Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

One Purpose

By Larry Beane

I don't know if other LCMS churches and pastors were targeted or not (though I suspect so), but I recently received a journal in the mail unbidden, called: "One Image, One Purpose, One Baptism" from an organization called CBE International (Christians for Biblical Equality).  I had never heard of this organization before, but given that "equality" is a buzzword of late - in particular with regard to matters of sex roles in church and society - I decided against pitching it with the other usual complement of uninvited postal material that one inevitably receives as a church pastor.

Upon scanning it, it turns out to be a collection of six essays with the usual tired and hackneyed exegetical arguments for women's "ordination."  It is an apologetic of sorts for the philosophy of radical egalitarianism.  The authors include a layman whose position and current religious affiliation are unstated, a professor (Ph.D.) from Loyola (New Orleans), a former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a professor from North Park Theological Seminary (on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Covenant Church), a professor (Th.D.) from Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as a guest professor (Ph.D.) from Gordon-Conwell, who appears to be a Baptist.

Lacking any LCMS theological credentials or Lutheran academic positions among the authors, I was rather surprised to find the LCMS mentioned 5 times on the very first page following the table of contents (not to mention references as well to CPH, the CTCR, the word "Lutheran," and Luther's "What does this mean?" from the Small Catechism).  Interesting.  The opening one-page introduction was written by a former member of an LCMS congregation.  There was a blurb consisting of a third of the page written by a currently-rostered LCMS pastor, who finds "the resources provided by Christians for Biblical Equality" to be "quite helpful," and for this reason, he says, "I recommend to you, my brother pastors, the material attached."

Why my congregation and I had received this was starting to make more sense.

The first full essay keeps the Missouri Synod ball in the air by referencing the LCMS, the CTCR, and its document, "The Creator's Tapestry," (including three citations).  The author is also an LCMS pastor's wife.  The gist of her essay is that there is the LCMS-endorsed (but wrong) complementarian view of man and woman, and the (correct) egalitarian view.  Her essay argues for egalitarianism because of the biblical "pattern whereby God lifts up the lowly (those deemed as the lesser ones in society) and brings down the mighty (those deemed by the world to be greater in terms of status and power)."  She cites examples of God's favor upon the "younger," "women," and "the poor."

This emphasis on egalitarianism as a way of overturning the troika of ageism, sexism, and classism supports the purpose of the Christians for Biblical Equality organization:

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV 2011). (emphasis added).

The mission statement of CBE is as follows:

CBE exists to promote biblical justice and community by educating Christians that the Bible calls women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership in the home, church, and world.

The idea that the biblical equality expressed in Gal 3:28 is extended from the immediate context of justification (v. 24) so as to include egalitarian authority structures falls by its own weight.  For though CBE uses Gal 3:28 to argue that "women and men" are to "share authority" in "home, church, and world," they do not take their premise to the logical conclusion of the aforementioned troika and include children in that biblical authority-sharing.  They don't argue for a model of governance of "home, church, and world" that gives voice to children, who are by nature the weakest of the weak in "home, church, and world."  Where are the calls for children's ordination?  Where are the denunciations of ageistic hierarchicalism that elevates adults over infants in matters of authority in "home, church, and world"?

A quick scan of CBE's mission statement, core values, and envisioned future on the inside back cover of the journal basically demonstrates that this organization - its lip service against ageism, racism, and classism notwithstanding - is a one-trick pony.  It's all about the goal of "ordaining" women in those church bodies that do not presently do so.  That seems to be the "One Purpose" lurking in the middle line of the title.

So again, why send this to an LCMS pastor and church?  Why front-load the journal with references to Lutheranism and the LCMS when none of its authors are LCMS members or scholars, nor are any of her institutions of higher learning given a voice or opportunity for balance?  Well, that's apparently how they roll in promoting their agenda.  

The fact of the matter is that the majority element (by about a 2:1 ratio) of those calling themselves "Lutheran" in the United States and in the world already "ordain" women.  The ELCA already accepts all of the exegesis and philosophical premises of egalitarianism espoused by the CBE, and does so unambiguously and vigorously.  If Lutherans are looking for a church body that is dedicated to these principles, they can certainly find one that is bigger, more diverse, and has a larger number of seminaries and congregations already.  Mathematically speaking, ELCA congregations are on the whole easier to find than LCMS churches. Lutherans who sympathize with CBE can already go to the ELCA and be comfortable, without fighting, without the frustration of the supposed neanderthal patriarchy that one finds in the LCMS.  In fact, the ELCA embraces equality to the point of placing goddess worship on an equal plane with God-worship, and is in full altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the ECUSA, in which one need not even believe in the resurrection of Jesus to be consecrated as a bishop.  Lutherans who do not "ordain" women are a remnant, and in Scandinavia in particular, they are persecuted.

But that's not enough.  As long as one church body, one bishop, one congregation, one pastor, or one layman does not agree with them, their heroic campaign of uninvited postal material must soldier on!

Interestingly, CBE's sexual egalitarianism breaks down in deviation from their own principles in their endorsement of exclusive, traditional, heterosexually-restricted marriage:

God’s design for relationships includes faithful marriage between a man and a woman, celibate singleness and mutual submission in Christian community. 

This desire to commingle a Leave It To Beaver hetero-hegemonic (if not heterosexualist) view of marriage with a Vicar of Dibley free-spirited egalitarian view of ordination is not only logically inconsistent, but is clearly refuted by history itself.  In every major denomination around the world that has accepted women's "ordination," there has been a subsequent or parallel redefinition of "marriage" to accommodate same-sex unions.  If Gal 3:28 applies to the rite of holy orders, why not also to the rite of holy matrimony?  If a lady can take a congregation, why can't she take a wife?  The same exclusive exegesis, denounced by CBE, that defines the roles of men and women differently in "home, church, and world" in refusing holy orders to women is also what prohibits same-sex marriage among Christians who don't count the blessing of homosexual unions to be a Biblical expression of Equality.

But once again, how interesting to have an overwhelmingly non-Lutheran publication laden with LCMS and Lutheran references in the first two essays, along with an LCMS recommendation from an LCMS clergyman on the same page, sent to an LCMS pastor care of an LCMS church.  Why not rejoice in the majority of Lutheran "churches" that agree with them rather than target the minority of churches that disagree with them?

Again, it's not enough.

I think the "One Purpose" of this organization and its uninvited postal material is quite clear.  What is also clear is that Satan is still asking, tempting, and taunting the daughters of Eve: "Did God actually say...?" (Gen 3:1).  Whether he is speaking by the mouth of the LCMS in denying ordination to women, or by the mouth of the CBE in promoting it, I will leave to the reader to discern.