Representatives from the Japan Lutheran Church (JLC) and the LCMS will meet Feb. 3-4 in Tokyo for a third round of discussions on the ordination of women to the pastoral office.
The JLC and LCMS representatives last met in September in St. Louis, where they focused attention on what Holy Scripture says about women serving in the pastoral office. During the first round, held in Japan in February 2009, representatives from the two church bodies made presentations on “the history, the position, and the situation of the service of women” in their respective churches.
The discussions follow action by the JLC’s 14th General Convention in May 2008, which heard a proposal to begin ordaining women to the pastoral office. The convention resolved to discuss the issue with the LCMS, a partner church that does not ordain women, before making a decision.
JLC President Rev. Yutaka Kumei said the September meeting was “a great step forward,” while the representatives recognized that differences in the perspective and understanding of the ordination of women to the pastoral office have existed between the two church bodies. “Especially on this occasion it was very beneficial, for each party involved, that the mutual understanding of each side’s position … could be additionally deepened through a discussion based on the Word of God in Holy Scripture,” he said.
“It was clear in our discussions together that all of the representatives from both church bodies are united in wanting to be faithful to what God’s Word in Holy Scripture teaches about this issue, as well as strengthening the relationship between the JLC and the LCMS,” said Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, director of church relations — assistant to the president and one of the LCMS representatives.
“We give thanks that both sides, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were able to speak with integrity as partners in Christ,” Kumei said after the September meeting. He was elected JLC president at the 2008 convention.
In addition to Kumei, JLC representatives at the September meeting included Rev. Shinri Emoto, vice president; Rev. Jun Yamato, director of the seminary programs and missions secretary; Dr. Tohru Shiha, chairperson of the Theological Education Committee; and Dr. Masao Shimodate, former director of the seminary program.
Participating with Nafzger in the meetings were Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations and Dr. Gerhard Michael, a former missionary to Japan and past president of the Florida-Georgia District.
Dr. Jonathan Blanke, associate professor at Japan Lutheran College, served as devotion leader and translator at the discussions.
The JLC grew from LCMS mission work in Japan beginning in 1948. The JLC was organized as an autonomous church in 1968 and became an LCMS partner church in 1976.
Posted Dec. 23, 2009