Voices from the Communion on Women’s Ordination | WICAS
LWF Women in Church and Society (WICAS) Secretary Rev. Dr Elaine Neuenfeldt reflects on ordained ministry in the LWF as the communion journeys towards the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
What do you see as the primary driving forces for women’s ordination in the LWF’s history?
Our strength comes from our biblical-theological basis. The Lutheran understanding of ministry is as a function of the whole people of God. Based on the priesthood of all believers, the ordained ministry is one expression of the diversity of ministries in the life of the church.
Women and men are created in the image of God and are called to participate in God’s mission. Affirming the ordination of women is an expression of the communion of all baptized, regardless of each person’s gender.
Looking at the current situation of women’s access to ordained ministry, what positive developments have taken place?
The majority of churches in the LWF communion do ordain women. More and more congregations are open to receive and manifest the joy and positive experiences in working with women in ordained ministry.
An overview of the news regarding women’s ordination shows that, at different levels, having women as ordained ministers is a blessing and a gift for the church. Some churches are growing, others are involved in different fields, for example, the work by some women pastors creating safe spaces and interacting with governments on policies on violence against women.
What challenges remain?
Based on my own experience as an ordained pastor, I can identify some challenges: one is the need for a shift in the discussion. Instead of discussing women’s ordination, I would like to see the discussion focus on the ordained ministry and how the church is defining itself. In other words, it is the challenge to discuss it as a church concern and not only as a women’s concern.
Another challenge is to overcome prejudices which are cultural but end up being used as biblical or theological concepts, for example the claim that women cannot perform their social and cultural roles in the family, such as being mothers, and at the same time exercise their call as ordained pastors.
We also face the challenge of fully integrating ordained women in different ministries and decision making, not just in the areas traditionally assigned to or provided by women such as diakonia, education or care.
Why would increased access of women to ordained ministry be a milestone for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017?
We are churches in ongoing reformation. The Reformation anniversary in 2017 is an opportunity to witness that we are an inclusive communion embracing the gifts women are bringing and offering space to women to exercise their call.