National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Ordination two journeys

October 2015

by Tom Pietsch and John Strelan

At the recent General Pastors Conference, Pastor John Strelan and Pastor Thomas Pietsch (members of the Ordination Dialogue group) were asked to share their personal journeys on the ordination of women.

This was done to foster a context of honesty and openness for all pastors to share their own journeys with each other. John and Tom’s edited stories are printed here in the hope that a similar spirit may be fostered in the church leading up to the General Convention, and that delegates might be prepared to answer similar questions in small groups. They are published in The Lutheran to help you to reflect on your own journey.

JOHN: I first encountered a woman in the pulpit when I worshipped in a village church in Germany as a teenager. My recollection of that first experience is that she was a pretty boring preacher! But then, I was a 14-year-old boy who didn’t understand a word of German, so perhaps my judgement was a little skewed.

I was raised within a traditional family structure and my parents had fairly defined roles. Mum was a housewife who looked after the children, while Dad was the bread-winner. I don’t think I’ve been scarred by that experience. I am the son, grandson and great-grandson of Lutheran pastors, but it was only after I entered seminary training in my mid-twenties that I began to think seriously about the issue of women’s ordination. I can’t recall having any definite feelings on the topic before then, one way or the other. I guess I trusted the church would know best. That is a position I still hold.

TOM: My dad was the first person to bring up the issue of women’s ordination with me. I was 16 or 17 at the time and not particularly interested in the debate, which seemed more of my parents’ issue than mine. But I took up the position natural to me, which was to support the ordination of women. The idea that women were somehow not equal to men was, and is, abhorrent to me. It seemed to be a no-brainer.

In my last years of school and first years of university, I spent some time thinking about sex, funnily enough. There was a lot of wonder, but also a lot of confusion. I began to come to grips with how sexualised our culture has become, and how demeaning and degrading this can be. But I also began to see the joy of the Christian vision of sexuality, which shone a beautiful light into the gloominess of what was around me at university and on TV.

It was at this time that I began to grow cautious of claims that our generation had reached clarity on issues of sexuality that the previous 2000 years had been blind to. It seemed to me much more plausible that our culture’s vision on sex and gender had been distorted rather than clarified.