AUSTRALIA – From February 9-12, 2023, the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ) gathered in Melbourne, Australia for in-person sessions of its General Synod, during which time the church again declined a resolution calling for the ordination of women. However, a day later the church accepted a separate proposal to study the possibility of creating “one church with two different practices of ordination.”
The gathering in Melbourne was the continuation of a General Synod which first began in October 2021, but in-person sessions were delayed until this year because of the pandemic.
The first resolution was debated on February 10, and saw the church vote on whether to alter church teaching to allow the ordination of women. The vote required a 2/3 majority, which it failed to achieve. In total, 59 percent of delegates voted in favour of the change (203 for; 136 against; 3 abstentions).
The LCANZ’s Bishop Paul Smith encouraged continued “prayer for the Lord’s guiding hand on His church” as it continues to wrestle with this subject.
This was the church’s fifth vote on women’s ordination since 2000, with all failing to receive the required 2/3 majority to change church teaching (votes took place in 2000, 2006, 2015, 2018, and now in 2023). In a release, the LCANZ notes that the practice of ordaining men only was included in the Theses of Agreement which the LCANZ’s two predecessor church bodies accepted in 1966 as part of their decision to unite.
Following the February 10 vote on women’s ordination, the LCANZ adopted a separate proposal on February 11, which calls on the synod to examine the possibility of creating “one church with two different practices of ordination.” Because this proposal was to examine the possibility, rather than to change church teaching at this time, it required only a simple majority, which it achieved (250 for; 89 against; 1 abstention).
“Synod directed that work be done to outline how one church with two ordination practices might function,” notes the LCANZ in another release, “such as one or more existing LCANZ districts becoming districts that teach and practice the ordination of both women and men to the office of the public ministry, or by establishing a non-geographical LCANZ ‘district’ that does so.” The results of that examination are to be presented for discussion at the church’s 2024 General Pastors Conference in the lead up to the next convention of General Synod.
“We are grateful that the LCANZ has again declined the practice of women’s ordination, which is contrary to Holy Scripture and historic Christian teaching,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). “However, the proposal to examine the possibility of creating ‘one church with two different practices of ordination’ is disconcerting and will sow the seed of confusion and discord. We pray that the church’s discussion will ultimately conclude in favour of one church with one practice of ordination—namely, the biblical position that ordination is only open to men.”
The Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand is an associate member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. In keeping with the teachings of Scripture, the ILC does not accept the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry, encouraging women to serve the church in other ways.