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'People thought it was impossible'

Rachel Doumbaye, a widow and mother of five, was installed as pastor in Abba, Central African Republic, April 21.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic's decision to ordain women has implications for neighboring Lutheran churches that are still debating the question. In many countries, the issue is more political than ecclesiological, said Will Herzfeld, associate executive director, Division for Global Mission, and an international Lutheran representative at the ordination. (Herzfeld died shortly after this visit; see page 45.)

"One of the things ordination does is empower women, and women are not free in these societies," he said. "During the ordination, I could see the evangelical defiance on the face of all the women. They knew things had changed."

A missionary first told Doumbaye that women could be pastors, but many in the country were less certain. "My professors were doubtful whether I could even finish the first year," said Doumbaye, a 1999 graduate of the church's seminary in Baboua. "People thought it was impossible for me because I had too much to do: the children, the housework, the fields, my studies, and I was alone."

As a pastor, her goal is to see women listen to God's calling. "I want to help women understand that their nature is not bad," she explained. "It is God who created the nature of woman, and God cannot create something in God's image that is not good."


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