elcm-logo.jpg (25296 bytes)

Reception of Women with Word Alone focus to the ELCM Ministerium Roster

Reception of Women with Word Alone focus to the ELCM Ministerium Roster

In Mid September not long after the September 7, 1999 formation of ELCM it became clear that ELCM needed to address the issue of Women in Ministry. It was thus proposed to the member congregations and pastors that at the very least ELCM consider approval of an emergency policy to provide help and refuge for Women Pastors and Women Seminarians who had either been ordained or matriculated prior to the September 7, 1999 constituting of ELCM.

This recommendation for consideration and reflection was termed the "grand-parenting" or "grand-mothering" approach.

ELCM is organized to operate on the principle of "consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions" among the voting member congregations and pastors. Thus in order to arrive at any official ELCM position on the matter "consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions" was needed. All member congregations and pastors needed to be convinced. Each congregation was entitled to one vote on each issue and each pastor was entitled to one vote.

The discussion of "grand-parenting" was clearly about whether Pastor's who are female are fully legitimate and on an equal par with Pastors who are male. Thus the further area for decision was whether ELCM should approve Women for the Office of Word and Sacrament Ministry. The underlying issue was and is: "What constitutes and authenticates Word and Sacrament Ministry; the personal characteristics or "The Word Alone" (Sola Scriptura)?

It was hoped that a consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Confessions decision on at least the "grand-parenting" emergency refuge proposal could be reached by Wednesday November 10. A "consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Confessions" decision was indeed reached on November 8 & 9 by a specially called "General Conference" . The decision dealt with more than was expected and appears below.

The Official 2005 Position of The Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium

Concerning reception of Women to the Ministerium of ELCM.


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

After considerable reflection, prayer, study of the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, and discussion the member congregations, pastors and respective boards of ELCM were of unanimous consensus to :


  • 1)Based upon reflections in Scripture and in the Lutheran Confessions acted to preclude the reception of Women Pastors to the Ministerium or ELCM..
  • 2) Based upon reflections in Scripture and in the Lutheran Confessions acted to preclude the endorsement of Women Seminary Students .

The consensus developed that while the issue of women's ordination may be an "open question" with Various Texts of Scripture seeming to support one view or another that there should be no allowance for the ordination of women in ELCM based upon an "open question" matter.   Doctrine and Praxis in ELCM is understood to be based upon clear consensus of Scripture.  

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost be with all who read this our Official ELCM position. Amen.


Adopted by unanimous consensus in light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions Summer of 2005 by the General Triennial Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium General Conference ( member congregations represented through their official Boards/Councils and member pastors).  This 2005 consensus can only be changed upon consensus action by all Pastors and Congregations in ELCM.  It is the current Consensus position of ELCM.  The other various positions and reflection items that were part of the reflection process follow below. 


A History of ELCM deliberation and actions follow:

The 1999 Official Position of The Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium

Concerning reception of Women to the Ministerium of ELCM.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

After considerable reflection, prayer, study of the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, and discussion the member congregations, pastors and respective boards of ELCM were of unanimous consensus to :

  • 1) REJECT the reception of Ordained Women Pastors according to any "grand-parenting" approach, who were ordained prior to the September 7, 1999 formation of ELCM.
  • 2) REJECT the reception of Woman Seminary Students according to any "grand-parenting" approach, who were matriculated prior to the September 7, 1999 formation of ELCM.
  • 3) APPROVE and AUTHORIZE reception into ELCM of any "Word Alone" focused Pastor, Male or Female, who might make application and be approved by ELCM.
  • 4) APPROVE and AUTHORIZE the reception, supervision, and eventual ordination of "Word Alone" focused Lutheran Seminary students, Male or Female, who might make application and be approved by ELCM; and
  • 5) REAFFIRM, as stipulated in the Constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium that each ELCM member congregation has the final and unbridgeable right to choose the Pastor to whom it desires to extend an "Official Call". It is REAFFIRMED that no pastor, Male or Female, shall be imposed, pressured, or forced upon a congregation.

THEREFORE it is resolved that the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium shall allow for the Ordination of Candidates to the Office of Word and Sacrament, Male and Female, who are "Word Alone" in focus and it is further resolved that the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium, shall allow for the reception of Ordained Pastors who are Word alone in focus, Male and Female, to be full members of ELCM and as such members of the ELCM Ministerium Roster.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost be with all who read this our Official ELCM position. Amen.

Adopted by unanimous consensus in light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions on November 8 & 9, 1999 by a special session of the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium General Conference (member congregations represented through their official Boards/Councils and member pastors).

Posted on the 10th day of November, 1999.


Developments of 2001 and 2002:

The perceived period of "emergency need" for safe harbor or safe haven for "Word Alone (Sola Scriptura) focused" women pastors serving congregations and "Word Alone (Sola Scriptura) focused" Women Seminarian students appeared to be coming to a conclusion with the March 2001 Constituting Convention of the "Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC)".

In light of the fact that No "Word Alone (Sola Scriptura) focused Woman pastor or Female Seminary Student" had made application to be received onto the ELCM clergy roster since 1999 General Conference action the matter was then placed on the agenda for the September 2002 Triennial General Conference/Synod of ELCM. At that time ELCM proceeded to reconsider the position of regarding the Ordination of Women to the Office of Word and Sacrament.

Any change of the formerly adopted position allowing for "Word Alone (Sola Scriptura) focused Women Pastors/Seminarians" requiree a consensus by all rostered pastors and rostered congregations.

