In 2020 we will celebrate the fiftieth-year anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA. When I served as a campus pastor, the Rev. Beth Platz, was a colleague serving at a university in Maryland. She was the first woman to be ordained by a Lutheran body in North America. When she was ordained in 1987 there was opposition. Some mistook her desire for ordination as a feminist statement when as Pastor Beth says it was an “irresistible call from God.” For myself, 1987 was a pivotal year. I graduated from Duke Divinity School and I was ordained in Fayetteville, NC. I resonate with Pastor Beth’s statement about call. Between the eight years after undergraduate school and the beginning of Divinity School I tried in vain to avoid God’s call. When I entered Div. School I had never seen a woman in the pulpit.
In March of this year Bishop Tim of NC Synod invited all of the female pastors of the synod to be a part of a conversation concerning women in ministry. To include all of the voices-there were three different meetings. The female staff of the synod conducted the meetings. The Bishop absented himself from the room so that we could speak freely. We had a brief listening session with him at the end of our time and then the Bishop conducted a closing worship service.
The conversation revealed a broad range of emotions and experiences; from the glass ceiling to inappropriate comments from parishioners and colleagues, to anger and disappointment. At times the conversation was painful. As I participated I expressed my own pain and felt some healing woven into the opportunity to candidly share.
As a result, a video was made. Male pastors of the NC Synod were given statements to read in front of the camera. They had not previewed them. The filming was a cold cut of their reactions. Last Tuesday it was shared at convocation. Since then the video has been viewed 64,892 times across the synods of the nation and Europe, viewed by other denominational bodies, and posted on the ELCA web site.
I invite you to view the video “Seriously? Women in Ministry” on YouTube. It says something about the Church that we love. It says something about how women are treated within the sacred walls of the church and it reflects the secular environment in which women work. This affects our women friends, daughters, sisters, nieces, and granddaughters.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this conversation. I am thankful to be heard by Bishop Tim, his staff, and by some male colleagues. I was astonished by the male pastors of the synod who penned and signed a letter stating that they would not interview in places where their female colleagues were not invited to interview.