The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Women's ordination: Pastor as midwife

Bringing a necessary voice & vision

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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