCC and LWF are really guilty of “simony,” i.e., paying for the office of pastor. Poor and weak Lutheran churches find it very difficult to resist. Even if the LCMS cannot “make up the difference” in lost revenues for churches that may want to leave the LWF, we can still be of some encouragement to them.

    This is why the work of Dr. Collver, under the direct supervision of President Harrison, is so valuable in this stage of Lutheran history. If Collver and Harrison can “nudge” these churches in the “right” direction, these churches may someday shake off the dust of their feet from the likes of the LWF and WCC.

    After all, it was only because of similar types of “nudges” in Lutheran directions by the LCMS, that the early Wisconsin Synod actually became an orthodox Lutheran church body (see Mark E. Braun, A Tale of Two Synods [Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, pp. 13-34). Braun writes: “It was much less the polemical writing in Missouri periodicals, often given to exagerration and based on misinformation, and much more the personal and brotherly example and encouragement of a good Missouri neighbor that helped move Wisconsin to the right” (p. 34).

    I hope that church leaders in the LCMS, WELS, and ELS follow the examples of Walther’s church by giving a “personal and brotherly example and encouragement” where that is appropriate and potentially effecitve.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  14. You wrote: “Where they can, the WCC and LWF bribe and threaten poor or weak Lutheran churches. “Bribe” means if you accept women’s ordination, you can get some of the WCC and LWF grant money (which comes from the tax money of the European state churches). “Threaten” means if you stop ordaining women, you will lose the grant money you already are receiving from the WCC or LWF.”

    In the Czech Republic, that grant money will disappear:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8233516212/

    One major concern is how a congregation in Europe could afford to pay for the upkeep of a 300+ year old building without state help.

  15. …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…

    Harrison did write that book against women’s ordination, though. He’s probably the best man for the job of negotiating denominational relationships impeded by such issues. He’s not about to flop any time soon, and he is as capable as any of making a strong case for our views to other groups.

  16. @Martin R. Noland #15 : “I think it is important to see what Dr. Collver actually said in his blog post”

    Okay, let’s look. The WMLT blog article accuses “many LCMS members” of “immediately assum[ing] that a church body [like ECAC] is ‘liberal’,” i.e., that it has “accepted the liberal social agenda that afflicts much of Western Society.”

    Three paragraphs later the article then concedes that, well, yes, one of the reasons for pastrixes is the ECAC’s acceptance of “the egalitarian social justice doctrine of the contemporary world that seeks to remove all gender distinctions.”

    Earlier the WMLT blog article also admits, “The church does ordain women, however, many of these women serve in roles very similar to LCMS deaconesses.”

    But here is what the ECAC stated as their position in a 2007 translated ECAC article, “Women in the Lutheran Church in Slovakia“:

    Today, 30% of the ordained ministers are women. They are pastors, assistant pastors, teachers of religion, counselors in Lutheran schools, teachers at the Seminary, they work at bishops’ offices, in social work, church gremials and many other places. Some of them are single, but many are married and have family.

    “Sometimes a congregation refuses to accept a woman as their pastor, there is sometimes a fear of “overfeminization”, or an opinion that women should not have a high position in the church. Some groups still dispute the very ordination of women.” [Emphasis in original]

    And then the WMLT article has the gall to proclaim: “The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia has been able to maintain its strong Lutheran identity in part due to the strength of their seminary.”

    So what was the purpose of the “SIDE NOTE”? It certainly is not to instill confidence in the current LCMS administration’s every-church body-and-seminary-in-the-world visitation program.

  17. Dr. Collver’s “SIDE NOTE” does not focus exclusively on the ECAC (in Slovakia) in trying to whitewash Lufauxran pastrixes, but more broadly to other church bodies “IN CENTRAL EUROPE (and other churches such as Africa).” And not only the practice of pastrixes, but also other teachings within these churches that keep them from being in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.

