LCMS convention action seeks to protect women’s consciences

Photographs on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, at the 66th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in Milwaukee. LCMS/Michael Schuermann

Pastoral delegate Rev. Burnell Eckhardt speaks from the floor about Res. 5-11A on Tuesday, July 12, during the LCMS Convention in Milwaukee. Eckhardt encouraged the convention to provide conscientious-objector status for women regarding a draft for military service. (LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

By Tony Oliphant

MILWAUKEE (July 12, 2016) – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in convention voted on Tuesday to provide protection for the consciences of women objecting to conscription for military service.

On June 14, the United States Senate voted on Senate Bill 2943, legislation that included under “Subtitle H” at Section 591 the provision in reference to Military Selective Service: “(b) (1) The duty to register imposed on male citizens and persons residing in the United States by subsection (a) shall apply to female citizens of the United States and female persons residing in the United States who attain the age of 18 years on or after January 1, 2018.”

If passed by the House of Representatives, this legislation would require women 18 years of age on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register for selective service and a possible draft.

The LCMS recognizes biblical objections to women being required to serve in the military in general or to serve in combat positions. These reasons include the biblically-ordered relationship between men and women, women as God’s vessels for bearing life, and the requirement for husbands to love and honor in a way that follows Christ’s own sacrifice for His bride, the Church. Other reasons are found in natural law and several serious reason-based arguments.

The delegation showed overwhelming support for this resolution from the floor.

“I appeal to the common sensitivity, kindness and Christian compassion of this church body to remember common chivalry,” said the Rev. Burnell Eckhardt. “We like to remember [women’s] importance as mothers and daughters. What I would like to see is that we also tell our government that it’s wrong for the government to force them to bear arms in battle.”

In light of the many reasons presented by the floor committee and delegates, the convention resolved to “acknowledge the Department of Defense Instruction 130.06: Conscientious Objectors (DoDI 1300.06, May 31, 2007), where two classifications for a conscientious objector are recognized (Class 1-0 and Class 1-A-0) and stand resolutely with any woman who holds ‘a firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.’”

This means that the LCMS will support those women in the Synod who conscientiously object a woman’s service in the military in general or for women in the military who would be required to serve in a combat capacity.

The consciences of women who “have carefully considered their station in life and Holy Scripture on this issue who wish to voluntarily serve in our nation’s military” are also protected by the measures of this resolution.

The delegates also urged the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to continue its study of this issue and quickly reach a conclusion in order to widely distribute it throughout the Synod.

The LCMS Council of Presidents also was called to familiarize itself with this issue in order to provide assistance to pastors and congregations with members who are conscience-bound to apply for conscientious-objector status.

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and floor committee Chairman Rev. Dr. Scott Murray expressed confidence that this resolution would provide protection for women in the LCMS who would seek conscientious objector status.

In other news, the convention also resolved to uphold its long-standing teachings on justification (Res. 5-10), the teachings found in the catechisms of Martin Luther (Res. 5-12), the royal priesthood of the baptized and the Office of the Public Ministry (Res. 5-13) and closed communion (Res. 5-15).

While more discussion and questions revolved around the resolution “To Reaffirm Biblical Teaching on Man and Woman in the Church” (Res. 5-14), the delegates voted with a 67.49 percent majority to commend the recommendations from the 2005 “Task Force Guidelines for the Service of Women in Congregational Offices,” which provide guidance for avoiding confusion regarding the various offices and work of women in LCMS congregations.

This resolution also asked the CTCR to work in consultation with the seminary faculties to continue and complete a biblical, confessional and historical study of the relevance of the order of creation to questions about the service of men and women in the church and society.

The Rev. Tony Oliphant is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Elmhurst, Ill. and a freelance writer for LCMS Communications.

(Posted July 12, 2016)

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19 Responses to LCMS convention action seeks to protect women’s consciences

  1. July 12, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    Thanks be to God!

    • Joy Schwartz July 13, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      What’s my “station in life?” Hmmm…

  2. Pastor Paul Frederick Nus July 13, 2016 at 12:39 am #

    The consciences of *men* who refuse to order, sanction, support, permit, or participate in the employment of women in combat must also be protected.

  3. Deb Williamson July 13, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    As a Christian woman who voluntarily served this country and selected the LCMS as the denomination to practice her beliefs in, I am saddened by this. Deborah led an army, other women were key factors in strategic and tactical wins in our biblical history. Yes, men and women were created differently and for different purposes; however this continued notion that we are the fairer gender that must be protected must be put aside. As a person living in a country where I have the freedom to share God’s love and words publicly, I believe God would want every capable person, if called upon to protect those freedoms, would do so proudly and not just leave it up to the men folk.

