Explaining the PMW: Application of Romans 10:14-17 and AC XIV

The Thirteenth point summarizing my longer explanation of the PMW says this:

When the statement says, “Extending calls to teachers who have spiritual care of children in Christian schools is not merely a laudable custom, but is in accordance with Romans 10:14-17 and Augsburg Confession XIV,” it does not mean that Romans 10:14-17 or AC XIV apply directly to the circumstance of teachers in Christian schools. Instead, it means that these citations establish the principle that anyone who teaches God’s Word on behalf of the Church must be authorized by the Church to do this. That authorization is what the statement means by a “call.”

The application of these references to teachers in Christian Day Schools, Sunday School teachers, etc., has caused great concern and even alarm among ELS theologians. These references concern themselves with the office of the public ministry in the narrow sense, as established by Jesus when He commissioned and sent His apostles, but the PMW relates them to all the wider-sense offices too.

Yet the words “in accordance with” do not really mean that these references apply directly to all the wider-sense offices. Instead, the words “in accordance with” mean that the arrangement by which the Church confirms the authority of narrow-sense ministers, described by these references, is also an appropriate model for confirming the authority of those who serve in offices created by the Church.

The PMW also uses the word “call” for that arrangement. This must be kept distinct from the call to the narrow-sense office, which God Himself has commanded and established for the benefit of His Church. In the case of other wider-sense offices, a “call” refers to the authorization of the Church, which created the offices. Yet this authorization also carries the authorization of God, since He allows the Church to create these offices. (It may help to read my longer explanation of the term “limited public” to see how this distinction is expressed in the PMW.)

You may have to read the above more than once, because it’s written in long, moderately complex sentences. If that causes you grief, sorry. As always, I’d be happy to answer your questions about this point.

2 thoughts on “Explaining the PMW: Application of Romans 10:14-17 and AC XIV

  1. Great alarm, indeed. I had rather the authors of the PMW found a clearer passage than the Romans one to make their point. I wonder though if your explanation is correct. Could there be more than one explanation for using these citations to text-prove that women can be in the public ministry of the word? Such as: the writers, and certainly many of those who voted for passage of the PMW, actually mean that Romans 10:14-17 refers to all offices of the public ministry, divinely instituted or otherwise? I can recall overhearing a conversation in the halls outside of the assembly just prior to the vote being taken on the PMW, summer 2005. Two pastors were disagreeing about what Romans 10 was referring to: just pastors or any-ole-body the church chose to publicly teach. Just before the vote!! It was obvious to me that there was no consensus on Romans 10; that men were being asked to attach a new and strange meaning to it that they hadn’t accepted. I knew then that we were in trouble, and felt strongly that what I was about to be asked to vote on was a political, not a theological document.


    ### Response from J.J.:

    So there may be a theological *and* a political explanation for this part of the PMW, and they may not be in harmony with one another. An explanation like mine may be theologically correct but not politically correct, or vice-versa.

    If that’s the case — and it seems likely enough — then the PMW was definitely adopted prematurely, and must be either adjusted or replaced. A situation like that may be the simplest explanation for acts of discipline without a theological basis. Does William of Occam prefer Gillette or Schick? Or is it Wilkinson Sword?

  2. Jesse,
    I see that you focus on allowing a wider meaning of “in accordance with.” This is also what Pr. Webber does. But the problem with this “wider” interpretation of that phrase is that the document specifically states “is not merely a laudable custom, but is in accordance with.” The clear meaning of the PMW is that such calls are not at all part of custom or freedom–“not merely a laudible custom” specifically means that such calls are required by the passages of Scripture and the Confessions which are cited as proof.

    If only it had said “are a laudible custom in accordance with” the PMW would mean what you and Pr. Webber want it to mean. But it does not say this. Instead it binds consciences to the notion that Scripture demands and the Confessions demand that a CDS or SS teacher must be called because it is the Divine Will and Confessional Lutheran teaching that Scripture demands such a call. Such a call is “not merely a laudible custom” it (according to the PMW) is how we should follow Rom. 10:14-17 and AC XIV.

    I wish it were as you and Pr. Webber claim. I agree with you on the doctrine that you both want the PMW to teach. But the text of the PMW as written makes a much stronger demand to broaden the meaning of Rom 10:14-17 and AC XIV than I am comfortable with.


    ### Response from J.J.:

    Thanks for your comment, Joe. I have to say that I’m not comfortable with this and other expressions of the PMW, either. I don’t intend to defend the way it’s written, because I think it can and should be improved.

    You bring up a good point. If the PMW’s phrase “not merely a laudable custom” is really meant the way you read it, then it will have to be changed. We can’t permit doctrinal statements that read into scripture to remain unchanged.

    Yet, I still hope that this phrase is generally understood in a way more like I have explained it. We observe quite a few laudable customs that don’t follow a pattern that originates in the Bible. The practice of calling those who teach in the Church can be distinguished from such customs, since it does follow such a pattern — *voluntarily.* That’s how I hope this part of the PMW is understood.

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