The National Church Council has designated October 21, 2001, as a Day of Commemoration on this 25th anniversary year of the ordination of the first Lutheran woman in Canada. Congregations are encouraged to mark the anniversary with worship, study, reflection and prayer on October 21 or another day of the congregation's own choosing. The enclosed materials are provided by the Women's Desk, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Steering Committee on the Study of Women in Ordained Ministry to be adapted by congregations for use in their own setting. Some of the resources in this package are available at www.elcic.ca
In 1970, the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church took measures at their respective church conventions to enable the ordination of women. Their actions were based on comprehensive studies of scripture and theology that resulted in the understanding that nothing prevented women from being called to serve in the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. In 1976, the ELCIC also voted to recognize the ordination of women. On May 7, 1976, the Eastern Canada Synod of the Lutheran Church in America ordained Rev. Pamela McGee to serve as pastor of the Morrisburg-Riverside Parish in Ontario (see Order Form for poster included in resource package).
More than 140 women in total have served on the roster of the ELCIC and predecessor bodies since 1976. Women presently serve in all types of ordained ministry including parish pastor, senior pastor, synod and national staff, seminary faculty, chaplaincy and as overseas missionaries, and they currently represent about 13% or 112 of the 852 pastors on the roster (see Ordained Women of the ELCIC, May 7, 1976-June 30, 2001 included in resource package).
The ordination of women has brought ministry closer to Paul's vision in Galatians 3:28, "...there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Many in the church celebrate the fuller participation of women as ministers of Word and Sacrament but at the same time lament what has been experienced by some as struggle, division, and slowness of the church to embrace the fullness of the gifts of women for ordained ministry. As such the ELCIC commemorates the anniversary with sensitivity to the pain as well as the joy that women and the church have experienced over the past 25 years.
A study was commissioned to describe the experiences of women who have served in ordained ministry. Eighty-four women completed an extensive survey about their background, preparation, call and service in the church and 24 took part in further sharing about their daily experiences as women in ordained ministry. The goals of the study were directed to the women themselves, seminaries, synod committees for theological education, synod staff personnel, the wider church and ecumenical partners. The primary goal was to describe the experiences of women in order to inform the church's practices in preparation, placement and support of women clergy.
The study will be published in a book called With Many Voices: Twenty-five Years of Ordained Ministry by Women in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to be released in November 2001. The National Church Council has commended the study to the church for discussion and has established a council committee to make recommendations for action.