Introduction to Ordaining Women

[1] In the months leading to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly and the votes on rostering people in lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships, many drew parallels to the decisions in predecessor church bodies to ordain women. What should the biblical basis be for such a decision? What kind of procedure should be required? What kind of assent would be needed from the church or from the church’s legislative body?

[2] For most, though not by any means all, the matter of ordaining women in the ELCA is settled and generally regarded as a sound decision. But the same matter is far from settled in other partner churches in the LWF.

[3] This month in Journal of Lutheran Ethics we have an account from Tanya Witwer, a woman in the Lutheran Church of Australia who has an MDiv from an ELCA seminary, and would probably be rostered were she an ELCA member. That both sides argue from Scripture and the Confessions should sound familiar to those who have been watching the ELCA debate over non-celibate gay clergy. There are other parallels to be drawn here: for many in the ELCA the concern over what happens to the traditional interpretation of particular scriptural passages mirrors the concern in the LCA over 1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14. We have included a supplemental document of resources from the LCA to give a broad overview of the situation.

[4] As a historical document we have included a report from United Evangelical Lutheran Church (la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida, IELU) in Argentina, written and translated by my esteemed colleague John Stumme. Its concern centers around what we learn from the Lutheran Confessions that is helpful. What the confessional doctrine of ministry is, and how ecumenical relationships would be affected are also touched on, but the biggest move Stumme makes is to put the Confessions and the underlying assumptions into their historical context and to question whether limiting ordination to men was a cultural or doctrinal move.

[5] Karen Bloomquist presents to the church in Cameroon and draws our attention to the gospel. While she names many factors at play such as historical legacies, tradition, culture, and power, Bloomquist finally considers ordaining women to be a matter of being true to the gospel.

[6] Regardless of where one falls on the matter (full disclosure here—as an ordained women pastor I am squarely on the pro-ordination side), it’s obvious that ordaining women requires some changes. Bishop Jessica Crist writes of participating in the ordination of the first woman in Bolivia, and encountering for the first time the feminine of the word for bishop.

[7] This month, our historical article relates Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s precedent of adaptive ecclesial order in response to missional requirements, and draws some modern parallels.

Kaari Reierson

Kaari Reierson is the founding editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics and is the Chair of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics Advisory Council.