Thursday, August 26, 2010

LWML

The Lutheran Women's Missionary League is a long standing institution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  In fact, it is officially the one and only women's auxiliary of the LC-MS.  As such, it has many faces, as it were, and permeates many parishes of the synod.  And in many ways, certainly, in much of the work of local congregational manifestations of LWML, I'm sure that it fills a wholesome Lutheran role in the life of the Church.  My concern is with much of what I have seen of this organization at the national level, and from its official resources. 

I have not done the research to know this, but would wager that in former days (it has been around for over six decades) the LWML, by and large, saw itself as a way for Confessional Lutheran women to help provide a support for the mission and ministry of the Church, in ways which conform to the unique calling of Christian women in this world.  Today, I get the distinct impression that the LWML's self-vision has turned upside down, and in on itself, so that now it is thought of as a vehicle for missionary work and "ministries" of its own.  Instead of merely helping to support the ministry of the Church, it now, for example, gives awards to pastors who are the best supporters of the LWML.  I'd show you the latest issue of the quarterly magazine (the Fall issue), but it is not online yet.  On page 25, at the top left, you will find the report about the Rev. Richard Rudnik, of Grace in Houma, LA, being "gifted" by the LWML with a bright, flowery stole, for being an "outstanding supporter of the LWML."  Dressing one's pastor in such a lovely stole is symptomatic of a larger trend, by which women are now literally making the pastor over in their own image.

By the way, when did "gifted" enter into normal use?  I mean, I know that Nagel disciples (God love them) love to turn the word "gift" into just about every part of speech known to man, but aside from quoting the great Dr. Nagel (great men have the right to operate by their own rules), must we constantly turn "give" into "gifted"?  Does it sound holier that way?  I don't know. 

As I say, I know the LWML does good work, locally and even internationally, but is this really what the Lord means by "laborers" when He speaks of laborers in the harvest field?  The LWML officially has this view.  Consider this from the LWML pledge: "...in obedience to His call for workers in the harvest fields, we pledge Him our willing service wherever and whenever He has need of us..."

I am also concerned about the caliber of theology to which the women of the LWML are subjected, just from what I've seen in its magazine.  Ruth Koch (whose late husband was my childhood pastor-it's a small synod after all), in the Summer issue of the Lutheran Women's Quarterly, has adapted from Dr. Laura Schlessinger a top ten list of "reasons to keep the sabbath holy."  I know she adapted it from a Jewish woman, but perhaps she should have done a bit more adapting.  It seems odd, for a piece meant for a Christian audience, to use the word "sabbath" instead of Sunday or Lord's Day, in each of the ten reasons.  Just as out of tune for a Christian, and a Lutheran to boot, is that the list of reasons for "keeping the sabbath" is hardly weighted toward the preaching of the Gospel and the central role of the Eucharist in our life.  Instead, a Lutheran woman gets this as a typical reason:  "On Sabbath, God uses worship and others to draw you into a wellspring of emotion that promotes healing and peace." 

I do not want to belabor my concerns here.  So let me just add one more thought.  What is the need for women to write Bible studies for women, when there are plenty of qualified ministers of the gospel, you know, men who are called and ordained specifically for a life of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments?  Lutheran women are encouraged, on page 11 of the Fall issue of the Quarterly, to pray for their pastors, and to show appreciation for them, especially in October.  That is good.  It would be in keeping with this spirit of appreciation to actually seek out the spiritual guidance of pastors, even in the official magazine of its members, and at conventions.  Killing the Old Adam in the modern Christian woman, bringing women to new life in Christ with the sweet gospel of the forgiveness of sins won for us by the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and given to us in the sacramental treasures of the Church, fostering a love of the liturgy for the sake of the pure gospel:  all of these things could be greatly enhanced by stronger spiritual direction.  Then, the LWML could be a true ministry, and one of which we could be proud.

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