    • Rachel July 13, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      If God is calling you as a woman to defend your country then you have every right to do so. But some women are not, and our country shouldn’t force them to do so.

    • Rikki July 13, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      I am encouraged that the LCMS chose to support both women who would choose to serve in active duty and those whose consciences would lead them to serve behind the scenes either at home or in the military. WWII is called to mind, when women worked in factories, raised funds, and cared for young children. Women should never be shamed for valuing that which is most important, caring for and nurturing the next generation.

    • Andrew July 13, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      I think it’s important to clarify this is an exemption from compulsory service, and not a prohibition on voluntary service. This is simply advocating on behalf of those who, for Biblical reasons, object to forced military service; not elective service.

    • Bernd Kampe July 13, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      I also served in the US Army Reserve as a commissioned officer from 1971 to 2004 (33 years). One of my 2 daughters voluntarily and proudly served 3 1/2 years on active duty in the USAF after graduating from high school. I am very proud of her serving our country.

      However, I a stand firmly against forcing our young females to submit to a military draft against their conscience and their will. No one asked the American people by popular vote to agree to this major change to military draft policy which was created by the Obama administration as a redult of allowing women to volunteer and be accepted into all formerly male combat fighting positions.

      I do not want my grand daughters to be faced with having to register for the draft and being involuntarily drafted because of the incompetency of our President and Congress.

    • Bob Miller July 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

      Dear Deb, Please reconsider. Deborah did not lead an army. Barak raised and led the Army. After Barak’s inglorious, even perhaps impudent start,(Ju.4:8) your Godly namesake acquiesced and went “with him” (Ju.4:9), while he called together the army of men (Ju.4:10); then she continued “with him” to the peak of Mt. Tabor where she reminded this son of Israel that the LORD had gone out before him, and called him again to action. Without evident hesitation, and without Deborah, “…Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following — him.” And God gave victory.

      Deborah, “… a mother in Israel…” (Ju.5:7) had fulfilled her (maternal?) role toward Barak, who at first was (childishly?) “reluctant” , but with her help had indeed finally and boldly trusted in the LORD. This evidence of Deborah’s critical influence is memorialized in Hebrews 11:32ff; Barak, along with David and others, had been “…out of weakness made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” –The noble Deborah did not (as some mistakenly say) become a warrior herself. I suggest that she exemplified a creatively-ordered vocation of woman, a “maternal” cultivation and motivation of honorable “manhood” in appropriate ways. An Orthodox Christian priest O.B.M., once averred that God created woman to be man’s “helper” (Gen 2:18) — to help him to be what he is. Thoughts? I’d be interested in your pastor’s perspective.

      BTW, notice late in Chapter 5, how God’s grant of victory to Barak had protected women.

  4. Mary July 13, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    Mostly I agree with Ms. Williamson. Many women would also agree with her. Although not saddened by the Resolution, I believe that men should step up to their God-pleasing stations in life to protect those women (and men) who, for conscience sake, choose not to serve, especially in combat. There are numerous non-combat roles for both women and men within the military. Some are much less dangerous than other occupations in which men and women currently serve (e.g. firefighters, police). Where children are involved, however, it is a different matter, especially if the father already serves in the military.

  5. James Schween July 13, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    What would this mean if an LCMS woman in the military chose a combat role? Would this be against the Church teachings?

    • LCMS Church Information Center July 14, 2016 at 9:24 am #

      Thank you for your question. No. In fact, the resolution specifically protects a woman’s choice of going into combat positions if her informed conscience leads her to do so. See 5-11A lines 30-31 (p. 353), lines 5-6 (p. 354).

  6. Amy July 14, 2016 at 6:14 am #

    I am so thankful to see this. There is nothing wrong with women choosing voluntary service, but drafting both men and women leaves no one to bear or care for children. It is refreshing to see our church body standing firm on this and backing up its members.

  7. Jan July 16, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Excellent! I am proud to be a part of LCMS. Thank you for upholding gospel truth, and protecting women.

  8. Bryan July 24, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    This is just the continuous oppression of men when compared to women. If only men can be drafted, then, because of this forced inequality, men should be given special consideration, a super citizen status, that gives them extra benefits from society. Otherwise, if equality is so sacred, women need to be drafted like men.

  9. Kati July 26, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    While I oppose the draft for either gender, I am glad to see this affirmation of women’s special roles in our world, as well as the willingness of Christians to challenge our government!

