Debate is a sign of health in any organization. Debate which draws all together into a great conversation is something to be fostered and not discouraged. However, debate is only possible if the debaters speak the same language. In the Church, healthy debate is possible only when the debaters speak from the same source of truth. The Church does not debate truth, it confesses that truth. When the truth is that which is debated, the Church cannot do what the Church was created to d0 -- to confess. In every age, when the Church has faced debate, the healthy outcome has been the clarification of the truth (not the redefinition of that truth). So the Arian debate was based upon what Scripture taught and the resolution was the restatement of the teaching of Scripture and the Apostles in the form of the Nicene Creed. It is not that one point of view won or another lost but the debate created clarity because the truth was confessed.
Dissent is not the same as debate. Dissent proceeds when either the truth itself is the source of disagreement or when the dissenter has elected to reject the clear truth. There may be a debate about the role of women in the Church because the nature of the world in which the Church exists has changed and the old answers and avenues of service do not fit the state of things today. What congregation 1700 or even 1000 years ago had a voters assembly or church council or president or elders as, for example, we in Missouri name them?
The ordination of woman cannot be debated because to ordain women would be to depart from clear apostolic practice and teaching. The Scriptures hardly address the topic of women's ordination -- not because the Scripture has nothing to bear upon it but because it was not even an issue until modern times. The ordination of woman is not a particular issue for Lutherans since we claim by our Confessions to bear the evangelical and catholic faith. We do not stand alone or in isolation in our position against the ordination of women to the pastoral office. Indeed, we reflect what has always been taught and believed consistently since the Apostles. Others hold the same position (Rome and Constantinople) and the consensus of Christians who practice consistently this doctrine represents nearly all but the most insignificant number of Christians (today or accumulated through time). Therefore to dissent from this teaching is to stand in opposition to the evangelical and catholic faith that is our confession and our practice as Lutherans.
Some within Missouri, a very small minority, believe that dissent is not only possible but that the question of the ordination of women is an open question for us. Read from Daystar and a certain Rev. Becker:
I am convinced that the LCMS' practice of restricting the office of pastor only to men is wrong. The synod's defense of such a restriction runs contrary to biblical and confessional evidence, does harm to individual consciences (especially to those LC-MS women who have been called by God to serve as pastor but cannot do so within their own church body), runs contrary to Christian freedom, and needlessly frustrates the work of the Holy Spirit in the church's mission within our western, egalitarian society. For my dissent to this position of the synod, one can read my online essay, "An Argument for Women Pastors and Theologians," http://www.thedaystarjournal.com.
What must be made clear is that his dissent is not strictly with Missouri but with the great tradition going back to apostolic times, with the clear practice of the Church through the ages, and with the clearest of ecumenical consensus. This kind of dissent threatens the unity of the Church not simply because of the disagreement but because it treats as equal authority the western, egalitarian society and the witness of Scripture and tradition. The argument may be addressed to Missouri but it is not a uniquely Missourian practice. And that exposes the weakness of such dissent, the danger of such dissent as it confuses open questions with established truth, and the sectarian nature of the position in favor of women's ordination.
It is one thing to dissent from practices and teachings that are inconsistent with our confession or at odds with the catholic tradition. It is quite another to dissent from that which IS our confession and the clear and equivocating practice of the Church since the Apostles. There is a word for that. It is apostasy and heresy. Although as an option it is better to recant, those who believe that Scripture and tradition are wrong have the choice of joining the ELCA, a Lutheran body in schism with its own tradition and confession as Lutheran. Though some insist they are not ELCA and wish to remain Missouri, what they are really saying is that they wish for Missouri to follow the ELCA in its choice to diverge from Scripture, tradition, and ecumenical consensus. Why? There can only be one reason. Dissent is more important to them than anything else. Frankly, I do not understand those who would stay and attempt to change any church body when such a change is unforeseeable and would represent the denial of all that was believed and confessed prior to the change. Go if you refuse to be bound by the same truth, guided by the same catholic and evangelical principle, and having rejected the ecumenical and consistent position on this issue. Leave for you as much as for the organization in which you have planted the flag of your dissent. Period.