ST. LOUIS — As a result of action taken July 15 by the 62nd Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, LCMS congregations may permit women to hold any congregational office that does not involve the exercise of distinctive functions of the office of pastor.
After more than 40 minutes of debate, delegates voted 576-520 to affirm the conclusions of a 1994 report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices.” The convention commended the CTCR for its work and resolved:
• to “affirm that women on the basis of the clear teaching of Scripture may not serve in the office of pastor nor exercise any of it distinctive functions, and that women may serve in humanly established offices in the church as long as the functions of these offices do not make them eligible to carry out ‘official functions [that] would involve public accountability for the function of the pastoral office’”;
• to “urge the members of the Synod, in making decisions regarding which offices women may hold, to bear in mind the CTCR’s counsel that congregations organize ‘themselves in ways that complement and reinforce the family, for the church is the “household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15)’”;
• to “encourage men not to neglect their leadership responsibilities in their congregations”; and
• that when considering changes in the service of women, congregations consult with neighboring LCMS congregations, “recognizing that in matters of Christian liberty, Christians are called, above all, to do what edifies the church, respecting the consciences of others.”
Before the vote was taken, CTCR Executive Director Samuel H. Nafzger told the convention that with adoption of the resolution, the conclusions of the CTCR’s report “now become the position of the Synod, and congregations may have women hold these offices.”
In the course of debate, questions were raised as to whether women may be a communion assistant, congregational president or elder. Dr. Arleigh Lutz, chairman of the floor committee on theology and church relations, said that whether or not women may hold a humanly devised office depends on its job description, not on its title.
A delegate asked what constitutes the “distinctive functions” of the pastoral office. Citing a 1985 CTCR report on the service of women, Nafzger said such functions include leading and preaching in the congregation’s public worship services and public administration of the sacraments and the office of the keys. He noted that the word “public” means “in behalf of and accountable to the congregation.”
In response to a question from one of the Synod’s districts, the CTCR earlier this year said, “There is no ‘Thus saith the Lord’ regarding positions such as executive director/president and assistant director/vice president. These are offices established by the church in Christian freedom. Scripture does not prohibit women who possess the requisite gifts from holding these humanly established offices, assuming that the occupants of these offices do not ‘perform those functions that are distinctive to the public exercise of the ministry of Word and sacraments’ … or carry out ‘official functions [that] would involve public accountability for the function of the pastoral office….’”
Posted July 15, 2004