Evangelist Rudīte Losāne: Male ministers in the Latvian church fear women leaders

21. Jan, 2017

In the beginning of summer [2016] the members of the Synod (the highest legislative body) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) decided to forbid women to be ordained as pastors. Half a year after that decision the chair of the Association of Lutheran Theologians in Latvia admits that men who minister in the Latvian church are afraid of women leaders.

The amendment of the ELCL Constitution [last] summer made ban on women ordination official. The decision was argued as based on the Scriptures. In practice, however, the church has not been ordaining women since its current leader Janis Vanags was elected as an archbishop in 1993.

Since the voting on the issue of women ordination both psychological and emotional attitude towards women has remained the same in the church – says the evangelist, the chair of the Association of Lutheran Theologians in Latvia Mrs. Losāne.

“The only thing that has changed since the 3rd of June when the ELCL has amended its Constitution concerning women ordination, to my mind and my observations, is that the euphoria of those 77% who voted for those changes vanished” says Rudīte Losāne.

There are about ten ministering [female] evangelists in Latvia. Some are working full-time, others – voluntarily; evangelists can substitute pastors and lead church services.

Since the changes in the ELCL Constitution, pastors no longer ask Rudīte Losāne to substitute them in church services.

“Up until now I could really choose where to go and which Sunday to minister. During summer months my Sundays were packed by substituting pastors during their absence”, admits the evangelist.

This was no longer the same past summer. “The only phone call that I received from a male pastor came in August or later when he said: Rudīte, I have called all my brothers pastors and they cannot make it to substitute me, and thus, against the rules of the Constitution, I must ask you to come otherwise the church service won’t happen. I however was planning to minister in some other church that time and I had to decline the invitation,” so – Rudīte.

In the past ten years women in other countries have gradually come to be ordained as pastors. Even as they say in the Lutheran church in Russia women can become pastors. The Polish Lutheran church is currently discussing women ordination.

“Lately women ordination into the spiritual office is becoming increasingly pressing. It is not something sudden, because those women who are ordained elsewhere, have been serving in their churches for 10 and even 20 years in some spiritual office or as evangelists. And then it is only confirmed, yes, we recognize that your ministry and your gifts testify, so you can be ordained” said the evangelist.

There is no such a thing as the only right way to women ordination admits Rudīte Losāne. There are two approaches to this issue and how the text is being interpreted. To come to women ordination Latvia still needs a walk of long miles.

Latvia’s situation is peculiar because here the Lutheran Church had already let women to be ordained. And now the decision is to go an opposite direction.

Rudīte tells that the attitude of men in the church is very odd. This is particularly felt when compared to the Latvian Lutheran Church abroad.

I have the feeling that these men who minister in the Latvian church here .. they are in some way – this is, of course, my observation – afraid of women who have leadership gifts, also of smart women,” reasons Rudīte Losāne.

From the men of her church Rudīte feels dissociating attitude that manifests fears. The chair of the Association of Lutheran Women Theologians in Latvia also points out that the church is not strictly separated from society.

“The idea is, that the church does not recognize female leadership so that women would not be leaders over men, there is the fear. But in society we are a great number of women who are leading men. And nothing bad had happened, society develops, we produce our offspring and society multiplies. And thanks to God this new generation that comes after us, as per my observations, the youth is indifferent towards division according to one’s gender. The idea that one gender should have priorities and the other is considered secondary is not relevant to them”, the evangelist reasons.

Rudīte Losāne thinks that the church has come to the point of stagnation – a result of the lack of the dialogue. The voting on the 3rd June has polarized opinions within the Lutheran Church. This condition cannot last for long. She insists that it would be important for the church to open a discussion and that the holders of opposite opinions could accept each other. 

Source in Latvian: Latvijas Sabiedriskie Mediji, 20.12.2016