    For example, the ECAC in the Czech Republic (ECAC-CR) consists of five congregations: three congregations in Prague (Czech, Slovak, and English-speaking) and two Czech congregations in Pilsen and Brno.

    According to a July, 2012, LCMS/ECAC-CR “working agreement”, the English-speaking congregation in Prague, St. Michael Lutheran Church, will be served by a LCMS pastor, Rev. Tony Booker (CTS, 2011), follow the procedures and policies of the LCMS, uphold the LCMS position on altar and pulpit fellowship, and conduct services according to the Lutheran Service Book.

    According to the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, “The agreement is not considered a declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship between the two church bodies, but rather it expresses both churches’ commitment to engage in further discussion as they work together in limited ways externally.”

    How this “working agreement” differs from “levels of fellowship” which has been opposed by some (Kurt Marquart, “Levels of Fellowship”: A Response,” CTQ, 52:4, October, 1988, pp. 241-264) in the LCMS, is left as an exercise to the reader.

    At the same time as the LCMS announced its level of fellowship… I mean, “working agreement” with the ECAC-CR, the ECAC-CR announced a partnership agreement [partnerskou smlouvu] with the ECAC of Slovakia (ECAC-SK), the church body noted in the WMLT blog article as having pastrixes.

  18. The photo of Rev. Collver standing next to Jana Gregerová (at St. Michael) or even a mention of the pastrix somehow was not included in the May 1, 2012, WMLT blog article, “Installation of Superintendent Marian Cop in Prague” or a similar article on The ABC3s of Miscellany blog.

    The Nov. 30, 2012, WMLT blog article, “Lutheran Church in Czech Republic,” notes:

    “Prague was the fourth Central European Capital in three days, where we met with Lutheran pastors and church leaders from the ECAV in Czech Republic (Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic).”

    The WMLT article also has no mention or picture of Jana Gregerová. Gregerová’s feminist comments supporting pastrixes can be read in a Slovak article, in the section, Sukòa alebo nohavice?” (“Skirts or pants?”).

  19. Another example of the LCMS’s tapdancing around the ECAC of Slovakia –

    The LCMS’s Sept. 2011, “Pray for Us Calendar” does not mention the ECAC’s pastrixes or that the ECAC is a Lufauxran church body not in A&P fellowship with the LCMS. In fact, the carefully worded statements leave the reader with the very opposite impression:

    Remember God’s work in Slovakia as you pray:…

    7. for pastors of the ECAV SK [aka ECAC] who are currently serving congregations. Pray that the Holy Spirit would encourage and strengthen them in their ministry.

    13. for efforts to expand the cooperation between the LCMS and the ECAV SK in the area of continuing pastoral education by providing LCMS personnel who can lecture on requested topics, such as Lutheran preaching and the Augsburg Confessions.

    14. for God to raise up more personnel to serve as GEO missionaries at Slovak schools and congregations. Those who have served in this capacity build valuable relationships and open doors to reaching new people in the schools’ and churches’ communities.

    15. with thanksgiving that the Gospel of Christ is still faithfully preached and shared by Lutherans in Slovakia—even after centuries of counterreformation initiatives and oppression under communist rule.

  20. On Oct. 4, 2011, the Lutheran Theological Conference in Prague, with the theme of Lutheranism in the 21st Century, opened with attendees from 21 countries including England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Norway and the United States. At the conclusion of the first day’s sessions, everyone walked to the nearby Church of St. Michael for a Vespers service, led by the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, and a sermon delivered by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod President, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.

    As I noted earlier, Rev. Booker, a LCMS member, was called by the LCMS Board for International Mission and installed as the pastor of the St. Michael English-speaking congregation on October 8, 2011. The LCMS signed a “working agreement” with the ECAC-CR on July 11, 2012, allowing the LCMS to operate the English-speaking congregation at St. Michael. Also noted in article about Rev. Booker’s installation, the small St. Michael English-speaking congregation had been served for the previous five years by retired LCMS pastors. The LCMS also has a relationship with the larger Selesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (SCAEV) in the Czech Republic, a relationship focused on charitable and social rehabilitation work.