  10. Jon Oelrich August 15, 2016 at 7:12 am #

    Is military service by women allowed by Scripture, or is it not? The resolution does not provide an answer, instead leaving it up to a woman’s conscience. Then the resolution binds the behavior of our church body to the dictates of individual conscience: “If your conscience says that you shouldn’t serve, then we will support you in seeking conscientious objector status.” Based on what? Not Scripture, and not on any established doctrinal position of the Synod, but on the woman’s interpretation of Scripture. Is that really where the Synod wants to go with this?

  11. September 6, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    In God’s Word, we find the following (forgive me for preaching to the choir):
    ¶ complete absence of any example of – much less, support for – military combat as a vocation, role, or kingdom of the left responsibility for women, an absence given positive confirmation by the
    ¶ exclusive use of men (of Israel and even Israel’s foes) in military combat throughout the Old Testament. Judges 4-5 is particularly relevant. Deborah must “mother” a man, Barak, to bolster him for the battle against Sisera’s army. It is to Barak’s shame that he needs a woman to give him spine for fighting and assure him of God’s presence. Deborah does NOT participate in the battle. Such actions and examples in the absence of exceptions teach as clearly as any commandment or verbal proscription.
    ¶ scornful references to men fighting like women in Jeremiah 50:37, 51:30, an unmistakable prophetic sign that the battlefield – a painful reminder of our sinful condition – is exclusively a male domain.
    ¶ absence of any reference to or debate about women as soldiers in the New Testament. The witness of the Old Testament had settled the matter (I Cor. 10; Rom. 15:4.) The question is not worthy of being raised. The field of battle is no place for a woman.
    ¶ the Old Testament image of God (the Maker) as husband of Israel and Lord of hosts (armies) – note the link (Isa 54:5) – and the New Testament image of Christ (the Bridegroom) and the Church (His bride) (2 Cor 2:11, Eph 5:22ff., Rev 21:9). These images have meaning only in the context of a man’s role in caring for and protecting a woman. When a government employs women to protect men, it turns the created order upside down and renders meaningless the scriptural images of YHWH as husband and protector of Israel and the marriage of Christ with, and protector of, His Church. As a friend has observed, the Bride of the last Adam is under assault by the same enemy who enticed the bride of the first Adam.

    Natural law and women in military combat:
    All the pragmatic issues, i.e., the physical, physiological, social, and moral problems and special considerations and exceptions related to the use of women in military combat – physical strength (lack of), female hygiene, sexual harassment, pregnancy, lactation rooms, child care, adapting men’s apparel to women – demonstrate the consequences of disregarding male/female distinctions, i.e., the consequences of violating natural law, the law of God written in our hearts.

    We are well aware of the complications resulting from the Synod’s 15-year delay in giving serious attention to the issue – from pulpits to Bible classes to conventions – and from having betrayed our women by allowing cultural forces to take and maintain the lead. Culture is like wallpaper. We know it’s there, take it for granted, and often pay too little attention to the ramifications of trends and agendas. Who would have thought as recently as the turn of the century that people openly attracted to the same sex would be welcomed into the military, that five justices of the Supreme Court would redefine marriage and declare a right for people of the same sex to “marry,” that people confused about their sexual identity should be allowed – by federal regulation – to enter the lavatory of their choice, and that young women would face the prospect of mandatory registration, and even conscription, for military service? All of these changes, driven by activist agendas, reflect sexual disorder on a grand, national scale. Such neo-Gnosticism, to give it a label, denies physical (sexual) reality in deference to subjective feelings.

    In this regard, John Chrysostom’s plea below is notable for its prescience and relevance in linking homosexual behavior and the use of women in war. Under the current administration, the sexual confusion and disorder in our culture has come home to roost also in the Armed Forces, notably in policies set by civilian managers.

    “…Woman was not made for this, O man, to be prostituted as common. O you subverters of all decency, who use men, as if they were women, and lead out women to war, as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overleap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature. …”
    John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on Titus

    I am also sadly aware that, for many Christians, it has taken the prospect of drafting women for military service to awaken them to the momentous shift in military policy regarding the use of women in combat. N. B. Serious consideration is now given to drafting women for military service only because the restriction against using women in combat has been lifted. That restriction had been the reason for exempting women from registering for military service. Why was it lifted?* A key factor was that certain advancements in rank were not available to service members without combat training and experience. Thus, for women, as for men, the price of advancement in rank is linked to training for and service in combat – not a problem for those with an unshakeable belief in the interchangeability of male and female. The time is late. Our church body must take a prophetic stand against a government action that would “lead women out to war, as if they were men” so that consciences are properly and scripturally formed.

  12. Skip Vogel September 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    Berger’s response is the first Scripturally based comment on the issue that I have read on the “blog”. Come on clergy, mentors of the LCMS, MAN UP! (If I might be politically incorrect about the urgent matter before you.) Surely this blessed Synod has more than one prophetic voice.

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