Prior to the Triennial General Conference it appeared that The ELCM pastors might be in Consensus in light of Scripture and the Confessions to encourage that ELCM move in the more conservative direction and adopt a "Grand mothering policy" as first proposed and thereby allowing for a safe haven should a congregation served by a "Word Alone in focus Woman pastor" desire to join ELCM. We would not ordain Women to the Office of Word and Sacrament but would allow the reception of women pastors as an Exception were this approach to achieve consensus. Since, in the view of many, the Biblical Norm appears to be the Ordination of Men to the Office of Word and Sacrament that would then be our stance and orientation.

As of the date of this update (December 26, 2002) a very lively and cordial debate was held on this matter at the September 21 & 22 Triennial General Conference. There was no consensus to adopt the proposed "Grandmothering stance" and so both sides in the debate were in unanimous consensus to refer the matter for further examination of all Scriptural texts pertaining to the subject and for the development of a recommendation to the ELCM Ministerium.

Thus the policy adopted in November of 1999 continues as the official Policy of ELCM and has not been changed. "Word Alone in focus" means "Sola Scriptura" in focus.

Eventually we will have transcribed the words of the debate that took place at the Triennial General Conference on September 21 and 22, 2002 and will have these posted here along with the information which follows. All of the following information preceeded the decision of the special general conference in November of 1999 to allow for "Word Alone (Sola Scriptura) in focus women to be Pastors within ELCM"

Back to Top

Our General Encounters Viz a Viz Ordination of Women

The information that follows, now, is a general sharing concerning some of what our founding core of laity & clergy encountered in reference to Ordained Women Clergy from the time of leaving the ELCA in January 1992 until our ELCM formation in September 1999. We wanted to examine our own pejoratives as prior to our wrestling with the Scripture and the Confessions. We also wanted folk following our reflections to be aware of some of the different things that went into the mix of reflection and study for us. Our decision taken above is the end result of almost 7 years of having the issue squarely before us. At any rate, here now follows some of the information of what we encountered as well as our thoughts and reflections. As we find the time we will add other items that were raised in our very intensive discussions.

The experience and learning of our search for a Centrist Lutheran Grouping relating to women in Ministry.

It was good for we, ourselves, to review what we encountered as we reflected and moved toward making our decision on the matter of Women in Ordained Ministry. Hindsight is always pretty clear.  With a few years behind us,  we believe that helped us to be clear seeing on this matter.
It is also helpful for others to know some of our background concerning what we went through in arriving at our consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions position will be regarding reception of Word Alone focused Women to our ELCM Ministerium Roster.

Back to Top

Somewhat virulent attacks upon us at our leaving of ELCA by women ELCA Pastors

We left ELCA on January 4, 1992 and from the moment of our leaving, It seemed to us that we were especially under fire, by two ELCA Pastors who were women.

We have a copy of a letter by the one pastor who sent the letter to her congregation and mailing list. We of course have friends on the various mailing lists who forwarded a copy of the letter to us. Needless to say that letter and the virulent attacks of the two women pastors did not leave a very good impression with us. It left us with a bit of a pejorative disposition. Some of the men clergy were critical of our leaving, too, but most simply shunned any contact with us perhaps fearing they would be the next ones to receive the attention of the hierarch if they had any association with us. Even in 1992 the HE pattern was being set in concrete. Indeed much of the reason for our leaving had to do precisely with the supererogation or arrogation of increasing power and control by the office of Bishop at the expense of the local congregation and pastor.

In an attempt to be fair and put the best construction on the actions and words of the Women Pastors, who were so antagonistic toward us,we think now that it was very likely they were so virulent because we had decided to seek a trial membership with TAALC. TAALC, though made up of very good congregations and pastors, was and is totally opposed to the ordination of women. The reality of where we were looking for association, in and of itself, may have been the real reasoning behind the attacks on us by our friends the ELCA women pastors in our area?

The Bishop had sent a letter to all congregations to be read from the pulpits describing us a 'cult like' group. The Female pastors for the most part read the letter in their worship services but many of the Male pastors would not do so. And so we were smeared and caricatured and our women pastor friends seemed to be shouting such the loudest. Perhaps they saw our formation of a new congregation as somehow a threat to their authenticity because there truly was no one else to whom to go who did not prohibit the ordination of women ?

Interestingly, we had welcomed the one Female Pastor, into the membership of our ELCA congregation after she was forced out of her previous parish about a year and a half prior to our leave taking of the ELCA. So it was a bit surprising to encounter the somewhat virulent caricature from her direction.

We share all this here because it left an imprint in many of our minds, rightly or wrongly, regarding women in Ministry. However, that imprint was qualified a bit as we did have the sense that these women pastors were of a somewhat "radical feminist" disposition. We do make a distinction between the Men and Women clergy who are Word Alone focused and those who are caught up in some other "ism".

Back to Top

TAALC entry and trial membership time

Upon leaving ELCA we immediately began a search for others of a "Centrist" Lutheran orientation to unite with. We did not want to be alone and independent. We looked at quite a number of the other existing Lutheran options and finally zeroed in on the Free Lutherans (AFLC) and The group composed primarily of former ALC Lutherans who had left just prior to ELCA's formation or shortly thereafter, TAALC or AALC as it is often referenced.

TAALC looked to us more a bit more in the direction of what we were looking for and so we made application for membership for pastor, retired pastor with us, and congregation as a unit.

There was no problem with the congregation from the TAALC standpoint. They would be received!

There was no problem in Colloquy with the retired pastor (who was much more liberal in orientation than our Pastor) he would be received!

But when it came to Colloquy approval for our pastor he was grilled on his views concerning the "Ordination of Women". Evidently this was with the view that he had a lot of active years of ministry left, Lord willing, if approved and TAALC didn't want any clergy who might end up supporting the ordination of women. Our pastor defended the ordination of women in the Colloquy based upon the Apostle Paul's words that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female".

