Sermons and Papers


The Women's Ordination Debate in the Lutheran Church of Australia


An Open Response to the Initial Report of the Commission on Theology and Interchurch Relations


by Dr. Greg Lockwood

Preface

Some may query whether it is proper for me to write a response of this nature. After all, I am not currently a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia, but a guest lecturer at Luther Seminary. Let me say in defence that this response emanates from a deep concern for the church I grew up in, have served, and still love as my "mother". After studying at Immanuel and Luther Seminaries and graduating in 1970, I served the LCA for 17 years in PNC and for three years in Bridgewater, SA. Thereupon, I accepted a call as an associate professor of New Testament and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having completed seven years in the USA I am currently enjoying a year's sabbatical as a visiting lecturer in New Testament at Luther Seminary.

During the past months in Adelaide I have had the opportunity of following the LCA debate on women's ordination at close hand. I was also able to participate in last year's symposium on the ordination question at Luther Seminary (July 24-25, 1998).

After much soul-searching, I have decided to make a contribution to the debate at this point. I would rather do so now than have cause to reproach myself later. My interest in the topic arises from my doctoral studies in New Testament and especially from a current writing assignment, a commentary on First Corinthians to be published by Concordia Publishing House.

The CTICR has asked for "church-wide feedback" to its initial report to be in its hands by 31 August 1999. Thus the first copies of this response will be forwarded to President Steicke and the CTICR. However, because the wider church has already become deeply involved in the issue through the recent seminars led by members of the CTICR, and because the whole church has a vital interest in the issue, I have taken the liberty of printing copies for pastors and pastors emeriti, with some additional copies for interested laypeople.

The financing of this project has been made possible by the generosity of some LCA laypeople who were eager to offer whatever assistance they could.

Anyone who would like to make photocopies should feel free to do so.

I commend this response to the church's prayerful consideration. My prayer is that "all things be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Cor 14:26).

Greg Lockwood, April, 1999
Privately printed
(2nd Edition)

This edition contains some improvements in the format, an additional appendix (Appendix B) and a bibliography.

The endnotes used in this work are linked from the note number in the text to the endnote at the bottom of the page, and vice versa.


Outline

Introduction

1. Basic hermeneutical questions (issues in Biblical interpretation)

  1. The key texts
  2. The Scriptures - the basis for deciding the issue
  3. Are all ways of interpreting the Bible equally valid?
  4. Two ways contrasted: "Proof texts" versus "the Gospel"

2. The significance of "the command of the Lord"

  1. The interpretation of Corinthians 14:37
  2. A command that may be disregarded because it is given only once?
  3. A divine command of only temporary significance?
  4. A command that serves the orderly presentation of the Gospel

3. Responses to the seven arguments for the ordination of women

  • Argument 1 - The relevance of the key texts
  • Argument 2 - The mission imperative
  • Argument 3 - Roles played by women in the early church
  • Argument 4 - Equality of men and women in Christ
  • Argument 5 - The inclusivity of the gospel
  • Argument 6 - The representation of Christ
  • Argument 7 - A legitimate conclusion

Concluding remarks

  1. Remarks on the role of the pastoral ministry in general
  2. Concluding remarks on the ordination of women

Appendix A: (Mrs Sara Low)

Appendix B - Arguments for and against the ordination of women (from the CTJCR's Initial Report)

Endnotes

Bibliography

Introduction

The Commission on Theology and Interchurch Relations has agreed, very properly, that the issue of women's ordination "is to be decided by theological considerations, based on the witness of Scripture as interpreted by the Lutheran Confessions" (Initial Report, p. 1). In keeping with this laudable objective, I will confine myself to the scriptural and theological evidence relating to the issue. The following analysis will draw attention to what I believe to be weaknesses in the seven "scriptural and theological" arguments for the ordination of women as listed in the CTICR's Initial Report.1(See Appendix B)

It may be asked how a response which exposes the weaknesses of the "pro" case squares with the word of caution in the CTICR report: "Whether or not women are to be ordained is not to be established simply by countering the opposing argument, but by a consistent, theological argument based on the witness of the Scriptures, the creeds, and our own confessional writings"? (p. 2.B.2.)

I will not make a thorough, consistent case in favour of a male-only pastorate, as this has already been made in the CTICR report and various papers, and needs no elaboration from me. I will restrict myself (a) to addressing the principles of biblical interpretation (the "hermeneutical" principles) involved in making a decision (Part 1); b) stressing the significance of Paul's statement in I Cor. 14:37, "what I am writing to you is the command of the Lord" (Part 2); (c) [as stated above], critically analysing the seven "arguments for the ordination of women" (Part 3).

Such critical analysis is, I believe, urgently needed at this time. Important theological issues cannot be properly clarified in an atmosphere which discourages people from raising objections to arguments they believe to be false. To use an analogy: If your friends are setting out to sea in a boat full of holes and want you to join them, is it improper for you to point out that you think the boat is leaking? They may, of course, dispute your observations. But they would be wise, wouldn't they, to double-check?

Basic hermeneutical questions (issues in Biblical interpretation)

a) The key texts

The key texts are 1 Cor 14:33b-40 and 1 Tim 2:11-15. St Paul writes to the Corinthians:

"As in all the churches of the saints, let the women be silent in the churches. For it is not permitted for them to speak; rather, let them be subordinate, as the Law also says. And if they wish to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or did the Word of God go out from you, or are you the only ones it reached? If someone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If anyone does not recognize [this], he [or she] is not recognised" (1 Cor 14:33b-38).

Paul also writes to Timothy:

"Let a woman learn in silence in all submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. But they are to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. But she will be saved through childbirth (or "through the birth of The Child"), if they remain in faith and love and holiness with propriety" (1 Tim 2:11-15).

Many people today react to these texts just as the disciples reacted to the Lord's words regarding his flesh and blood being "real food" and "real drink": "This is a hard saying. Who can accept it?" (John 6:55, 60). If these Pauline texts are to be taken at face value even in the circumstances of our modern culture, they find themselves taking offense. Thus there has arisen the fierce debate in modern Christendom on women's ordination, a debate which no church can avoid.

That some find these Pauline texts hard to swallow is understandable given the climate of our times which poses a particular challenge to Christian women who seek to be faithful to the Word as revealed in Scripture. Behind these passages stands the teaching on the order of creation (the man as the head of the woman - 1 Cor 11:3, etc) which runs counter to modern thinking. It can only be happily embraced if seen as God's good will for his creation for reasons we may not fully understand. By the same token, this is not an easy saying for many men. Not all welcome the responsibilities that headship brings.

b) The Scriptures - the basis for deciding the issue

All Australian Lutherans should agree with John Reumann, a prominent Lutheran advocate of women's ordination in the USA, when he writes: "Any decision about women functioning in the ordained ministry must rest, in the Lutheran tradition, on careful examination of the scriptural data" (Ministries Examined, p. 78).2 We would also agree with Reumann when he continues: "The whole question is basically one of hermeneutics: how do you interpret and apply the Scripture" (p. 98).

c) Are all ways of interpreting the Bible equally valid?

A common approach to encouraging Lutherans to discuss women's ordination "without rancor"3 runs like this: "All of us are equally and honestly committed to the authority of the Scriptures. That good people reach different conclusions is due simply to their different hermeneutic (approach to biblical interpretation). The hermeneutical issues involved are difficult, a matter for biblical specialists. But you may safely leave them in the hands of these experts. Whatever the outcome, you may rest assured that we all share the same fundamental commitment to the Bible. So different hermeneutical approaches which lead to conclusions quite different from what the church has traditionally held should not bother us. We should tolerate one another's viewpoints. After all, the issue is not church-divisive,4 and should not be taken too seriously."

This approach begs the question: Are all ways of interpreting the Bible equally true to the Bible's self-understanding and therefore equally helpful in building up the church? The answer, I would submit, is "No." Some hermeneutical approaches encourage the practitioner to adopt a critical stance towards the authority, truthfulness, and clarity of some parts of the Bible. And that - precisely that - is the major concern of those who oppose women's ordination. The ordination of women, in itself, is merely a symptom of what they believe to be a far more serious problem: a critical stance towards the Bible's authority, a stance fraught with serious consequences for the life of the church.5 In other words, the basic issue is hermeneutics and the doctrine of Scripture.

The real question, then, is whether we adopt (a) a Lutheran understanding of the Bible as the Word of God, a hermeneutic which allows Scripture (rather than the culture) to interpret Scripture, an approach we may call "the hermeneutics of appreciation"6, or (b) whether we follow a critical approach to the Scriptures which questions the authority and relevance of foundational texts.

The point is not, then, whether there are honest Christian men and women on both sides of the debate. Undoubtedly there are. But an honest Christian can be honestly mistaken. And a mistaken hermeneutic can have grave implications for the church.

d) Two ways contrasted: "Proof Texts" versus "the Gospel"

The prominent Lutheran advocate of women's ordination in the United States, John Reumann, certainly does not accept all hermeneutical approaches as being equally salutary. He describes two different ways of interpreting Scripture: One approach, he writes, "argues by proof texts," the other is "gospel-centred." Thus we face the question: "Does a central gospel or do individual texts . . . prevail in reaching a decision?" (p. 99).

Already the dice are loaded. One approach is described as "gospel-centered," and therefore good. The other approach is, by implication, not gospel-centered, and therefore it is "legalistic"7 and bad. This latter approach, it is claimed, puts too much store by "proof texts" and "individual texts."

What does Reumann mean by "proof texts?" The expression has been used, without proper definition, to disparage any appeal to the key foundational texts which have served as the church's basis in determining its teaching and practice. If Reumann means by proof-texting that a person appeals to biblical texts without regard for their context, then we would agree with him that this is bad. But what he is specifically attacking is making too much of texts that speak directly to the issue. This approach, he writes, "begins with . . . 1 Corinthians 14, or 1 Timothy 2, which leads you to exclude women from ordination" (p. 117).

Or, it is argued, we need to be aware of the cultural, linguistic, and historical gaps between the first century and the twentieth century. What the Biblical text meant then may be different from what it means today. I personally think far too much has been made of this "gap." Couldn't the Lord, who knows the human heart, speak words that are authoritative and clear and applicable to the human condition down to the end of time? Couldn't his called apostles do the same? How much of the New Testament, the words of the Holy Spirit, doesn't speak just as directly and clearly to the believer's heart today as it spoke to people then? And if we adopt the "gap" approach, who determines what God speaks today? But I will pick this issue up again later.

I ask again, then, what is wrong with appealing to the key foundational texts? What proof are we going to use in a discussion on "scriptural and theological evidence" if we cannot use those scriptural passages that speak to the issue? Jesus himself, immersed in the Scriptures as he was, constantly appealed to "individual texts" from the Old Testament as the foundation for his teaching and practice (cf the thrice-repeated "it is written" in Matt 4:1-13). A reading of Luther's Small Catechism will show that Luther quotes the Bible over and over as the foundation of the teaching he expounds.

He uses texts that speak to the specific issue. In elucidating the doctrine of baptism, for example, he does not appeal to some vague "gospel" principle (the principle of love, or the "gospel spirit" of freedom, or equality, or inclusivity). Rather, he adduces "individual texts" that deal specifically with baptism (Matthew 28, Romans 6, Titus 3). In technical language these texts are called the "sedes doctrinae," "the seat of the doctrine."

To refer to such texts is really just sanctified common sense. If we want to know what our car manual says about changing a wheel, we don't look up the section on the electrical system. Similarly, if we want to know what the Bible says about who may be qualified to serve as a pastor, we don't begin with texts that spell out the Gospel, like 1 Cor 15:3 ("Christ died for our sins"). The Gospel of forgiveness in Christ says nothing about who should be ordained.

The significance of "the command of the Lord"

a) The interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:37

Despite Reumann, then, I will focus on the key texts, 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2. What is the significance of Paul's statements in 1 Cor 14:34 and 37: "Let the women be silent in the churches . . . What I am writing to you is the command of the Lord"? The word "command" (entole) is not a term that Paul uses lightly. In First Corinthians he uses it only twice. One of these texts (1 Cor 14:37) is quoted above. The other is 7:19: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping God's commands (entolon) is what matters." In Chapter 7, Paul is giving advice on various marriage matters. In some cases he gives advice simply on the basis of his own pastoral judgment (v 8: "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say . . .; v 12: "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord) . . .;" v 25: "Now about virgins: I have no command8 from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy"; (see also v 40). At one point, however, he insists that his counsel does not rest merely on his pastoral judgment; it rests on a command from the Lord: "To the married I give this command9 (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband . . .. And a husband must not divorce his wife" (vv 10-11; Mark 10:11-12).10

Thus Paul distinguishes carefully between his personal pastoral advice which has limited significance and does not necessarily bind the Christian's conscience, and divine commands which are to bind the conscience. A careful examination of the data in First Corinthians can only lead to the conclusion that Paul's injunction for the women to be silent belongs to the divine commands.11

b) A command that may be disregarded because it is given only once?

The notion has become widespread that we may ignore this command of the Lord because it is stated only once in the New Testament. And, after all (it is sometimes added), it stems only from Paul, not from our Lord himself.

Response:

  • (a) The command to baptise is given only once (Matt 28:19);

  • (b) Paul's command that the women be silent in the churches is actually given twice (1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:12), unless we rule out the latter passage because it does not add: "this is a command of the Lord."

  • (c) The "only once" argument also overlooks the texts which speak in a more general way of the Christian woman's submission and the man's headship (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1-5; Titus 2:5).

  • (d) Even if the command were given only once, we may ask: When parents command a child to do or not to do something, and the child disobeys, how many would be impressed by the retort: "But you only told me once"?

  • (e) Paul does not write as a private individual, but as the apostle (ambassador) of Jesus Christ. That is how he introduces himself in Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1 (and very strongly: "not from human beings nor through a human being"); Eph 1:1, etc. His word is not his private opinion, but the word of Christ.

c) A divine command of only temporary sigrirficance?

But, we may ask, is it a divine command which applied only to the church of Paul's day? A comparison with the command regarding divorce in 1 Cor 7:10-11 suggests the answer is "No." Are there any hints in the Gospels that Jesus understood his command regarding divorce as merely a temporary restriction? Or that Paul interpreted his Master to that effect? Moreover, when we look at the rest of the New Testament, the overwhelming impression is that the word "command" when used of divine commands is that they have enduring significance. Jesus criticises the Pharisees for transgressing the command of God on account of their tradition (Matt 15:3). The person who has Jesus' commandments and keeps them is the one who loves him (John 14:21). The Lord's Great Commission places on the disciples the duty of "teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20).12 Divine commands have to do with matters of great and eternal significance, like faith and love: "And this is his commandment (entole), that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has given command (entole again) to us" (1 John 3:23).

d) A command that serves the orderly presentation of the Gospel

lt may seem, at first blush, that the above discussion focuses too much on the word "command", a word which has to do with the Law rather than the Gospel. Advocates of women's ordination have, at times, portrayed themselves as "evangelical", while their opponents are labeled "legalistic". Thus John Reumann writes: "Shall these verses [1 Timothy 2] be read 'evangelically' or 'legally', shall they be appraised in relation to the gospel (with its implications of emancipation) or as on a par with every other verse and theme in the New Testament?" (p. 92).13

It is important to remember, however, that in the New Testament the word "command" (like the word Torah in the OT - e.g. Psalm 1) is often used in a broad sense to denote the whole will and word of God, including the Gospel. We have seen that that is how Jesus uses the word in Matt 28:20 ("teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you", that is "all my teaching").

