Monday, May 26, 2008

Principles and Applications

The WELS’ principles and their applications seem very squishy these days and are getting more gelatinous and sticky all the time. Here is a part of the official doctrinal statements on male and female roles from All Christians, men and women, are to use their God-given gifts to serve each other (1 Pe 4:10). Women are encouraged to participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where the work involves authority over men.”

This “authority over men” is explained to include teaching and voting. Yet, the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts will have women presenting sectionals. One of the sectionals, apparently open to both male and female attendees, led by a woman, will trace “the development of a contemporary liturgical service at Emanuel, New London, WI. Practical examples of service formats, repertoire, and rehearsal strategies will be covered along with discussion of the challenges faced in helping people value Lutheran worship principles. Ideas shared will help move beyond confining terminology and options while exploring variety in Lutheran worship.“

Sounds like this “woman” is going to be “teaching” “men”. How is this in line with the written doctrine of the synod? We’ve heard some explain that if a woman teaches in a submissive way (Could we get a demonstration, please? Does this mean slouching and looking at the floor and mumbling at a barely audible decible?) then it’s ok for her to teach men. Fine. Then a woman can preach from the pulpit on Sunday morning, consecrate the elements, and commune the faithful, as long as she does it in a submissive way. That’s where you end up when the pastoral ministry is all about authority and not about Christ. However, let’s leave that for some other time. The sentence, “Women are encouraged to participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where the work involves authority over men” has more issues in it than will be covered here today.


Sr. Kate said...

“Applications,” which one hears a lot from WELS, has always struck me as one of those handy weasel words trotted out whenever folks want a way around official doctrinal statements. This brings to mind a certain committee that had a hot agenda they were trying to steam-roll past the Voters. An internal committee vote was required first, and, gee, it sure would be nice if it could be unanimous. (It was thought the issue would have more credibility with the Voters if the committee could demonstrate 100% commitment to it.) The women were being strongly urged (pressured) by the leadership to participate, even though women had never voted on anything before, even at the committee level. The 30-second catechesis consisted of being told it would be OK, just this once, since it wouldn’t be a “real” vote of the “real” Voters at a “real” Voters’ Meeting. Besides, the committee really, really, really needed to have this solid united-looking front, and this was how they were going to accomplish it. It was explained that since there was “agreement” on the issue (not really, but I digress) there was no way the women could be seen to be exercising authority over the male committee members by voting anyhow.

The women thought this application of the Authority Over Men principle to be a bit tortured but ended up casting their fake votes. I can’t figure out whether they were acting outside of or within some kind of WELS “framework” (see the AL June 10 blog entry.) At least they were submissive about it so I guess that made all the difference.

rlschultz said...

Sr. Kate,
That was a very interesting story. I have a similar tale to tell. In an effort to ensure that the women of the congregation did not feel left out, there was a huge telephone campaign within my WELS congregation to make sure that their voice could be heard during a recent voters' meeting. The idea was to get as many adult members present for a vote on a multi-million dollar expansion. Of course, only the men could vote. Then, one of the men questioned why women couldn't vote - at least on this issue. By then the voters' meeting had turned into an Oprah show. There were the tearful appeals, guilt trips and pleas to think of the poor, unrepresented powerless women. The pastor tried to reply with that sheepish grin that he gets when he is uncomfortable. This was a lot worse than just a couple of old timers whining about not meeting the budget.