The outcome of the Colloquy was that our pastor was not approved for membership in TAALC and of course that meant that our new congregation would not join TAALC either. Pastor was crushed but at the request of the TAALC President and Seminary President consented to meet a second time with the Colloquy Committee. At that time he indicated that he was open to studying the issue of Women's ordination from a conservative dogmatics perspective and the Colloquy Committee recommended him for approval to the TAALC roster with a one year probationary membership.

We nonetheless felt very much a sense of 2nd class membership though we viewed the TAALC as very good people. Our sense was that if we were on probationary trial membership that TAALC was likewise on trial probationary status from our viewpoint. And as the Charismatic issue came into the mix with our sense of 2nd class membership we then became a founding part of the LMS-USA which from its inception was to be a span of views from Moderate (us) to Middle Conservative. By the formation of LMS-USA we had successfully planted and established a second congregation.

At any rate the information in this segment is shared so that all may know that the issue of "Women's Ordination" was very much a part of our Angst and Anfechtung in our entry into TAALC. We did a good bit of reflection on this from the Conservative dogmatics direction and suffered a great deal for our decision to unite with TAALC. In fact almost 1/3 of our membership forming our new congregation left us when we decided to join TAALC because of their stance on not ordaining women pastors. That was a very painful time for us even though the numbers of those who left were quickly replaced as others joined our little effort.

We hasten to say we have good friendship with many in TAALC and especially have a high regard for the TAALC president, Pastor Tom Aadland but their Middle Conservative to Conservative orientation is not what we understand to be "Centrist".

Back to Top

LMS-USA formation and trial membership time

Thus it was that we then found ourselves as the largest portion numerically in the formation of the LMS-USA. In fact our pastor and our two congregations were the first to subscribe to the LMS-USA Constitution and foundation documents. Our pastor presented several papers at LMS-USA annual conferences and served as the Chairman of the LMS-USA Synod.

However, a number of issues developed making it clear that the majority on the Ministerium of LMS-USA were not open to a range of views from "Moderate to Middle Conservative" but would only accept the very narrow band of "Middle Conservative" understandings.

One of the issues to arise was the issue of the reception of conservative Women Pastors onto the roster of LMS-USA. We had received contacts from several folks where the husband and wife were both pastors. It was clear to our pastor who was LMS-USA Synod Chairman at the time that there were some Female Lutheran Pastors who were indeed very much Word Alone in focus and orientation and that they had no place to go other than ELCA; they had no alternative options.

And so it came to pass that an ELCA colleague recommended that consideration be given to establishing a "Grand mothering approach" until a final consensus on the issue of ordaining women could be arrived at. This approach would mean that those who had already been ordained could be received onto the roster as full Ministerium members but that it would be made clear that until there would be full consensus that their would not be any authorization for women to enter Seminary training leading to ordination.

This seemed like an excellent possibility for study and reflection and our pastor as the Chairman of the Synod of LMS placed the topic on the agenda for the next Annual Synod meeting of LMS. It was clear immediately that the majority of the Ministerium along with a minority of the Synod laity did not want even a study of the issue to occur and the caricaturing began with ourselves being referred to as "Liberals" for even suggesting the subject be given further study.

And so it became clear to us on this and other issues that LMS-USA was really of a "Middle Conservative" stance and not of a "Centrist stance" and we then voted out of LMS and remained independent with our General Parish configuration for several years following. We viewed LMS-USA folk as good people but of a decidedly rather narrow "Middle Conservative orientation". During that time we began to put together the principles and constitutions for what might be a genuinely "Centrist" Lutheran church body but held off implementing any of these out of a desire to see what would be developing with the ELCA Philadelphia CWA and the Denver CWA.

Here again, as with TAALC, so also with LMS-USA, and now with our time of Independence with our little General Parish, the issue of the ordination and the reception of women pastors to a Ministerium roster was very much on our minds in in our discussion. During the Independent General parish years that followed we have continued to study and discuss the issue. We have discussed it on the Internet and sought the Biblical justification from ELCA message posters and the Biblical reasoning for opposing the Ordination from the LCMS, WELS, et. al. message posters.

At times we have been a bit drawn to the more conservative direction as those willing to talk with us have been mainly from the more Conservative orientation but then we have been a bit put off by what we see as legalism creeping in and have pulled back to our more centrist orientation hoping against hope that others of a genuinely centrist orientation would join us or provide an option we could join.

Thus to some it will appear as though we have been "waffling" but in the end we have returned consistently to a "Centrist" stance. The trouble with being in the center of the highway is that the traffic comes at you pretty fast from both directions at the same time. Uff da! as is said in the mid west or in our PA Dutch phrasing - "It really makes one rutsche!"

Back to Top

Discussions with Missouri & WELS folk

The amazing media of the Internet allowed us to keep from being totally isolated. It was from the Internet that we were able to check out the various positions of both LC-MS and of WELS.

Pastors and Lay leaders of these Church bodies were very willing to debate and discuss with us. There is much that we have learned from them. TAALC, AFLC, and LMS-USA reflect an almost identical position to that held by LC-MS in the CTCR documents on the ordination of women. WELS expands the issue and has a much stricter application concerning even roles such as voting and teaching within a congregation.

All referencing to the Scripture, in our various discussions, that would emphasize Paul's words of "In Christ .....Neither male nor female", or "If anyone is In Christ he is a new creation...." or "Phoebe" as a Deacon, or the Prophet Joel's words used as the text for Peter's Pentecost Sermon were consistently dismissed as not applicable to the issue of the ordination of Women. Perhaps they are right but we really had thought that such references are not so easily or quickly to be dismissed.

