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THE LUTHERAN ORTHODOX CHURCH Position on Women in Ministry


RevDr Samuel Guido,

Presiding Bishop

The Lutheran Orthodox Church

On behalf of The Council of Bishops

NOTE: New Additon/Addendum added to this statement.

            Addendum written by Bishop Bradley Varvil, Tacoma Diocese.

Very many times the subject comes up between other denominations in the valid Apostolic Succession and clergy of The Lutheran Orthodox Church, which is also in the valid Historic Apostolic Succession, of why we permit, encourage and practice the ordination of female ministers up to and including our Governing Council of Bishops. This paper is prepared and presented and represents the unanimous consensus of the Council of Bishops regarding the matter. We place this paper in the public arena fully understanding that there are those who reject the notion that any woman can preach, teach or lead a true Christian denomination. We also understand that there will be those who will use this information out of context and twist statements to satisfy their own personal agendas, but it is our fervent prayer that the information presented in our position is looked at in proper context, with all due respect to our position, as we would show all due respect to differing positions.

An Historical Perspective:

The Lutheran Orthodox Church developed and formed from a rift in another Lutheran church, having split initially over the issue of Apostolic Succession. The Lutheran Orthodox Church was established as a corporate entity when several Bishops and ministers from that other Lutheran body accepted the offer of consecration into the valid Historic Apostolic Succession. Up to that time, women were not consecrated in the lineages that the first 3 LOC Bishops were. Even though that other Lutheran body did ordain women to the ministry, that particular church was not in any Apostolic Lineage. During that period, a large number of pastors and Bishops decided to leave that previous affiliation and joined the LOC, including a number of female pastors. The Lutheran Orthodox Church Presiding Bishop held a consecration ceremony on July 18th, 2004 during which 2 female ministers from the other Lutheran body, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Ohio were consecrated into the valid Apostolic Succession. A misunderstanding over the issue of female ordinations arose between the consecrators which led to a moritorium being placed on any further female consecrations until the issue was fully studied and resolved. The moritorium was formally lifted on June 26th, 2005 when 2 women were elevated to the office of Bishop and 2 were formally consecrated as priests along with 8 men in the valid Apostolic Succession at St Pauls Lutheran Chapel during a celebration of The Eucharist and Mass beginning at 9:30am.

The Lutheran Orthodox Church continues to ordain qualified women into the ministry every bit as equal to men.

Findings of Fact

The entire paper will be posted on this site due to a large volume of requests for the original paper. As time permits, we will place the entire paper on this page.This is a shortened version.

Both in the Scriptures as well as in the archaeological findings, women served as Deacons, Priests and Bishops until the year 441AD. In Romans 16:7 Paul refers to a woman named Junia using the same title he uses for himself,Apostle, but her name was changed by later bible translators to Junias effectively making her name masculine. However, Origen and Chrysostom in 'A Homily To Paul' both refer to her in the comment "How great is the devotion of this woman..." Then in the 1100's women were once again ordained into the ministry up to and including the office of Bishop and whose ordinations were upheld and affirmed by Popes. Until the Council of Trent, women were consecrated into the church at large. It was due to a rebellion by male clergy members that the church forbade women in the ministry.

Archaeology also shows us that women were tortured and killed as martyrs for their faith, titled as Deacons, Priests, and Bishops, yes, the early Church had women Bishops.

Galatians 3:27-29 makes a blanket statement: There is neither Jew nor Greek, no bondservant or freed man neither man nor woman for you are all one in Christ.                                    

Below, Our Deacons serve a vital role in Pastoral Care too.

We find this simple statement effectively removes all conditions of separation based on race, gender or social status. According to Paul, one's faith in Christ makes one an equal heir as a descendant of Abraham thus becoming one in Christ.

Therefore, it is our conclusion that ordaining women in ministry as equals, worthy of the calling, is equally as valid in God's eyes as the calling and ordaining of worthy men. For Jesus said, If they are not against us, then they are for us, (paraphrased). If a woman can spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as effectivley (and in our opinion, oftentimes more effectively)as men then who are we to stand in the way?

Furthermore, it is our belief that it was a male dominated clergy who wanted to keep this noble calling to themselves for selfish, unscriptural reasons, thus forcing women out of the pulpits of the churches as men found it a suitable way to make a living. It was after the deaths of the Apostles that the notion came about that women should be kept out of pastoral roles. The contributions of women to service of The Living God must be recognized, upheld, maintained and promoted as fully as that of any men called by The Holy Spirit to the same position.

Left: Deacon Emily Stoecker and daughter, Sophie.

Addendum: Added May 7th 2013 after Convocation.

Drafted by Bishop Bradley Varvil, Diocese of Tacoma, Washington

First off, it's important to note, that we hold an unequivocal embrace of Holy Scripture as inspired and inerrant. This is in harmony with the ancient Church, and with our Lutheran Confessions, which identify Holy Scripture as the canon, or rule, of the Church. We leave none of it aside, and we add nothing to it-- though we receive the writings and traditions of the Councils and Fathers as illumination and explanation of those same Scriptures. We do not hold Scripture in a modern vacuum, but together with all the faithful, of every time and place. And where discrepancies occur between different times and places, we hold everything under the Word of God.

