Thursday, October 7, 2021

As Down Under Turns. . .

The Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand held an online convention because, as many know, the restrictions upon in person gatherings and travel are profound.  At this online gathering (held October 1-2), the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ) considered candidates to replace Bishop John Henderson who is retiring.  Elected as its new Bishop was the Rev. Paul Smith, previously the bishop of the Queensland District (LCAQD) and currently Chaplain at St Peter’s Lutheran College-Indooroopilly on behalf of the LCAQD (a six month assignment).   The General Synod met online for this first meeting of a two-part convention process that spreads over two years.  Some 385 delegates met for worship and the business sessions on Day 1 via Zoom.

What is significant is that the district Bp-elect Smith previous served submitted a proposed motion to be considered in the second part of the two year convention process.  The second part will be in person (at least that is the plan).  That motion relates to the ongoing issue of the ordination of women.  The proposal from the LCAQD is a quasi-split church with a district that ordains women (could be geographical or non-geographical) along side the districts that would not ordain women.  How odd.  Will it pass?  Will it keep this communion together?  Who knows.

"two different practices of ordination, and establish a detailed framework through which this could be accomplished, such as by establishing a geographical or non-geographical LCANZ ‘District’ that teaches and practices the ordination of both women and men to the office of the public ministry."

That is not the only proposal to deal with the vexing issue of the ordination of women and others may be presented.  Three other motions proposed call for a sort of constitutional change.  This would mean the removal of Article 6.11 from the Theses of Agreement that has bound this Lutheran communion together since its founding.  In essence this would change the very thing that allowed two different churches to become one:

Article 6.11. Though women prophets were used by the Spirit of God in the Old as well as in the New Testament, 1 Cor 14:34,35 and I Tim 2:11–14 prohibit a woman from being called into the office of the public ministry for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. This apostolic rule is binding on all Christendom; hereby her rights as a member of the spiritual priesthood are in no wise impaired.

And there is another issue.  There is a proposal that the LCANZ pursue full membership in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC).  In essence, the LCANZ wants to have it all and be friends with everyone and keep everything in tact while changing a number of things.  Who knows what will happen?  Maybe our friends from down under can make sense of it all.  I fear for my friends and partners in the faith in Australia. 

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

According to the LCA Constitution and By-Laws 2018, Bylaw 5.5.2:

"5.5.2 Pastoral acts normally shall be performed under the auspices of a congregation. All such acts shall be entered by the pastor of the congregation into its official records. However, those properly called to serve as chaplains in the armed services or in institutions or agencies may perform such pastoral acts as come within the scope of their work and such acts are to be recorded and reported periodically as the Church may from time to time decide."

The LCA, on its webpage, Chaplaincy, states:

"Lutheran Services’ chaplains provide pastoral and spiritual guidance to residents and clients of our services. We offer acceptance to everyone and a willingness to walk alongside them on their journey.

"These chaplains coordinate worship services, devotions and other rituals throughout the week, providing opportunities for all residents to participate if they wish."

The wife of the LCA's newly-elected Head Bishop Rev. Paul Smith is Chaplain Heidi Smith (BTh, BA, DipEd, DipLuthEd) at Immanuel Gardens Retirement Village, Buderim, Queensland, Australia. In a 2016 article of The Lutheran Chaplain Smith noted: "As a chaplain at Immanuel Gardens, I also led church services for people who at that time lived in a ‘secure wing’ due to their diagnoses of various forms of dementia."