CTCR Review – The Creator’s Tapestry: Scriptural Perspectives on Man-Woman Relationships in Marriage and the Church

In my particular denomination (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) has a commission that works on putting out theological statements/stands/defenses/explanations on behalf of our denomination.  The commission is made up of lay people (non-pastors), pastors, and academics.  This commission is the Commission on Theology and Church Relations Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).

When we had our mail forwarded to us recently, included was the CTCR’s most recent publication entitled The Creator’s Tapestry: Scriptural Perspectives on Man-Woman Relationships in Marriage and the Church.  If you want to read it, you can access the PDF here.  
It’s a timely topic, though rather ironic that it has been 15 years in the making.  At the end of the booklet they publish the 1995 motion that requested the CTCR to address this issue.  While I believe there have been intermediate, related publications, it’s still funny to me that it takes 15 years to put out a response.  Fortunately, the topic hasn’t gotten any less pertinent in the last 15 years.  Unfortunately, while I think this document is good, I think it might have risked being a bit more specific to give help to people where they live.  
The document examines several passages of Scripture that are traditionally viewed as descriptive and prescriptive of man-woman relations in the Bible.  These are organized by the three traditional roles of God as interpreted through the three Ecumenical Creeds – God as creator, God as redeemer, and God as renewer or sanctifier.  The texts that are examined are the first three chapters of Genesis, Ephesians 5, 1Corinthians 7 & 11 & 14, 1 Peter 3, and 1 Timothy 2.   
This document describes itself as foundational (page 3) – in other words, it knows that it isn’t addressing everything it could, and it’s ok with that.  And the document does a good job at laying out the basic theology for the above-mentioned passages.  If you haven’t looked at this before, I’d definitely recommend reading through.  
Some of my issues with it are nitpicking.  On page 18, for instance, they cite God’s conversation with Adam as the first indication of the rift between man and woman caused by sin.  I’d have pointed out the makeshift clothing they found suddenly necessary after eating the forbidden fruit.  Very piddly issue.   I thought the explication and exegesis of 1Corinthians 14 could have been more thorough.  This is a passage that causes a lot of confusion, and I feel that the explanation provided – while theologically good – was also too brief.  Spending some more time fleshing out what this means would have been much more helpful, particularly since this particular passage applies to some of the later conclusions that are drawn in defense of certain actions and stances the LCMS has taken.    
Perhaps my biggest concern with the document is that it often feels as though in attempting to not offend women, it spends more time criticizing men.  I’m sure that this is in part a way of compensating for the fact that the Scriptural issue of women and submissiveness is a tough one to hear in our day and age.  This document talks in broad theological terms about what that means.  As it ought to, the document deals with issues critical to both men and women in relationship with one another and the world around them.  But it seems lopsided as well.  For example, on page 54, there is a strong denunciation of men who abuse their leadership.  It is described as “an affront to Christ and the Word of God” – which it is.  This is then linked to the defense of why some women are unable to respect or submit as they are Scripturally enjoined to do, which I have no doubt is sometimes the case.  I wonder that it doesn’t bother to point out that the problems can flow the other direction as well, with women who demand the leadership role leaving men unwilling or unable to fulfill their proper role within the Christian family.  And finally, when discussing the unwillingness to be submissive in general, this is warned against on the grounds causing the Church’s witness to Christ to suffer.  Certainly, if the failure of men to properly live out their Scriptural roles properly is ultimately an “affront to Christ”, so is the failure of women to properly live out their Scriptural roles properly.
These are complex issues, and this foundational document doesn’t deal with them in the depth I would have hoped.  But it does do a good job at laying the ground work Scripturally and theologically for how those issues should be approached in concrete issues and decision making.  

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