Recently a group has sprung up on Facebook advocating that “the ordination of women should be publicly discussed in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.” Many of you may not know that this issue is what finally drove me from the ELCA to the Missouri Synod. I read the LCMS rationale for their practice, and was impressed that it seemed to flow from Scripture, despite how increasingly unpopular it made them. I wanted to know what the ELCA’s rationale was for its practice, so I started asking around. At the time I was about to begin applying to one of their seminaries, so I thought I ought to take care of this issue right off the bat. To make a long story short, not even the systematics chair at their seminary could defend the practice from Scripture. I swam across the Mississippi River so fast I didn’t even get wet. But I find it sad that this professor could not make a good defense, especially because, after years of reading about it in print and online and following discussions such as the aforementioned Facebook page, I have discovered the secret to arguing in favor of women’s ordination.
Step 1. Adopt Enthusiasm Early On
By this I do not mean what the term as come to mean, i.e., that you are passionate and excited. Here I intend the enthusiasm defined in the Smalcald Articles (III VIII 3ff). Of course, that same article staunchly condemns this idea, but hey, the Confessions are “living documents,” which means you’re totally free to disregard them when you need to. No, this enthusiasm is the one that says God the Holy Spirit tells you stuff apart from and before the Word.
Try this one: “God has given me all these gifts and He wants me to use them to glorify Him.” If you’re one of those stuck-up Missouri types, you might be inclined to object that Scripture doesn’t speak this way, but this objection is no problem for the Enthusiast. You know what God said because… well, you just do. And because God’s thoughts just popped into your head, no one can question them! But closely tied to this step is the next…
Step 2. Monasticism is Your Friend
I have to become a nun? Of course not! You want to bypass that entirely and be a priest, or maybe even the bishop. After all, the Kingdom of God is a hierarchy, and the closer you are to God in the organizational chart, the better. Why risk your salvation on staying a laywoman? Everyone knows that being a pastor is, like, a Get-Into-Heaven-Free card. And of course it goes without saying that pastors are by their very nature holier than anybody else, so don’t be stingy in pointing out that those mean Missourians are holding back all those goodies from thousands of women.
Think of the argument from Step 1. Not only do you have all these swell gifts, and you’d be just as good a pastor as any man, but you know the only way to use these gifts is to be a pastor. Remember: Only pastors are really serving God. Feel free to step on any other vocation in order to make that of pastor even higher — that’s what monasticism’s all about, remember? Fair warning: your pesky opponents might force their brainwashed wives into arguing along with them that they are content that they serve God “in their own vocations as wife and mother.” Whatever. No woman really thinks that way. The more you denigrate the vocations of wife and mother, the stronger your argument becomes. Bonus points for throwing stay-at-home mothers and homeschoolers under the bus as well.
One thing to remember: try to avoid too much talk of exactly what pastors are, what they do, and how they get to be pastors. Doubly so when engaging biblical texts on the matter (we’ll cover that in Step 3 in greater detail). Your new appreciation for monasticism reminds you that the pastor is just the guy in the church that God likes best, so feel free to point out how Jesus seemed to hold women in high regard. Holding women in high regard = He wants them to be pastors. Your opponent won’t understand what that argument means, but hey, he’s probably a man. Remember how Yahweh said in the Old Testament, “I like Levi best, so his sons can be priests, but I hold all the other tribes in lower regard, so none of them gets anything special — especially Judah.” It’s somewhere in one of those long boring lists of names.
Step 3. Two Words: Higher Criticism
This step is probably remedial for you, but if it isn’t, you’ll need to understand how higher criticism works. Don’t worry, it’s really easy. You already know what God is like, right? He’s a lot like you. So throw out all the times when God (or Jesus) does or says something you know He wouldn’t, throw out all the commands that you know God wouldn’t really have made, and definitely throw out all the events you just know couldn’t really have happened. When’s the last time you saw a blind man see again without millions of dollars worth of surgery? I thought so.
But what does this have to do with women’s ordination? Well, remember, your opponents are basically knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing fundies with academic credentials only slightly higher than Oral Roberts — so they’re going to be using the Bible as a crutch. They can quote the Bible all day long, but remember they approach it like total simpletons and take it at face value. You know better. You know what Jesus is really like (see Step 1), and He was all about radical inclusion. Again, your opponent will have no idea what that means, but you know it means He totally wants women pastors. They might bring up the fact that Jesus didn’t actually bother to make a woman a pastor during His earthly ministry, but you can just counter by thinking of the name of a woman in the Bible and claiming she was really a pastor.
Oh, and don’t forget the value of the New Perspective on Paul. Jesus was the radical inclusivist who wanted everyone to be happy and get along and never said a mean word to anyone, but then Paul came along and gave the church that nasty mean streak. Learn it well, because your opponents will be quoting Paul. A lot.
Step 4. Argumentum ad Misericordiam
Lastly, never underestimate the power of an argument from your own personal suffering. After all, you have a husband, parents, children, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow citizens, but there’s no one for you to serve until those meanies let you be a pastor. Be sure to include as much detail about your own suffering over this as possible. Remind everyone how you feel like you’re on the outside because they won’t let you in. Remind everyone about how many great gifts you have that can only be used if you were wearing a collar. What a burden that must be. Oh, and feel free to inflate the number of fellow sufferers there might be.
There’s much more that could be said, but that should give you a good start.