As has been the case at a number of recent LCA gatherings, the question of women’s ordination is expected to be a major concern. The LCA has twice voted in the past to decline the ordination of women, but another vote at this year’s convention is widely anticipated.
“Decades of debate have resulted in an apparent stalemate, with neither side willing to cede,” LCA Bishop John Henderson has written in anticipation of this year’s convention. But he hopes that a healthy dialogue between delegates may allow the church to finally reach “some agreement on what might happen next,” even if “a final resolution” remains elusive.
Bishop Henderson has suggested elsewhere that “some people are saying that whichever way Synod votes on the ordination question, some people—or even entire congregations or groups within congregations—will leave on the grounds of conscience.” He encourages the church to nevertheless be “confident of God’s blessing as we allow the love of Christ to guide our actions.”
The topic of women’s ordination was previously discussed at the LCA’s General Pastors Conference, held July 7-9, 2015 in Hahndorf. At that time, the pastors took no action to recommend a change to the LCA’s doctrines and policies regarding ordination.
The ILC pledges prayer
In response to an invitation from Bishop Henderson, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has committed to praying for the Lutheran Church of Australia as it wrestles with these issues. “We are keenly aware that this is no routine gathering, and that Bishop John’s plea for the prayer support of oversees partners is not an empty formality” the Executive Council writes in a newly released open letter to the Lutherans of Australia and New Zealand. “We wish you to know that we implore the Lord to guide your convention as the ancients prayed: ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’”
The ILC’s letter further encourages the LCA to hold fast to historic Christian teaching on ordination. “It is no secret that the churches of the International Lutheran Council are convinced that historic Christian and apostolic teaching and practice on these matters represent God’s own revealed truth,” they write. “The Lord knows how we deeply treasure the unity He has given us together with you, and the many contributions you have made to our fellowship. We sincerely hope that He may give you endurance to continue bearing the tensions that come with confessing Christ in this challenging time, to refrain from making new decisions in the matter of ordination, and to stand fast in the unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
Download the full letter here.
The Lutheran Church of Australia has approximately 60,000 members throughout Australia and New Zealand. It holds associate membership both in the ILC as well as in the Lutheran World Federation.