Latvian Lutherans go back to male-only pastors

Last month, the Lutheran Church of Latvia–the main church body in that Baltic republic–reversed course and rescinded its policy allowing the ordaining of women.  But the church has not ordained women since 1993, with its confessional revival at the fall of Communism.  Now the church has formalized its doctrine that only men may be ordained as pastors.

The Lutheran World Federation, whose member churches ordain women, says that this decision may affect the Latvian church’s membership.  But the Latvian bishop says that this could lead to affiliation with the conservative International Lutheran Council and its member churches such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. [Read more…]

Russia forbids evangelizing outside of church

A new Russian law forbids evangelizing except within a church service.  This includes using e-mail or other online communication.  It even outlaws private evangelistic conversations within one’s own home.

This is not the work of Godless communism.  It comes out of the Russian Orthodox Church and its resistance to “proseletyzing” on the part of Western Protestants and Roman Catholics. I wonder what would happen, under this law, if a devout Orthodox Russian tried, over glasses of vodka, to persuade an old-line Communist to embrace Orthodox Christianity.  I suspect this would be allowed.  My impression is that the Russian Orthodox Church considers all of Holy Russia to be its domain, even among the unbaptized.  But I don’t know.

 Ironically, the recent Great and Holy Council of the orthodox, the Russians not attending, put out a statement affirming religious liberty that pointedly did not include “the right to convert.”  I’d love to hear from Orthodox readers about why this is.

[Read more…]

Chinese state government confiscates churches’ offerings

In more state repression of religion, the government in China’s Zhejiang province is confiscating the tithes and offerings that churches receive. [Read more…]

The Lutherans’ great and holy council

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is holding its triennial convention July 9-14 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The delegates will not be trying to revise the Christian sexual ethic, ordain women, or weigh in on national politics.

The biggest issue, as I understand it, has to do with the paradoxically-named “Lay ministers.”  Some decades ago, the LCMS started a program for laity who wished to serve congregations full time.  But some congregations–especially small, rural parishes–began using lay ministers as pastors, having them preach, give pastoral care, and administering the sacraments.  But that seemed to go against the Augsburg Confession, Article XIV , which requires an ordained ministry for public preaching and for ecclesiastical order.  Some in the LCMS defend the lay ministry program in the name of the priesthood of all believers and for pragmatic reasons, saying that these little congregations couldn’t afford a seminary-trained pastor and that these lay ministers have been doing an excellent job and don’t deserve to lose their positions. [Read more…]

No exemptions for church services “open to the public”?

The Iowa Civl Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  Churches have an exemption for “a bona fide religious purpose.”  But the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has ruled that if a church service “is open to the public,” it is a “public accommodation” that may not discriminate.

This would mean a congregation must allow only members to attend worship services, excluding visitors and non-members.

UPDATE:  The commission is now clarifying that it didn’t have in mind “worship services,” just services offered by the church, in the sense of child care, food pantries, etc.

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“Preacher”

The figure of the wanderer dominates the popular imagination, as evident in the heroes of our popular TV shows and movies.  So observes Alissa Wilkinson at RogerEbert.com, who says the wanderer reflects the spiritual condition of our time.  As an example, she points to the TV series “Preacher,” based on a comic book about a tormented pastor with strange super powers and a dark attitude.  He is trying to track down a demon that has destroyed his congregation.  I suspect some of you pastors can relate to that.

Have any of you seen this show or read the comic it is based on?  I haven’t, but it sounds kind of good, though I can’t tell from the review if it is being blasphemous or religious (in a “winter Christian” kind of way).

[Read more…]


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