On 3 June the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) voted in favor of a motion to change its constitution, restricting service in the ordained ministry to men only. The LWF is saddened to see the ELCL depart from a shared journey and common practice among LWF member churches.
The LWF was aware of this motion before the synod and followed these developments with concern.
An LWF delegation visited the church in April 2016 to present this concern. During that visit the ELCL was made aware that at five consecutive Assemblies the LWF member churches stated their common goal of including women in the ordained ministry. These decisions were made on the basis of thorough discernment of Scriptures and theological research.
Together, LWF member churches have progressed impressively towards that goal. More than 80% of LWF member churches ordain women, and their membership includes more than 90% of the members of LWF member churches.
While stating this shared goal, all the Assemblies have also underlined that there should not be any imposition on the question of women’s ordination, neither on those requiring more time to decide, nor on those already ordaining women or ready to do so. An ethos of mutuality and solidarity undergirds this journey as a communion of churches.
The LWF expresses its solidarity to women, who by virtue of this decision may feel marginalized and hurt in their dignity.
The LWF is concerned about the unity of the Latvian church, given the fact that many at the Synod opposed the motion, or abstained from voting.
The LWF is also concerned about the implications of this decision for the ELCL’s bilateral and multilateral relations.
Following the action of the Synod, the LWF will take up discussions with the ELCL to hear from the church how it understands the practical implications of its decision.