    The video of the St. Michael church being used for a Vespers service for the attendees of the Lutheran Theological Conference in Prague shows that there has been and continues to be a definite cooperation (albeit at the ‘working agreement’ level) between the LCMS and ECAC-CR. That the LCMS intends to go to a higher level of cooperation is indicated on Rev. Booker’s LCMS website, where the LCMS notes:

    “Tony serves as the pastor to a small congregation of English-speaking expatriates and helps build closer relationships between the LCMS and local Lutheran churches, so that they might work together in mutual mission and ministry.”

    What the difference is between the LCMS/ECAC-CR “working together in mutual mission and ministry” and being “partner churches” at some ‘level of fellowship’ is left as an exercise (or tapdancing) for the reader.

  21. @Brad #7
    Incindiary? Only if taken so. Personally, I find a church body that claims the moniker “Lutheran” and goes on to deny the scriptures and ordain women to be committing an incindiary act. Why is saying what a thing is so offensive? Is it because that thing they did is offensive and convicting them of it might hurt someone’s feelings? I find the statement very easy to substantiate. “How can you consider them ‘not remotely orthodox’?” Answer:(which is substantive) “They ordain women, which is clearly against the scriptures.” How many drops of poison must be present in your drinking water before you call it something other than drinking water?

  22. Does anyone have a good definition for “remotely orthodox”?

    It’s possible such a definition might be used to explain the phrase, “remotely pregnant.”

  23. @Carl Vehse #25

    Does anyone have a good definition for “remotely orthodox”?

    I’ll take a stab: People who believe false doctrines but are nonetheless still Christian. This would apply to all believers who are not Lutheran.

  24. @Robert Hoffman #24

    Not offensive, but imprecise (and by the way, language can be incendiary regardless of how you take it– just as kerosene is incendiary, regardless of how you take it.) For example, just as denying the Holy Scriptures and ordaining women is an error, so too is disregarding the Office of the Holy Ministry which Christ established by allowing anyone to preach or administer the sacraments without a regular call.

    My point is this– calling female ordination an error and a sin, is accurate. Calling it the great indicator of total Biblical rejection and orthodoxy is ham fisted, and demonstrably innaccurate.

    Likewise, calling lay preaching and administration of the sacraments, the practical abolishing of the pastoral office, an error and a sin, is accurate. Is it, however, the hallmark of a total rejection of Biblical authority and orthodoxy? I doubt it… but the ancient churches of Orthodoxy often make that claim against us, on the same grounds that we have made it against the ECAC, or others of their ilk.

    The reality is, we’re a heterodox church body, throwing rocks at another heterodox church body, over sins against God regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry– we’re just sinning against it differently. The one ordains women contrary to the instructions given by St. Paul– the other has begun to discard ordination altogether, also contrary to the instructions of St. Paul.

    I completely agree that we should stand against error, particularly in our own house– and that one error does not absolve another. But before we go trying to clean others’ houses, we better get around to tidying up our own.

    Regards.

  25. @Miguel #26

    Fairly close to Mueller’s definition in his Dogmatics. Though there is a distinction between errors which make one heterodox, versus those that put one outside the church altogether. And even within the ring of “remotely orthodox” heterodoxy, there are still grades of decent away from the Truth of Holy Scripture… just as one might recognize the difference in errors between an Anglican and a Methodist, or a Roman and a Coptic.

    Blessings to you.

  26. VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE

    We have done some investigating of some of the criticisms above.

    The vespers service to which “Carl Vehse” refers was held in the St. Michael Church building in Prague which is ECAV church. It was as service held by only LCMS people in a building owned by another church body and that is not unionism, nor does it imply fellowship with that church. In fact, President Harrison preached on 31 October 2012 in a church building owned by the Wisconsin Synod. The people in attendance were LCMS or LCMS church partners. Does that mean we are in fellowship with WELS?

