Pastoral guidelines on mutual respect

The following guidelines are offered as an aid to members of the LCA as we again engage in dialogue on the question of the ordination of women.

They address that attitude among us which will create and maintain the best possible climate for full and open dialogue.

They do not present rules to be followed or a theological position to be adhered to. They are pastoral care intended to promote genuine mutual respect and care for each other.

Some will be unfamiliar with the nature of these guidelines, and may fail to understand their purpose. If we engage with them patiently, however, they will assist us conduct ourselves with the spirit of Christ, and in engage in a deep, rich, and meaningful dialogue. In the process we will learn about our self, each other, and our church.

They are offered, therefore, in a spirit of goodwill as a resource and help to the members of the LCA at this time.

The guidelines

As we dialogue with each other on the question of the ordination of women, we shall endeavour to embrace the following principles as our guide in this process:
  • We will constantly remind ourselves that we are brothers and sisters in the family of God, freely and fully forgiven by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
  • We will view the issue before us, not as a battle to be won or lost, but as a shared family challenge. Though it might place us on opposite sides of the same question, as we face the challenge we will engage in constructive dialogue with each other and resist the adversarial approach, which can too easily mar our conversations and our relationships.
  • We will ask the Holy Spirit to imprint on our hearts God’s call to love one another as God in Jesus has loved us.
  • We will seek to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he had all power, did not consider that power something to cling to, but emptied himself of it, and became one of us, even to the point of death.
  • We will honour the principle that, though we disagree – even vehemently – with what someone else in the family believes or says, we nevertheless defend – equally vehemently – their right so to believe and speak within the bounds of our common faith as revealed in God’s Word.
  • Though we may be perplexed by the fact that theologians of equal calibre and background can deduce opposite views on the same question, we will respect the theological proficiency and integrity of each, confident that God’s Spirit will maintain our unity in the midst of our diversity. In that confidence, we will see each other not so much as people who are right or wrong, but as people with different viewpoints, and we will respect the difference.
  • We will be open to the possibility that this question is not as black and white as some may think, and that the shades of grey which have developed reflect the reality of God’s gracious and timeless Word as a living message for the world in which and for which Christ died.
  • We will at all times ensure that each person engaged in this debate is, and feels, safe, and will therefore refrain from all attempts to harangue or coerce another into a particular belief about this issue. We will never make this matter a question of someone’s eternal salvation.
  • We will do all in our power to find a solution which honours Scripture and all who to whom the solution deeply matters.1
  • We will be honest and truthful with each other, and will enact this in loving, considerate ways. We will choose to talk to each other rather than about each other. And where we fail in this, we will seek forgiveness of each other and of God.
  • We will practice patience, forbearing with one another.
  • We will acknowledge that this question is not simply a matter of the head (what we think), but also of the heart (how we feel and experience). We will therefore be sensitive to the pain of others in the community, whoever they are, and however that pain is expressed, and we will reach out to them with authentic words of healing and gracious actions of solidarity. We are in this together.
  • We will practice putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and will not patronise or belittle each other, but will treat each other with dignity at all times.
  • We will learn the wisdom of knowing when to stop.
  • We will be real about the possibility that what we claim to be theological and/or scriptural reasoning may not always be so, but may instead be a personal prejudice, quirk, or trait.
  • Those of us who are leaders will model servant leadership to the community, willingly accepting the greater responsibility of the love we all have for our church as we continue to wrestle with this issue.
  • We will pray for each other and for the community, not that others will necessarily be converted to our point of view, but that the Holy Spirit will shape, sustain and bless us all in true faith and in godly living.
  • Above all, we will remember that the Christian community is the creation of the Spirit of Christ, and we will therefore entrust ourselves to the guidance of God’s Spirit and his Word, confident that as we do so God will make known to us that which best serves Jesus’ ministry through us for the world.
1 By way of example: We could consider the possibility that the original question – ‘Shall we ordain women?’ – may no longer be the question to ask. Synod has not been able to give majority affirmation to that question. Equally, Synod would not be able to give majority affirmation to the question – ‘Shall we ordain only men?’ Given that reality, does the question become something like ‘How does a church with completely opposite theological and biblical convictions on the same issue honour the integrity of all members of the church?’ And there are surely other possibilities.

A prayer

Lord God,
as you have spoken to us in the past,
especially in the person of your Son,
so we seek to hear your voice for us today.
Speak to us in our helplessness,
that we may know the sustaining power of your wisdom.
Speak to us in our confusion,
that we may know the wonder of finding creative solutions to difficult questions.
Speak to us in our brokenness,
that together we may know the healing embrace of your love.
Speak to us in our division,
that we may know the reality of that oneness which is already ours,
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

Back to top