A Question Concerning Districts
|"Pastors" of the Mekane Yesus Lutheran (sic) Church (sic) in Ethiopia|
I've been a member of the synod since my ordination in 2004. But I still do not understand our polity in the LCMS. It is a mystery right up there with the riddle of the sphinx and the fate of Atlantis - though with 18 years of marriage under my belt, I may finally be starting to understand the gentler sex. However, the LCMS's bureaucratic machinations is something that I may never really grasp on this side of the grave. And in eternity, I don't think we'll be too concerned with synodical bureaucracy - at least I hope not. At any rate, I have a question: In the LCMS's structure, are the districts authorized to meet with the leaders of church bodies around the world that "ordain" women?
It sounds like a loaded question, but it really isn't. I honestly don't understand what the district's role is in forging relationships with international Lutheranism. I know that our seminaries - particularly my alma mater CTS-Fort Wayne - established contact with several Lutheran bodies around the world. In some cases, this has paved the way to full altar and pulpit fellowship. I know that these contacts have been criticized by some for not following political protocol. I honestly don't understand all of this. All I know is that there are faithful Lutherans around the world who are courageously standing firm on the Bible and the confessions, bearing the cross and the gospel, who refuse to go with the flow on homosexuality and women's "ordination" (which are actually two sides of the same coin).
One such example is the preacher at President Harrison's installation, Kenya's archbishop Walter Obare, the recipient of the 2006 Sabre of Boldness. He heroically defied the mighty Lutheran (sic) World Federation by consecrating a faithful Swedish bishop who would not "ordain" women and cave to the homosexual agenda in the Church (sic) of Sweden. Archbishop Obare has written eloquently, and has backed up his theology with courageous deeds, and has borne a heavy cross as a result. His action freed faithful Lutherans in Sweden to once more have pastors - something denied them by their own wicked bishops for many years.
What puzzles me is the recent news from the Southern District. Here is an excerpt from the Spirit of Southern newsletter (Jan/Feb 2012):
District and Concordia-Selma Presidents Travel to Ethiopia
District President Kurtis Schultz, accompanied by Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, President of Concordia College – Selma, AL, embarked on January 5th for a 13 day trip to Ethiopia. The Southern District Board of Directors at its December, 2010, meeting adopted a resolution that the Southern District express its strong desire for greater mutual conversation, encouragement, and kingdom work between the Southern District and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church, Mekane Yesus. They are the largest and fastest growing Lutheran church body in the world.The pastors’ itinerary included meeting with the leadership of Mekane Yesus, as well as visiting congregations and historical places.
Also reported here in the Southern District's This Ministry That We Share newsletter (Jan/Feb 2012):
PRESIDENT SCHULTZ TRAVELS TO ETHIOPIA
President Schultz traveled to Ethiopia on January 5th and returned to Slidell, LA, on January 17th. President Schultz traveled with the Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, President of Concordia College – Selma, AL. Their itinerary included meeting with the leadership of Mekane Yesus, visiting congregations and historical places.
The Southern District Board of Directors at its December, 2010, meeting adopted a resolution that the Southern District express its strong desire for greater mutual conversation, encouragement, and kingdom work between the Southern District and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. They are the largest and fastest growing Lutheran church body in the world.
Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second most populous nation in Africa with over 82 million inhabitants. It is also the most landlocked nation in the world.
This is all well and good until you consider that this church (sic) body, Mekane Yesus, is not only in full communion with the ELCA and the LWF, but according to its own website, it is proud to "ordain" women. This fact seemed to have been omitted from the Southern District reports above. That fact seems to me to be more important than its status as the "largest and fastest growing Lutheran (sic) church (sic) body in the world."
Arianism was also a large and growing "church" body. Today's Mormonism and Islam are also large and fast-growing religious bodies. Why does size and rate of growth trump faithfulness to the Scriptures?
I know that there are church bodies around the world in which there are conservative factions heroically fighting against women's "ordination" in their own midst. There is also the recent historical example of the Church of Latvia which managed to rollback and end the practice of women's "ordination" thanks to yet another faithful bishop. Of course, I believe we need to support churches and their leaders who are willing to stand for the Bible and the confessions - even against their own hierarchies who have gone to the dark side by adopting cultic "ordination" practices.
But at least according to Mekane Yesus's own website, they are not exactly trying to do away with the practice, but are rather quite encouraging of expanding it! Maybe the leaders that the delegation from the Southern District met with are in opposition to this practice and are fighting to overturn it. I hope so. The articles are silent regarding the matter.
Back to my original question: Is this the role of the LCMS district in international contact and ecumenical dialogue?
I was always taught that the districts are synod's representatives in a given place. So, is this meeting between the leaders of the Southern District and Mekane Yesus supposed to represent some kind of official synodical ecumenical contact? And what does it mean that the Southern District's board of directors has resolved to express its "strong desire for greater mutual conversation, encouragement, and kingdom work between the Southern District and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus" with no mention of the "elephant in the parlor" of women's "ordination"?
Can we do "kingdom work" with a body that is boastful of a Satanic practice like female "ordination"? Is an LCMS district considered to be representing the synod as a whole when its leadership meets with high-ranking officials in other church (sic) bodies? As a member of the Southern District, I would have been a lot more comfortable if the news announcements made it clear that the LCMS is not in fellowship with Mekane Yesus and the fact that the latter practices ordination of a diabolical sort that the district obviously condemns as contrary to Scripture. I would feel a lot more comfortable if the mission were to call Mekane Yesus to repentance and to support dissidents trying to overturn the practice. I'm going to assume and state publicly that there is no doubt a reasonable explanation that precludes any member of synod from sinning here. My reason for raising this issue is not to accuse, not to presume that anything sinful has occurred by any member of synod - but rather to understand where the district comes into play when it comes to international contacts.
Again, I am not being critical of my district president (far be it from me!). But as a member of synod, I am posing the question to other members of synod how all of this works. Is there any implied relationship being forged between the synod and this Ethiopian Lutheran (sic) body? But I will certainly and unequivocally condemn the heresy of women's "ordination" - which is really a manifestation of the goddess-cult and nothing other than a recapitulation of Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden under the temptation of the Serpent ("Did God actually say...?"). I believe every LCMS pastor ought to be able to agree that women's "ordination" is Satanic.
My personal opinion is that we should honor and support Lutherans around the world who refuse to "ordain" women. As the faithful bishop of another Lutheran body worded it to me in a private e-mail: "By ordination of women Satan wants to destroy the priesthood in the Christ's Church. And we must resist, we must defend the Church, as we promised during our own ordination."
Again, what is the role of the LCMS district when it comes to this kind of ecumenical dialogue?