France’s largest Lutheran body, the 210,000-member Church of the Augsburg Confession in Alsace Lorraine, was founded in 1808. When Alsace became part of Germany after the war of 1870-71, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France was formed. After World War II, when Alsace again became part of France, the two churches remained independent. Both are Lutheran World Federation members.
In France, attitudes toward female pastors are changing rapidly, said Marie-France Robert, the first female to head the Paris region of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France.
“When I first started conducting services, people would ask, ‘But when will the pastor arrive?’ The image they had of a pastor was that of a man,” said Robert, 60, who is serving her second five-year term. “Today no one would ask such a question.”
And in 2000, Robert participated in a celebration of Christian unity. “Priests of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths offered me their stoles [in] recognition of my ministry,” she said.
Parisian congregations have changed demographically over the years. In Saint-Denis, in the northern suburbs of Paris, 85 percent to 90 percent of parishioners are immigrants, she said. “Many were not Lutheran originally and sometimes there is tension between them and older members of the congregation,” she said. “We try to achieve equilibrium.”
Robert also serves two parishes, one with “a very strong African presence,” she said, and another where “the congregation is half ethnic French, half immigrant.”