First Person Life


Because There are Women Pastors, Women Should be Ordained (?)

In a recent post, in response to the question, "So....why do you think that women should be ordained?," a proponent of women's ordination said,
Some women are pastors. To be a pastor in our church a person has to be ordained. Therefore, women should be ordained.

The problem is that this reasoning is backwards.

Let's take a different example - recently in my area, a 9 year old girl was pulled over driving a car. By the above reasoning, Michigan ought to begin issuing drivers licenses to 9 year old girls. After all, in Michigan, you need a drivers license to legally drive, it is provably true that there are 9 year old girls driving (and "pretty good" if you believe their own testimony), therefore, 9 year olds should be issued drivers licenses so they can legally drive.

I think it's clear that this line of reasoning simply doesn't work.

In a certain sense, it could be said that, if there are women pastors, there is already "women's ordination."

In the Lutheran Church, Ordination is simply the human rite by which the Church, in the name of God (in His stead, but not by His command), declares a one to be fit to hold the Office of the Holy Ministry and the candidate agrees to accept the responsibilities of that office and carry them out faithfully. The act of installing a pastor is the act of "ordination" if it is the first call that a candidate has received.

The fact that we use two different rites is because they perform different functions. "Ordination" occurs at the time of the first call (only) to mark the church's affirmation of the individual's fitness for the office of the Holy Ministry and for the church to hear the pledge to remain faithful to the responsibilities of that office. "Installation" is the act of entrusting the responsibilities of the office in a specific place to a specific person.

Note carefully that Augsburg Confession XIV states, "Of Ecclesiastical Order they (i.e., the Lutheran's) teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called."

It is the "call" of the church that makes a pastor. Ordination occurs at the time of a man's first call into ministry as a solemn act to (1) affirm the call is a "regular call" (i.e., is done in good order and is in accord with the will of God revealed in Holy Scripture) and (2) affirming the fitness of the called individual to fulfill the office to which they have been called (both their theological fitness and their personal fitness - the qualifications for which are also laid down in Scripture). Together, these affirmations declare that GOD has called this particular man as one of His representatives to the Church. Installation declares that God has called this particular man as His representative in a particular location/field of service.

Ultimately, the act of "ordination" merely signifies what God has already brought about. It is a public affirmation that the candidate is qualified to hold the position AND they have been rightly placed into that position. Without a "call", an "ordained" person is merely a "qualified layperson" who has committed to faithfully carry out the office should God see fit to entrust him with it. Another way to say it is, there is no pastor without an altar at which he serves. (There is a place here for whether or not theological professors and other synodical positions serve altars - and that's an ongoing debate, but it's not necessary to carry forward this particular conversation.)

The real question is, can the Church of God (or a local congregation which is the Church in a specific place) set aside the clear teachings of the Word of God in order to place someone into that office who (1) does not possess the qualifications which God has laid down and (2) whom God has clearly said ought not hold that office.

Those who oppose women as pastors say, "no, a congregation cannot claim that their actions are godly when they directly contradict the Word of God." The fact that there are congregations who have set aside Scripture and placed a woman into office does not mean that God approves. Ordination is the rite by which the church says, "God approves." God clearly reserves the responsibilities associated with the Office of the Holy Ministry to men. Therefore, women ought not be ordained. That is to say, the church has no right to over-rule God's express statements on the matter.

Those who oppose placing women as pastors oppose it on the grounds that God has clearly taught that one of the qualifications of that office is, in essence, a Y-Chromosome (before the advent of trans-gender surgeries, we may have been able to express this differently and less technically. However, even physical appearance, today, is not a sure marker...).

Finally, and this point needs to be very clearly understood: It is GOD who choses these men for His own reasons and his own purposes. It is not because of anything inherent in the individual but because of GOD'S CHOICE of that individual and GOD'S WORK in that individual's life to make him fit for the office to which he is called. Furthermore, it is GOD, working in the heart, mind, and will of His people who lead them to call a specific man to serve as THEIR pastor in a specific location.

