When I posted some remarks that Pastor Weedon made recently about women’s ordination on my Facebook page, I received some interesting reactions. Here are Pastor Weedon’s remarks:
“The impossibility of women’s ordination to the office of presbyter or pastor is simply there in the Apostle Paul’s prohibitions in 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor. 14. Not once has anyone ever showed a woman placed into that office in the pages of the NT (while the service of women in other arenas is copious in the Scripture). Not once has anyone ever showed that the Universal Church accepted women to such an office – for even the Pope knows that the Church is simply not authorized to do so. Take it up with the Lord Jesus! This is not about a lack of clarity in translation; this is not about a dubious practice that was imposed on the Church through false patriarchal assumptions. This is about “thus says the Lord” and not listening when another voice asks, ever so intelligently, “Did God REALLY say?”
The one that intrigued me the most came from a friend who reacted very negatively toward Pastor Weedon’s remarks. She said: “My comment was with regard to the standard ham-handed law-heavy (practically Reformed) approach to “discussion” on the issue of women’s ordination. This sort of retreat to the Law is often followed by the backhanded “Gospel” that “women are still honorable creatures too.” I think we, as Lutherans, can do better than that.”
It is her strong feeling that Pastor Weedon’s remarks were all law and will only turn off people who were uncertain or unconvinced about the issue of the ordination of women to the pastoral office. I think that what she is driving at, but not quite arriving there, is that while when we present these issues, we must do so in such a way that the Word of God is taught very clearly and allowed simply to stand on its own merits, we must also take care not simply to present the Bible’s prohibitions against women as pastors without providing discussion of reasons why God has chosen, in His wisdom, not to give the pastoral office to women. And, where I agree with her the most, is when she asserts that simply telling women, “No, you can’t be a pastor. God’s Word says no, now go away” is a rather legalistic and negative approach. The better way is reflect the Bible’s teaching on this issue in such a way that we speak to the positive reasons why only certain men are called to this office and the positive opportunities God gives to women that he does not give to any man. In other words, embracing a holistic approach to the issue is the most helpful one.
At any rate, this conversation called to mind a paper I gave quite some time ago, in the 1990s. It was published as an article in LOGIA journal in 2001. The title of the presentation was Receiving the Gifts of Christ with Thankfulness and Faithfulness. I think in that paper I captured some of these nuances and I’d like simply here to offer it again for your consideration. I welcome your comments and feedback.
By the way, here are a couple different formats of this paper, in case you want to use it: Receiving the gifts of Christ
Receiving the Gifts of Christ with Thankfulness and Faithfulness
Thoughts on the Bride of Christ’s Royal Priesthood and Holy Ministry
Rev. Paul T. McCain
St. Paul paints a beautiful picture of the church in the Epistle to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 5 Paul describes the holy Christian church as the Bride of Christ. It is noteworthy that according to St. Paul the Christian family, a man and woman, in their calling as husband and father, and as wife and mother, are to be images of the truth that the church is the Bride of Christ. As God’s creation through the blood of Christ, the church dare never begrudge the gifts that God has given to her. She dare not sneer at God’s gift of the royal priesthood, nor dare she denigrate God’s gift of the office of the holy ministry. She receives both with thanksgiving and praise to God for his wisdom in giving these gifts. How tragic it is when the divine equilibrium between the priesthood of all believers and the office of the holy ministry devolves into a sort of civil war in the church! The church is known, according to Luther, only as “a little flock of those who accept the Word of the Lord and who teach and confess true doctrine against those who persecute them, even though they must suffer for it.”
At the heart of these issues, in addition to whatever else might be said, and even must be said, is the question of remaining thankful for and faithful to the gifts the Lord has given, in the manner in which he has chosen to give them. This brief study presents some thoughts on the royal priesthood, the office of the holy ministry, the Lutheran concept of vocation and station in life, and then applies these understandings to some contemporary questions about these important gifts that Christ has given to us. One of Luther’s great rediscoveries at the time of the Reformation was the scriptural truth that all the baptized people of God are called to be the “royal priesthood,” as St. Peter describes it in 1 Peter 2:9. We turn to Luther in light of the fact that our Lutheran Confessions make it clear that “We wish to be regarded as appealing to further extensive statements in his [Luther’s] doctrinal and polemical writings” (FC SD RN, 9; Tappert, 505; BSLK, 837), and that Martin Luther is the “chief teacher of the Augsburg Confession” (FC SD VII, 34; Tappert, 575; BSLK, 983). In Luther’s struggle against the medieval conception of the church as a structure that connected the lowly layperson to the heavenly realms through a system of meritorious works mediated by an ordained priest, Luther held high the centrality of Christ and his gospel by which each baptized person is completely free and liberated from all of his sin and set free to serve in whatever station in life to which he had been called by God. For Luther, the church is not defined by a papal hierarchy or by priestly orders, but by the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. Luther’s views demolished the Roman Catholic belief that life was to be separated into two distinct realms, the sacred and the secular. Even as Christ humbled himself to be born of a lowly virgin, so now the Christian is set free to serve in whatever status in life he is placed.