    In the vespers service where President Harrison preached, the liturgy was conducted by MS clergyman Al Colver. Pastor Tony Booker conducts an English service in the building of St. Michael’s in Prague. It is an LCMS service, done from LSB. He does not do joint worship with either the Slovaks or the Czechs. He happens to use their building. Currently, we are not even paying them to use the building.

    Consequently, to have the opportunity to use the Slovak / Czech building (St. Michael’s in Prague), a person has to have at least cordial and friendly discussions with people including those we do not agree with theologically. (That may even mean that LCMS officials end up in a photograph with a female clergyman from time to time.) Just because we have met with Slovaks and Czechs and spoken charitably about them in light of their struggle under communism while under a deficit of clear Biblical and Confessional teaching does not mean the LCMS is wavering on our positions.

  27. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I have several different responses to your discussion here:

    ————————————————————————-

    With regard to the matter of orthodoxy, I would not say that the LCMS, WELS, or ELS are heterodox church bodies. Perhaps there are members of micro-synods who want to say that on blogs, in order to bring sheep into their fold. Perhaps John 8:7 applies here; in any event, as you know, I am not one to quarrel.

    The definition of “heterodox” and “orthodox” is not up for readers of this blog (nor myself) to determine. This is part of our Lutheran doctrinal heritage. I don’t have time to quote all the relevant passages, so will only give some quotations and cite the others:

    A church body does not forfeit its orthodox character by reason of the casual intrusion of false doctrine. The thing which the Apostle Paul told the elders of Ephesus: “Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30) came true not only in the Apostolic Church, but also in the church of the Reformation and will occur in the Church to the Last Day. A church body loses its orthodoxy only when it no longer applies Romans 16:17, hence does not combat and eventually remove the false doctrine, but tolerates it without reproof and thus actually grants it equal right with the truth. (Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics [St Louis: CPH, 1953], volume 3, p. 423; see also pp. 422-426).

    The apostle writes: “When you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it. For there must also be heresies [sects] among you that they which are approved may be manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11:18-19). With these words the apostle means to say that to him it does not seem incredible at all that among the Corinthians there were divisions, for because of the fury of the evil Foe and the corruption of the flesh it could not be otherwise than that finally there should arise among them even heresies [sects]. From this we learn that a mere division is something less serious than a sect. (CFW Walther, The True Visible Church (St Louis: CPH, 1961), pp. 29-30; see also pp. 12-45, 50-56, 133).

    Now it is obvious that not every doctrinal error creates a pernicious sect, for even the apostles erred in doctrine before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them; nevertheless no one regarded them as heretics, because they failed in simplicity and ignorance. . . . A really pernicious heresy is, properly speaking, an error in doctrine that is held and stubbornly defended by those who are in the church of Christ in opposition to the foundation of faith, causes divisions and offenses contrary to the sound doctrine, and stubbornly rejects correction. (Gutachten of the Wittenberg faculty: Balduin, Meisner, Franz – in 1619, in Consilium Wittenbergensae, volume 1, fol. 526; quoted in Walther, ibid., p. 23).

    See also: Francis Pieper, Lectures on the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the True Visible Church of God on Earth, tr. O. Marc Tanger; in Francis Pieper, The Church and Her Treasure (St. Louis: The Luther Academy, 2007) – available here: http://www.shop.logia.org/The-Church-and-Her-Treasure-36.htm

    Johann Gerhard, Theological commonplaces: On the Church, tr. Richard Dinda, ed. Benjamin Mayes (St Louis: CPH, 2010), chapters VI, IX, and X (pp. 70-109, 188-276) – available here: http://www.cph.org/p-12935-on-the-church-theological-commonplaces.aspx?SearchTerm=gerhard on church

    Johann Baier, Compendium Theologiae Positivae, ed. CFW Walther (reprint edition, Grand Rapids: Emmanuel Press, 2005), vol. III, pp. 662-664 (section 35). – available here: http://emmanuelpress.us/our-books/baier%e2%80%93walther-compendium/

