The Problem with the LCA Women's ordination debate.
I'm sort of over this debate, but wanted to put down a couple of thoughts nevertheless.
I think there are three main problems with the LCA's theological machinations around whether women should or shouldn't become Pastors of the LCA. I'm not sure these have been addressed anywhere, but they seem blatantly oblivious in any of the conversations I have heard on this topic. So I thought I'd at least post them here.
The first is a poor praxis appreciation of the Public Office of the Ministry that already exists within the LCA. I think this issue has been a subtext within the LCA ever since union of the UELCA and ELCA back in 1966 when the LCA was formed. It simply goes like this - imagine a spectrum of theological opinion which, at one end is a fundamentally functional, pragmatic, view of the Public Office and at the other end is an well defined, articulated ontologically appreciation. It would be crass to say one end is Reformed and the other end Catholic, but the alignment of the polarities sort of correlate. It would also be crass to say one is a low church, or low theology, and the other end is high church, or high theology. One can affirm, however, that as one moves along the spectrum the language one uses changes dramatically, as does the actual practice, and both practice and language engage in an ongoing discourse that continues to shape the other, and entrench one's theological alignment along the spectrum itself. The point is there is a spectrum within Lutheran theology along which one can reside quite comfortably and remain confessionally sound in an understanding of the Public Office. The issue evident in the LCA is that the two sides have never been properly aligned into one unifying appreciation of the Public Office, and so we are having a debate that is talking past the other in a seemingly endless array of theological discomfort from both sides. We fail to grasp the depth of the angst on all sides because we remain naive of the language each side are using, assuming that they can't be "Lutheran" because the language they are using isn't the same as one's own.
The second issue is one of hermeneutics. When we use the term "hermeneutics" within the LCA we immediately think of the traditional axiom of "Scripture interpreting Scripture". We assume that the subject of the hermeneutic debate is fundamentally theological. But I am talking about a much deeper and universal understanding of hermeneutics that engages the meta-narratives which shape our world and our world-views. For a start, there is no such thing as a pure form of theological hermeneutic. To assert such is somewhat naive. When we use the axiom of "scripture interpreting scripture" we have to condition that with our life experience and the way it shapes how we interpret such an axiom. For example, an African theologian, living in fear of war, drought, famine, and pestilence, can affirm that "scripture interprets scripture", but will do that in a dramatically different way to an Australian who has none of those issue to grapple with. But w, in Australia, are shaped by meta-narratives that take on a particular shape within our socio-context. For example, the meta narrative of a Marxist discourse of social deconstruction and social re-engineering, evident right at this time in Australia by the same gender marriage debate. Or consider the meta-narratives of post-industrialism, techno-industrialism, late modernity, post-modernity (??), individualisation, and I could name several others, all of which compete for an influence over Australia society as it leaps unknowingly into a futurism obliviously ignorant of its past or even present reality. All these have had a direct and powerful influence on the theological conversation over the Public Office and whether it should remain gender specific. The LCA's failure to acknowledge, or engage in such a deeper discourse opens itself to engaging in a social discourse that in many ways seems bizarre and out of place with the meta-narratives of our age.
Third, and this will be my final point for the time being, is the lack of acknowledgement of the actual ecclesiastical DNA which drives the LCA and the way it functions in the world in which it is situated. The passionate hunger and intentional deliberation toward theological purity lies at the heart of the LCA. This is nowhere more evident than in the myths it uses to define its place in the world. When I use myth, I do so with the clear understanding that myth is truth-telling used to identify and shape the collective identity. So, the great narrative of European religious persecution and the drive to find a place where the purity of being Lutheran could be freely lived out as a faithful community to the "pure" confessional foundations of Lutheranism led a group of families to migrate to South Australia and set up a "theological utopia" of sorts. Ever since then, the things that have cause the greatest degrees of angst in Australian Lutheranism has been this fundamentally genetically formed desire to remain theologically "pure". We have measured ourselves, not just against other denominations, but against other Lutheran churches, on the degree to which we consider them confessionally "pure". We have avoided those we deem impure out of fear that their impurity may contaminate our "purity" and thereby corrupt our DNA forcing us to redefine ourselves against criteria we neither understand or accept as valid. So we end up in extremes in the LCA with people being forced to take a fundamentally pragmatic line to ministry and mission, because they have no desire or are too fearful of engaging a theological discourse on such practical matters like mission, or social justice, or the Public Office. Then we have the other extreme where we split theological hairs over matters util there is nothing left to procrastinate over, and move on to the next theological debate and continue our theological procrastination devoid of real engagement with the world in which we live. So the debate over women and the public office sits well within our DNA, for it satisfies the deep desire toward defining theological purity, or reacting against such purity in an attempt to claim a form of theological pragmatism. I don't think either approach is healthy, but it is who the LCA is at this moment in time. My plea is to own who we are, because only when we own it can we begin to change it in a way that is healthy, creative, empowering and redemptive.
Anyway, there are some quick thoughts I wanted to share. It should put a cat among the pigeons for some, but I hope it fosters a better discourse than we currently seem to be having on this issue.