Women ordination in Latvian Lutheran church

14. Feb, 2014

Women ordination in Latvian Lutheran church usually does not happen. Not lately. In fact, exactly 20 years ago, when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (LELB) got its new leader, Archbishop Jānis Vanags, the ordination of women was stopped. The first ordination of women in Latvia took place in 1975 under the bishop Jānis Matulis when first three assistant female pastors were ordained.
         For years there existed rumours and official opinions about the intent to change the present Constitution of the LELB, which still opens ordination for women, to the men-only clergy. The article No 133 of the LELB Constitution reads: “Anyone, who has been called by God and prepared for the work of the pastor according to the LELB procedure, can ask for an ordination.” However, in last 20 years the present article has been applied and accommodated exclusively to men when de facto women have been pushed away from exercising the rights provided by the Church Constitution. 
         Historically, there are two Latvian Lutheran churches – LELB and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (previously: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in Exile – LELBĀL) formed during and after Second World War as many Latvian Lutherans were forced to go to exile. Still now there are two parts of one Church and two archbishops for Latvian Lutherans: LELB archbishop Jānis Vanags and LELBĀL archbishop Elmārs Ernsts Rozītis.
         When it comes to women ordination, LELB has strictly refused to ordain any woman or to employ any woman pastor in the Lutheran church in Latvia. At the same time, there are several women who continue their ministry as ordained pastors and there are several women in the status of Evangelist but acting as parish pastors, as there are not enough male pastors or the funds are not sufficient.
         However, LELBĀL does recognize women ordination. LELBĀL archbishop Rozītis ordains women pastors who serve in the Latvian Lutherans churches abroad. In past 20 years many of them come from Latvia and are forced in exile to fulfil their calling as ministers.
         Remarkable, that in 1997 archbishop Rozītis ordained Jāna Jēruma-Grīnberga to become a female pastor in the Latvian church (church of Peace) in London. Later on Jana Jēruma-Grīnberga was consecrated for the ministry of bishop and became first Latvian woman to be ordained to the position of a bishop. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Jēruma-Grīnberga was consecrated in the English speaking Lutheran Church in London. She has also been participating in the religious ceremonies organized by the Queen of England.
         On Sunday, the 9th of February 2014 we will witness the ordination of a deacon Ieva Puriņa, who will be ordained to the ministry of a Lutheran pastor by the archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad Elmārs E. Rozītis. Ieva Puriņa will be the second female pastor ordained in Latvia in the past 20 years (!) and the first female pastor who will stay in Latvia and will minister in the church “Rīgas evaņģēliskā draudze” in Riga.