In this connection, it may be helpful to distinguish between commands which strictly speaking are legal commands ("Thou shalt not kill"; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbour as yourself"), and those commands which are specifically linked to the Gospel and implement the Gospel: "Take, eat, and drink;" "Go and make disciples . . ., baptising . . ., and teaching" (Matt 28:19-20); "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24); "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22); "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep" (John 21:15-16). "Hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15). Those in favour of a male-only pastorate believe that the imperatives of 1 Cor 14 and I Tim 2 are likewise designed for the proper and orderly implementation of the gospel.14

3. Responses to the seven arguments for the ordination of women

Of the seven arguments for the ordination of women listed in the Initial Report (see Appendix B), the first has to do with the relevance and clarity of 1 Cor 14:33b-40 and 1 Tim 2:11-15:

Argument 1 - The relevance of the key texts

"The two texts . . . are ambiguous and open to various interpretations. For example, in 1 Cor 14:34 it is not clear what kind of 'silence' Paul is commanding women to observe since women are praying and pro phes ying (11:5, 13). Further, it is not clear to what the 'command of the Lord' (14:37) refers, e.g. to the silence of the women or to the necessity for good order in worship" (Initial Report, p.3).

Similar questions are raised about the clarity of 1 Tim 2.15

Response:

It seems extraordinary that these passages have become "ambiguous" to scholars during the last few decades, whereas to our forebears and to the church throughout the centuries their import was clear. Our forebears were clear that these texts meant that women were not to have a leading speaking role during the worship service. They were not to lead the liturgy, they were not to preach the sermon, they were not to administer the sacraments. As for the texts themselves, it is clear that at the least they mean that a woman is not to stand before the congregation as "the teacher" on Sundays or whenever divine service is held. What could be clearer than 1 Tim 2:12: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"?16 And is 1 Cor 14:34 any less clear: "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says"? In the light of 1 Tim 2:12 (according to the principle "Scripture interprets Scripture") that must at least mean that the women are not to teach the Word of God to the assembled congregation. Thus the essential meaning of both texts as they relate to the issue of women's ordination is unambiguous. At least one advocate of women's ordination has admitted as much:

The two main texts have the following in common: women/wives are to remain silent; they are to show submission; they are to be learners or questioners rather than leaders and teachers . . .. The general import of the texts is clear.17

Questions arise mainly about the scope of the apostolic injunction (CTICR: "What kind of 'silence'"?). Is it to be understood more broadly than teaching? For example, does Paul (as some think) also intend to ban the women from prophesying and speaking in tongues? Or is it to be understood more broadly still, as an absolute ban on any speaking by women during church? Thus advocates of women's ordination sometimes indulge in a reductio ad absurdum (reducing the opponent's argument in a way that makes it look absurd) by asking (e.g.): "Does that mean a woman cannot teach Sunday School?" A careful reading of 1 Tim 2:12 should provide a sufficient answer. We need to distinguish between public teaching that exercises authority and forms of teaching in groups in the congregation under the authority and oversight of the pastor.

But proponents of women's ordination raise question after question in order to inject doubt regarding the clarity of the texts.18 Let's take up just one more, that "it is not clear to what the 'command of the Lord' (14:37) refers, e.g. to the silence of the women or to the necessity for good order in worship." I would simply suggest that you take up your Bible and read 1 Cor 14:33b-40 for yourself, and see whether you think "the command of the Lord" applies only to the need for good order (v 40), or whether it applies also to the immediate antecedent in verses 33b-36.

As for the clarity of the Scriptures in general, this is a vital point in the Lutheran Church's doctrine of Scripture. Against Erasmus, Luther argued for "the perspicuity of Scripture":

The notion that in Scripture some things are recondite (obscure) and all is not plain was spread by the godless Sophists . . .. And Satan has used these unsubstantial spectres to scare men off reading the sacred text, and to destroy all sense of its value.19

Luther grants that "many passages in the Scriptures are obscure and hard to elucidate, but that is due . . . to our own linguistic and grammatical ignorance." In other words, the fault lies in ourselves, not in the Scriptures themselves.20 He adds: "Those who deny the perfect clarity and plainness of the Scriptures leave us nothing but darkness."21 On the essential clarity of Scripture, Luther quotes Ps 119:105 ("Your word is a light to my feet"), Ps 19:8, Isa 8:20; Malachi 2:7, 2 Peter 1:19, etc.

If the Scriptures are not clear and authoritative, then the church needs an authoritative teaching office besides - or above- the Scriptures. In Roman Catholicism this role has been played by the papacy. In sections of modern Protestantism, when Christians begin to lose their confidence in the clarity, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible, this role has often been assumed by the scholars. If, on the other hand, the Bible is essentially clear, then "ordinary" pastors and laypeople should be able to read it with confidence, without feeling that it is too difficult for them and its interpretation must be left to the theologians. All of us theologians can make mistakes; sometimes we make grievous mistakes. And, as C.S. Lewis wrote, every sheep has the right to bleat if it thinks its shepherd is leading it astray.22

Argument 2 - The Mission Imperative

"The apostolic prohibition against women speaking in the worship assembly (1 Cor 14:33, 34; 1 Tim 2:11, 12) is based on a concern for the church's mission to spread the gospel. Women questioning or debating matters in the church (1 Cor 14:35) or acting in a high handed manner would have caused offence especially to the predominantly Jewish converts and potential converts. Paul's concern here is not for a male order of ministry but for orderliness in contrast to disorder, so as not to bring the church into disrepute (see 1 Cor 14:33, 35, 40)" (Initial Report, p. 4).

Response:

  • (a) The cited texts say nothing about missions and the growing of churches; their concern is for good order in the churches that have already grown.

  • b) It is unproved, and almost certainly false, that the Corinthian congregation consisted of "predominantly Jewish converts and potential converts." Certainly Paul always reached out first of all to the Jews, beginning each mission in the synagogue (Rom 1:16). But his special mission was to the Gentiles (Gal 2:9); he was "the apostle of the Gentiles" (Rom 11:13). Claims that his mission to Gentiles was largely a failure are unsubstantiated. The "failure" that weighed most heavily on him was that so few of his fellow Jews had accepted the gospel (Romans 9-11). Certainly, a good number of former Jews belonged to the Corinthian congregation. But if they constituted a majority, why does Paul devote most of the letter to problems to which people from a Gentile background were particularly prone: the love of sophistic rhetoric (chapters 1-4), litigiousness (chapter 5), visiting prostitutes, homosexuality (chapter 6), meat offered to idols (chapters 8-10), etc?

    Far from making concessions to a predominantly Jewish culture and "going with the flow" of that culture for the sake of "mission," the apostle is countering inroads from a pagan Gentile culture which threatens the gospel. The epistle is "countercultural."23

  • (c) Paul's concern was always for the clear proclamation of the gospel whether threatened by inroads from paganism or from Judaizers. Elsewhere when Paul urges Christians to refrain from certain practices, or to keep them, he makes it clear that it is in order to avoid giving offence (see, for example, Romans 14:1-15:13, especially 14:13, 20, 21; Acts 16:3; 1 Cor 8:9). He is concerned that Gentiles should not be shackled by Jewish ceremonial law or custom (the whole epistle to the Galatians; Col 2:16), so he is careful to make a clear distinction between what is required and what is just for the sake of avoiding offence. Yet in 1 Corinthians 14 he makes no mention of the possibility of causing offence, but speaks of a command of the Lord.

  • (d) The "mission imperative" argument concludes by presenting the reader with a false antithesis: "Paul's concern here is not for24 a male order of ministry but for orderliness in contrast to disorder." So we are presented with an "either . . . or": Either Paul was concerned for a male order, or he was concerned for orderliness. And since he was clearly concerned for orderliness (1 Cor 14:40), he couldn't have been concerned for a male order of ministry.

    But isn't it rather the case that the apostle's concern is to be understood as a "both . . . and" rather than an "either . . . or"? Indeed, a careful reading of 1 Cor 14:26-40 will show that Paul's concern for peace and order includes three aspects: i) good order requires that a tongues-speaker remain silent when there is no interpreter (v 28); ii) good order requires that a prophet be silent when a revelation comes to another (v 30); and iii) good order requires that the women be silent (v 34). Thus Paul is concerned both for good order and for a "male order of ministry" as one necessary aspect of that order.

  • (e) Finally, does anyone seriously think that the adoption of women's ordination is likely to promote the mission and growth of the LCA?

