Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Church lacks the authority to do this. . .

From Canon Lawyer Edward Peters:

Rather, Ordinatio [John Paul II’s ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994)] asserts something about the Church, namely, that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. Ordinatio is not about orders, nor even about women, it’s about the Church and about what Jesus authorized his Church to do, or not do, with priestly orders in regard to women.  

Think of it this way: If Gabriel himself appeared in fiery splendor above St. Peter’s Basilica and proclaimed “Just so you know, women are ontologically capable of receiving priestly Orders!”, not one jot of Ordinatio would have to be changed, why? because Ordinatio is not about women or orders, it’s about the Church. The pope, shielding his eyes, could say to Gabriel, “I’m confused, does this mean that we can ordain women priests after all?” Gabriel would respond [with a face-palm], “No! for Pete’s sake, because Jesus did not give that authority to his Church!
My Thoughts

One of the tedious things about the arguments for and against the ordination of women to the pastoral office is that it so often degenerates into side discussions that mistake the central truth that we cannot afford to miss. It is not given to the Church to ordain women. Period.

This is NOT a discussion of whether women are able. Goodness knows that some of the most able students in the pre-sem programs of the Church never complete the preparation or are ordained. Only an idiot would insist that the only people capable of doing the work of the pastoral ministry are those actually set apart by call and ordination to do so. So we end up arguing if women can (is able to) preach or preside or hear confession, etc..

This is NOT a discussion about some obscure Bible passage whose meaning is unclear. I go blue in the face over every argument over the meaning of what it means that women are to keep silent or any one of the other passages which are often used against women's ordination. For every passage over which scholars may argue about the meaning of the Greek or the situation in the congregation and St. Paul's intent in responding, there are other passages whose meaning is clear, crystal clear (husband of one wife, as just one example).

This is NOT a discussion about culture. It is a dead end discussion to argue that culture in Jesus' day prevented His commending the ordination of women or modern culture today offers the opportunity to ordain women. Jesus did not seem to be much concerned about what people thought over the company He kept, what He did on the Sabbath, the cleansing of the Temple, etc... Furthermore, what does it imply that our Lord was constrained to keep His true will hidden for nearly two thousand years. Culture does not shape doctrine or practice in the life of the Church. Period.

This is NOT a discussion about whether or not the individual feels called by God. It is given to the Church to mediate that call, that is to discern and confirm that inner call or not. As the Church spoke over the issue of whether Gentiles could be accepted into the Church, even though passionate arguments were made on both sides, it was the Word of the Lord and the Spirit who led the Church to confirm or deny this avenue. Every year there are men who are turned away by the Seminary even though they insist they feel called by God. Yes, it may be true that the Church makes mistakes here but that is the responsibility of the Church to make this call. The inner call is confirmed by the external call mediated through the Church. Not to ordain a woman is not to reject her or her usefulness to the Lord and His Church.

This is NOT a discussion of personal value or worth. Men do not have an inherently greater value to the Lord, to the Church, or to the work of the Church. Women are not inferior to men. Different callings, different vocation, are not in competition (except in the world and here our Lord warns us that it shall not be so among His people). St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that baptism commends us equally before the Lord as His people, elect unto Him, saved by virtue of Christ's suffering and death, and set apart as His holy, beloved, and declared righteous children. Baptism does not, however, erase or blur or render obsolete the distinction of male and female. Our gender as male and female is NOT a defect of sin which Christ must heal or for which He has atoned. It is God's creative order.

So what is at stake? What is the authority given to the Church and what is not given to the Church? It is my conviction that Canon Lawyer and John Paul II got it right. The Church has no authority to change or act in the matter of women's ordination. We have no authority to substitute something other than water and the baptismal formula of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in baptism. We have no authority to change the elements of bread and wine into pizza and beer or even rice wafers and grape juice. We are given these means and this mandate by the Lord. It is ours to fulfill as the Church but not to change.




In essence, we have confidence when we act in accordance with the authority of Christ and we lack confidence apart from that authority. So we can argue all we want to about ability, what it means to teach or keep silent, culture, the inner call of God, or egalitarianism. None of this matters. The Church is not given the authority to do this. It does not make women second class citizens of the Kingdom any more than any other male who is not ordained is less before the Lord than those men who are ordained. The Church does not have the authority to act upon this. Period. It makes a great question for the curious but it is of little import to the Church, to the work of the Kingdom, or to the Pastoral Office. We are given what God has given and this is our authority and our mandate and no other.

8 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

From a Lutheran understanding expressed in Kirche und Amt Thesis VI on the Ministry:

A. The preaching office [Predigtamt] is conferred [übertragen] by God through the congregation [Gemeinden] as the possessor [Inhaberin] of all ecclesiastical authority [Kirchengewalt], or the power of the keys, by means of its call, which God Himself has prescribed.

