• Section II, Item 1, of the former Lutheran Church in America bylaw was amended to read: “A minister of this church shall be a person [italics added] whose soundness in the faith, aptness to teach and educational qualifications have been examined and approved in the manner prescribed in the constitution and who has been properly ordained ....”
• The ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation reports that 155 women and 151 men were ordained in 2003. Of 17,754 pastors, 2,998 are women (2004 figures).
• Barbara Louise Andrews was the first woman ordained in the former American Lutheran Church on Dec. 20, 1970. She served Edina [Minn.] Community and Resurrection (Detroit) Lutheran churches and as chaplain of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, Detroit. She died in a house fire in 1978.
As I held firmly to the leg of a female
parishioner, the Spirit revealed to me one thing: As a woman, I could
contribute something in the role of ordained clergy that most men could
and probably should not. I could be here, holding this woman’s leg as
she gave birth.
Weeks later I held God’s leg, as it were, as the same baby was birthed from the Spirit’s baptismal womb amid Christ’s people. It was a remarkable, unforgettable, beautiful gift. As a woman, I was uniquely able to share in this family’s experiences. In these events, I received a glimpse of why God called me to be a pastor.
Pastor as midwife: This has been a theme for me throughout my ministry. God is always bringing something new to birth.
This year God and the pioneers and forerunners of women’s ordination will be thanked and applauded. But the fact that we still regard these ordinations as remarkable after 35 years means the Spirit’s work isn’t complete. It seems God’s work in the church and in our culture isn’t yet fulfilled. And it may be that women—including me—are to be the midwives of what God will bring to birth next.
The 25th anniversary of women’s ordination happened while I was in seminary. It was then that I began to fully appreciate the challenges faced by the women who had gone before me. My female classmates and I endured sexual harassment from some male seminarians and encountered challenges in candidacy committees, internships and first-call interviews that our male counterparts didn’t.
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