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Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective

December 17th, 2007
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I’m pleased to announce the publication of Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. It is a four hundred page book, paperback, 6×9. Price: $26.99. You may place an order on the Concordia Publishing House web site or call 800-325-3040.

As the ordination of women becomes more commonplace, it is increasingly important for all faithful Lutherans, clergy and laity alike, to be able to articulate why, because of the teachings of Holy Scripture, women should not be ordained as pastors. This book offers a rich variety of essays on this topic from Lutherans around the world as they have, in the past century up to the present time, responded to the practice of placing women in the church’s pastoral ministry.

There are over twenty essays in this volume, representing Lutheran churches throughout the world. The essays are divided into four sections, including: Biblical studies, historical studies, doctrinal studies and practical studies.

Anders Nygren, a great theologian from the Church of Sweden, said prophetically after his church adopted the ordination of women as pastors, "This decision not only means a determination of the specific issue concerning female pastor, but, I am convinced, also means that our church has now shifted into a previously unknown path heading in the direction of Gnosticism and the Schwaermerei. . . I must declare my deep sorry regarding the decision and give notice of my reservation over the same."

"Years ago, C.S. Lewis said that should the Church opt to ordain women, it would very quickly find that it had brought about a whole new religion. . . . His words have an uncanny prescience to them. Perhaps it is time to step back, reexamine what we have done, and if honesty requires us to say that we have done wrong, begin the necessary correction of the course."  from the essay in the book, How My Mind Has Changed, by Rev. Louis A. Smith, ELCA pastor

Editors:

Matthew C. Harrison is the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Ministries.

John T. Pless is Assistant Professor, Pastoral Ministry and Missions, and Director of Field Education, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

What Others Are Saying
"It is striking that in the ancient Near East, where female deities and priestesses were abundant, Israel was told to have only male priests. Similarly, in the Greco-Roman world, where female gods and priestesses flourished, the Church restricted the apostolic-pastoral office to men. This volume is to be commended for similarly resisting the prevailing cultural novelties by supporting in a scholarly and churchly manner the God-given order for the Church’s ministry. Women as well as men are blessed when they hear and follow the living, healing voice of Jesus in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures."
— Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe,
President, Concordia Theological Seminary,
Fort Wayne, Indiana

"The apostolic ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament cannot be made androgynous or gender-neutral against the plain text of God’s Word. Against the tides of postmodernism and the fallicies of ancient paganism, we as biblical Christians maintain that above all varying and changing human truths, there is God’s divine and eternal truth revealed to us in His Word. Departing from His Word, the Bible, means separating from the living God. The essays in this book are from able hands of ministers who still want the Church to continue praying, "Thy will be done," not, "my will be done" nor the "will of my time." This book reveals the truth from the God who was, who is, and who is to come. It will help many who doubt the truth of Holy Scripture and will build and nurture those who confess God to be faithful and living according to His Word."

— Most Rev. Dr. Walter Obare Omwanza,
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya

"Being liberated from colonization in the last century and already facing the globalization of culture at the beginning of this new millennium, the African Lutheran Churches confront the issue of women’s ordination with pressure form within and without. This book comes at the right time as spiritual illumination, strengthening hands and providing leadership and a path for them and for those [churches] in the same situation in their war over against a modern neopagan understanding of the office of pastor."
— Dr. Randrianasolo Joseph
Professor of Theology, Malagasy Lutheran Church
Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Contributors
Louis A. Brighton
Peter Brunner
David W. Bryce
Bertil Gärtner
Bo Giertz
Charles A. Gieschen
Henry P. Hamann
John W. Kleinig
Peter Kriewaldt
Gregory Lockwood
Geelong North
Hermann Sasse
David P. Scaer
Robert Schaibley
Fredrik Sidenvall
Reinhard Slenczka
Louis A. Smith
William Weinrich
Roland Ziegler

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Categories: Books
  1. Anastasia Theodoridis
    December 17th, 2007 at 15:57 | #1

    This sounds like an important book.
    My own, personal opinion is that ordaining women *in itself* would not be why a whole new religion would result. That would just be a symptom. The thing is, you have to have a whole, new, unbiblical, non-Traditional, a-historical religion already fairly well in place in order to ordain women in the first place.
    Anastasia

  2. Chris
    December 17th, 2007 at 18:10 | #2

    CS Lewis was correct. Ordaining women will bring about a new religion, a better one.
    It makes me ashamed to be a Lutheran when the ‘Confessional Lutherans’ in Australia and the USA spread their intolerance against women and homosexuals.
    Sure, Paul (or whoever wrote Timothy) said that women are evil and responsible for the fall, blah blah blah but can’t we move beyond that?

