‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’ (Ephesians 3:20–21).
Since the LCA/NZ’s convention in Sydney in October people have been talking about the vote not to allow women to be pastors. The reality seems to be that, after 20 years, this is an issue on which views remain divided. Because of that division, the LCA/NZ is hurting, and by the LCA/NZ I mean its people.
Some of us who initially felt pain and anger have moved on to resigned acceptance. Others are determined to change things. Some of us were relieved by the decision, yet feel for those who are troubled. Others dismiss the need for further discussion, saying that, after four votes, it’s time to put the issue behind us.
Some of us who believe passionately in a male-only pastorate have decided it’s time to teach the LCA how to think rightly.
Some say people are confused about what exactly we do teach, and so consciences are unnecessarily burdened.
Some of us who believe God wants both male and female pastors have resigned from their responsibilities or from the LCA entirely. Many are holding back from leaving because of partners, families and the ministries in which they serve.
A few, determined to change things, speak of bringing things to a head by ‘civil disobedience’.
And still many more of us aren’t involved in any of those things. As faithful, committed Christians, you know that, whatever happens, God’s work goes on. We will continue in our baptismal grace, practising mutual forgiveness, showing the love of Christ, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and committing into God’s eternal care those who have died. The church is in the world for the sake of the gospel. We must never lose sight of that.
I don’t believe that ordination is our main issue. We are troubled by something deeper, and we must explore what that is. We have a sense that we need a new way forward, one that will support us in being God’s people in the world, and that helps us work together in his kingdom, even though we do not, and it seems will not be able to, agree on some things.
The methods we have used to try to resolve our differences do not seem to have worked. Along the way we have learned some good things, such as mutual respect, calling out bad behaviour, and acknowledging that both sides of the debate take Scripture, confession and faith seriously. But now we need to learn to live with difference, and find a way of doing that which holds Christ at the centre as our mediator and healer.
So we have work to do. To do it well we must do it together. Right now some of us feel we don’t have the energy. That’s okay. I have certainly felt like that. But God in time will supply what we need. As we gather weekly around Christ’s table, and share daily in his word, let’s resolve again to honour God and one another, exploring fresh, life-giving ways of expressing our faith and fellowship in him, to the glory of God.
I hope early in 2019 to be able to share with you ways by which we might go about doing just that, as we begin to explore a new way of living together.
God bless you this Advent and Christmas season, as we praise him for the gift of our Saviour.