Argument 3 - Roles played by women in the early church

"Women laboured with Paul 'in the gospel' (Phil 4:3); Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26); women prayed and prophesied in public worship (1 Cor 11:5, 10 ; see also Acts 2:17); Phoebe is called 'deacon' and 'patron' of the church at Cenchreae (Rom 16:1, 2). That Paul allows a woman to learn (1 Tim 2:11) is already a revolutionary step away from Jewish practice since it implies that they can then teach. It is therefore questionable whether 1 Tim 2:12 (a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man) must be read as a principle without qualifications" (Initial Report, p. 4).

Response:

  • (a) To make too much of this argument would be to ignore the basic principle that the larger passages which speak directly to the issue (sedes doctrinae - in this case, 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2:11-15) should be given the most weight.

  • (b) Some brief responses to each item may be given:

    • i) Christian women have always laboured alongside pastors in the gospel. This does not mean they served as pastors themselves;
    • ii) Priscilla taught Apollos privately; there is no evidence that she functioned as a public proclaimer of the Word to the assembled congregation;
    • iii) That women "prayed and prophesied in public worship" does not prove that they served as pastors. It is simplistic to equate prophets and prophetesses with pastors. Passages like 1 Cor 12:28 and Eph 4:11 clearly distinguish prophets from pastors/teachers.
    • iv) That Phoebe served as a "deacon" and "patron" does not mean she was a pastor.

  • (c) That Paul allows a woman to learn may have been a revolutionary step compared with the practice of some first-century Jewish rabbis, but it is not revolutionary compared with the Old Testament. The Old Testament consistently implies that all the people of Israel are to learn the word (Deut 6:1-9); nothing in the OT restricts them from learning. One gets the impression that Mary and Elisabeth knew the OT Scriptures well. But it does not follow from their being permitted to learn that they were permitted to teach. A woman's knowledge of the Bible in OT times did not imply that she could become a priest. For that matter, a man's knowledge of the Bible did not, in itself, qualify him for the priesthood; he had to belong to the tribe of Levi and, moreover, be a descendant of Aaron. By the same token, a woman's biblical knowledge today does not imply a claim to the pastoral office.

Argument 4 - Equality of men and women in Christ

"The baptismal formula of Galatians 3:2825 (cf 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11) gives to women a position in the church not known within contemporary Judaism. The new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) confirms the equal standing of women with men before God (cf Gen 1:26-28). So, within marriage, husbands and wives are to complement one another (1 Cor 7:4) and to be subject to one another out of love (Eph 5:21). Within the church's ministry, the ordination of women is an appropriate application of this principle of equality" (Initial Report, p.4).

It is a little surprising to see this argument relegated to Number 4. According to John Reumann, the New Testament scholar who has been one of the leading promoters of women's ordination among American Lutherans, this argument from Gal 3:28 "is the crucial New Testament [text] cited for ordaining women." Reumann hails this text as "the breakthrough" (Ministries Examined, p.86).

Response:

  • (a) Gal 3:28 is part of an extensive section which argues that the Christian receives justification, blessing, and the eternal inheritance on the basis of faith in the divine promise, not by works of law such as circumcision. The immediate context of 3:28 reads: (26) "For you are all sons26 of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. (28) . . . there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise."

    The text speaks of all Christians being "sons" and heirs of eternal life. Through faith and baptism every Christian enjoys all the "rights and privileges" of being God's child and heir - access to the Father at any time in prayer (Gal 4:6), the joyful confidence of one who is no longer a slave, but a son. St Peter puts the point succinctly: Both men and women are "joint heirs of the grace of life" (1 Pet 3:7).

    The subject matter in Gal 3:28 is baptism and its implications. But where is there anything here about ordination?27 If Gal 3:28 is taken as the standard for determining who may be ordained, what prevents us from ordaining children?28 It has been argued that one must look elsewhere, for example to 1 Tim 3:2 which says a pastor should be "apt to teach." And that is precisely my point. We must look elsewhere than Gal 3:28 to find the qualifications for ordination. These are set out in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9.29

  • (b) The baptismal formula of Gal 3:28 may have given women a position in the church not known within some sectors of first century Judaism. But it is not so radically new in itself; it has deep roots in the Old Testament teaching that all believers constitute a royal priesthood (Exodus 19:5-6). It is misleading to give the impression that (a) Paul had only just managed to bring Jewish Christians to the point where they could accept that a woman could learn the Scriptures and be treated as a full member of God's people; (b) he really wanted to take them all the way to the acceptance of women's ordination; but (c) that would have been asking too much of people who had only just taken step (a).

  • (c) Are equality and subordination incompatible? If I subordinate myself to my cricket captain on a Saturday afternoon, does that mean we are not equals? If my wife willingly subordinates herself to me in response to the apostle's word (Eph 5:22-24), does that make her an inferior being?30 In many ways she is more than my equal! The apostles certainly saw no incompatibility between the "equality" and the "subordination" themes. Indeed, St Peter puts them directly alongside each other (1 Peter 3:5-7): "The holy women of the past . . . were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master . . .. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life" (see Galatians 3:28!).31

  • Argument 5- The inclusivity of the gospel

    "The inclusivity of the gospel should come to expression also in the public ministry of the church. This inclusivity which embraced Jew aud Gentile, slave and free, male and female, found tangible expression in the early church (Eph 2:11-22; Philemon 16). It is fittingly modelled by a public office which includes women" (Initial Report, p. 4).

    Response:

    • (a) The gospel is certainly "inclusive": "God wants all people to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4). God calls all people to oneness in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). But this does not mean that all are called to the public ministry. See the response to "Argument 4" above.

    • (b) Like Gal 3:28, the texts cited (Eph 2:11-22 and Philemon 16) have nothing to do with ordination. Ephesians 2 tells us that Gentiles and Jews have equal access to God the Father in one Spirit; Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens but fellow-citizens of the saints and members of God's household (vv 18-19). In Philemon 16 Paul encourages Philemon to treat his runaway slave Onesimus not as a slave but as "a beloved brother." He doesn't suggest that Philemon treat Onesimus as "a pastor"! In fact, it is highly unlikely that a slave in Paul's day could have served as a pastor, despite Gal 3:28 ("neither slave nor free - in Christ"), and this is certainly not what Paul was advocating in the Galatians text.32

    • (c) The term "inclusivity" is a buzz word which is not particularly helpful in this debate. Not only does it brand those who do not accept the arguments for women's ordination as "exclusive" and narrow-minded, in contrast to those who are "inclusive," "open" etc. It is also infinitely elastic, and raises the question: "Whom would you debar from the Lutheran ministry? Why not practising homosexuals, or children, or the intellectually disabled? Where do you draw the line? And on what basis?"

    Argument 6 - The representation of Christ

    "The first Adam embraces the whole of sinful humanity, both men and women (Rom 5:12,15). In the person of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, God redeems and restores fallen humanity, both men and women (Rom 5:15-19; 1 Cor 15:45-49). The representation of Christ by women is made possible by their incorporation into him. All those redeemed by Christ are members of his body and thus able to represent Christ to that body once they have been 'rightly called' to the public office" (Initial Report, p. 4).

    Response:

  • (a) The first two sentences of this paragraph are correct. But it is a considerable stretch from what Paul says in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 (all humanity's solidarity with Adam in sin and their reigning in life through Christ) to the conclusion: "Therefore a woman may represent Christ as a pastor." Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, like Gal 3:28, do not speak specifically about the issue of ordination.

  • (b) It is true that pastors are Christ's representatives ("we are ambassadors for Christ," 2 Cor 5:20). In the secular world an ambassador may be a man or a woman. But in the church, for reasons ultimately rooted in "the order of creation,"33 the Lord has specified through his ambassador St Paul that only men are to be pastors.

  • (c) In the Old Testament, women were also redeemed through faith in the promised Messiah, but clearly they were not to be priests.

Argument 7 - A legitimate conclusion

"The fact that many Lutheran churches have begun to ordain women in this century, against the tradition of the church, does not necessarily imply that the church has been in error and must repent of false teaching. It means that some Lutherans have come to learn from Scripture possibilities for the life of the church which would not have been culturally acceptable in earlier ages" (Initial Report, p.5).

