Serving the church as equals

9 Sep 2023

Women delegates from LWF member churches gathered for their Pre-Assembly to worship, build, and sustain relationships, assess regional and global needs for gender justice, identify priorities for the coming years, and prepare a message to share with the Thirteenth Assembly. 

Pre-Assembly Women - worship group

Participants of the Women’s Pre-Assembly in Wrocław, Poland, after the opening worship. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert 

Women’s Pre-Assembly begins in Wrocław, Poland 

(LWI) - In the days leading up to the Thirteenth Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), 107 women, both lay and ordained, from across the world gathered in Wrocław, Poland, for the Women’s Pre-Assembly. The meeting takes place from 8 to 11 September. 

Women delegates from LWF member churches gathered to worship, build, and sustain relationships, assess regional and global needs for gender justice, identify priorities for the next seven years, and prepare a message and priorities to share with the whole Assembly gathering in Kraków, Poland, from 13 to 19 September. 

Pre-Assembly Women - Bishop Samiec

Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, Jerzy Samiec, greets the delegates of the Women’s Pre-Assembly. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert 

Willingness to change mindsets is crucial 

In his greeting, Jerzy Samiec, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP), said it was an honor for him to speak to the Pre-Assembly. He emphasized the power of mindsets in the way women and men face challenges and even everyday life.  

“A year ago, we celebrated the first ordination of women to be ordained as pastors,” Samiec said. “It was a long journey that brought us to that moment, and much has changed in our Church along the way.” 

Samiec said he himself underwent a significant change in thinking. “I was a staunch opponent of women's ordination. This belief was the result of what I had heard from childhood, during my time in youth group, and later after my ordination. My trusted teachers taught that only men were called to be ministers.” 

“This is how the world, at least in the West, often shapes our unquestioning acceptance of the truths passed down to us,” he said. 

“It was only after being elected as a presiding bishop that I encountered different viewpoints,” Samiec recalled. “I decided to reexamine the issue of women's ordination from its foundations. I revised my learned views through the study of God's Word and theological perspectives and practices within our Church.” 

“Christ calls us His friends. There is no distinction here between male and female,” Samiec said. 

“When we began preparing the Women’s Pre-Assembly in 2021, we prayed for women’s ordination in this church,” recalled Rev. Dr. Marcia Blasi, LWF's Program Executive for Women's Empowerment, in her word of welcome. “In May 2022, the first nine women were ordained in Warsaw, and now, in 2023, we are your guests in Wroclaw with the Women’s Pre-Assembly. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Pre-Assembly Women - Rev. Radacz

Rev. Halina Radacz from the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland preaching at the opening service of the Women’s Pre-Assembly. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert 

Biblical texts, necessary and revolutionary 

Rev. Halina Radacz from the ECACP based her sermon on Galatians 3,28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” These biblical words “are not only still relevant; they are still revolutionary and necessary,” she said. 

“The beautiful sermons about God’s love and the equality of all people before God become meaningless if we fail to demonstrate this love to individuals with different skin colors, languages, and traditions,” she said. “Eloquent words about love lose their value if we persist in ignoring the marginalized and bowing before the powerful of this world. The profound sentiments about family and the unique role of women hold no significance unless we view them as equal partners in the life and service of the Church and society,” Radacz said. 

Women’s role in the church, gender justice, and education 

During the first day of the Women’s Pre-Assembly, women who have been ordained to serve in the ECACP gave strong witness from their seventy-year struggle to be acknowledged as equal partners to their male counterparts in serving the Church. 

Delegates also reflected on the LWF’s Gender Justice Policy, which was introduced 10 years ago, and its ongoing relevance for women as well as men in LWF’s member churches. It became clear that much remains to be done to fully implement this policy. 

LWF’s General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt, is scheduled to speak to the Women’s Pre-Assembly on 9 September on gender justice from a theological perspective. She will discuss some of the Bible passages and theological arguments that have been used to justify the subordination of women and reflect on the how men can be involved in the work for gender justice. 

An Interim Report of the LWF Study Process on Experiences of Women in the Ordained Ministry will also be presented. “The report provides insights into the lived experiences of women throughout the LWF communion within their ministerial roles,” explains Marcia Blasi. “It is intended to pave the way for the subsequent stages of the study process, inspiring and empowering more women to actively engage, share their stories, and realize they are not alone in their journeys. The study underscores the LWF’s commitment to gender justice and the full inclusion of women in all aspects of church life, including the ordained ministry.” 

Another session will focus on ways to combat and prevent gender-based violence. The enormous scale of this problem is a source of grave concern for LWF’s advocacy, women’s networks and member churches. 

Finally, delegates are preparing the Women’s Message to the Thirteenth Assembly, which will convey their concerns and specify work priorities for the next years. 

LWF/A. Weyermüller