Was our thinking Zeitgeist motivated? Was it based on our diminished Word Alone background from LCA/ ELCA days? Why did not Jesus as God Incarnate appoint Women Apostles? etc. These were questions we wrestled and wrestle with in our study and reflection ? The steady LC-MS response by those posting to the message boards (we know there are a good many others in LC-MS who are not quite as aggressive in message board posting who are open to the Ordination of women but who are also a bit fearful of becoming targets from some of their brethren) has been "It is not given to Guna to be Pastors!" and that the Amt of Ministry is essentially to be "Re-presented in the Biological identity of the Office Holder".

Back to Top

Internet Discussions with ELCA women pastors.

Concurrent with our Internet discussion with the LC-MS and WELS aggressive writers we requested that those in ELCA who were strong advocates of the ordination of women please submit the Biblical and Confessional basis for their stance.Primarilyy we heard only from those who were clearly of thePrimarilye "Radical feminist persuasion".

The best reference that these were able or willing to muster in support was the reference to the Resurrected Savior telling Mary Magdalene to "go and tell" but then when challenged by the Missouri folk there would be no answer as to how that "go and tell" was any different from the "go and tell" by Jesus to the Pharisees and Scribes. If Mary Magdalene was ordained by "go and tell" in the garden, where the Pharisees ordained by our Lord's "go and tell to them". In reply to the Primarily LC-MS message posters - no discussion of Scripture or the Confessions but only pejorative name calling, etc.

Back to Top

Movement to the right because of conversation mainly with those of the more conservative orientation.

And so as we read the response and got caught up in the discussion between the Radical Feminist oriented Pastors on the one side and the pejorative LC-MS and WELS pastors and message posters on the other we began to lean toward the LC-MS positions. They at least seemed to be discussing the "Word Alone" but the legalism that came through was a bit troubling. Our reflection on Women in Ministry was then brought back into a more centrist focus by the debate over the Historic Episcopate (HE) and especially concerning: what and who indeed it is that truly Connect's Holy Communion or any aspect of the means of Grace (Word and sacrament)?

Then came HE and further reflection has returned us to a centrist stance.

As we looked at the various Ecumenical documents foisted and imposed by the very clever Ecumaniacs upon ELCA we were again and again brought back to Solus Christus!

It is Christ alone and His Word Alone that is the esse of the Means of Grace. His Word alone confect's the Communion and it is He himself giving of himself. The physical and Biologically attributes of the distributor or pastor are not the esse of things. The basis for wearing vestments stresses this - the person of the pastor is covered over so that it is not the personal characteristics of the pastor that are important but only the Word Alone that is spoke by the Pastor. And so "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Male nor Female" strikes us as indeed most relevant to the discussion.

If we are to Re-present Christ according to Genetic and Physical characteristics then it is of course impossible to perfectly recriminate our Lord. However if it is understood that it is the Word Alone that confect's and that in that Word Alone our Lord himself presents himself then that is quite a different matter, or so it seems to us.

And so the HE discussion has called us back to pretty close to where we started in 1992 albeit with much greater understanding of the various aspects of the issue. All of these factors will enter in to our decision and position on this issue. This gives a quick overview to our thoughts.

Back to Top

The Biblical and Confessional Evidence - Support for Women in Ministry

Some of our thoughts related to the Biblical

Though Jesus does not appoint any women as Apostles (the first pastors) but neither did he prohibit women as pastors. The Apostle John puts it in very interesting form when he writes in John 21:25 (NIV) "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written".
The Resurrected Jesus clearly does appear first to the Women and it is the Resurrected Jesus who tells Mary "to go and tell" the disciples.(Matthew 28:1 ff; Mark 16:9ff; Luke 24:1 ff; John 20:10 ff) The "go and tell" spoken to the Pharisees is prior to the Resurrection and thus there is a crucial difference although in truth the Pharisees do preach the Gospel even though they are enmity toward Jesus and the Gospel.
The women were likely present in the upper room when Jesus breathed on the gathering the Holy Spirit and gave the Commission of sending (Luke 24:33 ff;John 20 18ff). This would mean that the women were just as much sent as the men.
It is likely that the women were with the disciples in the one place (house) on the day of Pentecost. "They were all together is very inclusive" (Acts 2:1) Certainly if the Women were present they too had the seeming tongues of fire rest on each of them too Acts 2:3. "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4)
The likelihood that women were included in the Pentecost outpouring is buttressed then with Peter's Sermon which uses as its text the words of the Prophet Joel and which specifically refer to the Spirit being poured out on both Men and Women (Acts 2:18).
We are specifically reminded at this point of Anna who was "Prophetess" (Luke 2:36). Along with Simeon she is among the first to preach of Jesus by pointing to him as the redeemer (Luke 2:38). Preaching of course always directs us to Jesus and what He Alone has done. Anna fills the bill.
In light of the Concordat/CCM Confection issue, The Pauline passages about "In Christ a New Creation" with no distinction between "Jew or Greek, Male or Female"(Galatians 3:28, Acts 10:34) take on added significance for Word and Sacrament ministry in addition to the salvific.
Though the holders of the Office of Ministry are specifically men there is nonetheless reference to Women being involved in Office of Ministry work and this certainly harmonizes with the Gospel & the beginning Acts references. Priscilla does not appear to be merely the companion of Aquilla. And Phoebe is mentioned as a stand alone Ministry Amt (Office) holder.
Throughout our deliberations the Baptismal references kept coming to mind and we were well aware that Dr. Luther and the Lutheran Confessions make a connection with those. Is the Baptism of a little baby girl any less of a conveyance of all the benefits of a Christian member of the royal priesthood than that given by the WORD ALONE to a little baby boy in Holy Baptism? "Do you not know ....." Romans 6:3

Back to Top

Some of our gleanings from The Lutheran Confessions

(From the SA Article X)

"Therefore, as the ancient examples of the Church and the Fathers teach us, we ourselves will and ought to ordain suitable persons to this office; and, even according to their own laws, they have not the right to forbid or prevent us. For their laws say that those ordained even by heretics should be declared [truly] ordained and stay ordained [and that such ordination must not be changed], as St. Jerome writes of the Church at Alexandria, that at first it was governed in common by priests and preachers, without bishops." Bente, F., Concordia Triglotta, (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Northwestern Publishing House) 1997.

