Women were ordained in Latvia since 1975 until 1993.
Read a brief history of women ordination from 1975 – 1995.
In what follows we highlight some important events about the situation with women ordination in Latvia up until 2018.
November 1992 – the sudden death of archbishop Kārlis Gailītis [in a car accident] occurred.
26 January 1993 – a Special Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) was held, where pastor Jānis Vanags was elected an archbishop, who in his candidate speech expressed his negative stand on women’s ordination.
From 18 to 20 March 1993, the Executive Board of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (formerly called – in Exile) at its plenary session in the Catskills (New York, USA) unanimously decided: A Side recognizes that all congregations and districts of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad wish to continue to renew relationships with the Motherland and to form a united Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia; the B Side recognizes that before it is possible to form a united structure there has to be agreement on the issue of women’s ordination.
1st May 1994 the newly elected archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad Mr E. E. Rozitis consecrated.
9 August 1995 Kristīne Sūna, the graduate of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Latvia, who continued studies at Oxford University, ordained as a pastor (by the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad) and after finishing studies at Oxford returned to Latvia but was not allowed to serve as a pastor.
21 August 1995 Zilgme Eglīte, the graduate of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Latvia, ordained in the Church Abroad; before by assignment from archbishop K. Gailītis she served in the Penkule ELCL congregation. Zilgme studied at Louvain University and served the Latvian congregation in Brussels, Belgium.
Since then Latvian women could only be ordained and serve as pastors outside Latvia.
28 October 2015 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia held Pastors’ Conference on the question of women ordination. More particularly, the agenda was to vote “for” or “against” the proposal of some of the ultra-conservative pastors who have since 2009 sought to amend Article 133 of the ELCL Constitution in order to exclude women from seeking ordination. The ELCL Constitution is the governing document of the ELCL, and the Article 133 stated that “anyone who according to the regulations set by the ELCL is called by God and trained for ministry can seek ordination”. Since 2009 it had been proposed to the Pastors’ Conference to amend Article 133 and express it in the following way: “any male candidate, who according to the regulations set by the ELCL is called by God and trained for the ministry, can seek ordination”. This is the wording that was welcomed by the majority of the votes: 57 “for”, 6 “against” and 2 “refrained”.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia convened its Synod on the 3rd and the 4th of June 2016. One of the pressing issues was an issue of women ordination. Even though the archbishop never ordained women in the past 20 years and more, the Church Constitution still contained legal grounds for women to be ordained. On June 3, 2016 the Synod voted in favor of the amendments of the Church Constitution that forbid women to seek ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.
A decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia on June 3 to amend its constitution to explicitly deny ordination to women was met with strong reactions on both sides. In the wake of the decision, Latvian Media television asked the two Archbishops to comment. One was Janis Vanags, head of ELCL for life, the other was Lauma Zusevica, Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (LELCA). Archbishop Zusevica commented as follows:
“The way the vote was taken did, indeed, concern me. The votes of those abstaining were not counted, as indicated by the By-laws of ELCL. In other words, had they been included, the resolution would not have passed with the necessary 75% of the vote. Regardless, the leadership indicated that the procedural complaint had been submitted too late.
After listening to the presentations of many of the Synod’s clergy against the ordination of females, and hearing the mixed reaction against those clergy members of ELCL that spoke in favor of not voting for the resolution that states that only male gender candidates need apply for ordination, the vote did not really surprise me. “
2014 – 2018
No woman pastor was ordained in Latvia since about 1995 – in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.* There have been, however, 3 female ordinations in Latvia albeit by the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (the Excile Church). Two most recent ones are:
1. 9 February 2014 the deacon Ieva Puriņa was ordained as a pastor by the archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad Elmārs E. Rozītis. Ieva Puriņa is the second female pastor ordained in Latvia in the past 20 years (!) and the first female pastor who stays in Latvia and ministers in the church “Rīgas evaņģēliskā draudze” in Riga.
2. 29 June 2018 Professor of Biblical Theology and the Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Latvia Mrs Dace Balode was ordained as a pastor by the current archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad Mrs Lauma Zušēvica. Professor Dace Balode will also serve as a pastor in Latvia.
Ordination of Dace Balode, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Latvia (2018)
* Historically, there are two Latvian Lutheran churches – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia (ELCL) and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (previously: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in Exile) 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: archbishop Jānis Vanags in the Latvian church and a female archbishop Lauma Zušēvica in the Latvian church abroad, which in recent years has established its office and some congregations in Latvia allowing women to minister.
In August 2018 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia (ELCL) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the archbishop Jānis Vanags as the head of the church. Among the guests of the Archibishop were the Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Executive Secretary of the ILC. This is not surprising since the ELCL is planning to join the International Lutheran Council in 2020.