More on Women’s Service …
This month’s “Letters” continues a discussion from last month on disagreements over the recently released “Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices.” — Ed.
I appreciate Dr. Nafzger’s taking the time to respond to my letter on women’s service in the church. Allow me to make three further points:
First, there was no intent on my part to imply that Res. 3-06A (1995) directed the CTCR to prepare a new or revised report. Had the seminary faculties been consulted or engaged in further study of “the issues contained in [the 1994 Report] and the ‘Dissenting Opinion'” (the mandate of the resolution), changes might have resulted. Anyone able to supply documentary evidence of such study by the faculties is invited to do so.
Second, a study of the foundational theological issues on the “scriptural relationship of man and woman,” set in motion by Res. 3-10 (1995), is still in process. In 2000, faculty members at both seminaries had opportunity to respond individually to a draft of a document on the subject. The CTCR chose not to adopt that document. Res. 3-10 poses this question: “In what way are the findings of this study to be applied to the church, as she orders her life and worship?” The guidelines on women’s service have arrived. The relevant theological study will arrive in due time.
Finally, on the matter of women’s assisting at distribution of the Lord’s Supper (public administration of the Sacrament), we are informed that when a CTCR document has been affirmed or commended, it becomes normative for practice and for future documents. Appeal to the Confessions is then secondary. In the end, however, as Dr. Nafzger noted in the Nov. 2004 Reporter: “[I]f congregations do not want to implement the provisions of the resolution [3-08A, 2004, on the service of women in congregational and synodical offices], ‘they are free not to do so.'” Unity in practice would seem a thing not to be grasped.
Regarding the service of women in congregational and synodical offices, Prof. David Berger is right that 2004 Res. 3-08A recycles the 1994 CTCR women’s service report, to which five of us dissented. It thus repeats the crime of misrepresenting previous synodical documents by omitting any reference to the order of creation, though the prior documents make the order part of their argumentation.
The recent 2005 publication of the Service of Women Report, including the Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices, makes the same error. References to the order are glaringly lacking; indeed, 1969 Res. 2-17 is quoted in the introduction as affirming only that women ought not to hold the pastoral office or “serve in any other capacity involving the distinctive functions of this office” (Page 3), when, in fact, Res. 2-17 also said that the service of women should not violate “the order of creation.”
To quote from the Dissenting Opinion: “Res. 2-17 explicitly operates with two guiding principles: that concerning the pastoral office, and that concerning the order of creation.” It is for this reason that the Guidelines do not simply “summarize the actions and statements previously adopted by the Synod …” (Page 19) and also why the Sample Paragraph for Congregational Constitutions (Page 21) is disturbing; it, too, omits all reference to the order of creation. Note that it is no good saying, as Dr. Nafzger does in his rebuttal of Prof. Berger, that the sample paragraph is “based on the work” of reports quoted in the resolution that affirm the order of creation, or that 2004 Res. 3-08A mentions (in one line!) “family structure.” The notion of creation order in no way informs the argument of the 1994 Report, 2004 Res. 3-08A, or the Guidelines.
James W. Voelz
Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Professor Voelz repeats the critique of those members of the CTCR who dissented from the CTCR’s 1994 report “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices” that “the notion of creation order in no way informs the argument of the 1994 Report.” The Commission on Theology’s response to this charge is presented in its Executive Committee’s “Response to the Dissenting Opinion on The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices,” from which the following is excerpted:
“The minority report states that ‘characteristic of the Report is its refusal to include the order of creation as a guiding concept in its argument.’ While the CTCR’s most recent report does not contain a separate discussion of ‘the order of creation,’ this principle as presented in the 1985 report of the CTCR (see, e.g., Pages 18-38) is in fact the ‘guiding concept’ which informs this entire report and its argumentation regarding women serving in the church. Specific references to the 1985 report’s delineation of the order of creation are made throughout this new document. While the Commission respects the right of those dissenting from its 1994 report to disagree with what the 1985 report says about the ‘order of creation,’ it is not accurate to say that this principle is not included in this new report (1995 Convention Workbook, Page 315).”
Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger
Executive Director, CTCR
Chairman, Task Force on Guidelines
Posted March 31, 2005