Riga, October 23, 2015
of the Asociation of Latvian Lutheran Women Theologians
to the participants of the Pastors Conference
of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church
on October 28, 2015.
Dear participants at the conference, brothers and sisters in Christ!
We have learned that on October 28, 2015 a Pastors’ Conference of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (LELC) will take place on the issue of the ordination in context of a proposed amendment to the verse 133 of the LELC Constitution. It is a shame that this information is not available, either at the webpage of LELC, nor in the official LELC newspaper „Svētdienas rīts”, in either printed or electronic version. Officially there is no available information on the agenda of the Conference, the speakers invited, or the themes of the presentations. The only information about the Conference can be found on the LELC webpage in the article „Debate of the LELC Constitution”, published on the September 1, 2015. The article among other states:
„… on the proposition to amend the verse 133 of the Constitution a special theological Pastors Conference will be organised to evaluate the introduced proposition and give a theologically based and justified solution to the issue of ordination”,
not mentioning the time and place.
We regret that no representatives of the Association of the Latvian Lutheran Women Theologians (ALLWT) have been invited to participate in the Conference. ALLWT is the only organisation in Latvia which has for 20 years stood for Women’s Ordination, and we are convinced that our activities are known not only in Latvia and abroad, but also that LELC bishops and pastors know about our actions and goals. The ALLWT webpage www.sieviesuordinacija.lv is at the moment the only electronic medium in which studies on women ordination issue and information on women serving in ordained office in Latvia and worldwide have been published since 2011, as well as news of the Lutheran World Federation on women serving in different capacities in spiritual positions and on eliminating gender discrimination in the church.
From unofficially available information we know that since November 11, 2009, when the amendment of the Church Constitution concerning the gender of ordained persons was introduced in the Pastors’ Conference until today, there have not been any meetings with theologians or guest lecturers for the LELC parish members or pastors to learn about the theologically based and justified opinion „for” the women’s ordination. On the contrary – in the parishes and pastors’ meetings so far only the view „against” has been presented as the correct theological opinion.
Today in the Lutheran World Federation, where LELC is a member church and archbishop Jānis Vanags is one of forty Council members, 77% of member churches ordain women; therefore it would be imprudent to hastily amend the verse 133 of the LELC Constitution and declare that only male gender can be ordained pastors, for several reasons.
1. As it is accepted in LWF member churches, on controversial issues such as women’s ordination there are debates. As history shows these debates take a long time, even decades. In LELC historically the debate on women’s ordination has taken place, but since 1996 they were stopped.
2. Since November 11, 2009 no debate on women’s ordination as a theological and logical way to decision to make cardinal changes in the Constitution has been initiated or renewed. On January 18, 2010 and again in May 2010 after the November 11 Conference proposition ALLWT sent a letter to the LELC Bishops Collegium, Pastors Chapter and Central Board asking to renew the debate on womens ordination. Our suggestion was not granted.
3. To support or deny women’s ordination as it is recognised by the LWF member churches who ordain women, a decision recently also taken by the Lutheran Church of Australia through debate, is a matter of faith. Even though we, who stand for the women ordination in LELC, are in a minority, to disregard our faith, which also is theologically based and justified, and to forbid the parishes to learn our view in favour of women ordination, is discriminating and unbiblical.
Therefore we, members of Association of Latvian Lutheran Women Theologians urge that verse 133 of the LELC Constitution should not be amended, but a working group should be formed, and the debate should be renewed, showing equal respect to both views in our church concerning women’s ordination. We call for a discussion of the respective Bible texts, both exegetically in context of all Scriptures and hermeneutically, taking note of the social and cultural context of the age.
The Lutheran Church of Australia has written in the document „The Case for the Ordination of Women – A Summary”:
The greatest concern is not that the LCA might cave in to the ‘spirit of the age’, but that we might allow non-essentials to stand in the way of the clear and effective communication of the gospel. Of course, we must be on our guard against the watering down of biblical doctrine through cultural pressure. The world does not define the gospel for the church. But it is also true that the church must be culturally sensitive and flexible in the way it communicates the gospel. Paul says
“To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law, so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel.” [1 Cor 9:20-23]
The church is called to follow this example of Paul and be flexible in non-essentials for the sake of the gospel. The gender of the pastor is not essential to the message proclaimed, nor the validity and effectiveness of the ministry, and Scripture does not prohibit women from serving as pastors today. Our culture has moved on from the patriarchal societies of previous centuries to the extent that not having women pastors is now a barrier to mission. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.On behalf of the theologians of the ALLWTR.Losāne Chaplain and Evangelist,President of ALLWT