If a Woman is ordained, even if wrongly, does that mean that she is not truly ordained?

Jurisdiction of Bishops (Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope)

65] "But since by divine authority the grades of bishop and pastor are not diverse, it is manifest that ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine law [if a pastor in his own church ordains certain suitable persons to the ministry, such ordination is, according to divine law, undoubtedly effective and right].

66] Therefore, when the regular bishops become enemies of the Church, or are unwilling to administer ordination, the churches retain their own right. [Because the regular bishops persecute the Gospel and refuse to ordain suitable persons, every church has in this case full authority to ordain its own ministers.] 67] For wherever the Church is, there is the authority [command] to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. And this authority is a gift which in reality is given to the Church, which no human power can wrest from the Church, as Paul also testifies to the Ephesians when he says, Eph 4, 8: He ascended, He gave gifts to men. And he enumerates among the gifts specially belonging to the Church pastors and teachers, and adds that such are given for the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence, wherever there is a true church, the right to elect and ordain ministers necessarily exists. Just as in a case of necessity even a layman absolves, and becomes the minister and pastor of another; as Augustine narrates the story of two Christians in a ship, one of whom baptized the catechumen, who after Baptism then absolved the baptizer.

68] Here belong the statements of Christ which testify that the keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons, Matt. 18, 20: Where two or three are gathered together in My name, etc.

69] Lastly, the statement of Peter also confirms this, 1 Pet. 2, 9: Ye are a royal priesthood. These words pertain to the true Church, which certainly has the right to elect and ordain ministers since it alone has the priesthood." Bente, F., Concordia Triglotta, (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Northwestern Publishing House) 1997.

From Dr. Luther whom we think to be rolling over in his grave since the October 31, 1999 Augsburg Germany JDDJ signing.

"All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate [Standes], with no difference among them but that of office [Amtes].....This is because we all have one baptism, oneGospel, one faith and are all Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith alone make a spiritual Christian people......We are all consecrated priests through baptism; as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, 'You are a royal priesthood and a priestly nation.'"

(LW 44:128)

Dr. Luther in other texts makes it clear that he though he views women as truly being members of the spiritual priesthood that he also felt that this prohibited them from holding the office of public preaching and teaching. However, we believe that in good part his view on this matter like his views on the Jews was influenced by his times and that had he approached the issue from the lense of Paul's words in Galatians and the reality that none of the other New Testament writers speak against women in ministry that he may have indeed taken a different approach.

He clearly makes reference to the Prophecy by Joel and certainly had some thoughts of the fulfillment of this in the Pentecost account. Dr. Luther also makes mention of Paul's awareness that Philip's daughters prophesied. Likewise he would have been aware that the Prophetess Anna was one of the two to offer up public blessings and thanksgivings for the Babe Jesus in the Temple and she clearly publically spoke of Jesus to all who desired the salvation of Israel.

An ELS pastor supplied us with the other passages by Dr. Luther which are negative to women and children and certain others holding the Public office of Ministry. Those quotes follow a letter from this Pastor who also serves as the rector of an Eastern European Seminary.

Back to Top

Post ELCM Position Adoption Thoughts and responses to Critique.

Critique of our ELCM position statement on Women in Ministry was quickly forthcoming.

This came from a member of the LC-MS National Staff. It is written in a very cordial tone and we hope to continue dialogue and discussion. We admire and appreciate LC-MS very much for many of the stances taken and for their desire to base fellowship on the basis of the Truth of Scripture and the exposition of the Scripture that we call the Book of Concord. At any rate this comes from the National LC-MS staff member.

I receive Word Alone posts and noticed the one re: the ELCM's position on the ordination of women.
I was very sorry to see that you folks have not been able to affirm the historic teaching and practice of the church catholic and not accept women as pastors.
The issue of female clergy goes to the heart of a church's understanding of the Word of God as divinely given.

We had made a brief response as follows: -

"We would hold that the consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Confessions that we arrived at is a bit more in tune with the historic church catholic prior to the Constantinian era.   In arriving at such we have concluded that the "ordination of Women" or the issue of "female clergy" is not inimical to understanding the Word of God as divinely given. "

The LC-MS National Staff member responds -

I am not really sure (in fact, I am rather positive) that one would be hard pressed to describe a "church catholic" prior to the Constantinian era. Or, at the very least, it would seem to me that we are on very shaky ground trying to articulate church doctrine on the basis of the first two centuries of the church's existence, by way of imitating what was or was not done during the tumultuous years of the church's infancy. I am always just a bit leery of appealing to the first two hundred years, for in the process I notice that the next 1,800 years is somewhat slighted, if not even overlooked in an effort to repristinate what is perceived to be some "more pure" era in the church's history. Sort of like LCMS Lutherans thinking that church history went this way: Jesus-Paul-Luther-Walther.

It seems the issue is, was Paul right when he said, "This is a command of the Lord?"

