Guidelines should be in the mail by early January to help congregations implement a 2004 Synod convention resolution that permits women to hold any congregational office that does not involve the exercise of distinctive functions of the pastoral office.
The guidelines, prepared by a special task force, will be included as an appendix to a 1994 report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) that is being published now in booklet form for the first time. The conclusions of that report, “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices,” were affirmed by the convention.
CTCR Executive Director Samuel H. Nafzger said that the commission agreed to include the guidelines with its report at the request of Synod President Gerald Kieschnick. Nafzger also chaired the five-member task force, which Kieschnick appointed after the convention.
Also included as an appendix to the report is the CTCR’s response to questions from the Minnesota South District regarding women serving as executive director, president, assistant director, or vice president of a congregation. That response, adopted by the CTCR in April, also is cited in the 2004 convention action.
“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,'” the CTCR responded to Minnesota South’s questions.
Regarding the office of “elder,” the CTCR’s response refers to its 1994 report. That report notes that in LCMS congregations, elders historically “work closely with the pastor in his divinely assigned responsibility to feed the whole congregation with the Word of God and to watch over it for the sake of its spiritual welfare.” In such situations, the report says, “women may not serve in this office.”
The guidelines include a sample paragraph for the constitutions of LCMS congregations that want to permit women to hold all offices covered by the 2004 resolution, Res. 3-08A. The sample paragraph suggests this wording:
“Women who have reached the age of ______ may serve as officers and as members of all boards and committees of this congregation which do not call upon them to carry out the specific functions of the pastoral office (preaching in or serving as the leader of the public worship service, the public administration of the sacraments, the public exercise of church discipline). Accordingly, a woman shall not serve as pastor of this congregation or as ______.”
The age given in the first blank is to be at least the minimum age required by state law for not-for-profit organizations, according to the guidelines. The second blank is for a list of offices that carry out “specific functions of the pastoral office as listed in this sample paragraph.”
Nafzger said the guidelines simply pull together what the Synod already has said about the service of women. They recommend that:
- the term “elder” be reserved for the congregational office assigned to assisting the pastor “in the public exercise of the distinctive functions” of the pastoral office;
- in the words of a 1989 Synod convention resolution, “to avoid confusion regarding the office of the public ministry and to avoid giving offense to the church,” only lay men assist in distributing the elements in the Lord’s Supper; and
- while there are situations in which it is desirable or necessary for women to be in leadership position in the congregation, “men be encouraged to continue to exercise leadership in their congregations even as they are encouraged to exercise their God-given leadership in a God-pleasing manner in their homes.”
The booklet containing the 1994 report and three appendices — Res. 3-08A itself is the third appendix — will be mailed to all LCMS congregations and rostered LCMS church workers, Nafzger said.
Posted Dec. 23, 2004