Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gone But Still Taking a Final Shot

Dr. Mary Todd, author of the controversial book Authority Vested: A Story of Identity and Change in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, wrapped up DayStar's journal on women's ordination with a brief article. Although departed from the LCMS scene and now teaching in a school outside of the synodical system, she still seems determined to take a few parting shots at her former home. Her final words take a last stab at the church she deems hopelessly lost in denial and forced silence: "And in declaring once again it knows the will of God, the church will continue to deny itself the gifts of women who, created in the image of God, seek only to carry the good news as women did that first Easter morning. Thank God those women broke the rule."

Aside from the familiar rhetoric of denying the gifts of women, etc., Dr. Todd reveals one point I have long suspected is at the core of the argument for women's ordination. Reflecting on this past summer's convention she states:

"More troubling, then, is the late resolution from this summer’s convention that overwhelmingly affirmed the inerrancy of scripture. It is this principle that underlies the synod’s resistance to break its silence on the question of ordaining women, for to hold discussion would be an invitation to open the scriptures and take seriously all passages, not only a few. The same principle requires the silence, for the church needs to mean what it says. How better to do so than to limit the service of women as it understands scripture directs?"

Although Dr. Todd fails to appreciate the high view of scripture that the Lutheran church has long held, she does sense the center of the controversy. The point does boil down to how one handles scripture. In Dr. Todd's approach, it appears, we should be always willing to call into question the beliefs of the past, even the historicity and viability of the scriptures, not to mention the well established practice of the church catholic over nearly 2,000 years of its history. A reading of other articles on the DayStar site will reveal a similar line of thinking of those still within the LCMS fold.

Her attack on the Synod's approach to scripture, however, takes a turn by accusing the church body of selective treatment of the contents of the Bible. How have we not taken "seriously" all passages that speak to the role of women in the church? Or does this mean that if we conclude that the roles of men and women are different in the church we have failed to take it all seriously? It all depends on if you agree with the conclusions.

This argument cannot be resolved within the LCMS to the satisfaction of all involved. That much I grant to Dr. Todd. The battle will continue until one side tires and leaves, or we literally split the denomination. Either way hard feelings and bitterness will remain. Such is the church militant.

[Note: Dr. Todd was previously a professor and assistant vice president of academic affairs at Concordia University in River Forest. She is now VP for Academic Affairs at Ohio Domincan University, which is described as a "private Catholic liberal arts university." "It is a place where diversity is embraced and individualism is celebrated," according to the history of the university. The Dominican Order of Preachers were the founders of this university, and still play a role in its ongoing operation. I wonder: in a church body that has been as staunch and solid in prohibiting women in the office of pastoral ministry, does this "Catholic" university embrace her views on this subject, or is she flying under the radar on this one?]


Christine said...

She is now VP for Academic Affairs at Ohio Domincan University, which is described as a "private Catholic liberal arts university."

Oh, if Dr. Todd thinks she's going to get a better hearing at a "private" Dominican university she's in for a surprise. The Vatican is beginning to take a long, hard look at Catholic universities that are such in name only. She may find some company among liberal clergy/religious that share her views but there will be no ordination of women in the Catholic Church.

Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...

Rev. Engebretson, thank you for your insightful post. Please do continue! Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word!