Delegates at General Synod voted by a strong majority to seek a way forward in the decades-long ordination debate. They asked the General Church Board and College of Bishops to explore how the LCANZ might operate as ‘one church with two ordination practices’. We asked eight Synod participants for their reflections on the resolution. Excerpts of their responses follow; read their full responses at


As I stood up at Synod to speak, I was acutely aware there was nothing I could say which would change the minds of anyone in the room about ordination. We had discussed this topic for 30 years. What we needed was a plan, a way to move forward, and move forward together. Our job as delegates was to come away from that meeting with a plan. Our congregations expected it and needed it. To do anything less would be to provide a leadership vacuum that could lead to chaos. We had to come up with a plan which would provide a way in which we could remain united as a church, respect one another’s stand and get on with the business of the church. The question was not whether or not we ordain women. We had already discussed that and it is pointless to continue. The question is, ‘how do we function as a church with these two ways of thinking?’ Is it possible to carry out the great commission together? Ordination is not the most important matter facing the church, but it is where we are spending all our time. Of far greater importance is the great commission. I encouraged the church to grab this plan and run with it. Not because it was the best plan ever, nor that it would solve all our problems, but because it gave us an opportunity to stay united as one church. We need a plan which recognises where we are and what we are called to do; which recognises our differences but also our calling. And we need to broaden our definition of ministry to include all believers.


We’ve now had five votes on allowing the ordination of women in the LCA and we’re on track to have a sixth vote next year. If we were to have ‘one church, with two practices’ – essentially two contradictory teachings – how could we come together, with true unity, for a General Pastor’s Conference or Convention of General Synod? There are going to be women and men who cannot commune, in good conscience, with a female pastor officiating. As sad as that might seem, it’s the reality we need to face. We need to be set free from this debate but also adequately deal with the reality of our disunity, and the nature of our disunity. Maybe a peaceful and orderly separation into two synods would glorify God, give a better witness of love to the world, and enable a more genuine unity as outlined in Scripture (e.g. 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 13:11). I think we need to prayerfully consider that in the light of Scripture. I feel like we are the Israelites up against the Red Sea, with no viable way forward – but God can provide a way. Let’s keep loving one another, trusting God our Father and praising Jesus. I also hope we will draw upon the Holy Spirit who works through Scripture more than he works through pragmatic arrangements and convenient compromises. If God were to show us that two synods was the way forward, that wouldn’t mean an end to love (1 Cor 13:4–8a) and partnership in the gospel.


Exploring what the church would look like as one church, two practices is a really healthy step forward. On a community or congregational level, it is important that we begin having conversations about this. We need people to be prepared and aware of the steps the LCANZ is taking and don’t want people to feel hurt or left out of the loop, especially leading up to the Synod 2024. Thank you to our leaders for willingly following God’s calling and serving our church in this way. I know it isn’t easy, but trust that the Lord will give you strength in your task. I encourage our church leaders who are putting this proposal together to think outside of the box, think big, crazy and bold because God will make what seems impossible, possible and we can trust in that.


The 2023 synod was the first one I attended but I was surprised that this one topic could take up so much time while other important topics – such as preaching to the immigrants, cross-cultural missions, and growing our youth – are all put on the back burner. These are critical things we need to do. I’m backing this one-church, two-practice model as it can finally put the debate aside and get the church moving again. Each of us individually needs to keep an open mind – knowing that a lot of our Lutheran brothers and sisters around the world are already having women ordained and even have had female bishops for a long time. As congregations and communities, we can keep an open mind and give it a try! Stop judging and restart the mission!


In principle, there is nothing wrong with having a variety of practices in the church. However, when different practices represent different, and even contrary teachings, then the unity and mission of the church are, at best, impaired. We have spent many years debating whether the prohibition of the ordination of women is the Lord’s command because we know that keeping his commands is central to carrying out our mission (Matthew 28:16–20). It is my conviction that our teaching does faithfully reflect Jesus’ will for the church. It is not clear how we would carry out our mission and be faithful to Jesus’ commands (with) different teachings on ordination, lived out in different practices. If the LCA were to allow all congregations to call and ordain women pastors, if they so desired, that is not something I could support. If the LCA were to break up into districts (with) different practices based on different teachings, it would seem the districts would hold different confessions and so be different synods/churches. This would be a lamentable outcome.


The LCANZ is a church so loved by its members that not even 30 years of debate about ordination practice has broken it asunder. However, this Synod acknowledged the hurt created through this protracted, unresolved dialogue. So the Queensland District resolution to explore ‘one church, two practices of ordination’ is a vital step forward. During Synod, WA Bishop Michael Fulwood painted a beautiful picture of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery pieces are bound together with gold, building on the idea that in embracing our flaws and imperfections, we can create an even stronger, beautiful piece of art. I pray that God will bless our General Church Board as it works through the requirements to operate as one church with different practices. Despite our imperfections, I pray that God can use this process to create an even stronger church, in which our diversity is celebrated.


Focusing on Jesus is leading me to deeper prayer, listening to God and the different Christian perspectives around this and other issues as we go forward trusting God, even though we won’t have all the answers. I am looking forward to continuing to live and work with a diverse range of people in the Lutheran church and, most importantly, to keeping focused on being his missionary and disciple wherever God places me, so others can connect with him and gain life from him in our messy lives where people differ. Perhaps this is the message the world needs to hear at present … that God loves a diverse range of people, even people who see some aspects of life and the Bible differently. So, I pray that, as we move forwards into exploring being one church with two practices, Jesus and his gospel of forgiving and saving all remain our guiding and main focus.


This ongoing debate and division have crippled the church such that we have been unable to engage in meaningful dialogue about challenges in our ever-changing environment. It is time to confront reality in the context of our mission, focus on bringing Jesus’ healing gospel to our broken and despairing world. The resolution provides a clear timeframe and expectation for the ordination of women whilst maintaining one church. I pray that all members, congregations and pastors accept the clear Synod support for the resolution. Let’s embrace everyone, listening to each other rather than sabotaging. At the same time, leaders have a mandate to engage, consult, communicate and manage milestones that can be completed and celebrated. What an opportunity to walk with each other and God, trusting his love and grace.

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