By Tony Oliphant
MILWAUKEE (July 12, 2016) – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in convention voted on Tuesday to provide protection for the consciences of women objecting to conscription for military service.
On June 14, the United States Senate voted on Senate Bill 2943, legislation that included under “Subtitle H” at Section 591 the provision in reference to Military Selective Service: “(b) (1) The duty to register imposed on male citizens and persons residing in the United States by subsection (a) shall apply to female citizens of the United States and female persons residing in the United States who attain the age of 18 years on or after January 1, 2018.”
If passed by the House of Representatives, this legislation would require women 18 years of age on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register for selective service and a possible draft.
The LCMS recognizes biblical objections to women being required to serve in the military in general or to serve in combat positions. These reasons include the biblically-ordered relationship between men and women, women as God’s vessels for bearing life, and the requirement for husbands to love and honor in a way that follows Christ’s own sacrifice for His bride, the Church. Other reasons are found in natural law and several serious reason-based arguments.
The delegation showed overwhelming support for this resolution from the floor.
“I appeal to the common sensitivity, kindness and Christian compassion of this church body to remember common chivalry,” said the Rev. Burnell Eckhardt. “We like to remember [women’s] importance as mothers and daughters. What I would like to see is that we also tell our government that it’s wrong for the government to force them to bear arms in battle.”
In light of the many reasons presented by the floor committee and delegates, the convention resolved to “acknowledge the Department of Defense Instruction 130.06: Conscientious Objectors (DoDI 1300.06, May 31, 2007), where two classifications for a conscientious objector are recognized (Class 1-0 and Class 1-A-0) and stand resolutely with any woman who holds ‘a firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.’”
This means that the LCMS will support those women in the Synod who conscientiously object a woman’s service in the military in general or for women in the military who would be required to serve in a combat capacity.
The consciences of women who “have carefully considered their station in life and Holy Scripture on this issue who wish to voluntarily serve in our nation’s military” are also protected by the measures of this resolution.
The delegates also urged the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to continue its study of this issue and quickly reach a conclusion in order to widely distribute it throughout the Synod.
The LCMS Council of Presidents also was called to familiarize itself with this issue in order to provide assistance to pastors and congregations with members who are conscience-bound to apply for conscientious-objector status.
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and floor committee Chairman Rev. Dr. Scott Murray expressed confidence that this resolution would provide protection for women in the LCMS who would seek conscientious objector status.
In other news, the convention also resolved to uphold its long-standing teachings on justification (Res. 5-10), the teachings found in the catechisms of Martin Luther (Res. 5-12), the royal priesthood of the baptized and the Office of the Public Ministry (Res. 5-13) and closed communion (Res. 5-15).
While more discussion and questions revolved around the resolution “To Reaffirm Biblical Teaching on Man and Woman in the Church” (Res. 5-14), the delegates voted with a 67.49 percent majority to commend the recommendations from the 2005 “Task Force Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices,” which provide guidance for avoiding confusion regarding the various offices and work of women in LCMS congregations.
This resolution also asked the CTCR to work in consultation with the seminary faculties to continue and complete a biblical, confessional and historical study of the relevance of the order of creation to questions about the service of men and women in the church and society.
The Rev. Tony Oliphant is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Elmhurst, Ill. and a freelance writer for LCMS Communications.
(Posted July 12, 2016)
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