  3. Michael Zamzow
    December 17th, 2007 at 19:55 | #3

    Snarkiness seems to be a universal trait among revisionists. The issues are totally mischaracterized by Chris. His understanding of Holy Writ is shallow at best. I guess we’ll just take Jesus advice in Matthew 7:6 and hope that Chris is intellectually honest enough to read the essays in the book and deal with the issues they present. May the truth take him captive and turn around his mind (metanoia) and even take the edge off his snarkiness.

  4. December 17th, 2007 at 20:38 | #4

    Oh, here we go again. I really hope this boomer thing ends soon.

  5. December 18th, 2007 at 08:24 | #5

    Thanks so much for this important book.

  6. December 18th, 2007 at 09:26 | #6

    Thanks for the book info, Pr. McCain. I will have to put that on my very long “must have” book list.
    I hate to cause the discussion to digress… but is that an eggo waffle in the picture of the two gals speaking the words of institution? If it is, is there a toaster on the alter or is that something that the altar guild takes care of before service.
    …l’eggo my Jesus.

  7. anonymous
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:30 | #7

    gvheintz asks:
    How many pages are in this book? You say over four hundred, but the CPH description says 304?
    McCain answers:
    The description is old, and wrong. It is 400 pages.

  8. wcwirla
    December 18th, 2007 at 13:26 | #8

    Congratulations on the publications of this volume. The contributer list is impressive and worthy of consideration. I wholeheartedly agree with Anastasia’s comment above – the ordination of women is but a symptom of the underlying apostasy.
    That picture alone is worth a thousand words, or perhaps even 400 or so pages.

  9. Bror Erickson
    December 18th, 2007 at 16:02 | #9

    I wonder if the tide might be turning more and more on this issue given the recent split of the San Joaquin diocese in California from the Episcopal Church. I also wonder if the doors might be opening for some more ecumenical dialogues between differing confessions over this? It would be interesting to know. I know agreement in this matter alone is not agreement enough for altar/pulpit fellowship, but it might lead to such agreement.

  10. Anastasia Theodoridis
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:25 | #10

    The ministry is Christ’s. It belongs to Him. It therefore is not an issue of women’s rights. Nobody, male or female, has any “right” to it, except Christ. He gives it to whom He will. He gave it to certain men. Not all men, not even all Jewish men. Certain men. Certain men among Jews at first, and later, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, certain men among the Gentiles as well. That is the record.
    Anastasia

  11. Jeff
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:06 | #11

    I struggle with this issue. It was women who first brought the good news of the resurection. My sense is that if they can be trusted to bring that good news, they should be able to bring the good news everywhere. As for me, one day I believe this; another and I am on board with the LCMS’ position.

  12. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:53 | #12

    Its good to see this book in print and by Concordia. But in my opinion it is 40 years too late. We’ve already crossed the bridge of determining our doctrine by consensus or by conformity to culture, rather than by careful and prayerful study of scripture. I pray we can turn back and never cross that bridge it again, but I am doubtful. Women’s ordination will happen because we fear being labeled as intollerant and bigoted more than we fear God. It is truly an odius modus operandi to accuse the blessed apostle Paul of sexism and homophobia to further one’s cause. What we are really being asked to get past is not (supposedly) one man’s ancient backward opinion, but the Second Commandment which forbids teaching false doctrine and saying it is the word of God. We are asked to get beyond is the Third Commandment by despising preaching and the word of God. We are asked to get past the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in which we pray God’s name be kept holy by His Word being taught among us in its purity and truth.

  13. Bror Erickson
    December 19th, 2007 at 12:28 | #13

    Rev. Al
    It is my firm conviction that it is never too late. That all things are possible with God. And even now the Holy Spirit is guiding the church through God’s word.
    we may be marginalized in society, but for some of us that is not a bad thing. We should see that we are not alone in this world. The communion of saints is large, and we are in this fight for truth with brothers all over the world, Africa, Canada, Sweden, and Australia. Not to mention numerous others.
    We should all get this book, so that we can articulate the truth of this problem competently and with charity, always tying it to the Gospel.

