A view from Russia
My Russian-born wife and I read with great interest and rejoicing the article in the January Reporter about the proposed LCMS Life Ministries project in Russia. I thought it might interest you and your readers to know about pro-life work that is already occurring in, with, and through the LCMS partner church in Russia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia. I am an LCMS missionary who was cut from the budget back in July 2003, who then received and accepted a call from the LCMS partner church in Russia. One of the areas of ministry I have been involved in is pro-life work.
To make a long story short, we returned to the United States last summer for a short visit. We met with Lutherans For Life and visited several pro-life centers to gather information. On our return and with the Ingrian church’s blessing, we organized a pro-life information seminar in St. Petersburg for the church. We have since established with the help of Russian pastors an official pro-life website for the Lutheran Church here: www.prolife.elci.ru. This site has materials in both Russian and English that we have written and translated and that can be downloaded and printed, as well as pictures of the few seminars we have been able to do. Our goal at present is to get material into the hands of Lutheran pastors and laity so that they are equipped to help save the lives of the unborn.
As we have worked with the Hope Counseling Center in Pushkin (a suburb of St. Petersburg) and know its director personally, and as we served with the LCMS in Novosibirsk, we hope and pray the Life Ministries project is a success.
Rev. Leif R. Camp
St. Petersburg, Russia
Resolution 3-08A — the basis for the recently mailed “Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices” — passed, after much debate, on the last day of the 2004 Synod convention by the narrow margin of 576-520. Some 220 delegates officially registered negative votes.
The history of the issue contributes to this division in the Synod.
First, 1995 Res. 3-06A directed the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to continue to study women’s service in the church in consultation with the seminary faculties, using as a basis its 1994 report on the subject, as well as a dissenting opinion written by five theologians on the CTCR. That was never done. Instead, the 1994 report was recycled “as is” as the basis for Res. 3-08A in 2004.
Second, a study of the underlying issue of “male and female in the image of God” as it relates to authority in the church has yet to be completed. That study was mandated in 1995 Res. 3-10; a CTCR document is still in process. The cart has now arrived before the horse. Thus, the “sample paragraph for congregational constitutions” in the new guidelines, based on a 1970 model drafted by the Commission on Constitutional Matters, simply omits the earlier model’s references to “authority” and “the order of creation.” If the relationship of male and female in the life of the church (except as it relates to the pastoral office) is no longer an issue, why is the CTCR still studying the issue? Could its findings challenge the new guidelines?
The guidelines “recommend” that lay assistance in distribution of the Lord’s Supper be restricted to men to “avoid confusion … and … giving offense.” Confusion is not an issue. The reason that women assisting with distribution is an offense is found in the Augsburg Confession (XIV; XXVIII, 5; XXIV, 36) and the Formula of Concord (SD VII, 83-84), which corporately profess that the celebration/administration of the Lord’s Supper is a unified action (including consecration and distribution) intrinsic to the Office of the Holy Ministry. Avoiding confusion and giving offense are inappropriate reasons in the context; the terms are ambiguous and imply conditions subject to change.
Ultimately, the whole complex of issues must be understood as culturally driven, largely by the political pressures of feminism. The church does not live in a vacuum. Our doctrine and practice, however, are based on the Scriptures and Confessions, and our polity must be consistent and forthright.
Reporter asked Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, executive director of the CTCR and chairman of the task force that prepared the “Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices” to address the issues raised by Berger. Nafzger’s response follows. — Ed.
1995 Res. 3-06A did not direct the CTCR to prepare a new or revised report on the service of women in congregational offices, as David Berger’s letter seems to imply. Rather, it commended the CTCR for its work, urged the members of the Synod to study the report, along with the dissenting opinion, and to present their responses to the CTCR (only three responses have been received since 1995). This 1995 resolution also asked the CTCR, in consultation with the faculties of the seminaries, “to continue to study the issues contained” in its report. This the Commission has done during the past nine years as it completed work on its reports on Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Language (1998), an opinion for the Minnesota South District on “The Service of Women in Congregational Offices of Executive Director/President or Assistant Director/Vice President” (2004), and as it continues to work on assignments having to do with the meaning of authenteo and “the Scriptural Relationship of Man and Woman” (1995 Res. 3-10).
As it has worked on these assignments, encouragement was given to all CTCR members — including the four seminary professors and two seminary presidents serving on the commission — to consult with colleagues concerning these issues. The cart has not arrived before the horse. On the contrary, in April 2004, the CTCR reaffirmed that “there is no `thus saith the Lord` regarding positions such as director/president and assistant director/vice president. These are offices established by the church in Christian freedom.”
Mr. Berger’s letter faults the task force’s “Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices” for stating that “lay assistance in distribution of the Lord’s Supper be restricted to men to `avoid confusion and giving offense.`” But this is not the work of the task force; it is the position set forth in 1989 Res. 3-10, which quotes from the CTCR’s 1983 report on Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper (reaffirmed in its 1985 r