A movement to transform the churches in India

The 25th anniversary celebration highlighted the various ministries in which ordained women serve in India’s Lutheran churches. Photo: LWF/P. Lok
The 25th anniversary celebration highlighted the various ministries in which ordained women serve in India’s Lutheran churches. Photo: LWF/P. Lok

25 years of women’s ordination celebrated  

(LWI) - Lutheran women are making a difference in Indian churches and society, a leader of the women’s movement asserted following celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the ordination of the first Lutheran women pastors.

“After 25 years, we have witnessed some reformations, some transformations and lots of changes in the life and ministries of the church within the Lutheran communion in India,” said Ranjita Christie Borgoary, secretary of Women in Church and Society (WICAS) at the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI).

Borgoary was referring to a symposium and celebration marking the ordination of Rev. Prasanna Kumari and Rev. Porimol Kisku in September 1991 into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The late Kumari served as UELCI secretary for WICAS and Vice-President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) for Asia. Kisku served as a pastor of the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church.

More than 200 women attended the 9-11 September event in Chennai, which was addressed by leaders of the 11 LWF member churches that make up the national body UELCI.

“It was a breakthrough and victory from the captivity of patriarchy and male monopoly over priestly ministry within the Lutheran churches in India. Indeed, it was a stepping stone towards a new world for the Indian Lutheran communion,” declared Borgoary.

She said 10 of the Lutheran churches in India ordain women, with the UELCI alone having 185 women pastors, and aiming for broader inclusivity.

Radical transformation

“The dream envisions and commits us to strive for radical transformation within all our member churches, so that not only are women ordained but all women are given equal dignity, status, leadership and participation within the diverse ministries of the church,” Borgoary added.

UELCI executive secretary Rev. Dr Augustine Jeyakumar noted that women’s ordination was still in its infancy in Lutheran churches and was yet to be recognized as the norm within the leadership. The jubilee ought not to be a celebration, but rather an unceasing commitment that the churches need to adopt. It is a benchmark for restructuring the church’s administrative offices, he added.

The dream envisions and commits us to strive for radical transformation within all our member churches, so that not only are women ordained but all women are given equal dignity, status, leadership and participation within the diverse ministries of the church
Christie Borgoary, United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India

In a statement, the UELCI encouraged churches to support women for theological education, ordination, participation in church life, and make constitutional changes to help realize this vision.

“As we move on into the future, we commit ourselves afresh to the gospel of justice for all, recognizing the unique contribution which ordained women bring to the ministry of the church,” the statement added.

Congratulating the UELCI, Rev. Dr Elaine Neuenfeldt, Secretary for Women in Church and Society at the LWF said the jubilee served as a reminder of further work towards inclusiveness and justice. “The celebration is a first step. There is need for a clear plan of action in every member church, fully expressing the equality of men and women.”   

A long-term vision

LWF area secretary for Asia Rev. Dr Philip Lok, who participated in the celebrations, said Lutheran churches must continue to incorporate women’s perspectives into the worship and diaconal lives of congregations.

“The church is called to be inclusive not only for its own sake but for the entire society. The leadership and theological reflection of women in India, and throughout Asia must be a core part of this long-term vision,” he added.

“Since 1971, the UELCI WICAS desk has been dreaming and striving hard towards empowerment, gender equality and ordination of women as the gospel calls us to bring reformation and transformation within the member churches,” Bogoary emphasized.

LWF’s member churches in India bring together more than 4 million members.

 

LWF News

20 September 2018
CHENNAI, India/GENEVA
3 July 2018
GENEVA/Switzerland
25 November 2017
GENEVA, Switzerland/GENEVA