It is not that the Y-Chromosome makes him fit for the office (as there are many, many, many, many men who are not qualified to fill the office) but it is one of several markers that God has given to us in order to discern that a particular person is one whom God has chosen to fill the office of pastor. There are others - including his knowledge of the scriptures and their teaching, his ability to teach the faith to others, etc. which are also laid down in Scripture.

Hope that helps!

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The Ordination of Women: A Threat to the Gospel

In a 2007 survey of youth in The LC--MS, only 43.7% of poll participants agree with the synod's position that women are not to be ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry.i

The topic has been debated among us for well over thirty years, most often centering around the Scriptural prohibitions against women speaking in churchii and the concept of "orders of creation". Advocates of women's ordination have dismissed these arguments claiming that the commands from St. Paul were historically conditioned and that men and women have been made equal in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Opponents have been unable to clearly articulate their position in a way that does not suffer from the charge of "legalism." Coming closer to the heart of the issue are the questions regarding the validity of churchly acts performed by women.iii But this too operates from a legalistic framework of "validity" and "invalidity" and therefore lacks the persuasiveness necessary to advance the discussion.

With many congregational members and many on our clergy roster unconvinced that the current position is tenable, it might seem reasonable to wonder if The LC--MS has too long maintained the position that women are not to hold the Office of the Holy Ministry.

The reason for the lack of persuasive force of the arguments of the opponents to women's ordination should be obvious. Certainly, historical-criticism or any method of interpretation that would make clear statements of Scripture "historically conditioned" is dangerous. But just as dangerous is a fundamentalist methodology that seeks legalistic prescriptions and proscriptions as the basis on which to resolve the controversy. While the law sets before us the immutable will of God,iv it is laid down for the ungodly who already oppose God and His Gospelv and the sinful flesh that still inheres in Furthermore, the law gives no power or ability to do those things commanded by God or avoid doing those things prohibited by Him.vii These realities apply to the current debate as much as they apply to the Ten Commandments.

Are we, then, at an impasse on this issue? Should those who favor the ordination of women become the majority decision-makers within The LC--MS, it is likely that the current "policy" will be overturned. But what is at stake is not "merely" the violation of the commands of God. What is at stake is nothing less than faith and the hope of the Gospel itself.

We believe, teach and confess that, "All Scripture should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises."viii It is only through God's Word and promise that we have any hope, any security, and any comfort that we are forgiven for the sake of Christ.

The greatest of these promises was the promise of the Messiah who would come and redeem mankind from sin.ix But in service to this promise, God has given many other promises in order that we may comfort ourselves in the certain knowledge of our salvation for the sake of Christ's work. To act in any way other than in accordance with these promises is to act contrary to faith and to reject God's Word. It is to build upon the sand of self-determined piety and not the rock of God's revealed gracious activity. The consequences are nothing short of catastrophic.

To His Old Testament people, God gave clear commands regarding the animals to be sacrificed and their condition. In doing so, God was promising to work through those means which He had established. It was not that an unblemished lamb was inherently better than one that was outwardly imperfect. It was not even that a lamb was better than a camel. Their throats can be cut. Their blood can poured upon the altar and the meat can be consumed. Since they could perform the same function, was it permissible then to bring a blemished lamb or a camel to the altar? No! The difference between the lamb and the camel or the unblemished and the spotless lamb, was God's promise. A faithful child of Israel trusted that God would forgive his sins. He, therefore, brought the sacrifice that God commanded. Faith hears the promises of God and trusts God to act according to His promises. Then, faith obeys God's commands.

This is why we use water in Baptism and bread and wine in Holy Communion. God promised to work through water, bread and wine. Would we be acting in faith if we replaced the bread and wine with pizza and coke or sprayed perfume on the candidate instead of sprinkling water? God has not promised to work through these. Our Lord "Took bread...took the cup...and said: This do...".x He said, "Unless he is born again of water and the Spirit..."xi

What is true for the sacraments is no less true in regard to any other promise made by God. Faith in the promises of God, no matter how insignificant they seem, causes the one who believes the promise to seek God's activity where He has promised to act.

