Condensed by Raymond Tiemeyer
A report distributed by authorization of the church body presidents (USA) as a contribution to further study based on materials produced through the division of theological studies of the Lutheran Council in the USA.
Chapter 1 is scripture against?
Woman was made only as an afterthought, and secondhand at that. She didn't even rate fresh dust - just a rib. Any man can spare a rib.
Though woman was made second, she was deceived first. Too gullible. She could never be trusted, expecially to teach in church.
This, of course, is a glib treatment of Gen 2 and 3. It is used here to show how serious arguments against the ordination of women do not begin. They come from a much deeper level of scripture interpretation, deep enough in fact to write off more shallow points of debate such as the first three to be given here.
|The Weaker Sex||
Many have believed that woman is the weaker sex. In fact, they would say she is downright inferior. She is to be ruled by man because she is not capable of managing herself. "It is not the nature of the office of the ministry that excludes women, it is the nature of woman." Ordination would never "take"
Those in the Lutheran church who are against the ordination of women generally have not used this argument. When the representatives from the churches met in Dubuque to compare views on the question, some were strongly opposed to ordination, but not one argued that woman was by nature incapable of receiving God's charismatic gifts.
Neither did the representatives accept the God-is-male argument against female clergy.
God is Male
|Incarnation is Male||
God is Father and Jesus Christ is Son - the incarnation is male. The Bible has no time for goddesses. Jahweh has no consort. The male figure is a principle in understanding God. The Christ was not male just to be socially acceptable.
This is faulty logic, anyone could charge. It makes too much of an analogy. If carried to it's conclusion, women would be excluded even from membership in Christ's body, the Church. But, to the contrary, Christ came as the new man showing the new humanity of men and women in Christ. As a matter of fact, God's love can be described like "a mother's for her child" (Deut 32:11 et al)
The "God-is-male" contention was not only judged weak, it was rejected by all Lutherans who took part in the Council's study.
The Apostles Were Male
Jesus chose only males for his twelve. He must have intended the ministry to be all male, for surely he knew what he was doing
But can anyone be sure Jesus deliberately kept women out, or that he intended this selection to be a model for all time? If he did, no Gentile should be a minister, for Jesus chose only Jews. The requirement for being an apostle was to be a "witness to his resurrection" (Acts 1:22). Women were witnesses to his resurrection.
The apostles-were-male argument was also rejected by the study participants, because it is not a part of serious biblical theology.
Orders of Creation
|Changeless of Changing||
Gen. 2 and 3 is where the "orders of creation" argument usually begins. It says that woman's subordination to man is written into the very structure of the universe. The consultation had an intense discussion about this. Repeatedly they asked whether God had ordained an eternal, unchanging subordination of woman to man, or whether, instead, he is actually changing the orders of creation by his constant action in history.
It is easy to see how, until recent years, man believed that the natural order always stayed the same. An oak was always just like an oak, and a woman was always just like a woman. The Bible seems to assume this permanence. Under such a view, even when God acted in history as in Christ, he was only trying to restore the original perfection.
But it is now evident that the static view is not so certain. Mutations can be observed. New strains can be developed. Barbarians can become civilized. Slave peoples can manage their freedom. Patriarchal and matriarchal societies can become democratic. A Priscilla can teach a man like Apollos "more accurately" (Acts 18:26), with the help of an Aquila, of course.
Then too, on closer look, maybe the subordination of woman wasn't an order of creation after all, but an order of judgment! It is only after the fall that God says to Eve, "your husband ... shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16). And maybe the orders of creation are all upstaged by the order of redemption.
|The New Testament||
Actually, though, the New Testament does little to erase the subordination argument. In fact, it substantiates it, telling women repeatedly to be silent and submissive. Yet, all the while it gives them a radical new freedom and recounts how they taught and prophesied in the early church.