B. The ordination of those men called by the laying on of hands [Handauflegung] is not a divine institution, but rather an apostolic, ecclesiastical rite [Ordnung], and only a solemn public confirmation [Bestätigung] of that call.

Thus the church does not have the authority to perform an ecclesiastical rite or solemn public confirmation of a woman into the preaching office because the preaching office [Predigtamt] is not conferred [übertragen] by God on women through the congregation [Gemeinden] as the possessor [Inhaberin] of all ecclesiastical authority [Kirchengewalt], or the power of the keys, by means of its call, which God Himself has prescribed.

The Romish notions about ordination are irrelevant for Lutherans, as are the pastrix ordination notions of the ACNA and Lufauxran religious bodies like NALC, LCMC, CORE, EECMY, with which the LCMS is currently playing footsie.

Anonymous said...

So in Missouri an individual congregation can do what it pleases? And the "church" cannot do anything about it except ask that congregation to leave?

So ordination is fluff? Or could it be that this Walther is saying that ordination is good, well, apostolic, catholic, and beneficial but not divinely mandated (as the office of the pastor is).

Mr Vehse (if that is your name) you seem to have a distinct bias against anything that might set Walther in any framework but a radical congregationalism that may be Missouri but it is not Lutheran.

Carl Vehse said...

So in Missouri an individual congregation can do what it pleases?

I stated or implied no such thing.

And the "church" cannot do anything about it except ask that congregation to leave?

I stated or implied no such thing.

So ordination is fluff?

I stated or implied no such thing.

Or could it be that this Walther is saying that ordination is good, well, apostolic, catholic, and beneficial but not divinely mandated (as the office of the pastor is).

What I quoted from Walther's about ordination is congruent with what the Lutheran Confessions state about ordination. That is the official position of the Missouri Synod since 1852.

Mr Vehse (if that is your name) you seem to have a distinct bias against anything that might set Walther in any framework but a radical congregationalism that may be Missouri but it is not Lutheran.

I have a distinct bias against lies and deceit that attempt to cast the Lutheran confessional position of C.F.W. Walther and the Missouri Synod on the doctrine of church and ministry as "radical congregationalism."

Dr.D said...

Amen, Amen, Amen!

This is a hard truth, but it is the truth. The Church is not given this authority, and only the rebellious refuse to accept it.

I would note the case of Alice C. Lindsey. Alice was an "ordained" ECUSA priest, seminary trained under some of the best. After several years in her pseudo-priesthood, Alice realized that it was a fraud, that she was not truly a priest of Christ. She resigned and is now a college professor and anthropological researcher. She post much of her very profound work at her blog, Just Genesis.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Militaris Artifex said...

Fr. D+,

If you will permit a very minor brotherly correction, I believe that the surname of the Episcopal lady to whom you refer, is Alice C. Linsley.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Dr.D said...

Keith, you may well be correct; I'd bet that you are. Thank you. Spelling was never my long suit!

Fr. D+

Paul McCain said...

"I have a distinct bias against lies and deceit" except when it comes to using my real name, which is Richard Strickert, and when it comes to factual representation of the actual influence and involvement of Carl Vehse, and except when it comes to telling the whole story of Vehse, who in fact high-tailed it back to Germany when the going got rough here.

Other than that, yes, Carl Vehse has a great version to lies and deceit.

: )

Carl Vehse said...

Paul,

Why are you so pissed off?

I have occasionally discussed here and on other blogs (some from which you have been banned) the actual influence and involvement of Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse on C.F.W. Walther, and the Missouri Saxon Lutherans, who eventually formed the Missouri Synod. My discussions have been based on information from at least four historical books, which you still sell at CPH, plus other documents and articles available from CHI.

And from those books, as well as from Vehse's own book, there was no "high-tail[ing]" involved. In fact Vehse spent several months in 1839 fighting the lingering Stephanism of the Missouri Saxon pastors and preparing a Protestation document, which later at the 1841 Altenburg debate Walther described as "this precious gift of God."

Only after his Protestation was ignored, he was attacked, his funds had been exhausted (by Stephan), and in order to settle an inheritance from his father-in-law's estate did Dr. Vehse return to Germany in December, 1839, on one of the ships that had originally brought the Saxons to America.

As for your "back to Germany when the going got rough," during his subsequent career as a lecturer and author of over fifty historical books, Vehse was thrown into prison in Berlin, and had his books banned in Saxony and Austria because of what they revealed about the aristocracy in the past and present. (Vehse also had a threatening letter from Karl Marx over Vehse's criticism of Marx's writings.) Later Vehse traveled to other European countries, eventually returning to Dresden a year before his death in 1870.