When it comes to the ordination of women, both history and Scripture make reference to this-- Phoebe the Deaconess, the Prophetess Anna, the Prophetess daughters of St. Philip, and Deborah the Judge, being key examples. We also have the "Apostles of the Apostles" who are the women at the Tomb on Easter morning, whom Christ sends specifically to bear witness of the Resurrection to the Disciples still huddled in fear and unbelief. As the greatest of the New Testament saints, we have the Blessed Theotokos, St. Mary the God-bearer, whose resonating words in the Gospel of John tell those at the wedding feast in Cana to "do whatever He says!" Women have born the Word of God in both Old and New Testaments, the most profound of this bearing, being the Ever Virgin Mary.

With that said, the Order of Creation is not abolished in the New Testament, as St. Paul makes clear in his epistles. He notes that he does not allow a woman to have authority over a man-- and for women to be quiet in the churches, even as he admonishes men in the same passage to silence their supposed tongues and prophecies if there are none to interpret them. This same Paul also commends the Deaconess Phoebe to the Church of Rome, and calls her a fellow worker in the Kingdom. To further complicate the issue, St. Paul writes in his pastoral epistles, that the office of Bishop is for a man of one wife... similarly to the office of Deacon. Since we know that there were Deaconesses whom Paul recognized, obviously the office of Deacon is not restricted only to men... it is to whomever the Church orders into that vocation, for the service of Christ and His people. We would not tell a Deaconess to be silent in the Church, anymore than we would tell the Holy Theotokos to be silent in the Church.

With the Presbyterate and Episcopate, it is necessary to note, that these two offices are synonymous in the New Testament, and certain Apostles claim both mantles. So, when we hear St. Paul describing the office of Bishop, he is in fact describing an office of oversight and authority in the Church which includes the Presbyterate-- only later canons in the Church would split the offices into two, for the better administration of larger cities/dioceses.

Interestingly enough, St. Paul, in his epistle to Titus, makes mention of both male and female elders-- the same Greek word he uses for the Episcopate/Presbyterate, specifically calling out and charging the episcopal women (elder women) to look out for and care for the younger women. It is here I think we see how St. Paul reconciled both the admonishment to retain the Order of Creation in the Church, as well as the New Covenant reality that there really is no longer male or female, Gentile or Jew, in the economy of salvation in Jesus Christ. Thus to harmonize all of Scripture, without leaving any of it on the editing room floor, we find that the Church can order men and women into vocational offices of Word and Sacrament, because it is Christ who makes efficacious anyone's ministry through the power of His own Word... and the Church is His means, under the authority of Holy Scripture, to issue such calls and orders to the people in His own delegated authority.

In various places and times in the early Church, this was easily recognizable. There were women who tended to the women in the local congregations (especially at Holy Baptism, where it was customary to be naked during the immersion, and the mixture of men and women in such rites would be scandalous) and men who tended to the men. In the unity of the local congregation or diocese, there was usually a paternal, father figure of authority who came to be known as the local Bishop, and as St. Paul infers in his epistles, this paternal role in the Church reflects the role of the father in the local family. The subordinate priests and deacons of the diocese yielded themselves to the ordinary authority of the local bishop, as to a father of the local family. That father, in turn, lead through sacrificial and loving leadership, like a father should. Often, the married bishops of the early Church, consecrated their wives to an episcopal leadership over the women in the Church, so that their ministry might even more reflect the Order of Creation God placed in the family. For bishops without wives, there were often women ordinaries for service to the women, and later of monastic communities comprised of women, where Word and Sacrament were celebrated by the ordained women. In the Church, the ordained offices held their respective authority in the communion of the faith, fulfilling their work and service. Thus the Church reflects the family-- as the father is sacrificially head of his spouse, so the paternal Bishop is sacrificially head of the local clergy, including any female clergy that would serve alongside him. Just as a family without a mother is deficient, so too is a clergy without mothers. If the question is final earthly authority, then the male is head of the female-- but in Christ, all are under His Word and headship, and all authority exercised by men is found in the authority Christ exercises as He suffers and dies for His Bride, the Church.

As time progressed in the Church, these orders were removed from women, and their voices became less and less heard in the Churches. We think this removal of properly trained, called, and ordained women has been an impoverishment to the Church at large, and so we practice what appears to be the harmonious witness of Holy Scripture and the first five centuries of the Church. We do not abrogate either the Order of Creation, nor the institution of the Office of the Holy Ministry. Rather, we hold all their witness in their proper tension, neither adding to nor taking away from, Holy Scripture and the early witness of the Church. Where the witness of other Fathers and canons contradict the Scriptures, we gently set aside the blemishes of the Fathers, and hear Scripture instead-- since it is our only rule and norm of faith.

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