The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


She brings the good news

But 40 years later, there are still hurdles

It's been 40 years since the first Lutheran woman was ordained in the U.S., yet only one in five ELCA pastors is a woman. Female clergy aren't exactly nailing demands to church doors these days, but they're still finding some of those doors difficult to open.

As in other mainline Protestant denominations, female pastors in the ELCA continue to serve in smaller congregations more often than do their male counterparts, their total compensation packages are less, and they're underrepresented in the Conference of Bishops, according to the ELCA and other sources. On the other hand, their numbers are growing—currently about half of ELCA seminarians are women—and more and more ELCA congregations are calling their first female pastor.

Women serving in ordained ministry today say much has changed since 1970, but there are still hurdles to be jumped.

michael d. watsonElizabeth Bakalyar Friedman of Dearborn, Mich., will finish her studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in December, completing a journey begun by her grandmother more than 75 years ago.

"My grandmother, Hannah Fyrand, had always wanted to be a pastor, but having been born in 1906, she wasn't allowed," Friedman said. "She decided the next best thing would be to marry one." Friedman's grandfather, Edmore, was a pastor in North Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, and he and Hannah were "very much a team," she added.

After her grandfather died, Our Savior Lutheran Church in Montevideo, Minn., where he served as visitation pastor in retirement, asked her grandmother to be the lay visitation minister. She was also invited "to be the first woman to preach there," Friedman said.

Lu Bettisch of Lakemoor, Ill., didn't plan to preach at all. Bettisch, 51, is a second-career student who originally planned to be an associate in ministry. But during orientation week at LSTC, other students told her she should be a pastor. They began taking bets as to when she would "see the light."

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