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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Tony Jones Wants a Divorce. Me Too!

By Larry Beane

A postmodern theologian named Tony Jones, writing for Patheos, is calling for a divorce over the issue of women's ordination.

Thank you!

I'm pleased that others on the other side of this issue see the incompatibility of the two positions.  The broken Anglican Communion is a case in point.  For many years, women were "ordained" as "deacons" and "priests" but not as bishops - as Canterbury's big-tent approach sought to keep both factions under one steeple.  Of course, as the years have rolled on, the big-tent has become the big-top, with the issue of sex drifting from the sacrament of orders to the sacrament of matrimony.  The house of compromises cannot be patched together indefinitely.  It seems that the inevitable draws near, and the "consecration" or female "bishops" in the Anglican Communion will simply be an anticlimactic whimper rather than a revolutionary bang.

Closer to home, traditional Lutherans in Sweden wishing to be ordained in the "Church" of Sweden had to receive "communion" from the hand of a woman "priest" three times to root out any possible reservations about the communion's leadership's disavowal of sex differences between men and women.  When Archbishop Walter Obare (Sabre of Boldness) consecrated a Mission Province bishop, Arne Olsson, in 2005, thus enabling Swedes to have a path to traditional pastoral ordination for advocates of the ancient church's practice, the "bishops" in the "Church" of Sweden declared the Mission Province to be in a state of schism - and forbade "Church" of Sweden clergy from participating in rites with this non-geographical Swedish diocese.  It is interesting to note that the "Church" of Sweden, though theoretically Lutheran, is open to sharing communion with bodies that are not Lutheran; the Mission Province alone was singled out for status as a "schism."  And it is also interesting to note that the then-"archbishop" of the "Church" of Sweden, defender of women's "ordination," sanctioned the display of gay porn in the Cathedral of Uppsala.  The issues of whether a woman can be ordained and whether a woman can marry a woman are essentially the same issue: they are actually inquiries into the authority of the Bible.

At any rate, for the Anglican Communion, for the "Church" of Sweden, and for Tony Jones, the issue of women's "ordination" has become "the issue by which the 'church' stands or falls."

Mr. Jones is correct when he writes: "But sometimes we need to separate.  We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way Jesus laid out for us.  We need to divorce."


Those who "ordain" women and those who do not are not both Christian.  They are incompatible.  They are two different religions worshiping different deities.  In the past, those who "ordain" women insisted that they are the same as us; they pushed us to recognize them, treat them as fellow Christians, to recognize their "ministries" and accept their "sacraments."  They would sidle up to us wearing clerical blouses and demand our attention.  Even within our own church body, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, some men argue that we should refer to these women as "pastors" and treat them as fellow Christians.

Again, thank you Mr. Jones for boldly stating the truth that we are not of the same faith, we do not worship the same Christ, nor affirm the same Spirit.

He calls for the complete and total separation between those who affirm, and those who deny, women's "ordination."  I could not agree more.  I would not refer to this, however, as merely a schismatic break.  Schism is a break between Christians.  In the case of the Great Schism of 1054, there remains mutual recognition of sacraments and ministries between what became the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions.  Similarly, as Jones raised the issue of the Reformation, Lutherans recognize the Christianity and sacraments of their "separated brethren."

But this issue is different.

As Tony Jones is calling for the issue of women's ordination to be confessionally definitive, Ebenezer "Lutheran" is one example of a "church" he would not consider to be separated from himself by schism.  He would consider them to be "enlightened" and is not calling for anyone to "leave that church [sic]" or "leave that ministry [sic]."  Their honesty is refreshing, as they fully embrace the theology that is inherent in women's "ordination."

And again, I agree with him.  Even though Ebenezer has the name "Lutheran" on it, there is no way we Missouri Synod Lutherans could even pray with such a congregation and its members who worship a goddess and openly incorporate pagan worship.  We would consider this syncretism, and it is forbidden not only by our bylaws, but by the first commandment.

So my only objection to Tony Jones is that his "hard words" are not hard enough.  His divorce is more like a "let's be friends" breakup text after a few dates.  For he is correct that one of us is not just professing an error or a false doctrine, but that one of us is actually "anti-Christian" and "should be tolerated no longer."  We disagree as to who is whom.

In the LCMS, if any congregations or rostered lay church workers call for the "ordination" of women, they should be removed from the roster by the district president with oversight.  If a pastor teaches such doctrine, he should be defrocked.  And if a district president refuses to do his duty in this endeavor, he should be defrocked.  Tony Jones may, in this sense, be more faithful than men in our own leadership who would see "ordained" women as merely an error we can live with, if not something that they may, in fact, believe in.

