The discussion, debate and vote on the ordination of women and men in the LCA was an emotional one for many people at Synod.
The first item of business on Saturday 6 October was to take time out to reflect on the result of the previous day’s vote. Of the 406 delegates registered at the 2018 Convention, 161 voted in the secret ballot against the resolution to ordain both men and women; while 240 supported it. Five delegates had left Synod by the time of the vote. The Constitution of the LCA requires a two-thirds majority of registered delegates to bring about a change in matters of a theological or confessional nature.
The next morning delegates gathered at tables to pray and listen while the district bishops moved among them.
Regardless of their views on the issue, it was clear from the delegates’ discussions that there was a broad sense of sadness. Reflecting back the feelings of the table groups, South Australia–Northern Territory Bishop David Altus, pictured, said, ‘If I could put it into my own words I would say that the LCA is hurting, and hurting very badly. She’s a broken woman, hurting in all parts of the body.
‘What we’ve been hearing is a profound sense of grief, sadness and loss. We are hearing that the church will be bleeding people this very day – this is a reality. The cross of pain is all the heavier today because of what we share in common.
‘What we value and what holds us together is extremely powerful. It gives us heart and hope, despite the heaviness of our hearts today.’
Western Australia District Bishop Mike Fulwood added: ‘I witnessed the body of Christ attending to itself. I heard people listening gently and attentively to one another, trying to heal some of the hurts, the grief. There was also a sense of frustration with our process and whether it is serving us well, and with the difficulty GPC [General Pastors Conference] has had in giving recommendations to Synod.
‘There was also some sense of frustration with the voting system. The vote was defined as a “no” to ordination, when most delegates voted “yes”. How do we sit in that uncomfortable space?
‘There was a desire to be able to explore a third way – not just a “yes” or a “no”. Are there other ways we can move forward together? What does it mean for us to live in unity and diversity – what would that look like?’
‘Delegates don’t want the conversation shut down’, Bishop Altus said. ‘It’s not three strikes and it’s over – that would not honour the body in this room. At the same time they don’t want so much time, energy and resources invested into this single issue.
‘We need to get the gospel out to people; there is so much to do; we need time, energy and space to do that.’
New South Wales Bishop James Haak* proposed a motion, which Synod passed almost unanimously and without debate: ‘that Synod acknowledges the deep hurt and harm to individuals and groups that has been occasioned over the past years in the course of the debate regarding ordination, repents of the hurt, and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with one another’.
*Bishop James Haak died suddenly on 20 October.