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Two short reflections on women’s leadership as teaching theologiansThank God for the academic vocation. Without it, I have no idea when I would meet, know, and eventually become a female leader in the Lutheran church. Insofar as colleges and universities continue to exist as expressions of the church in the world, female faculty have a wide-ranging influence on the church as well as the communities in which they and the church exist.
The original order of thingsLutheran churches in America lagged well behind social movements that gave women more access to positions of authority. From suffrage to ordination, different Lutheran synods have continued to embrace different interpretations of the Bible’s stance on women’s roles. And, surely the debate is not yet over. While women can vote and preach in the ELCA, other Lutheran church bodies refuse to bend, preferring to uphold what they consider the original order of things.
Women preachers : an apocalyptic Image of the kingdom of GodEvangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2020In the five years leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of women’s ordination in the ELCA’s predecessor bodies I interviewed eighty-five ELCA female pastors serving in congregations across the Southeast. It was an honor to receive their stories – stories of amazing grace and devastating heartbreak. By the end of that project I could see that there are concrete ways that we, as church, are called to respond to the stories of our female rostered leaders. We must do this for the sake of the world God so loves.
Embodiment of power, self and identity : weaving my story of ordination in history.I was raised in a Lutheran family, with a father and a grandfather who were pastors in a Lutheran church that was a sister/daughter church of the LCMS. My Dad encouraged us children to go for theological studies, all eight of us – six daughters and two sons. For Dad, the ordination question was irrelevant. He wanted all the children to be theologically equipped to discern God’s call in each of our lives. He saw the potential of theological education as a tool for empowerment of self and identity. I am amazed at this vision and understanding of the scope of theological education as a tool for gender justice, women’s empowerment, and discovering of new self-identity and so on, when the social location, social experience, education and environment of my Dad was that of a typical patriarchal household with even more conservative patriarchal values.
“We are determined:” suffrage, ordination, and coeducationJust as coeducation in universities has not solved all gender issues, and universal suffrage has not solved all justice issues, the church's decision in 1970 did not immediately change the relationship between women and men in the church. But it was a bold start, just as suffrage was a century ago. More than a century before the 19th amendment was ratified, there were states who permitted women to vote. In each case, that vote was rescinded. In the early days of women's ordination there was fear that it, too, might be rescinded, that women would be sacrificed for ecumenical harmony. But the threats did not change the trajectory of the church. And we move forward, proclaiming, reforming, lamenting and celebrating.