We should make it very clear in any theological talks that any women purporting to be "ordained" are at best laypeople, and they are not to be recognized in any way.  Their leaders must renounce them, or they cannot be recognized as fellow Christians by our synod, its leaders, its pastors, and its laity.  They should certainly not be considered "partner churches."  Tony Jones is correct in calling for a clean break.

For this is not a matter of mere schism, but of heresy.

For if the traditional teaching of the one holy catholic and apostolic church that pastors must be male is wrong in 2013, then it was also wrong in 1517.  By Tony Jones's own opinion, those who "ordain" women in 2013 are not in fellowship with the 16th century churches of the Reformation.  It cannot be that violence and hatred against women were right and justified in the sixteenth century, but suddenly became wrong and unjust in the twenty-first century.  If we are wrong now, we were wrong then.

And if churches that refuse to "ordain" women are "anti-Christian" and guilty of "subjugation" and "misogynistic practices" and "not faithful to the Bible" as well as "doing great violence to women and men and the cause of Christ," then this separation between our church and Tony Jones's "church" extends back even further than the Reformation.  In 1054, both halves of the Great Schism equally and universally affirmed the maleness of bishops, priests, and deacons.  And this was also the practice at the time of the seven great councils, beginning at Nicea in 325.  This was also the case in the days of the Apostolic Fathers (there were no Apostolic Mothers).  This was also the case with the churches founded by the apostles themselves, who only ordained other men into the holy office.

And here is where we get to the crux of the matter: Tony Jones's big christological and trinitarian problem.

For if withholding ordination from women is wrong today, it was wrong yesterday, it was wrong the day before, last week, and last month.  It was wrong last year, last century, and last millennium.  It is a practice that must have been wrong in the days of the apostles, and it was wrong when our blessed Lord did it Himself as well.

For Jesus chose twelve men.  He could have chosen to ordain Mary Magdalene or Martha, or His blessed mother for that matter.  He had many faithful women disciples to choose from, to send out as preachers, to place into the holy office.  But he didn't.  He ordained only men.  Jesus was never afraid to break with tradition.  Jesus never flinched at casting aside ritualism that was contrary to God's will.  Jesus was never motivated by cowardice into acting unjustly.  Jesus did not allow the mores of the day to define righteousness for him and for his disciples.

And if withholding the holy office from women is wrong in 2013, it was equally wrong in 30 AD.  And if Jesus of Nazareth was guilty of the sin of misogyny (as many accuse St. Paul of), if He started the very practice of this "great violence against women and men" that has lingered for 20 centuries, and if He acted contrary to the "Spirit" - then He is a phony.  He is no God, but a mere, sinful, sexist, hateful, chauvinistic man.

And anyone who argues thus against our Lord is outside of the Church.  Such people deny the Trinity.  And this is the inevitable conclusion we must draw concerning those who "ordain" women - even if they cry "Lord, Lord" and claim to have worked miracles.

Those who "ordain" women deny the second article of the creeds.  They are outside of the Church.  They are with the women of Ebenezer praying the diabolical goddess rosary.  They stand with the serpent who lured Eve into rebelling against the created order by inquiring, "Did God actually say?"  And I agree with Tony Jones that complementarianism is incompatible with women's ordination.

Another "Amen!"

Tony Jones cites the "Spirit" as evidence of the alleged correctness of women's "ordination."  It is fitting that he does not say "Holy Spirit."  For the Holy Spirit has spoken in Holy Scripture.  And as the Church has understood, confessed, and practiced for two millennia, there are no female "overseers" or "elders" in the New Testament, even as there were no priestesses in the Old Testament.  The Lord God has not revealed new Scriptures to us, no new revelations, and certainly has not spoken to us through a godless culture to reveal that He is doing something radically different than our Lord Jesus did.  Feelings and political correctness do not trump Scripture, no matter how unpopular.  Tony Jones is being moved by a different spirit, the same spirit that motivates "baptisms" no longer conducted in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but rather in a name deemed less "sexist."

I salute Mr. Jones's honesty in pointing out that we are of a different spirit.  Indeed, we are of a different confession, different religion, and that we do not both worship the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, nor the same sinless Son of the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, who in His righteousness and compassion ordained twelve men and sent them to baptize and preach, "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20).

He is not with both of us.  Tony Jones is right.  We need that divorce.  For the unity has already been broken.