Task force to offer guidelines on women's service

Guidelines should be available by the end of January for implementing in congregations a Synod convention action that permits women to hold any congregational office that does not involve the exercise of distinctive functions of the pastoral office.
 
Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, chairman of the task force that is preparing the guidelines, said they are to be completed by Jan. 1 and provided to congregations and district constitution committees soon after — he hopes by the end of the month.
 
“As congregations begin to consider how they want to implement Res. 3-08A and revise their constitutions, it is important that they have some guidelines,” said Nafzger, who also is executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).  At the same time, he noted that if congregations do not want to implement the provisions of the resolution, “they are free not to do so.”
 
This year’s convention, in Res. 3-08A, affirmed “that women on the basis of the clear teaching of Scripture may not serve in the office of pastor nor exercise any of its distinctive functions, and that women may serve in humanly established offices in the church as long as the functions of these offices do not make them eligible to carry out `official functions [that] would involve public accountability for the function of the pastoral office.'”
 
In a letter appointing the task force, Synod President Gerald Kieschnick, wrote, “For the sake of maintaining unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod, it is imperative that the congregations of our Synod understand clearly what this resolution says and does not say, what it allows and does not allow, in order to prevent widely varying interpretations of such phrases as ‘the distinctive functions of the pastoral office’ and ‘public accountability for the pastoral office.'”
 
Nafzger said the task force will “pull together what the Synod itself has said on these matters.”  He said, “The task force is not going to break new ground or decide these issues, but we are going to prepare guidelines based on actions already taken by the Synod.”
 
A 1985 CTCR report on the service of women, for example, says distinctive functions of the pastoral office include leading and preaching in the congregation’s public worship services and public administration of the sacraments and the office of the keys.
 
The CTCR, at its Sept. 16-18 meeting, decided to produce a booklet for distribution to congregations and district constitution committees that will include:

  • the guidelines;

  • a response from the commission to questions from the Minnesota South District regarding women serving as executive director, president, assistant director or vice president of a congregation; and

  • the CTCR’s 1994 report, “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices.”  The conclusions of that report were affirmed by Res. 3-08A.

In addition to Nafzger, members of the task force are Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig; Dr. Loren Kramer; North Wisconsin District President Arleigh Lutz, who chaired the convention floor committee that produced Res. 3-08A; and Dr. Albert Marcis, chairman of the Commission on Constitutional Matters.

Posted Oct. 14, 2004

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