More than 250 female pastors and growing

Current and past bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, with the first eight female clergy in the Northern Diocese, which recently marked 25 years of women’s ordination. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga
Current and past bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, with the first eight female clergy in the Northern Diocese, which recently marked 25 years of women’s ordination. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga

Celebrating 25 years of Lutheran women’s ordination in Tanzania’s Northern Diocese

(LWI) - More than 10 percent of ordained pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) are women, and nearly all the church’s 24 dioceses ordain women for the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

ELCT’s Northern Diocese recently celebrated 25 years of women’s ordination in a colorful ceremony attended by over 170 female pastors, including 34 from the diocese, and students of theology. Past and present diocesan leaders were among speakers at the seminar and festive worship, attended also by guests from other parts of the country.

Participants in the seminar came from all five dioceses in ELCT’s northern zone.  Photo: ELCT/ Richard A. Mmbaga 

Former LWF Council member and Pasua Parish pastor Rev. Anna Makyao speaks at the Northern Diocese women’s ordination jubilee. She was among the first women to be ordained in the diocese. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga 

In May 2015, the ELCT celebrated 25 years of women’s ordination in the church at a ceremony in Bukoba and later in Moshi, in the context of the 60th anniversary of the first African Lutheran church leaders’ conference in Marangu.

Speakers at the seminar included Rev. Joyceline Njama, chairperson of the women’s theologians’ network in ELCT’s northern zone. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga 

During the recent celebrations, participants shared experiences about their faith journey, with several giving thanks to God for the church’s decision to train women theologians in the late 1960s. In addition to the female clergy, the ELCT has more than 250 theologically trained women working in leadership capacities such as heading parishes; teaching at the Tumaini University Makumira (TUMA), theological colleges, seminaries and Bible schools;  and in diverse management roles.

Theologians participating in the jubilee events marking 25 years of women’s ordination in the Tanzanian Lutheran church. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga

Martha Massawe from Mbulu Diocese, which is yet to ordain women, reiterated the message by Presiding Bishop Dr Fredrick Shoo that having female pastors was a blessing to ELCT’s pastoral ministry. “The vision of leaders of the diocese to train theologians although there were no women pastors in the church at the time was a miracle,” she said, referring to the Northern Diocese, of which Shoo is bishop.

From left: Rev. Happiness Mbowe led the liturgy for the jubilee Sunday worship, with Presiding Bishop Dr Frederick Shoo in attendance, LWF area secretary for  Africa, Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure preaching, and Moshi Cathedral pastor Rev. Shirima among the assisting pastors.  Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga

In some cases female pastors were not welcome to parishes simply because they were women or they were paid a lower salary compared to their male counterparts. Many praised the North-Western diocese pastor Rev. Alice Kabugumila, the first Tanzanian and African woman to study theology, 1969 – 1973, at the then Makumira Theological college. She had to wait for 33 years before her ordination could take place in 2006, as the North-Western Diocese was still raising awareness about women’s ordination in its parishes.

Rev. Alice Kabugumila, the first woman to study theology in the ELCT and in Africa. She was ordained in 2006, some 33 years after her theology studies. Photo: ELCT

Others recalled their male classmates’ open opposition to women’s ordination. “They questioned if the bishops who sent women to study theology did not have other candidates, meaning men,” one participant said.

Seminar participant Rev. Sister Elly Urio is the manager of Lyamungo Retreat Center, and one of the first ordained women in ELCT’s Northern Diocese. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga

Preaching at the jubilee worship service, LWF’s area secretary Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure, urged church leadership to include more women theologians as co-workers in the pastoral ministry. “Our unity, our strength” was the theme of the August event, which included a two-day workshop and the launch of a book titled: Yubile ya Miaka 25 ya Huduma ya Wachungaji Wanawake. (Swahili for: The Silver Jubilee of Women’s Pastoral Ministry.)

Presiding Bishop Dr Frederick Shoo, presents the publication dedicated to the 25th anniversary of women’s ordination in ELCT’s Northern Diocese. Photo: ELCT/Richard A. Mmbaga

 

(ELCT Communications coordinator Elizabeth Lobulu contributed to this story.)

 



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