    ——————————————————-

    With regard to the “Levels of Fellowship” discussion, Dr. Marquart stated:

    “Levels of fellowship” and the old in sacris-in externis distinction define two different and fundamentally incompatible frames of reference or “models” of fellowship. . . . Dr. [John] Behnken, on the contrary, has ruled out fellowship (cooperatio in sacris) from the outset, and had limited the cooperation to externals. . . .What is wrong with Wisconsin’s [the synod] formulation [of church fellowship] is not the idea that church fellowship is basically one indivisible “unit” – that is a Confessional Lutheran commonplace – but rather the impossibly broad and all-inclusive definition of this “unit” as “covering every joint expression [, manifestation, and demonstration of a common faith”]. . . . The Europeans faulted the Wisconsin definition basically for its orientation to individual personal faith, rather than to the objective marks of the church. . . . The preoccupation with individuals, to the relative neglect of the church and of churches as such, is precisely the central problem of the “levels of fellowship’ scheme. (Kurt Marquart, “Levels of Fellowship: A Response” Concordia Theological Quarterly 52 #4 (October 1988), pp. 255-259)- available here: http://media.ctsfw.edu/410

    ————————————————————–

    With regard to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Czech Republic, I believe that this is now a distinct church from the similarly named church in Slovakia. If that is the case, then what is true of one may not be true for the other.

    To argue that the Czech church has the same faults as the Slovak church would be the same as arguing that the “Lutheran Church-Canada” has the same faults as the LCMS. That is a classic non sequitur in logic, I believe it is called the genealogical fallacy.

    It might be the case that the Czech church has the same faults as the Slovak, but we don’t know until we investigate these issues properly, in person to person discussions, and with review of official church documents, and visitation of seminaries, churches, etc. I think that would be one good reason for our LCMS President’s staff to spend time over there, don’t you?

    ———————————————————–

    None of the above is an argument in favor of having church fellowship, i.e., cooperatio in sacris with a church-body that permits women’s ordination. But as Marquart quoted Dr. Behnken, this does not rule out cooperatio in externis where that is appropriate.

    That’s all the time I have for this. I am now getting into the two-weeks on either side of Christmas, which is usually one of the busiest times of year for Lutheran pastors. I am sorry that I won’t have time to continue the discussion until after the New Year, but I have higher priorities. If I make any comments before then, they will be brief, and only if I have time to review the BJS blog.

    A blessed Christmas to all of you!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  28. @Brad #27

    You’re going off on a tangent that does not deal with the stated issue. Regardless of what someone else is doing, ordination of women is rejection of the scriptures. It should be mentioned–it should be pointed at–it should be rejected. In spite of any problems within our church body (which I would say is *NOT* heterodox, but contains some heterodox practices largely due to influences such as PLI and couched under “pastoral freedom”) it makes no sense to invite more mess into our home. Just because we have a dirty back room doesn’t mean we should invite mud-covered guests into our front room. Your arguement makes no sense. I read it as a namby-pamby “well, we’re not perfect either” excuse for accepting what is unacceptable. If I am mis-reading you, then I apologize. That additude is prevalent among many within our church body. For those that share that additude, I say Grow a Pair and leave the LCMS if you think the grass is greener and more loving elsewhere. I whole-heartedly reject your assertion that we should be more open to heterodox churches because we have some internal house-cleaning to do. I find that to be a shameful thing. We are called to stand in judgement–in spite of our imperfection.

  29. @Robert #31
    Robert,

    I think you have misread me. I repeatedly noted that female ordination is a sin, and rejection of Holy Scripture. It should be resisted, and particularly addressed for what it is.

    My beef is with both the uncharitable language, and the argumentation of condemning the whole for the sake of a part. Neither of these are warranted.