I have read just about everything you probably have trying to explain how that does not mean Paul is denying the pastoral office to women, but . . . . I think it finally comes to naught.

Paul's position clearly is based on his claim that the order of creation is divinely mandated, established and a permanent order, even after the Fall. I'm probably not repeating anything you have not already thought about, but . . . .

For that matter, I am unaware of any church body that has embraced the ordination of women and remained genuinely orthodox in its Lutheranism. I wish you well on this point, but . . . since the ordination of women has never been based on solid theological ground, but rather on sociological constructs filtered through 20th century feminist thinking, I think it is a mighty tall order to "retrofit" this into Lutheranism........

And that Word clearly does not affirm women in the office of pastor and I would respectfully suggest that their is a false alternative working here that seems to be skewing the perspective: mission v. purity of doctrine. The NT Scriptures are clear that one is not possible without the other.

I wish you well in your effort, but I am deeply concerned with the move toward embracing the ordination of female clergy. I think it opens up a Pandora's box that may be very difficult to shut.

Back to Top

Some further ELCM points of reflection.

1. Certainly there was a great deal of turmoil in the first three centuries of Christian History.
2. The Christian Church had a great many challenges and there was great freedom for organization and response to those challenges.
3. The freedom in Christ and the utilization of both men and women in ministry was in fact a very significant part of the Mission results that led to a Constantine converting to Christianity. Some think it to have been a genuine encounter but others think it to have had a good deal of the Political dimension.
4. There certainly was much that was good that developed in the Post Constantinian history of the Church but there was also a great deal which was not laudable. In fact the good was overcome by such abuse that it needed Reformation in the early 1500's.
5. The time leading to the formation of the New Testament Canon and the Ecumenical Creeds seems a very appropriate time to look long and hard at for lessons applying to the present time. Why else do we read the Scripture in the Historical-grammatical sense ?
6. Paul is a very strong voice in the New Testament Cannon but his is not the only voice and he does include a large number of passages, some of which we have referenced that indicate that the thrust that emphasized "Men only in the Amt of Ministry" may not be what he was truly addressing.
7. It is clear from the historical setting that men were not able to proclaim the Gospel everywhere and to everyone and so Women would have been certainly in Office of Ministry to take the Gospel to places where men Amt holders could not go. The Office of Ministry was exercised in private settings as well as in or in addition to Public settings by Jew/Greek/Male/Female/Free/ & Slave. There was not in those first formative years of Christian Mission accessibility to central places of worship.
8. Constantine declares Christianity to be the religion of the empire and then it becomes the in thing and the model adopted for worship goes strictly public in almost the Pagan sense. In comes Roman Imperial modeling and lots of other imitatio. Many have argued that is precisely when "inactive members and Match em, hatch em, & Dispatch em C & E Christianity" makes a big entrance on the scene.
9. Ante-Nicene (Constantine) Christianity had those of course who were fearful of dying and thus denied the faith and worshipped the Emperor with their fingers crossed, etc. It also had the influence of the mystery cults and gnostics, etc. So there was lots that should not be repristinated.
10. But the Office of Ministry appears to have been utilized by Baptized and Believing Women as well as Baptized and Believing Men.
11. The Old Order (of Creation and subsequently the order of the Fall) has passed away and the New Order has come and is in-breaking already for all who are Ev Christw (In Christ). Paul talks that way in apparent paradox with the references to Headship and the Order of Creation and John talks that way too in his references to the one who sits and the throne and proclaims that He makes all things New.
12. The New Order though not totally yet is already here in the Baptized believer who is In the world but not of the World (not of the former created order).
13. As to keeping the perfect Orthodox word and the Created Order who among those of flesh and blood has done it, is doing it and will do it on this side of the kingdom? Solus Christus is the answer. For everyone else it is a matter of the "Good that I would I do not and that which I would not that I do - and in Paul's rather forceful prefigured Luther and prefigured Walther way of saying it "NONE is Righteous No not one, for all have fallen short of the Glory of God " except Jesus that is and a Baptized Believer is now "Ev Christw". There is the crux of the issue for us - What does it mean to be In Christ? What does it mean to be Baptized into his death and into his Resurrection? Does it mean one thing for little boy babies or big boys who are baptized and and something different for little girls and big girls who are baptized?
14. And if the Scripture gives witness to women serving in Offices of Ministry, then Paul's words to the Corinthian congregation need to be compared and contrasted and interpreted by thePrinciplee of Jesus Alone.
15. Jesus alone says to the Women AFTER the Resurrection "Go and Tell the disciples" . etc.
16. Luke, who is an associate of Paul, makes reference to women serving in the office of Ministry. It may not have been as Public as we now days emphasize but really this information shouldn't be explained away.
17. Paul himself commends the women who have been assistants to him in Ministry.
18. Jesus as already mentioned sends the women as "Messengers" to proclaim the news to the Disciples post Resurrection.
19. Even when Jesus sends the Pharisees to tell Herod, et. al. what they see and hear they are functioning in an unofficial Office of Ministry and that illustrates the point that God can use the most unlikely people to proclaim his Word. He can even turn Stones into Office of Ministry holders if need be.
20. A look at the words of the Apostle John also reveal some interesting information. The letter of 2nd John begins with an address to the "elect (eklektei kuria) lady and her children" 1:1. It is apparent to us that this is referring to a congregation. Various footnotes try to explain this away as a mere symbolism for a church "chosen lady" but such is an attempt to avoid hearing the clear literal word.
21. At any rate when all the various references as well as the historical situation of the first several hundred years of Christian witness are taken en toto it does not appear to us that Women in Ministry is as weak a Theological argument as some suppose.
22. Again and again we came back to the "Ev Christw" (In Christ) understanding of Baptism. Luther bears us out our thoughts on this as do the cited portions of the Confessions - In Baptism you are a Royal Priesthood. Only the males baptized? NOT ! All who believe and are baptized are made heirs with Christ in the Kingdom which is breaking in on the Old Order of things. This is not merely salvific for the far distant future but is the Future present Now as one book titles it.
We welcome further critique and commentary! If you wish to have your comments posted with your name let us know and we will endeavor to make it so. If any supporting the Ordination of Word Alone women would like to contribute "Biblical exegesis" in response to the positions of our friends from LC-MS (Which is only one letter different from ELCM :-) please feel welcome to submit your thoughts and we will consider posting them.

