Father Hollywood On Our Grandfather's Church

11 04 2008

You ought to be reading Father Hollywood’s blog on a regular basis, but in case you’re not here’s part of a great comment he made in response to someone wanting to put down the book So Much More:

As far as church work for women (including the deaconess program) go, we have made radical changes from the days of “our grandfather’s church.” For example, until pretty recently in our synod’s history, women were not permitted to be voters, elders, lay ministers, commissioned ministers, congregational presidents, acolytes, lay readers, eucharistic ministers, chaplains, or seminary professors. This has all changed. In the days when women were not permitted these roles in the LCMS, the ones who read the Scriptures and came to those exegetical conclusions certainly knew Greek – probably better than we do today. Why did we change?

In Walther’s day, married women were not permitted to even be school teachers. In Loehe’s reincarnation of the deaconess program, married women were not permitted to be deaconesses. Deaconesses were more like nuns, leading a celibate life, submitting to a mother superior, living in a mother house, and relinquishing this role when they married (the assumption being that they should serve their husbands and families rather than have a church career). Why did we change?

In “our grandfather’s church,” women were not permitted to speak, exercise authority, and they even veiled their heads. Why did we change? Did we see something in the Greek text that our grandfather’s church missed?

It seems to me like the Botkin sisters are defending a traditional view of the family shaped by Scripture, one that the Church has had and practiced for 2,000 years – including the LCMS, that is until the “sexual revolution”. We are the ones who changed. It seems to me that the Botkins aren’t giving the church anything new, but simply reiterating what centuries of exegetes and churchmen have said centuries before. Was “our grandfather’s church” wrong? If not, why did we change?

I wish more women would use their “uniquely feminine gifts” to be helpmeets to their husbands and as mothers to their children instead of having careers outside the home. Married life (and family life as a whole) has suffered greatly since the sexual revolution. What used to be done out of love and compassion has now been institutionalized into careers (childcare, looking after the elderly, showing compassion for people in the congregation, etc.) We now look to paid career women to perform these functions – both outside and inside the church.

In my congregation, we have a goodly number of women who serve their neighbors with acts of mercy, but aren’t paid for it. They didn’t have to get a Masters Degree in Theology (and reduce financial aid available to M.Div. students) in the process. They are “deaconesses” in a very real sense, though they lack a uniform and a title.

I have often asked (and have yet to get an answer) the question: When a deaconess gets a divine call to another ministry, does her husband have a veto over that call? Or is he expected to quit his job and follow his wife’s church career? Similarly, when a deaconess gets a phone call in the middle of the night to minister to someone, is she obligated to leave her husband’s bed and go help the other person?

You don’t have to be able to read Greek to understand that, according to Scripture, being a Christian wife means to submit to her husband. In our modern world, we give women other men to submit to: their bosses. You can’t serve two masters. In the traditional family, unmarried women submit to their fathers until they get married. This was the norm in the church for time immemorial. It’s only shocking to us because we’ve gotten used to the new paradigm the world has given us. It is unthinkable that young, intelligent women pass up college to live under their father’s roof until they marry, and then submit to their husband’s authority and keep house. Some would even equate such a “grandfather’s church” idea to the Taliban.

I haven’t read the “So Much More” book, so I’m not sure if I would recommend it or not. But when this Lutheran guy talks, he says good stuff!




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