Response:

  • (a) From "the fact that many Lutheran churches have begun to ordain women . . ." this paragraph sees two possible implications: i. Either the church of the past nineteen centuries "has been in error and must repent of false teaching" (an implication which the Initial Report hesitates to draw); or ii. "Some Lutherans have come to learn from Scripture possibilities for the life of the church which would not have been culturally acceptable in earlier ages." The argument fails to state that there is a third possible implication: Those Lutheran churches which have begun to ordain women in this century, against the tradition of the church (and, more importantly, in defiance of the Lord's express command), are in error and must repent of false teaching.34

  • (b) We need to address the argument that the culture of earlier ages, and in particular the culture of Paul's day, was so vastly different from our own. As stated earlier, I believe that far too much has been made of the gap or gulf between what has been called the "two horizons" -- the first-century cultural horizon and the horizon of our own day. Thus it is claimed that we must distinguish clearly between "what it meant" at the time of writing and "what it means" for us today, as if these are two vastly different things. And so, the argument goes, whereas in Paul's day to have ordained women would have been harmful to the church's mission, in our day it would be helpful to her mission.

It is true that we must deal discriminatingly with the Scriptures. Not all is on the same level, not all has the same authority for us today. For example, much of the Old Testament law has been fulfilled, and thus superseded: the ceremonial law has been fulfilled in Christ, our great high priest; the civil law applied specifically to the nation of Israel (Luther called it the Jews' "Saxon law"), and no longer applies to us. The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, do still apply; Jesus and the apostles constantly confirmed them. And the New Testament is the great and authoritative interpreter of the OT. Consequently we need to be very careful before we conclude that some NT teaching no longer applies. To be sure, we no longer wash one another's feet (John 13). But that custom is not prescribed in the NT, anyway. Jesus simply refers to it as an "example," a "pattern" (John 13:15) of how we are to serve each other in Christian love. what is commanded, mandated, is that we love one another, however that love may be expressed in our modern culture.35 Similarly, in 1 Cor 11:2-16, Paul urges the women to conform in feminine modesty to the custom of their day by wearing a head covering at public worship. In that day, this was a mark that they were married and so attached and beholden to their husbands. Customs may change, but the principle of male headship under Christ and female subordination (1 Cor 11:3) remains in effect. We have no authority to abrogate a command, a mandate of the Lord. To do so "involves disobedience to Christ, the head of the church."36

Certainly the first-century world differed from ours in a host of ways (foot-washing, head-coverings are but two examples). But the significance of these differences should not be exaggerated. Cultures vary from one another in terms of their surface configurations - thus the fascination of studying other cultures and languages. But the longer one immerses oneself in another culture, whether ancient or contemporary, the more one realises that under the surface all human beings are the same, with the same desires, needs, aspirations, etc. It is a myth that modern men and women are thoroughly different from the people of biblical times. Deep down, we all share in a common humanity which is far more important than anything that appears on the surface.

And the same Word of God is addressed to all. From one point of view, yes, there are two horizons; we need to dig into the Bible world and its history and languages if we are to grasp it accurately. But the more we enter into that world sympathetically, with "listening hearts,"37 the more we will hear the same Word that was addressed to people of Biblical times addressing us today. For, from another point of view (and this has not been stressed nearly enough by modern scholars), from the divine perspective, there is really only one horizon. The Old Testament prophets were taken up into God's council (Jer 23:22) and enabled to see past, present and future from God's vista. Their word continues to go forth like the rain and the snow and accomplish the divine purpose of bringing people to repentance and faith. Similarly, the apostles and evangelists of the NT are given the Word of the One who sees and foresees all human history. As H. Wheeler Robinson has observed, God's people across the generations have a "corporate personality."38 Thus Moses can speak to the Israelites some 40 years after the Exodus and Mount Sinai: "The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today" (Deuteronomy 5:2-3). What God said to our forefathers and mothers he still says to us "today" (Ps 95:7) unless there are clear indications to the contrary. The God in whom there is "no change or shadow of turning" James 1:17), the Lord who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8) has given the same clear Word to all generations of his people.

Concluding remarks

a) Remarks on the role of the pastoral ministry in general

As we debate women's ordination, we need to take care that the priesthood of all believers and the pastoral ministry are not played off against each other. We need to continue to uphold the pastoral ministry as God's gift to the church. The Bible teaches:

    • i. The royal priesthood of all believers, who "tell out the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9). They offer the sacrifices of "a broken and contrite heart," praise and thanksgiving, doing good and sharing with others (Ps 51:17; 50:14, 23; Heb 13:15-16).

    • ii. the pastoral ministry instituted by Christ. Pastors succeed the apostles in carrying out Christ's command to them to feed his sheep and lambs, forgive and retain sins, make disciples by baptising and teaching, and administer the Lord's Supper (John 21:15-17; 20:21-23; Matt 28:16-20; Luke 22:19). Paul and Barnabas appointed pastors, trained men "apt to teach," in every place they evangelised (Acts 14:23). The same epistle of Peter which speaks of the priesthood of all believers also speaks to the pastors who are charged with feeding them (1 Pet 5:1-4).

b) Concluding remarks on the ordination of women

The points I have raised in this response refer only to Biblical arguments for and against the ordination of women. I believe there is no way anyone can prove that "on balance, scriptural and theological evidence allows the ordination of women." The Scriptures clearly state the very opposite: the Lord's command prohibits the ordination of women. Accordingly we are conscience-bound to uphold this command.

I have argued that if the LCA debate were restricted to the "scriptural and theological evidence," the outcome should be clear. The seven arguments for the ordination of women do not stand up to careful scrutiny. Moreover, this is not surprising, for the desire to ordain women does not really have its starting point in the Scriptures, but in sociology and the spirit of the age. One has the impression that the endeavour has been to find scriptural proof for a position essentially derived from the culture.

Will we nevertheless be admonished, despite the lack of Biblical evidence, to "go forward in faith, not hold back in fear"?39 The argument sounds pious. What Christian wants to be charged with fear and cowardice, when he or she should be going forward in faith? So the conclusion is drawn: "I'd better join the progressives rather than staying with the conservatives."

But how are such admonitions used in the Bible? The passage that comes to mind most readily is the Lord's word to Moses as the Egyptians pursued the Israelites and they came up against the barrier of the Red Sea: "Tell the Israelites to go forward!" (Exodus 14:15). Here indeed was a situation where the people were called on to go forward in faith, not hold back in fear. But they were to go forward at the command of a clear Word from the Lord. And in doing so, he blessed and helped them through the waters of the Red Sea. It is a totally different situation, however, when we are told we must go forward in defiance of the Lord's command. In such a situation, we should take notice rather of texts like Isaiah 66:2: "[This is what the Lord says:] 'This is the person for whom I will have regard, for the one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."

An analogy from the law courts may be relevant here. Before a person is declared guilty, the jury must be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt and the decision must be unanimous. Similarly, if there is any doubt at all about the legitimacy of the ordination of women, the church needs to refrain from going against the testimony of the Scriptures and overturning the position of the church for 2000 years. To decide this important issue and divide the church merely on "the balance of the evidence" (assuming the balance is in that direction) would be tragic.


Appendix A

On November 11, 1992, at about 4.30 pm, the Church of England approved the ordination of women to the priesthood. The vote was carried by majorities of over two-thirds in each of the synod's three houses (bishops, clergy, and laity). The earlier part of the day was devoted to speeches for and against the legislation. Of those who spoke against the legislation, one of the most eloquent was Mrs Sara Low. Her speech may be described as a cry from the heart, or in C. S. Lewis's terms, the bleating of a sheep trying to catch her shepherds' ear. I believe she is an able spokesperson for the quiet majority of the Lutheran women of Australia.

When I was converted to Jesus Christ in my early twenties and came into the Church of England, I was told by my first parish priest, now a bishop on these benches, that the Church of England based itself on Holy Scripture, holy tradition and human reason. This legislation gives me the gravest possible concern on all three counts.

