Daily Archives: November 13, 2009

Put this one in the “weird” basket…

…or, on the other hand, there seems to be something definitely educational in it.

I am referring to this entry on Father Hollywood’ blog, Girls Gone Wild, WELS Edition. A regular visitor to this blog, Dr William Tighe, put me (and, it would seem, Father Hollywood himself) onto this.

In short summary, the post is about the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in the States. That particular group of Lutherans in the State has reached a position on the public ministry of the Church somewhat akin to the Sydney Anglicans here in Australia. Being “bible-based”, they have determined that the Bible does not establish an “office of the ministry”. (Technically, I have no problem with that position – after all, Jesus, not the bible, established the ordained apostolic ministry). They are convinced beyond all doubt that the Bible does, however, teach that women should not have authority over men. Making this the cardinal and only law of ministry, and taking a completely functionalist view of the ministry of word and sacrament, they therefore conclude that:

A woman can celebrate the eucharist as long as she only communes women.

Father Hollywood – a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor expounds the whole business, but concludes with this:

Just as female ordination inevitably leads to the blessing of same-sex marriages, I also believe that a functional view of the ministry inexorably leads to women functioning (if not outright claiming to be) pastors. Until we in the LCMS come to grips with the idea of ontology (both of ministers and of the sexes), we will continue to follow in the train of our conservative brethren, even though the tracks have taken a radical turn to the left.

It is true that Lutheranism has always held together both a “high” and a “low” view of the ordained ministry, where the “high” view regards the “office of the ministry” as being ontologically tied to the person who fills the office and the “low” view regards the “office of the ministry” as a set of functions (specifically preaching the word and administering the sacraments) which does not. They have never entirely sorted this one out, and generally (even in the Lutheran Church of Australia) continue to walk the tight-rope without looking at the rope itself (something which in fact is necessary if you are trying to balance on a thin line of any kind).

This explains why in the LCA there are continuing debates about women’s ordination, almost completely balanced in terms of numbers of supporters and opponents. But in all these debates, only a few brave souls have come out and definitely declared themselves for the “high” or “low” view as such. Of course, the “high” view, if followed logically, must finally lead the one who holds it to question what happens in the rite of ordination itself, and that (if followed through ontologically) leads to questioning the whole business of the incarnate transmission of the Office of the Ministry, and (take it from me folks) it is all down hill from there to a full-blown acceptance of the Catholic doctrine of Holy Orders.

Which, of course, the bible does not itself “establish”.

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