    As for our heterodoxy as a synod, it was my understanding that we, as the LCMS, in convention, voted to disregard AC XIV… and have, in practice, in various districts, executed that false doctrine regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry. If that is not the case, then I humbly withraw the charge, and repent of my error.

    And as for the charge to “grow a pair,” my boots have been deployed to some very dangerous places, and I know what life and death look like as they wrestle with each other. I know how to call a thing what it is. I also know while I have a hammer in my tool chest, it is not always the appropriate tool to the job at hand.

    As with Pr. Noland, I think I am done here– far too much to do. I hope I have made myself clear.

    Peace to you.

  30. @Brad #32
    “The Augsburg Confession states: It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” I couldn’t agree more. This is *not* the practice of the Synod. It is the practice of individual churches and individuals (up to and including Districts and District presidents) within our synod. Which convention do you refer to? I would love to see where that comes from exactly.

    As far as your boots are concerned, was that in a called vocation? In terms of saying what a thing is–bless you for it. I only hope you’re not too discerning when you use it. As far as the hammer in the tool chest is concerned–it might not be the best tool for a fly on the window, but that doesn’t mean you don’t grab the fly swatter. It makes no difference to the fly.

  31. Brad :
    My beef is with…the uncharitable language…

    Dolling up a sin with a euphemism is not the correct answer. As I said before, incendiary is when a group claiming to be orthodox confuses the faithful by ordaining women, a practice which contradicts whatever pious claims the group might make about their respect for the authority of Holy Scripture. And their practice undermines the authority of Scripture over the group in all other matters.

    My beef is with soft language that pretends these are “little white” sins.

    Like “women’s rights” when we are talking about murdering babies…

    Like “love” when we are embracing sodomy…

    Like “a very conservative and orthodox female pastor…” when we are talking about the rejection of God’s Word.

  32. @Robert #33
    By Pr. Curtis, in a blog entry on this site, earlier this year:

    “It just so happens that we have this issue: Missouri’s 1989 revision of the Augsburg Confession sans Article XIV (it is the shortest article, so it’s a small revision, right?). “Lay ministry” – the intentional, “licensed,” and ongoing practice of having men who have not been called to and placed in the Office of the Ministry administer the Sacraments and preach the Word in our parishes. This is simply contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the Confessions, and contrary to all the practice of historic Christianity.

    If Confessionals cannot unite to undo this wrong, then what is the point of being Confessional? Let us make 2013 the Year of AC XIV.”

    Link here: https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=20663

    As for my boots during my active duty years, it was a secular vocation.

    Blessings to you.

  33. @Pastor Ted Crandall #34

    With all due respect, Pr. Krandall, what of my language was euphemistic or soft? I was not guilty of any of the charges you list, though you seem to infer that I was. I did not call for soft terms, just accurate and substantiable ones.

    And while I agree that it is scandalous to the church and the world for a group that claims to be orthodox, to ordain women into the Office of the Holy Ministry contrary to the Holy Scriptures… I also say to you, that it is scandalous to the church and the world for our Synod to despise the Office of the Holy Ministry by encouraging men into it who are not called nor ordained to that Office– contrary to Holy Scripture.

    Neither of these are small, white sins, and I never suggested that they were. In fact, I called them sins against God, which is in fact what they are. They should be repented of. To remain in them, knowingly, unrepentently, is moving toward the category of mortal sin, and is damnable.

    I shall honor the Office you hold, but please, do not misrepresent me.

  34. @Brad #36
    I thought you were saying we should be more euphemistic when you said, “Meaning no disrespect, but this phrase [There has never been a group that has ordained women and remained even remotely orthodox.] seems very incendiary…” and when you said, “…language can be incendiary regardless of how you take it…” I’m sorry I misunderstood your concern with incendiary language.