Back to Top

A Letter to our ELCM President in negative response to our position with Luther Quotes included from an ELS Pastor/ Seminary Rector friend

Dear Roy,

Greetings in the name of Christ our Lord.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I am deeply disappointed to learn of the ELCM’s decision to endorse the ordination of women to the pastoral office. I’m also disappointed by your attempt to enlist Luther as a kind of forerunner of what you are doing. Yes, Luther did teach the priesthood of all believers, and yes, he therefore taught that women, as baptized Christians, are spiritually equal to men as members of the body of Christ. But Luther also recognized what the Bible teaches about the divinely-given and distinct role of Christian men in the exercise of Christ-like spiritual authority in the church, and especially in the public Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Several relevant statements from his writings are appended to this message.

You are not really being fair to Luther when you invoke his doctrine of the priesthood of all believers as a justification for what you are doing. You should be willing to acknowledge that your practice is an innovation, and that it would have been opposed, on exegetical and theological grounds, not only by Luther, but also by Chemnitz, Muhlenberg, Krauth, Jacobs, Little, and a host of others who lived and worked in the Lutheran Church before the days of historical-criticism. Only when this “Enlightenment” methodology was introduced into the seminaries did Lutheran theologians began toying with the idea of dismissing St. Paul’s clear statements on the subject, and foisting the feminist ideology of the Zeitgeist on the church in their place.

What you are saying, Roy, is that the Lutheran Church was wrong in its reading of Scripture from the sixteenth century to the twentieth century, and that the ELCM, in company with the ELCA and the state churches of Europe, must now correct the mistakes of the Lutheran fathers. In a free society you certainly have the right to believe and teach this, but please be honest in stating that this is in fact what you are believing and teaching. Luther would definitely not be with you on this, and you really shouldn't imply that he would be.

Again, I’m very disappointed, not only professionally as your fellow pastor, but also personally, as your friend. Perhaps you can reconsider this decision?





As St. Paul says in Gal. 3:28, you must pay no attention to distinctions when you want to look at Christians. You must not say: “This is a man or a woman; this is a servant or a master; this person is old or young.” They are all alike and only a spiritual people. Therefore they are all priests. All may proclaim God’s Word, except that, as St. Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 14:34, women should not speak in the congregation. They should let the men preach, because God commands them to be obedient to their husbands. God does not interfere with the arrangement. (Sermons on the First Epistle of St. Peter, Luther’s Works 30:55)

The keys are the pope’s as little as Baptism, the Sacrament, and the Word of God are, for they belong to the people of Christ and are called “the church’s keys” not “the pope’s keys.” Fifth, the church is recognized externally by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices that it is to administer. There must be bishops, pastors, or preachers, who publicly and privately give, administer, and use the aforementioned four things or holy possessions in behalf of and in the name of the church, or rather by reason of their institution by Christ, as St. Paul states in Ephesians 4[:8], “He received gifts among men...” -- his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some teachers and governors, etc. The people as a whole cannot do these things, but must entrust or have them entrusted to one person. Otherwise, what would happen if everyone wanted to speak or administer, and no one wanted to give way to the other? It must be entrusted to one person, and he alone should be allowed to preach, to baptize, to absolve, and to administer the sacraments. The others should be content with this arrangement and agree to it. Wherever you see this done, be assured that God’s people, the holy Christian people, are present. It is, however, true that the Holy Spirit has excepted women, children, and incompetent people from this function, but chooses (except in emergencies) only competent males to fill this office, as one reads here and there in the epistles of St. Paul that a bishop must be pious, able to teach, and the husband of one wife -- and in I Corinthians 14[:34] he says, “The women should keep silence in the churches.” In summary, it must be a competent and chosen man. Children, women, and other persons are not qualified for this office, even though they are able to hear God’s Word, to receive Baptism, the Sacrament, absolution, and are also true, holy Christians, as St. Peter says [I Pet. 3:7]. Even nature and God’s creation makes this distinction, implying that women (much less children or fools) cannot and shall not occupy positions of sovereignty, as experience also suggests and as Moses says in Genesis 3[:16], “You shall be subject to man.” The Gospel, however, does not abrogate this natural law, but confirms it as the ordinance and creation of God. (On the Councils and the Church, Luther’s Works 41:154-55)

But in the New Testament the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Paul, ordained that women should be silent in the churches and assemblies [I Cor.14:34], and said that this is the Lord’s commandment. Yet he knew that previously Joel [2:28 f.] had proclaimed that God would pour out his Spirit also on handmaidens. Furthermore, the four daughters of Philip prophesied (Acts 21[:9]). But in the congregations or churches where there is a ministry women are to be silent and not preach [I Tim. 2:12]. Otherwise they may pray, sing, praise, and say “Amen,” and read at home, teach one another, exhort, comfort, and interpret the Scriptures as best they can. (Infiltrating and Clandestine Preachers, Luther’s Works 40:390-91)