Moses and Aaron were denied entrance to the land of Canaan because they did not act in accordance with God's promise. After striking the rock instead of speaking to it, God said to them, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring the assembly into the land that I have given them."xii

Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, were placed into the priesthood. They were the ones who were to make sacrifices to God on behalf of the children of Israel. But when they "offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them," they were consumed by fire and they died. Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'"xiii

These examples should cause anyone who aspires to the Office of the Holy Ministry to pause. It is also of concern to the church at large. God has not simply given the Office to the church. He has also given the very men who are to fill that office.xiv Just as God created certain animals that He would later accept as sacrifices; just as He brings forth grain to be made into bread and grapes to be made into wine, He also raises up certain individuals to occupy the Office which He established.

To be clear, there is nothing in the individual which makes him worthy, it is God who raises him up to be His gift to the church. By His Spirit working through the Word He gives them the desire to serve. He trains them. And He identifies them to the church. In the letters to Timothy and Titus, God gives the criteria by which the church may recognize those whom God has chosen to carry out the Office which He has established.xv

This is not to be understood in a sacerdotal manner. We are not speaking of some permanent state from which it is impossible to fall. Furthermore, no claim is being made as to whether or not God does or does not work in any other manner. St. Paul is clear, for the Christian, "Everything is permissible," but we cannot diminish the phrase which follows immediately, "but not everything is beneficial." And it certainly is not beneficial to set aside God's Word and seek God's activity where He has not promised to work.

Just as He gave water to the Israelites when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, He may work apart from those means which He has revealed to us. But, we have no assurance that God will act in such circumstances. And where Scripture is silent, we must not presume to know. The warnings, however, are clear. God has shown the severest consequences to those who ignore or act otherwise than He commands.

What is certain is that He has promised to work through the Office of the Holy Ministry. He has promised to raise up those who are to fill that Office and He has given to us the marks by which we are able to identify those whom He has raised up.

It is only when one has rejected these promises and begins to impose his or her own thoughts and feelings upon God, insisting that He must act apart from where He has clearly revealed His activity do the questions arise: Can a woman hold the Office of Pastor? Are the churchly acts performed by women valid?

When such questions are asked, it is a clear that faith is no longer active. It is like Nadab and Abihu asking one another: Can we offer "strange fire" that the Lord has not commanded? It is like Moses asking Aaron: Will it be valid if I strike the rock instead of speaking to it? We do well to remember the words our Lord spoke to Satan in the wilderness, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."xvi

In the case of women's ordination, God gives those who ask such irrelevant questions clear answers. But such prohibitions are necessary only when doubt and unbelief have already begun to triumph over faith. Faith has no need for such questions. Faith clings to the promises of God, diligently seeking God's gracious works where He has promised to bestow them.

The doubt and unbelief which causes us to ask questions in these seemingly small matters is this same doubt and unbelief which, as it grows, asks: Is Christ's merit truly sufficient to cover my sins? The doubt and unbelief that asks: Did God really say that only men can fill the Office? is the very same doubt and unbelief that ate the forbidden fruit and will question Christ's words, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."xvii It's leaven that leavens the whole loaf.

Through doubt and unbelief Satan works to turn God's children away from Christ and God's gracious promise of forgiveness, life and salvation for His sake. The question of women's ordination is not simply a "practical matter,"xviii it is a threat to faith and therefore a threat to the hope of the Gospel itself.

i Isenhower, Joe Jr., LCMSNews, no. 2, January 7, 2008,, accessed 3/9/2008

ii 1 Cor. 14:33-34,37; 1 Tim. 2:11-12

iii Scaer, CTQ, vol. 53, no. 1-2, January-April 1989

iv SD VI.15

v 1 Tim. 1:9

vi FC VI

vii SD VI.11

viii AP IV.5, Tappert

ix Gen. 3:1

x I Cor. 11:23-25

xi Jn. 3:5

xii Num. 20:1-12, ESV

xiii Lev. 10:1-3, ESV

xiv Eph. 4:11

xv I Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-11

xvi Matt. 4:7, Luke 4:12

xvii Jn. 14:6, ESV, emphasis added

xviii Schroeder, Edward H., "The Orders of Creation - Some Reflections on the History and Place of the Term in Systematic Theology", Concordia Theological Monthly vol. 43 no. 3, Sept 1972. pp. 165-178.

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