Certain passages have been cited so convincingly through the years for the subordination of women and against their ordination that they must be examined in detail. Anyone who wants to be prepared for serious discussion on the subject should commit three of the citations to memory: 1 Cor.11 and 14 and 1 Tim.2
Women were prophesying and praying in the church assemblies at Corinth! That is made clear in v5. And Paul does not stop them. He only stresses that they should wear headgear. Several reasons come to his mind:
But Paul also opens the door here a bit. Men should now recognize that they depend on women, just as women depend on men. Woman is not always second - man must be born from woman (v12). Man and woman are interdependent in the Lord (v11). So women may continue to prophesy.
|Freedoms Need Limits||
But Paul takes pains to keep the new freedom from going too far. Traditions should not be broken needlessly. That would cause unnecessary offense.
Should this instruction be brushed aside as no more binding than Paul's tastes in clothes and hairstyles? If it is taken seriously, a contradiction must be resolved. How can it be that Paul allowed the Corinthian women both to pray and prophesy in the previous passage, while in this one he forbids them to speak in church?
What ever the explanation, the puzzle makes this passage, questionable grounds for prohibiting ordination.
The "ecumenical argument" does come through strongly though (v33b-unless 33b goes with 33a). The Corinthians had revelled in gifts of the spirit, especially prophecies. Too much to suit Paul. "Are you the only people God's word reached?" No, there are other congregations. Then do as they do, not just as you think.
Some think that a wave of emancipation was spreading through the young churches. These verses try to hold the line. Women were to remove the ornaments, replace the jewels with good deeds (vv9-10), stop teaching and holding authority over men. Reason? Order of creation; order of judgement.
Women could take satisfaction in a few things though. They could bear children and be saved if they continued in the virtues of faith, love, holiness, and modesty
The Timothy passage is "handled" in various ways:
Some think that Ephesians was not written by Paul, but that is beside the point. The passage is typical of a code morality which shows up in several New Testament references. It is a catechetical form perhaps taken over from the culture of the day.
The greatest objection to the use of these verses as arguments is that they concern only the married woman, not all women.
Warning! Watch for shifts along the way here. The theme is subordination as an order of creation. That has not changed. It has been clearly set forth in passage after passage. But the discussion is looking at a variety of reasons for it. First it was because man was made ahead of woman and head over her. Then it was because the freedoms which were sweeping the Church had to have some traditional limits. Now, subordination is being considered because order is necessary in church and home. This latter is more precisely called "headship structures."
This famous passage is especially crucial to the discussion because it definitely connects the ruling of a family to the ruling of a church. All passages cited earlier were somewhat dismissed on the grounds that they referred only to husbands and wives, not to men and women in general, nor to ministers and laymen. This text, however, brings the argument of subordination back into full bloom.
But does this passage grow out of the orders of creation, or does it just come from the culture of the day? The Stoics liked to place family, city-state, and world in parallel. Paul may be reflecting their thought here. If so, can such orders be taken as eternal truth? Should they be the deciding factor for the Church's ministry? In a once-over-lightly reading the passage poses no problem, but read in detail it does: Must bishops (pastors) be married? Must they be fathers?...of submissive children? If these verses are saying that, the very design of nature demands that man be head, and the church must crusade for the subordination of women in all areas of society. But what then about vv8 and 11? Verse 8 says, "Deacons likewise must be serious." No problem. However, v11 says, "The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things." This seems directed at a class of women deacons who have some sort of ministry parallel to the deacons and bishops unless the women here were the wives of the deacons.
No, the chapter as a whole cannot be taken to require absolute subordination of women. Its style is too casual to be church by-laws. It can be paralleled in Hellenistic lists of qualifications for military generals.
All of this aside, the passage is speaking about the bishop's responsibility to be a leader who serves so faithfully he inspires respect and obedience. It is not talking of the responsibility of subordinates to be duly subordinate, but of leaders to be good leaders.
|Rulership or Leadership Service||
This calls for another shift of attention. Headship was first being seen as the need for order. Now consider it as the need to make someone responsible for good pastoral care. Contrast the two. Is power conferred from above? A divine right? Or is it granted by those who are served? The consent of the governed? Is "authority" the right of the office, or is it earned only in the service the office performs?
