Thailand: First Lutheran women ordained into ministry

Rev. Jongkolnee Sampachanyanon Sim receives the blessing from bishop Rt. Rev. Amnuay Yodwong. Photo: LWF/ P. Lok
Rev. Jongkolnee Sampachanyanon Sim receives the blessing from bishop Rt. Rev. Amnuay Yodwong. Photo: LWF/ P. Lok

“Ordination is confirmation of women’s calling from God”

(LWI) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand (ELCT), a member church of the Lutheran World federation (LWF), has called its first women into the ordained ministry of word and sacrament.

The ordination of Rev. Jongkolnee Sampachanyanon Sim and Rev. Somporn Kulachote on 27 April represents a significant milestone in the four decades of ministry in the ELCT, LWF Area Secretary for Asia Rev. Dr Philip Lok Oi Peng says. “Women have been involved in church ministry for many years, they served as evangelists and preachers and practically performed all the duties of pastors except for the holy sacrament. Therefore the church has recognized their contribution and affirmed their calling.”

Both Rev. Jongkolnee and Rev Somporm are converts to Christianity. They received their initial theological training at the Lutheran Seminary in Thailand. After completing studies, they were assigned to congregations in different parts of the country. Rev Somporm had worked in church planting since 2000, starting new churches in different places.

Fullfill the call to serve

Both women were ordained at the closing service of the church’s 2018 general assembly. The service was held at the church at the headquarters of the ELCT.

Rev. Jongkolnee said her motivation to be ordained was simply driven by her wish to serve her congregation fully as a pastor. “With ordination, I will be able to conduct the sacrament, something which was not possible in the past.”

I am thankful the church has now fully affirmed my call as a pastor and that now I can serve the people through the ministry of the word and sacrament.
Rev. Somporn Kulachote

Her sentiment was echoed by Rev. Somporm. “I am thankful the church has now fully affirmed my call as a pastor and that now I can serve the people through the ministry of the word and sacrament.”

Encouragement to other women

The newly-ordained pastors are ready for the challenges their new role may bring. “Our Thai culture, like many other Asian cultures, has a gender bias against women. It would be interesting to see how my members will respond to my new responsibilities. They only know male pastors,” said Rev. Somporn. One of her first acts as an ordained minister was to serve the Eucharist to her bishop, the Rt. Rev. Amnuay Yodwong.

Rev. Jongkolnee wants to inspire other women who felt called into the ministry. “I encourage them to go for proper training, and to boldly seek ordination as this is a confirmation of their calling from God.”

At the same service, the church installed the Rev. Amnuay Yodwong, as the bishop of the church for a four-year term and ordained a third candidate, Rev. Wirotn Kaeosaart.

The ELCT joined the LWF as a member in 1994. The church has 5,000 members worshipping in 56 congregations and outreach centers.