Voices from the Communion: Rev. Liria Consuelo Preciado from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia
(LWI) - Rev. Lidia Consuelo Preciado was the first woman to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO). The church currently has three women and five men serving as pastors in 21 congregations and missions.
Having been in the ordained ministry for the past 25 years, “Pastora Consuelo” – as she is generally called – speaks about her motivation to become a pastor and the role of women in her church and Colombia’s peace process.
Could you please tell us something about your background and how you grew up?
I come from a region of Colombia called Llanos Orientales, from a town called Paz de Ariporo, in the department of Casanare. The area is known for cattle farming and meat production.
I grew up with nine siblings, and I am the youngest. So, we were a very large family, and my parents faced many challenges raising us. Nevertheless, my grandmother and mother were always very determined and eager to encourage us.
What made you decide to study theology and become a pastor?
In the beginning, I had a scholarship from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to study social work. It had never crossed my mind to study theology and become a pastor. But while I was studying at Faculdades EST in São Leopoldo, Brazil, I realized that social sciences were not what I wanted to proceed with. Instead, I had the opportunity to participate in theology classes, and that struck a nerve in me.
I would describe this as a calling emerging in a process. While on the way, I realized that God calls people to God’s ministry in different ways – men and women, young people and children – to act and work in the service of the Church on this earth. I fell in love with theology and could continue my studies after conversations and negotiations with the IELCO, the Faculty of Theology at Faculdades EST, and the LWF.
Please describe the role of women in your church. Where are they involved, and how?
In our Lutheran church, women play a very fundamental role; they are very active. They lead many of our church committees, they are presidents, and they are coordinators of ministries. They are engaged as laywomen in congregations and missions; they support many different church spaces.
That is very good! We, as women, are very visible, and we feel proud that God has opened these doors to us in the church. We are happy to see that younger women have taken on the task of continuing the church’s work and service here in Colombia.
Your church is very involved in the peace process in Colombia. Could you tell us about that and how it affects women?
IELCO is very present in the areas of our country where new peace agreements are currently being concluded, and the peace process is taking shape. We accompany communities and municipalities and help them comply with the peace treaties’ provisions. We are particularly committed to promoting understanding between different groups and conflict parties.
For this purpose, we have set up accompanying projects. We offer opportunities for dialogue and discussion at various locations. That is important for the parties involved and provides us with opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel. Through these activities, we are close to the people with their needs and concerns.
In some places, however, connecting with people as church representatives is difficult. That particularly applies to women because they are subject to certain restrictions. Often, they cannot speak freely or have inhibitions about approaching church staff. However, by working with other organizations, we build bridges to these areas and these people, to get in touch with them and to work with them.
Unfortunately, we also see that not all our church members support our involvement in the peace process. In that respect, our church reflects general tendencies in society. Still, as a church, we are called to be messengers of peace and to proclaim the reconciling message of Christ.
After being ordained for 25 years, where do you see the challenges of being a woman in the ordained ministry in the Latin American context?
The challenges for women have not changed much in the past decades. There are still many people who disagree with women being ordained. Sometimes we see some progress, and we can move forward. But then we get set back again because some don’t understand that God’s Spirit calls different people to serve the church.
We are often confronted with harmful fundamentalist tendencies. However, we see our task as making God’s liberating grace, as revealed in the Old and New Testaments, the basis of our work.
What role does the LWF women’s network play in connecting women in your region?
The network is very helpful in supporting one another and responding to calls by women addressed to women in the region. It helps us to coordinate participation in conferences and meetings. And it is an excellent platform to share devotions, Biblical texts and reflections that encourage us and help us develop contextualized materials and activities for us as women.
Being connected through a network is very good because we know what is happening in other regions and countries. That way, we can also support one another and strengthen our bonds of sisterhood.