At the inter-Lutheran consultation in Dubuque, this difference was sharply marked. Those who said headship was basically a divinely-given rulership power thought it would be violated if a woman were ordained. Those who said headship was basically leadership service (diakonia), thought a woman in the ranks would not destroy the order. This is a very important difference.
The Lutheran view of the ministry steers a tricky course between rulership and service. It does not make the pastor a special, sacred class of citizen; yet it calls for sufficient respect to make the office effective. The pastor stands with the people under God, yet also under God against the people as the voice of God's word.
The Reformers insisted that the office of the ministry be filled only by persons who are "rightly called" and ordained. The confessions even speak once of ordination as a sacrament. But this ministry is servant to the Word. "The ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons, as the Levitical priesthood is, but is spread abroad through the whole world and exists wherever God gives his gifts, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers. Nor is this ministry valid because of any individual's authority but because of the Word given by Christ." The German goes on to say, "The person adds nothing to this Word and office commanded by Christ. No matter who it is who preaches and teaches the Word, if there are hearts that hear and adhere to it, something will happen to them according as they hear and believe because Christ commanded such preaching." Such a ministry involves both the authority of the Word and the service to those addressed.
The current upheavals in society have much to do with the contrast beween rulership as authority and as service. young people hate "columns on courthouses". They want the institutions to earn respect solely on the basis of their record, not to induce it be awe-inspiring symbols. Institutions are not to hide unimpressive service behind impressive fronts. Responsible service needs no front. It can inspire respect on its own.
But can it? Does good service in and of itself inspire the respect it must have to function, or must it be supported by some pomp and circumstance, or some response conditioning, or some authority "from above"?
The freedoms which are sweeping society today are perhaps forcing authorities to serve with more sensitivity, but those gains might be lost if due respect for the authority does not then follow.
Should freedom and reform be further inflamed, or should such movements now be squelched? At this stage, would the effectiveness of the clergy be hurt more if the awe of their office were further diminished or if the new demands for credibility were eased off?
For some, the ordination of women would probably reduce the image of authority the office has enjoyed. But if authority is judged by duly dedicated service, then the admission of women might add to the respect. Luther held that women were more fervent in faith than men.
There are two more passages which illustrate the headship discussion:
The theme in Hebrews is the pilgrimage of the people of God. There is no stress on hierarchy in it (Christ is the high priest). The leaders mentioned in this text are to be respected because they speak God's word and faithfully care for souls. The word for leaders in this use is vague, coming from the Greek political world. The term for "submit" is also not the same as the one used previously in Eph 5. Respect is due "the ministry", but the authority seems to come from example.
A few scholars think that a woman, Priscilla, helped write the epistle!
Many scholars see in v1 a technical use of the term "elders" (presbyteroi) as a "college of presbyters." In v5, however, the term (hypotagete prebyterois) seems to mean "elders" in the sense of older people in contrast to the younger (Beck translates, "You young people, be subject to those who are older.")
Like Heb 1 Peter has a "people of God" theme. Distinctions between clergy and laity are not stressed. It seems to be urging due submission to pastoral leaders, again, for they care they give.
|Reverse Thrust||Orders of creation, subordination, headship structures - several pages have been spent discussing this many-sided argument. The space is justified, though, because it was generally these principles which in the past caused the Church to decide against the ordination of women. And now these are the very points which are blunted by the arguments for ordination. In fact they are used as part of the basis to make the case in favor. Two examples have already been seen - that God's work continues in creation, and that headship is that service which is worthy of respect. The search for guidance now goes to other scripture concepts which might favour the ordination of women - image of God, new age, all-member-are-ministers, and women-ministered.|