One of the things that I have learned in my time as a Christian is that where we are faithful to the revealed truth, there the promises of the New Testament are fulfilled. The Churches that believe this and do it are, in my experience, those that are blessed.

Like many of those here, I have listened for nearly twenty years to this debate. I listened very carefully to the early arguments about Jesus' cultural conditioning and the claim that Jesus did not have the freedom to appoint women. If cultural conditioning was determinative for Jesus, then all his teaching and all his actions are thus heavily influenced. We are no longer talking about the eternal Son of God. Jesus Christ is different today from what he was yesterday, and he will be different again tomorrow. I have listened to the arguments that the early Church was equally unable to make this change, yet, on the contrary, what could have made a bigger bridgehead with the pagan world than the introduction of women priests, with which they were already familiar? I have listened to arguments on St Paul where one classic quotation [Gal 3:28] has been wrenched out of context, given a meaning that no previous generation of believers has given it, and seen it used to deny the clear teaching on headship in the rest of St Paul's letters. I have listened to the doctrine of creation being divided into greater and lesser truths, so that the complementarity of male and female has been debased to a banal interchangeability. I have listened patiently to talk of prayerful, thoughtful majorities when surely our problem is that the minority is also prayerful and thoughtful.

These are not comfortable things to say, but they must be said because if the Synod overturns scriptural authority today it will be no good coming back next time and hoping to impose it on other issues. For the Church, the authority of the Scriptures and the example of Jesus has always been determinative; I do not believe that this House has the authority to overturn them.

My second concern is the legislation itself. What of those who dissent? It seems strange, does it not, to call those who faithfully believe what the Church has always believed 'dissenters'? Bishops and archbishops may give verbal assurances that there will be no persecution against such priests and laypeople, but it is with great sadness that I have to tell the bishops that I have not met one opponent of the measure who believes them. The reasons are simple. First, no verbal assurance can undo the fact that you are legislating for two classes of Christian; any good intentions that may exist will wither before the law and practice, as in other provinces. Second, in many dioceses the spirit of this legislation has been in operation for some years. Orthodox clergy are excluded from appointments and orthodox laity are made to feel excluded from that warm glow of official approval, as if they are suffering from some embarrassing handicap. I have experienced that myself often enough in these corridors.

However, if the human injustice of this legislation, which eases old men into retirement and condemns others to serve forever under authorities whose primary qualification is compromise, is disgraceful, it is as nothing besides its theological arrogance and blasphemy. The legislation clearly instructs the Lord God Almighty whom he may raise up to lead the Church. The Holy Spirit will be told, 'You may choose anyone you want so long as it is one of us.' A Church that denies the sovereignty of God is no longer a Church. The fruits of this debate are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

What of tomorrow? If you wake in the morning having voted yes, you'll know that you have voted for a Church irreconcilably divided, for whom the revealed truth of God is no longer authoritative. If you vote no, you will wake to tears and a healing ministry, but above all to the possibility of a renewed New Testament Church, for all of us could then be united in encouraging, training and funding the ministry of priest, deacon, teacher, prophet, healer, administrator, spiritual director - all promised by the Holy Spirit.

I urge Synod to vote for the authority of the Word of God, for the unity of Christ's Church and against this ruinous legislation.40


Appendix B

Arguments for and against the ordination of women, taken from "The Ordination of Women: Initial Report of the Commission on Theology and Interchurch Relations" (pp 3-6)

A. Arguments for the ordination of women included the following:

1) The relevance of the key texts

The two texts...are ambiguous and open to various interpretations. For example, in 1 Cor 14:34 it is not dear what kind of 'silence' Paul is commanding women to observe since women are praying and prophesying (11:5, 13). Further, it is not clear to what the 'command of the Lord' (14:37) refers, eg to the silence of the women or to the necessity for good order in worship.

In 1 Tim 2 Paul is calling on women to adopt a quiet attitude which learns rather than seeks to teach. But it is unclear to whom or what they are 'to be in subjection' (v 11), or what it means to 'have authority over' a man (v 12).

In both texts it is not entirely certain whether Paul is speaking of women in general or of wives in particular. Finally there is no clear indication that these commands are binding on the church outside their original context.

2) The mission imperative

the apostolic prohibition against women speaking in the worship assembly (1 Cor 14:33, 34; 1 Tim 2:11, 12) is based on a concern for the church's mission to spread the gospel. Women questioning or debating matters in the church (1 Cor 14:35) or acting in a high handed manner would have caused offence especially to the predominantly Jewish converts and potential converts. Paul's concern here is not for a male order of ministry but for orderliness in contrast to disorder, so as not to bring the church into disrepute (see 1 Cor 14:33, 35, 40).

3) Roles played by women in the early church

Women laboured with Paul 'in the gospel' (Phil 4:3); Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26); women prayed and prophesied in public worship (1 Cor 11:5, 10); see also Acts 2:17); Phoebe is called 'deacon' and 'patron' of the church at Cenchreae (Rom 16:1, 2). That Paul allows a woman to learn (1 Tim 2:11) is already a revolutionary step away from Jewish practice since it implies that they can then teach. It is therefore questionable whether 1 Tim 2:12 (a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man) must be read as a principle without qualifications.

4) Equality of men and women in Christ

The baptismal formula of Galatians 3:2841 (cf 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11) gives to women a position in the church not known within contemporary Judaism. The new creation in Clirist (2 Cor 5:17) confirms the equal standing of women with men before God (cf Gen 1:26-28). So, within marriage, husbands and wives are to complement one another (1 Cor 7:4) and to be subject to one another out of love (Eph 5:21). Within the church's ministry, the ordination of women is an appropriate application of this principle of equality.

5) The inclusivity of the gospel

The inclusivity of the gospel should come to expression also in the public ministry of the church. This inclusivity which embraced Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, found tangible expression in the early church (Eph 2:11-22; Philemon 16). It is fittingly modelled by a public office which includes women.

6) The representation of Christ

The first Adam embraces the whole of sinful humanity, both men and women (Rom 5:12,15). In the person of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, God redeems and restores fallen humanity, both men and women (Rom 5:15-19; 1 Cor 15:45-49). The representation of Christ by women is made possible by their incorporation into him. All those redeemed by Christ are members of his body and thus able to represent Christ to that body once they have been 'rightly called' to the public office.

7) A legitimate conclusion

The fact that many Lutheran churches have begun to ordain women in this century, against the tradition of the church, does not necessarily imply that the church has been in error and must repent of false teaching. It means that some Lutherans have come to learn from Scripture possibilities for the life of the church which would not have been culturally acceptable in earlier ages.

B. Arguments for the ordination of men only included the following:

1) The Lord's command:

1 Corinthians 14:33b and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 are foundational texts for the case against the ordination of women because they speak about the leadership of women in public worship. These passages clearly assert that God does not allow women to preach and teach in the divine service. This holds true even if it could be shown that the meaning of particular words and phrases is uncertain. The prohibition against speaking is not a demand for absolute silence but prevents women from preaching and teaching in public worship. The church therefore has no authority to ordain women. The apostle Paul states that this prohibition is a command from the Lord which applies to all churches (1 Cor 14:33b, 37; cf 1 Tim 3:15) and warns that those who disregard it will not be recognised by God in his church (1 Cor 14:38).

2) The relevance of Galatians 3:28

Galatians 3:28 should not be used to support the ordination of women because it does not deal with the doctrine of the public office. Rather, it asserts that both men and women have the same status before God the Father as his adopted children, and that they have the same access to his grace through baptism. Their equality before God does not change their distinctiveness and calling as men and women with sexually differentiated and yet complementary roles in marriage, family, and the church. Their sexuality is not abolished or disregarded, but sanctified for service according to their role in the family and the church.

3) The practice of Jesus and the apostles

The exclusion of women from the public office is confirmed by the precedent of Jesus appointing only male apostles (Matt 10:24; Mark 3:1449; Luke 6:12-16) and entrusting the administration of his holy supper to them (Luke 22:14-30), as well as by the practice of the apostles in appointing a man as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:21) and men only as pastors of the congregations which they established (2 Tim 2:12; cf 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:5). Although women laboured with Paul in the gospel, they were never appointed as pastors.