  14. Anastasia Theodoridis
    December 19th, 2007 at 13:39 | #14

    Women can be trusted as much (or as little!) as men. They have important roles in the Church. That doesn’t mean they should be in the ordained ministry. Nor should all men.
    Of course, women as well as men are in the Royal Priesthood, just not the ordained.
    And we are all able to perform the MOST important function in the service: to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.
    It’s status and rights feminists are after. If we would truly recognize the ordained priesthood not as a social status, nor as a right, but as a servant role, these issues would tend not to arise. No feminist fights to be a handmaid.
    Anastasia

  15. December 19th, 2007 at 14:35 | #15

    Jeff,
    Bringing the good news to individuals by bearing witness is one thing; preaching and administering the Sacraments as officers in the church is something else entirely.
    No one has ever said that women cannot tell the truth about Jesus to others or forbidding them from speaking about their faith. So, a male-only clergy preserves the scripture example that you sited. They did carry the first news of the resurection, but they did not become apostles. They told the disciples, but they did not rebuke Thomas when he doubted their testimony. You do not hear of them preaching in the book of Acts or presiding over the ministry of the church in the epistles. In fact, those epistles forbid women from speaking in church. I conceed that they were trusted with a witness if you admit that their witness was very narrow and limited to events that were not official acts of the church.
    Where does Scripture grant women authority in the Church? Where is the example of a woman preaching the Gospel of Christ?

  16. Jeff
    December 19th, 2007 at 20:51 | #16

    Mike Baker,
    Look, I don’t want to be the guy who defends WO. For the sake of discussion: there is a sense that in the early church with it’s plurality of Christianities that women played a vital role and in the leadership of the church. It was mentioned earlier about Paul and some the women leadership in biblical times. We also have portraits fo women in the Orans position presiding over a meal in the tunnels under Rome and in other places(?). My guess is that women at the very least had a Diaconal role, possibly in some places a presbyterial role. It’s jsu tnot that cut an dry: “the bible says it so I believe it.” Let me say again this is discussion, I am perfectly comfortable with the LCMS and RC positions on WO. IT just seems that there are some women called to ordained minsitry. They bring many gifts. I don’t want to be the one denying those gifts. Let’s keep the discussion going, please be civil.

  17. December 19th, 2007 at 21:27 | #17

    I guess I think of the “gifts” of the Holy Ministry primarily as the ones God gives, not the ones we bring to it. If being a pastor is about using our gifts and talents to be a nice and compassionate person, a dynamic speaker, an eloquent writer, and so on, we’re dealing with a more American evangelical picture of worship and the ministry from what I can tell. When this happens, we have the “right” to use our talents to glorify God the way we want to, and woe betide the one who would try to stifle the Spirit in us. (At least this was my experience.) Were you thinking of something different when you speak of the “gifts” that women bring to the ordained ministry?

  18. December 19th, 2007 at 23:18 | #18

    “It’s jsu tnot that cut an dry: ‘the bible says it so I believe it.’”
    actually, because the Bible says so, it is pretty cut and dry.
    there are plenty of other roles women have so they can use their gifts and abilities.

  19. December 20th, 2007 at 11:48 | #19

    Jeff,
    Ironically, this topic was the first big theological debate that I ever had with another Christian when I was young. I am not coming at this from a one-sided look at the evidence. Growing up in the SBC, I came across several female Sunday School teachers who opposed the convention’s “male only” rules. I have been exposed to all of the “evidence”… not always by my choice.
    I have read a great deal of material from those who want to suggest that the historic church had female leaders. Every specific example that I have seen presents authority that is only equal to that of a member of an altar guild or the leaders of the LWML. In all of these cases, the function of the deaconess was narrow in scope and supportive in nature. Also, the actions of the deaconess were performed under the direct supervision of a male superior (be it a bishop, pastor, or deacon.) Saying that these deaconesses were in the pastoral office is like saying our acolytes are members of the priesthood because they assist the Pastor in the Divine Service.
    What is also overlooked is that many of the specific historic restrictions that the ancient church had in place did not extend to all-female groups. The rule was not against female leaders perse, but against female leaders with male subordinates. All-female holy orders and women teaching other women are not examples of the modern pastoral office because there are no men under the authority of those women.
    I have not seen pictures of the specific illustrations that you spoke of, but I would be interested to look at them. My initial questions are: (1) What solid evidence exists that tells us that the individual is actually female? (2) What solid evidence exists that tells us that the meal is the Lord’s Supper and not some woman blessing a family meal? (3) What solid evidence exists that tells us that there were men at the table? (4) What solid evidence exists that it was even a Christian depiction. Artistic impression or interpretation is not something to base practice on because that is too subjective.
    The best proof of this are the paintings of Lutheran Fathers (like Chemnitz) who are depicted holding a rosary. We also have paintings of the Adamites who performed services in the nude. Thankfully metaphorical art and the works of heretical cults do not determine our practice. Do we really know the full context of the situation? Do we want to base our church practice on an artistic rendering? Do we even know if the art represents the truth? Please send the images to me.
    It is important to note that the Church Fathers and Councils can error. In those places where the church of any age conflicts with clear instruction from God’s Word, we must defer to that which we know to be divinely inspired and revealed.
    Even if there is historic evidence of a female bishop (which there is not), that historic evidence must subject itself to inerrant Holy Scripture. Archological evidence is only a light that illuminates our understanding of God’s revelation; it is not revelation in itself. The Bible is clear. As St. Paul instructs us in the epistle, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” [1 Tim 2:11-13, NASB]
    It seems that the only way to permit women’s ordination is to say that (1) the passage that I quoted is in error; (2) the teaching of the passage that I quoted does not apply to the entire church in all places; or (3) this is only Paul’s personal preference.
    Which initiates the Pandora’s Box question of total disobedience and anarachy: What other parts of the Bible should we ignore because they do not apply to us?
    I would be interested to hear how you reconcile the inerrant testimony of 1 Timothy with the actions of historic and modern churches.

