A Message from the LCA Bishop

God frequently tests us in ways we don’t expect. The test might be sudden, catching us unawares, or it might be spread over years. It might be a major or an apparently minor issue, but the test cuts to the core of our faith and forces us to explore who we are and what we believe. We can be confident in facing this challenge since it’s in our DNA (and our Confessions) to test everything we do and say according to Scripture and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Some people see the matter of ordination as profound but ultimately straightforward matter of obedience to the plain Word of God. Others experience it as deeply complex, ambiguous, and troubling. Some have already moved on, as they are tired of the ongoing debate.

Conventions have voted on the ordination of women three times – in 2000, 2006 and 2015. Each time it has failed to reach the required two-thirds majority, yet the 2015 Convention also passed these two additional resolutions:

20150216 RESOLVED: That Synod requests the CTICR[1] to build on its earlier work regarding the ordination of women and men to develop a draft doctrinal statement for GPC and the 19th Convention of Synod that presents:

20150217 RESOLVED: that in the light of its teaching that only men be ordained, the church enter a period of careful theological reflection and pastoral work for the next synodical term to assist in maintaining its unity and harmony.

A doctrinal statement, theological reflection and pastoral work—these have been given to us as our tasks for this synodical term. As we set about these tasks we hope to utilise the skills we learned in preparation for the 2015 Convention. Elements of this approach will include continuing the church-wide discussion, using the tools of dialogue to engage with Scripture, listen and understand, respond and reflect, grow in our faith in God and build mutual trust and respect.

Dialogue might not be the answer to everything it has proven to be a substantial help. We have learned that without true dialogue we can easily misunderstand what others are saying, applying the wrong meaning and motives to their words and actions. Dialogue and its partner consensus are best understood from their practice, not from their theory.

The OWL website and its accompanying resources are being reopened to help us, as Lutherans across Australia and New Zealand, practise the attitude and skills we need as a church. As your bishop I hope you will again use this opportunity to engage in local dialogue, in your congregation, fellowship or Bible study group, zone gathering, pastors conference, mission and ministry festival, or any other opportunities that present themselves. During the term we will help you engage through providing with draft statements, resources, face-to-face consultations and the opportunity to share your views on this site.

The plan, God willing and under the direction of the Convention resolution, is to prepare a draft doctrinal statement for the ordination of women and men that will be discussed at the next General Pastors Conference for its advice, and then at the 2018 Convention of Synod.

God bless you as you use these resources, and I continue pray for the church as we once again prepare to consider this vexed issue.

In Christ,
Pastor John Henderson
LCA Bishop

originally prepared September 2013
revised Easter 2014
revised March 2016

[1] LCA Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations

 

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