WELS Women's "Ministry" Conference, Part 1: "A Candid Conversation about Women in the WELS"

The WELS Women's "Ministry" Conference takes place July 28-30 at the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee, WI. We are going to take a few weeks and dig into what is on offer at this conference.

Let's start with one of the keynotes, "A Candid Conversation about Women in the WELS", featuring Rev. Jonathan Hein and Dawn Schulz. You might remember Rev. Hein from such great hits as the WELS Lutheran Leadership Conference featuring Dr. Joan Prince, consensus-model governance restructuring, and "Less Churches, More Ministry!" Dawn has "taught women’s bible studies, hosted retreats, counseled women through crisis situations, mentored young Christian women, and shared the love of Jesus at Christmas with the 100+ women who attend Advent by Candlelight each year."

The description of the keynote starts with the sentence

In the heart of every woman beats the desire to do what God created her to do.

It is abundantly clear we are putting women on a pedestal to start things out. Every woman, really? Margaret Sanger and her eugenics project? Ghislaine Maxwell's grooming? Well maybe we are restricting it to every Lutheran woman who attends a women's "ministry" conference. Even that is wrong - we confess every week in worship that sinful and unclean in thought, word and action. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17). 

While many Christians are leaving the church at alarming rates, exit surveys from women leaving WELS congregations show they left because they were not allowed to participate in congregational ministry in a way they perceived as meaningful.
Ah, and there's your Lutheran Leadership. Exit surveys! 
Without straying from God‘s Word and his design, how can we best steward the gifts God has given us through the women he’s blessed us with? In this presentation, we’ll have a candid conversation with Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator for WELS Congregational Services, about how to better identify and utilize the ideas and gifts of women in ways that abide by Scripture principles for men and women.
So I'll start teasing a thread that I think, over the next several weeks, will prove to be the lockstitch holding the women's conference together, and that is using Christianity to consecrate secular culture. The desires of women in our culture are unassailable, and the opening sentence of the description declares the heart of a woman to be good and wholesome. Losing members is bad - from a secular leadership perspective, of course this is true. The reason stated is rooted in the emotion of "meaningfulness." In what sense? The worldly sense of meaningful ministry is not necessarily the Biblical sense. If women are wanting a greater share of visible participation in worship, if they want to lead Bible studies, there may be a wholesome desire expressed in a worldly vocabulary. The Bible makes it quite clear that a woman is to be quiet and submissive, and not to teach men (1 Timothy 2). The Bible spends much time extolling submission in marriage, vocation of motherhood, older women mentoring younger women, and widows serving the Church. Perhaps the exit surveys, instead of revealing an unwillingness to utilize the talents of women, expose church leadership who is not clearly teaching men to be Christian men in the mold of Scripture and women to be Christian women in a similar but unique mold. Egalitarianism and Gospel reductionism is alive and well, even within the WELS.

But I imagine we'll find out that we have failed as men to allow our women the free reign to minister in every possible capacity that could be afforded them. Perhaps Hein will point to Dr. Prince's keynote and WLHS' pending bylaw revision allowing women on the board as "baby steps in the right direction."