4) The practice of the universal church

The ordination of women, which was already advocated by some sects in the second and third centuries AD, was rejected for scriptural reasons by the bishops and councils of the early church, as well as by all orthodox churches until modern times. Luther and other Reformers rejected the ordination of women. This unanimous teaching should be changed only if we have clear scriptural authorisation to ordain women.

5) The representation of Christ's headship

The ordination of women contradicts the reality of male headship in the church and family which was established by God in the creation of Adam and fulfilled by the incarnation of God's Son as a male person (1 Cor 11:3,8,9; Eph 5:22-24; 1 Tim 2:13). It therefore involves disobedience to Christ, the head of the church, and disrespect for his gift of order in the church (1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:11).

6) Pastors as spiritual fathers

Jesus chose males to represent both him and his heavenly Father in the ministry of word and sacrament (John 20:21-23). Since pastors not only speak for Christ, but also speak the word of God the Father (Luke 10:16; cf Matt 10:40; John 13:20), they therefore are to be men so that they can serve as spiritual fathers to God's family (1 Cor 4:14,15).

End Notes

The endnotes used in this work are linked from the note number in the text to the endnote at the bottom of the page, and vice versa.

1. At the CTICR meeting on 22-23 October, 1998, there were ten votes In favour of the proposition that "on balance, scriptural and theological evidence allows the ordination of women," and five votes in favour of the proposition that "on balance, scriptural and theological evidence prohibits the ordination of women."

2. Unfortunately, we need to reckon today with the influence of the school of thought known as "post-modernism'' which has no time for any authority-claims, including the claims of the Bible. For the "post-modernist," the chief authority is his or her own self, his or her personal life-experience, perception, and judgment. Someone of this mindset will say: "So, that's what the Bible says, is it? But this is what I think. . . . And what do you think?" It becomes difficult - if not impossible - for Christians who see the Scriptures as authoritative to have a meaningful debate with people who see them as merely a hodge-podge of the (often contradictory) thoughts of other humans with no more authority than "what I think."

3. The phrase comes from John Reumann.

4. The issue is clearly divisive, especially because of the underlying hermeneutical issues. But if an issue is declared non-divisive, then those who take a stand are held to be at fault for jeopardising the unity of the church, even though they may be upholding the historic position of the church and may believe (more importantly) that they are upholding the Scriptures. A classic parallel appeared in The Australian on March 11, 1999. The religious affairs writer reported on the call by the conservative faction Evangelical Members within the Uniting Church (EMU) for like-minded congregations opposed to the practice of homosexuality to form their own association. The article carried the headline: "Anti-gay faction divides church." But charges of troubling the church can go both ways (see 1 Kings 18:16-18!). Why not "Pro-gay faction divides church"?

5. Fortunately, thanks to what has been called a "blessed inconsistency," most scholars who practise the critical method in biblical interpretation do not apply the method across the board.

6. Cf Ps 119:72: "The law (i.e. the word) from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces."

7. Other pejoratives like "fundamentalistic" are sometimes applied.

8. The word used here for "command" (epitage) is a synonym of entole.

9. The verb is parangello ("I command").

10. Even in times when our culture and legal-system have become lax regarding divorce, we may not do away with the Lord's command. Rather we work to uphold marriage and deal pastorally with those who divorce as a result of living in a fallen world.

11. See the first argument of the case "for the ordination of men only" in the Initial Report, The Lord's Command:

"1 Corinthians 14:33b and I Timothy 2:11-14 are foundational texts for the case against the ordination of women because they speak about the leadership of women in public worship. These passages clearly assert that God does not allow women to preach and teach in the divine service. This holds true even if it could be shown that the meaning of particular words and phrases is uncertain. The prohibition against speaking is not a demand for absolute silence but prevents women from preaching and teaching in public worship. The church therefore has no authority to ordain women. The apostle Paul states that this prohibition is a command from the Lord which applies to all churches (1 Cor 14:33b, 37; cf 1 Tim 3:15) and warns that those who disregard it will not be recognised by God in his church (1 Cor 14:38)."

12. The verb "commanded" (eneteilamen) comes from the same "word family" as entole ("commandment").

13. To say that opponents of women's ordination treat Scripture in such a flat manner, as if they put every verse and theme on a par, is false.

14. Cf Regin Prenter: The commands of 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 are not "commands of the law" (Gebote des Gesetzes), but "commands for the sake of good order" (Ordnungsgebote), "that is, commands that seek to preserve the right and proper transmission of the gospel" ("Die Ordination der Frauen zu dem ueberlieferten Pfarramt der lutherischen Kirche", p.8).

15. The paragraph ends: "in both texts it is not entirely clear whether Paul is speaking of women in genera1 or of wives in particular. Finally there is no clear indication that these commands are binding on the church outside their original context" (Initial Report, p. 4). 1 have already responded to the last sentence in the section in my discussion of the word "command" in the NT. The question about whether Paul has women or wives in mind does not seem to me to be a substantial issue. Most of the women likely to want to stand up and teach would have been married. If Paul wanted, at this point, to distinguish between 1'women" and "wives," surely he would have made that clear, as he does throughout chapter 7.

16. It is clear throughout 1 Tim 2 that Paul is thinking of the worship service.

17. Ordination of Women in the L.C.A.: Yes or No (papers presented at a Symposium at Luther Seminary, North Adelaide, 24-25 July, 1998, p. 16).

18. At the 1992 Church of England synod the second last speaker was the Archdeacon of Leicester (now the Anglican Bishop of Ballarat), Venerable David Silk, an opponent of women's ordination. The archdeacon cited Sir Norman Anderson, the chairman of the House of Laity: "In the end I come face to face with-the plain meaning of Scripture." Silk continued: "I hear what is said on the headship issue and I try to follow the debate, but in the end I come face to face with the plain meaning of Scripture, and I cannot believe that God would have left its intent so obscure as to need all the fine points made in this debate to make it clear to me" (The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: The Synod Debate, p. 72).

19. Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston (London: James Clarke, 1957), p. 7l.

20. If only recently these passages - I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2 have become obscure does the fault lie with the Scriptures or with the scholars (interpreters)?

21. P. 128.

22. Fernseed and Elephants and Other Essays on Christianity (Glasgow: Collins, 1975), pp. 105, 125.

23. Most likely, it is counter-cultural in another respect. There is evidence that at various times, in various parts of the Graeco-Roman world, priestesses served in some pagan temples. Indeed, there is some evidence that this may have been going on in the Corinthian temple of Demeter and Kore in Paul's day (see Peter Gooch, Dangerous Foods, p. 1l).

24. Italics added.

25. Gal 3:28 reads: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (italics added).

26. Yes, according to the Greek text both women and men are "sons " (hyioi)!

27. See the second argument of the case "for the ordination of men only," The relevance of Galatians 3:28:

"Galatians 3:28 should not be used to support the ordination of women because it does not deal with the doctrine of the public office. Rather, it asserts that both men and women have the same status before God the Father as his adopted children, and that they have the same access to his grace through baptism. Their equality before God does not change their distinctiveness and calling as men and women with sexually differentiated and yet complementary roles in marriage, family, and the church. Their sexuality is not abolished or disregarded, but sanctified for service according to their role in the family and the church" (Initial Report, p.5).

28. Or, for that matter, homosexuals? Gal 3:28 ("neither male nor female - in Christ") can be and has been used in some churches as an argument for the ordination of gays. Indeed, a case can be made that the ordination of women can and often does - prepare the way for the ordination of homosexuals. Advocates of women's ordination may protest at this linking of the two issues. Their protest is partially justified; on the face of it, these are obviously different issues. However, their protest is only partially justified. The pattern of argumentation for the ordination of homosexuals follows the same hermeneutical lines as the argument for the ordination of women: (a) the appeal to Gal 3:28; (b) the notion that the Biblical writers were conditioned by their culture and time, so that what they said then against homosexuality had only temporary significance; "what it meant" then is not necessarily "what it means" for us today. And so churches which accepted women's ordination after a programme of debating the issue "without rancor" find themselves a few years later trying to debate - again" without rancor" - the ordination of homosexuals. The Uniting Church of Australia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America are only two of the many examples that could be given.