  20. December 20th, 2007 at 13:05 | #20

    Jeff,
    Ironically, this topic was the first big theological debate that I ever had with another Christian when I was young. I am not coming at this from a one-sided look at the evidence. Growing up in the SBC, I came across several female Sunday School teachers who opposed the convention’s “male only” rules. I have been exposed to all of the “evidence”… not always by my choice.
    I have read a great deal of material from those who want to suggest that the historic church had female leaders. Every specific example that I have seen presents authority that is only equal to that of a member of an altar guild or the leaders of the LWML. In all of these cases, the function of the deaconess was narrow in scope and supportive in nature. Also, the actions of the deaconess were performed under the direct supervision of a male superior (be it a bishop, pastor, or deacon.) Saying that these deaconesses were in the pastoral office is like saying our acolytes are members of the priesthood because they assist the Pastor in the Divine Service.
    What is also overlooked is that many of the specific historic restrictions that the ancient church had in place did not extend to all-female groups. The rule was not against female leaders perse, but against female leaders with male subordinates. All-female holy orders and women teaching other women are not examples of the modern pastoral office because there are no men under the authority of those women.
    I have not seen pictures of the specific illustrations that you spoke of, but I would be interested to look at them. My initial questions are: (1) What solid evidence exists that tells us that the individual is actually female? (2) What solid evidence exists that tells us that the meal is the Lord’s Supper and not some woman blessing a family meal? (3) What solid evidence exists that tells us that there were men at the table? (4) What solid evidence exists that it was even a Christian depiction. Artistic impression or interpretation is not something to base practice on because that is too subjective.
    The best proof of this are the paintings of Lutheran Fathers (like Chemnitz) who are depicted holding a rosary. We also have paintings of the Adamites who performed services in the nude. Thankfully metaphorical art and the works of heretical cults do not determine our practice. Do we really know the full context of the situation? Do we want to base our church practice on an artistic rendering? Do we even know if the art represents the truth? Please send the images to me.
    It is important to note that the Church Fathers and Councils can error. In those places where the church of any age conflicts with clear instruction from God’s Word, we must defer to that which we know to be divinely inspired and revealed.
    Even if there is historic evidence of a female bishop (which there is not), that historic evidence must subject itself to inerrant Holy Scripture. Archological evidence is only a light that illuminates our understanding of God’s revelation; it is not revelation in itself. The Bible is clear. As St. Paul instructs us in the epistle, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” [1 Tim 2:11-13, NASB]
    It seems that the only way to permit women’s ordination is to say that (1) the passage that I quoted is in error; (2) the teaching of the passage that I quoted does not apply to the entire church in all places; or (3) this is only Paul’s personal preference.
    Which initiates the Pandora’s Box question of total disobedience and anarchy: What other parts of the Bible should we ignore because they do not apply to us?
    I would be interested to hear how you reconcile the inerrant testimony of 1 Timothy with the actions of historic and modern churches.

  21. Anastasia Theodoridis
    December 22nd, 2007 at 23:20 | #21

    Nobody, male OR female, is called to the priesthood unless both God AND the Church call that person.
    Yes, we women have many gifts. They are to be given to the church in other ways, including leadership ways.
    Leaders should be those most manifesting Christ in their lives, ordained or not.
    Anastasia

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