[1 Tim.2:]11. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I believe that Paul is still speaking about public matters. I also want it to refer to the public ministry, which occurs in the public assembly of the church. There a woman must be completely quiet, because she should remain a hearer and not become a teacher. She is not to be the spokesman among the people. She should refrain from teaching, from praying [i.e., leading in prayer] in public. She has the command to speak at home. This passage makes a woman subject. It takes from her all public office and authority. ... Where men and women have been joined together, there the men, not the women, ought to have authority. ... He [Paul] wants to save the order preserved by the world -- that a man be the head of the woman, as 1 Cor. 11:3 tells us. Where there are men, she should neither teach nor rule. (Lectures on 1 Timothy, Luther’s Works 28:276-77)

David Jay Webber, Rector St. Sophia Ukrainian Lutheran Theological Seminary Ternopil', Ukraine

Back to Top

Our President responds to Rector Webber's Letter and the Luther Quotes

Dear friend Jay ! Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

Received your Email letter last evening when I checked my Email. Decided to give it an evening and a morning before replying. Your response was not a surprise and is very similar to those received from several LC-MS men whom I continue to regard as friends. The one even charged that I am leading our ELCM folk to hell because of our decision to allow for Word Alone oriented Women.

Notice two things, please - We made two qualifications regarding our position. I believe both qualifications have been picked up by the ELCA folk.

First -
A) Any women making application must be Word Alone in orientation. That coupled with our emphasis upon the Word as Inerrant and Infallible appears to be a very large barrier to most of the ELCA Word Alone folk.
B) our second qualification emphasizes that the congregations shall each be the final voice in deciding who to call and so no ordained man or ordained woman may be imposed or pushed upon a congregation. My congregations for example pretty clearly would not extend a call to a woman pastor.

Thank you for sending the Luther quotes. We will discuss them and continue to review the subject and our earlier position. It is curious that these Luther positions did not become included in the BOC and also that he did allow for the exceptions in emergency as well as admit to the Joel passage and to the evidence of Philip's daughters. He clearly attempts to harmonize the various different positions of Scripture from the Corinthians teaching of Paul. But it is legitimate to do so from the Galatians and 2 Peter texts as the lens.

- note the emphasis upon "Our decision". The assumption is made, rather incorrectly, that the ELCM decision was directed by the ELCM president. Such was not the case. As mentioned in our materials we have had a very long and ongoing discussion of the matter.

You and I of course have cordially discussed and differed on the matter before, not just as it pertains to the ordination of women but as it touches upon the entire role of women in the life of the church. While you may emphasize that we are introducing something Novum into practice it in reality for us is not something new and from our study it apparently was not something new in the early Christian Church. We find it curious that even Tertullian and others railed on the subject and that there were indeed obvious abuses [but] that it was not a subject raised to credal emphasis in any of the Ecumenical Creeds. Yet to read some of the reactions - It is now a creedal novum upon which the Church stands or falls of equal importance (it appears) to Justitia.

The CChristian Book of Concord indeed makes no pronouncement on the subject. And the emphasis upon acceptance of even those who were wrongly ordained we believe does in fact apply. Luther's illustration of what Baptism potentially conveys to each one Baptized does in fact speak to the situation and is very much in harmony with the Apostle Paul's words that "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Male nor Female" and "If any one is in Christ He is a new Creation, etc."

Thank you for sending the Luther quotes. We will discuss them and continue to review the subject and our earlier position. It is curious that these Luther positions did not become included in the BOC and also that he did allow for the exceptions in emergency as well as admit to the Joel passage and to the evidence of Philip's daughters. He clearly attempts to harmonize the various different positions of Scripture from the Corinthians teaching of Paul. But it is legitimate to do so from the Galatians and 2 Peter texts as the lens.

Luther was wrong on some things and would affirm that himself, I think. This doesn't take away or detract from his basic accuracy on the heart of the truth - Justitia (Imputed). Not all of his works are included in the Christian Book of Concord but only the Smalcald Articles, Large Catechism and Small Catechism.

To what degree was Dr. Luther still caught up in the influences of his day as he wrote (even though he was breaking free in amazing ways) [?] [Certainly to some degree for] in his comments on the Jews [he] shows the hold of the culture of the time[.] To what degree are we in ELCM captive to the Enlightenment thinking that we have been immersed in all of our lives? The answer is: certainly to some degree. To be sure we have tried to break free of much of that but like Dr. Luther before us it likely is not possible for us to entirely break with all that has saturated our development for 50 + years.

And so with the Apostle Paul we can only acknowledge that we still "see in a mirror darkly (dimly)" AND "that the Good that we would we do not and that which we would not that we do".

With The Apostle we ( I especially) question, "Who will save me miserable wretch that I am?" It is of course of some comfort to know that the Holy Apostle, caught up into the third heaven whether in the body or out of the body he knew not but that even he who makes his proclamation and pronouncements in the Name of His Lord and Savior can declare that the good that he would he does not and that which he would not that he does and then ask rhetorically "Who will save me?"

The same wonderful answer is ours Male and Female, Jew and Greek. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ !"

And so the message of this Holy Night and tomorrow's Blessed Birth day!

"Christ was born to save ! Christ was born to Save " (suffixed of course with the little words "Thee and Me")!

A blessed and Joyous Nativity of our Lord celebration to you dear friend. And again we will certainly give consideration to your words but would caution you and the other responders from the Lutherian right to lay off on the expressions of "Professional disappointment" and stronger sentiments as that does not encourage a rethink but often does little more than to get the hackles raised. Our encounters west of the Alleghenies these past years, as you know, really have turned us off toward moving in that direction of Theology and Praxis.

Again thanks for taking the time to write me/us.

Blessings to you in Christ,


Back to Top