    Looking over you posts again, I see now that you’re not really disagreeing with the substance of the “incendiary” quote or even the “incendiary” way it was expressed. Instead, you simply object to anyone in the LCMS having the unmitigated gall to say any other church body is heterodox: “The reality is, we’re a heterodox church body, throwing rocks at another heterodox church body…”

    Dr. Noland properly defined heterodox (@Martin R. Noland #30 ), or rather, demonstrated how Pieper properly defined it: “A church body loses its orthodoxy only when it no longer applies Romans 16:17, hence does not combat and eventually remove the false doctrine, but tolerates it without reproof and thus actually grants it equal right with the truth.” The LCMS is trying to correct its “casual” error (https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=20663).

    What efforts are being made to correct the ordination of women in the heterodox church groups you are defending?

  35. @Pastor Ted Crandall #37
    Thank you for the more charitable reading, Pr. Krandall.

    A couple thoughts. First, I do not object to anyone noting another church body as heterodox– I do so often. This is not unmitigated gall, particularly if it is true. What I challenged was the contention, unsupported by facts or data, that “There has never been a group that has ordained women and remained even remotely orthodox.” That statement says more than is validated, I think, as sins against the proper administration of the Office of the Holy Ministry are rampant across the Church at large, and have been since the early centuries of the church.

    Secondly, I’m not defending any particular church over their ordination of women, anymore than I am defending the LCMS for it’s 1989 Convention decision to disregard AC XIV. I am noting the sin, while attempting to discern the sinner, so that the sinner may come to repentance (either in the singular, or the collective.)

    I concur with Peiper’s assesment of heterodoxy, and Pr. Noland’s fine comments. However, I have failed to see any substantive resistance at the Synod level, to the 1989 Convention decision regarding AC XIV. Certainly there are pockets of us who object to the dissolution and/or dilution of the Pastoral Office in spite of the Synod Convention to the contrary– but pockets of resistance is not, I think, what Peiper is talking about.

    As for heterodox communions with women’s ordination, that are resisting that particular error and attempting to maintain orthodoxy (and Biblical innerrancy,) I might offer up the example of Anglican Church in North America. While they have many issues, their issue with women’s ordination is officially sanctioned by the larger church body (at least for deacons and priests), there are whole dioceses which resist and do not ordain women to any of those offices. They have bishops who officially and publicly denounce the larger church body’s position on women’s ordination, and maintain a more orthodox piety where they have authority. Where they do not have authority, they speak as witnesses to the error of their brethren.

    Perhaps we have a parallell in the LCMS, where district presidents are enforcing orthodoxy in their respective districts… but I do not hear them where I am. Nor do I hear them attempting to rebuke and correct the larger Synod in Convention. If we have such men performing that historic episcopal function faithfully and true, thanks be to God! I hope to meet one someday.

    Peace be with you.

  36. @Brad #36
    @Pastor Ted Crandall #34
    With all due respect, Pr. Krandall,

    @Brad #38
    @Pastor Ted Crandall #37
    Thank you for the more charitable reading, Pr. Krandall.

    Any reason for the misspelling, Brad…
    since you have copied the name into your post in both instances?

    Just wondering…

    [Aw, Ted, you beat me to it.] 🙂

  37. @helen #40

    My “8th Commandment” guess would be that it’s an attempt to make me a more Germanic Lutheran — you know, like Handel.

    I once tried to make conversation with a Royal Marine on Diego Garcia by telling him my name was English, referring to a dale full of cranes. “It’s in Wales, actually.”
    In all seriousness he replied, aghast, “And ye tell people?”

    😀

  38. @Pastor Ted Crandall #42
    Yes, sir– concur absolutely.

    And as for the mispelling of your name, I am horrified– my sincerest apologies. I don’t know where my mind crossed the “C” with a “K” but somewhere the wires crossed in my brain, and then I didn’t check it again. Please forgive me (I’ve struggled with letter transposition and confusion for many years… it apparently still plagues me. It may be the conflation of the “T” in your first name situated over the “C” in your last name, as it appears in the margin. Not an excuse, just another weakness of my sinful flesh.)

    Blessings to you.

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