“Deeply saddened" by Latvian church decision against women’s ordination
LWF Council statement on women in the ordained ministry
The annual governing body of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) today said it was “deeply saddened and concerned” over a recent decision prohibiting women’s ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL), and urged the church to reconsider its decision.
The Council adopted a public statement titled “Women in the Ordained Ministry: Our Shared Goal” to affirm its position. The LWF action underlined the equality of women and men in the church and reiterated that “any kind of discrimination in the way women participate in the ministry of the church (including ordination) harms the fulfillment of the mission of the church in the world, as it is contrary to the nature of God’s reign.”
The governing body said the action of the ELCL Synod on 3 June, restricting the ordained ministry to men only, was a step backward on the common path the LWF had followed for the past 32 years. Five consecutive LWF Assemblies – from the 7th Assembly in Budapest in 1984 to the 11th Assembly in Stuttgart in 2010 – had urged “member churches to prayerfully discern and affirm women’s theological training, their leadership, their ministry, and their full inclusion in the church.”
It noted the Latvian church itself started women’s ordination in 1975, and the new constitutional change therefore excluded women from full participation in the life of the church.
The Council acknowledged that ordination was a call and not a right, thus restriction and exclusion of women’s gifts in the church would serve to devalue all women and increase their discrimination in both church and society.
“We share in the pain and sadness of our sisters and brothers in the ELCL caused by the restriction of ordained ministry to men only. We believe the whole church, and our whole communion, suffers when the gifts of women’s ministry are not valued and given full expression,” the Council stated.
As the LWF prepares for the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017, the Council expressed its hope that the long-standing position on women in the ordained ministry would be re-affirmed at the Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia.