Last month, the General Church Board and College of Bishops approved three Way Forward frameworks for distribution across the LCANZ. The Way Forward project has been established in response to General Synod’s resolution to find a way for the LCANZ to operate as ‘one church with two practices of ordination’.
The frameworks were recommended by the Way Forward project team, including the reference group and the eight working groups, using a robust evaluation and selection system. This followed the call for models from across the church in June.
The three frameworks are entitled Confessional Communities, Congregations Decide and District Alignment.
The Confessional Communities framework proposes that pastors decide to be a member of one of two conferences/confessional communities:
- Male Ordination (MO) confessional community
- Men and Women Ordination (M&W) confessional community.
Pastors would be able to align with a confessional community and maintain their conscience views. Congregations would be able to call a pastor knowing their doctrinal position and respecting the same. Pastors would be able to gather with the knowledge and confidence that they share doctrine, teaching and practice confidently. Each community would meet in gatherings that would replace General Pastors Conferences.
Laypersons may choose to become members of a Confessional Community. Congregations shall not be asked to provide a determination on the issue of ordination.
The Congregations Decide framework proposes that calling communities have the freedom to include qualified and approved women on their call list when a pastoral vacancy arises. Ordination is held either in the candidate’s home congregation or the calling congregation (community) rather than at a district or churchwide level, with minimal to no structural change to the LCA or its districts.
This framework considers the likelihood that calling communities which decide to call an ordained woman to be their pastor will be dispersed across the whole church geographically.
As the female pastor will be called to serve a specific calling community, the expectation and anticipation is that the calling community and the district to which the female pastor is called will give their welcome, support, encouragement and prayer for their pastor.
The District Alignment framework proposes that there is a resolution at the General Convention of Synod 2024 to enable the ordination of women in one or more districts, be they geographical or non-geographical. In any district that resolves to ordain women the current options available to men would also be available to women: pastor, bishop, assistant bishop, special ministry pastor (SMP).
Women who have already been ordained in a part of the wider Lutheran Church overseas would be given the opportunity to undergo colloquy as soon as possible and be available for call immediately afterwards (as is the case for male pastors). Suitably qualified women would be able to be ordained by the district bishop and would be available for call immediately. Should vicarage be an additional outstanding requirement for qualification, the relevant district should make appropriate arrangements for this to occur for candidates as a matter of urgency.
This framework leaves open the option of rearranging existing districts or establishing a new non-geographic district, depending on both district synod resolutions and congregational alignment.
More information about the frameworks, including the principles upheld by each, is available via the Way Forward webpage.