29. One of the qualifications is that a pastor must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). Paul simply assumes that the pastor will be a man. How, then, can it be maintained that his position on the issue is "ambiguous" and "not clear"?

30. The Christian woman's subordination is her willing gift to her husband as a result of her love for the Lord and his word. Any suggestion that for her to give this gift demeans her has no basis in the New Testament. According to the apostolic teaching, it is no more demeaning for a woman to be subject to a man as her "head" than it is for the man to be subject to Christ and for Christ to be subject to the Father (1 Cor 11:3; 15:27-28). By the same token, any suggestion that the man's headship must be oppressive has no basis in the NT. His headship is to be modelled on Christ's self-sacrificing love for the church (Eph 2:25-33). Pastors, in their "headship" (under Christ) over the congregation, are expressly forbidden from lording it over the flock (1 Pet 5:3).

31. According to the most common interpretation of the texts, Paul does the same thing in Eph 5:21-24: Eph 5:21 speaks of the mutual submission of husbands and wives; Eph 5:22-24 of the submission of wives to husbands. One scholar (W. Grudem) has disputed that Eph 5:21 speaks of mutual submission of wives and husbands. He notes that whenever Paul speaks of the submission of one partner in a relationship to another (wife-husband, child-parent, slave-master, citizen-government), the submission is one-way, not reciprocal (e.g. Paul does not call on parents to submit to their children, governments to their subjects, etc). Oh Grudem's interpretation, Eph 5:21 is a heading to the long section which deals with submission of some people to others: wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters (Eph 5:21-6:9). Whether Grudem is right or wrong, it must be said that it is illegitimate to use Eph 5:21 to cancel out everything else Paul says about wives' subordination tp husbands (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3~8; Titus 2:5).

32. There is a church tradition that Onesimus later became a bishop! But that was after his release from slavery.

33. See the fifth argument of the case "for the ordination of men only" as outlined in the Initial Report, The representation of Christ's headship:

"The ordination of women contradicts the reality of male headship in the church and the family which was established by God in the creation of Adam and fulfilled by the incarnation of God's Son as a male person (1 Cor 11:3,8,9; Eph 5:22-24; 1 Tim 2:13). It therefore involves disobedience to Christ, the head of the church, and disrespect for his gift of order in the church (1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:11)" (Initial Report, p.6).

Note the emphasis on "the reality of male headship in the church and the family which was established by God in the creation of Adam." When Jesus and Paul provide guidance for the proper ordering of marriage and the relationship between the sexes, they go back to the "order of creation" set forth in the first three chapters of Genesis. Thus Jesus, in speaking against lax attitudes to divorce, says: In the beginning it was not so," and quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (see Matt 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12). And Paul, in arguing that the woman is not to function as head and teacher of the church family at worship, grounds his injunction ("I do not permit a woman to teach . . .") in the order of creation and fall established in Genesis 2 and 3 ("For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and fell into transgression" - I Tim 2:12-14). In other words, Adam reneged on his spiritual responsibilities, failing to exercise his spiritual headship by correcting his wife after she had given a false lead. Finally, when Paul appeals to "the Law" as the basis for his ruling in 1 Cor 14:34 ("it is not permitted for [the women] to speak... as the Law also says"), he almost certainly has in mind the same passages of Genesis 2 - 3 which he quotes in the epistle to Timothy.

The women's ordination movement, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with any talk of the original order of creation. It tends, rather, to speak in a one-sided way of the "new creation" in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). John Reumann, for example, writes of the early church's "eschatological consciousness of the Spirit's presence as a token of the New Age." The church enjoys a foretaste of the new creation in Christ or a fulfillment of God's original will for male and female in Genesis chapter 1 (Ministries Examined, 83, 97). Nowhere in this article does Reumann give serious consideration to Genesis chapters 2 & 3.

Recently some fundamentalist Christians in Queensland formed a nudist colony. Carried away with the excitement of becoming, through baptism, a "new creation" in Christ, they concluded that original sin had been crushed in their case and thus they could live innocent and sinless lives here on earth. They had forgotten the limitations even the most "spiritual" Christian must live under as long as we live in this world. These limitations - the man as the head, the woman as his helper, the role of marriage and the family in safeguarding the relationship between the sexes, the need for clothing as a result of the fall into sin - are all spelled out in Genesis 2 and 3. Our new creation in Christ begins to fulfill and restore God's purposes in the original creation. It is, indeed, a blessed foretaste of heaven. But we still live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). As long as we are this side of eternity, the new creation spoken of in 2 Cor 5:17, etc., does not obliterate the provisions and the effects of the original creation and fall.

34. See argument 4 of the CTICR's description of the case "for the ordination of men only," The practice of the universaI church:

"The ordination of women, which was already advocated by some sects in the second and third centuries AD, was rejected for scriptural reasons by the bishops and councils of the early church, as well as by all orthodox churches until modern times. Luther and other Reformers rejected the ordination of women. This unanimous teaching should be changed only if we have clear scriptural authorisation to ordain women" (Initial Report, p.5).

35. See John 13:34: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another." The word "commandment" in Greek is entole, the very word Paul uses in 1 Cor 14:37 in undergirding his injunction that the women be silent in the churches: "this is a command (ento1e) of the Lord."

36. Argument 5) of the CTICR's description of the case "for the ordination of men only" (Initial Report, p.6).

37. According to the original Hebrew text of 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asked the Lord to give him" a listening heart" (usually translated "a discerning heart").

38. Corporate Personality in Israel (Facet Books). The expression "corporate personality" may not be the most felicitous. It may be better to speak of the community, the solidarity of all human beings "in Adam", and of all believers "in Christ".

39. This psychological approach played a prominent role in the Church of England's debate on women's ordination in 1992. In the final two sentences of the final speech before the vote was taken, the Bishop of Guildford said: "So I ask the Synod to take a step forward into the future, God's future, confident that he will lead us into this truth. I ask the Synod to vote firmly, clearly and confidently for this legislation" (The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: The Synod Debate, p. 76).

40. The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: The Synod Debate (Church House Publishing, 1993), pp. 4243.

41. Gal 3:28 reads: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (italics added).


Bibliography

P. Brunner, The Ministry and the Ministry of Women, Concordia, St Louis, 1971

B. Giertz, "Twenty-Three Theses on the Holy Scriptures, The Woman, and The Office of the Ministry," The Springfielder 33/4, 10-22 (Bo Giertz, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, is author of The Hammer of God)

M. Harper, Equal and Different. Male and Female in Church and Society, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1994 (a popular paperback)

J. Kleinig, "Scripture and the Exclusion of Women from the Pastorate (I)," Lutheran Theological Journal, August 1995, 74-81

J. Kleinig, "Scripture and the Exclusion of Women from the Pastorate (II)," Lutheran Theological Journal, December 1995, 123-29

G. Knight III, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1992, 138-49

F. Leske, The Pastoral Letters, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1986, 53-57

C.S. Lewis, Fernseed and Elephants and Other Essays on Christianity (Glasgow: Collins, 1975)*

C.S. Lewis, 'Priestesses in the Church?', God in the Dock. Essays on Theology and Ethics; ed. W. Hooper; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1970, 234-239.

* I would heartily recommend the essay "Fernseed and Elephants" in this collection of Lewis' essays to lay people and pastors who have become discouraged and think, "If our leaders and theologians can't decide this issue, then how can we?" In a similar vein to C. S. Lewis, Martin Luther writes that Christ gives the power to judge teaching not only to "bishops, scholars, and councils," but also "to everyone and to all Christians" ("That A Christian Assembly Or Congregation Has The Right And Power To Judge All Teaching And To Call, Appoint, And Dismiss Teachers, Established And Proven By Scripture," Luther's Works, vol.39, pp. 305-314).

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