After extensive theological study in the 1980s and 1990s, the Church’s Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations reached the conclusion that ‘the Scriptures and the Confessions endorse the ordination of women’, with 11 members voting in favour of the conclusion and five opposing it (Final report on the ordination of women (CTICR, 1999)). However, starting at Tanunda in 2000, the five general conventions that have voted on women’s ordination have all fallen short of the super-majority of delegates’ votes (two-thirds) required to replace the LCANZ’s “male-only ordination” publica doctrina (public teaching) with teaching endorsing male and female ordination throughout the LCANZ.
It must also be said that at these conventions the Church’s historical teaching (male only ordination) has never received the support of as much as a simple majority of votes, let alone a super-majority. In the three most recent synods where a vote was taken (2015, 2018 and 2023) delegate support for women’s ordination fell just a handful short of the votes needed to effect a change. A follow-up proposal at the Melbourne synod in February 2023, however, voted in substantial favour of the ‘expectation … that both women and men will be ordained in a District of the LCANZ during the 2024-27 synodical period’ (full wording, below). Submitted by the Queensland District, this subsequent proposal passed with the support of about 73% of the delegates.
The synod resolution
This resolution calls on the General Church Board and the College of Bishops
Enacting the resolution
The College of Bishops and General Church Board have decided to establish a fully funded and resourced Project Management Team whose initial task will be to form eight working groups to enact the synod resolution. The GCB and CoB have invited members of the Church to submit an expression of interest in joining one of the working groups if they believe they have skills and experience that would allow them to make a valuable contribution to that group.
The working groups are:
After expressions of interest have been submitted by Church members and reviewed by the Nominations Committee, the GCB and CoB will appoint the group members.
Members of all working groups will need to understand the resolution and be committed to its speedy transaction, and be pastorally sensitive to different convictions on ordination.
St Stephen's Reactions
St Stephen’s synod delegates and congregation members had hoped that delegates would pass the proposal from Box Hill (supported by St Stephen’s, the SA-NT District, and Concordia, Duncraig, WA) by the super-majority of votes (sixty six and two thirds percent) required.
In a nutshell the proposal asked that synod simply abide by the governing principles given in the first set of theses in our Theses of Agreement, titled ‘Principles governing Church Fellowship ’, which would resolve the impasse on women’s ordination. Those principles state that when the Church is unable to achieve consensus on a doctrinal issue after a protracted period of debate, that doctrine (or teaching, in this case male only ordination) can no longer be regarded as a teaching of the whole Church. Instead, the alternative positions are to be regarded as ‘theological opinions’ based on different, conscientiously held interpretations of the relevant Bible texts. TA 1 also states that differing theological opinions (TOs) are not Church divisive.
If adopted, this proposal would have led to the immediate removal of TA 6.11, which prohibits women’s ordination on the basis of two contested texts, and would have made male only ordination and the ordination of women and men equally acceptable positions in the Church. The flow on effect is that it would have formally endorsed calling bodies from the close of synod to call a qualified woman as their pastor if they chose to do so. Synod provided little opportunity to debate this proposal. There was no attention given to the alignment of this proposal with the governing principles of the LCANZ as laid out in TA1.
It is feared that the proposal that was endorsed instead, from the Queensland District (above), requires a cumbersome and expensive Church-wide project to implement, and appears to be leading inevitably to Church division. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that the plan that emerges will actually be endorsed at the 2024 General Pastor’s Conference or Synod.
By the time of the workshop it will be known how many MIH members have expressed interest in joining one of the ‘Enacting the Synod Resolution’ working groups. Other congregation members who believe they could make a valuable contribution to a group are heartily encouraged to submit an expression of interest, due by the 12th April. Feel free to talk it over with others, especially Colleen who is chair of the Nominations Committee.
Why the LCANZ Has No Doctrine On Ordination Gender (files)
Why St Stephen’s supports the ordination of women
St Stephen's following Synod
Change in the church (video)
A video produced by St Stephens prior to Synod
a Better Way Forward (Video)
The following documents and links are referred to in the presentation, also available in the downloadable versions below:
The following excerpts are from church documents as referred to above and in discussions the LCANZ has had regarding the ordination of both women and men
Augsburg Confession Articles 4, 5, 7, 14 and excerpts from 28
Theses of Agreement 1, ‘Principles governing Church Fellowship ’, and Theses of Agreement 6, ‘Theses on the Ministry’
Passages from The Book of Concord, ‘Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope’
Passages from The Book of Concord, ‘Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope’ concerning where authority lies regarding call and ordination
Why ordain women?
Why ordain women?