Yesterday, the Lutheran Church of Australia voted on the ordination of women once again, returning a vote of 240 in favour to 161 against. The vote failed to reach the required two-thirds majority. Many of our Lutheran brothers and sisters are mourning today as the impact of this decision sinks in, and as Paul encouraged the Romans, we weep with those of you who weep. We continue to pray with and for you.
As I reflected on the pain of many Australian Lutherans, I wanted to encourage you and remind you not to lose hope. I offer this reflection based on 1 Samuel chapter 1.
To our sisters in the Lutheran church who long to see women ordained –
You began yesterday as many Hannahs, with words of fruitful hope and expectation in your hearts, waiting for the moment when those words could at last spring forth from joyful lips. Before the day came to a close, you stood, clutching your bloodied rags, as the hope of that which was so deeply longed for died for another season. And many of you wondered if you will ever see the day when that hope will begin to swell, then to kick against your ribs, and in the fullness of time, to be brought forth into the light of day. For you, we pray that our Father will hold you in His loving arms as you weep for this loss, and we long for the day when we will rejoice together in your hope brought to fruition, just as Hannah’s hope became reality.
To those who oppose women’s ordination –
As women’s ordination advocates come again into God’s holy presence, to pray and to cry out to God, you look on like Eli the priest, certain that they are drunk on the spirit of this age; on a spirit that is not of God. It is our prayer that as you hear their cries, you will be brought to compassion by their anguish and come before God to seek understanding. We pray that the Spirit of Truth will speak to your hearts and minds, revealing God’s full and loving acceptance of His daughters and moving you to act on their cry for justice. May you reach the point of being able to say, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel (and of Jesus Christ) grant you what you have asked of him.” One day, when the child of this movement is weaned, may you have the grace to take her under your wing and help to raise her to maturity as a minister of Christ.
To our brothers in the Lutheran church who long to see women ordained –
Like Elkanah, you stand beside your Hannahs, with loving concern etched on your face and sorrow for their plight in your hearts. Their hopes are also your hopes for new life in the Church you love. At this time of disappointment and anguish, it is our prayer that with great love, you will offer them a double portion, a tender expression of your concern as you wait with them for the day of rejoicing.
To all who hope for women’s ordination –
We pray that you will know God’s comforting presence as you mourn; that in this time of turmoil, He will be your mighty fortress; and that in the course of time, His truth will triumph through us. May our hope be ever found in Jesus Christ. Amen.
2 thoughts on “Women’s Ordination in the Lutheran Church of Australia: A Prayerful Reflection”
Why on earth would lutherans want ordination of women? You only have to look at those denominations that have already done it to see what is happening there.. increasing liberality..
Hi L, that’s a good question. However, I don’t find your conclusion that ordaining women leads to increasing liberality to fit with the facts. There are many conservative denominations which fully embrace women in all levels of ministry. For example, I don’t think I’d call Baptist churches a bastion of liberal theology but almost all states ordain/accredit women. Even in a relatively liberal denomination (such as Anglicans outside of Sydney and a couple of other dioceses), there are plenty of biblically conservative, evangelical men and women who fully support women’s ordination. Why is it that many of us who hold a high view of Scripture believe God calls women to leadership? Firstly, because we are all created in God’s image. Women image God as much as men do. Secondly, because the one Spirit is given to us all, and it is He who gives the gifts for ministry. Who are we to deny what the Spirit has gifted to a person? Thirdly, because, with the exception of a couple of badly-understood texts, the Bible does not disallow it. (Those texts have so much more to offer when we look into them more deeply.) And finally, because in the Bible, we find women at all levels of ministry leadership – several women prophets (including Huldah, who gives us the only example in the Bible of canon formation), deacons (e.g. Phoebe), house church leaders (e.g. Priscilla) and an apostle (Junia). If a woman was an APOSTLE, fully approved by Paul and the other apostles (see Rom 16:7) who are we to deny women the role of pastor?