As the ELCA celebrates the 35th ordination anniversary of women this year, figures show that for the first time the number of women who were ordained has surpassed men.
The ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation reports that 155 women were ordained in 2003, compared to 151 men. In 2002 and 2001 the numbers were close: 143 men and 140 women, and 156 men and 153 women. Women have been moving toward equity since Elizabeth Platz's 1970 ordination. The breakdown was 354 to 63 in 1980 and 226 to 122 in 1990.
Elizabeth Polanzke, pastor of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, York, Pa., is the first female pastor in five generations of men in her family who were pastors or lay leaders."The story of ordination of women isn't a women's story. It's a church story," she told the York Daily Record. "It took the men who saw the expression of the gospel in women's ministry ... to make that happen. They were the ones who had the power and felt moved by the Spirit to do this."
"Throughout the 35 years since the first woman was ordained in our predecessor churches, women have been strong proclaimers of the word and gracious presiders at the sacraments," said Stanley Olson, executive director of the ELCA Division for Ministry. "I thank God that the numbers [of candidates and ordinands] have begun to reflect the makeup of the church. This church is enriched because faithful women and men hear and accept the call to serve as pastors — and as diaconal ministers, deaconesses and associates in ministry."
The ELCA will celebrate the 35th anniversary of ordination at the Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering in San Antonio in July and at the August Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla.
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