Monthly Archives: September 2010

How to assess the opposing interests in the W.O. debate

Have you ever felt uneasy when politicians are being interviewed, listening to them ignore the questions and skirt around the issues?  When journalists persist, they often simply say the same thing again and again using different words? Phillip Adams of Late Night Live on Radio National loves to point out the BS that politicians eternally speak to the electorate.  That’s what comes when individuals are obliged to toe the party line.

In contrast, we have the independents who call a spade a spade.  You know exactly what they think and where they stand. It seems to me that the honest, straight-talking manner of  the independent  Nick Xenophon was the reason the electorate voted him into the Australian Senate in the penultimate elections four years ago.  The topical current group of Federal independents also exude an honesty and clarity of thought that is refreshing in the context of the adversarial two-party political system in Australia.

Concerning women’s ordination, where is the truth? Are the arguments equally weighted? Who speaks with more credibility?  I propose the astounding, preposterous notion that only one side in this LCA debate is straight-talking, consistent and calls a spade a spade.    The argument is simple. It has been announced that there is:

“… no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.

I’m just not interested in the Conservative notion that this does not really apply to women’s ordination.  Such a response is the language of politics.  It is obfuscation. Yes, there are contradicting notions in the Bible, but it was written by humans, albeit inspired by God.  Should we expect perfect works from sinners?  Barbara Moulton, from the Wesleyan Church in Canada, who speaks cogently when considering the call that she has experienced from her early Salvation Army days, explains it like this:

Years from now my children might find letters I wrote to my husband when we were courting. There were things that I wrote to him concerning our faith, our love and our future together which are timeless. They will be edified in reading it. But there are many things I wrote which will have little application because they were written to him at that time and for a specific reason.

Now I know that the Epistles are far grander than my old love letters. I know that God has inspired Paul. But they are still letters. Surely we can discern what is meant to apply for all time and what was written to address specific situations.

Scripture cannot be read for a literal translation. Hermeneutics is no easy discipline but there are many contextual factors contributing to a text that may not apply today.  For example, on the surface, 1 Timothy 2:12 would seem to be clear in prohibiting women’s ordination.

2:11 Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 2:12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.

Barbara Moulton again:

What was in Paul’s mind as he wrote to the pastor at Ephesus? We can take some of his words in isolation and assume that they are the only truth. Here Paul says that he doesn’t allow a woman to teach. But the facts are that he did. He commended them for their teaching in other passages, called them “coworkers (Rom 16:3), and allowed other men to receive instruction from women (Acts 18:26). That suggests that there is more to what Paul is saying than isolated verses read through our own cultural set of lenses.

Paul, despite 1 Timothy 2:12, allowed women to teach and to share their wisdom.

To further take from Barbara’s simple article, she asks if God would say,

I shall pour out my spirit on a woman and she shall prophesy but be silent?  Contrast with Joel 2.28

I shall tell women to proclaim the message of my resurrection but be silent?  Contrast with Matthew 28:5

I shall tell Priscilla who instructed my servant Apollos to be silent?  Contrast with Acts 18:24

I shall tell Philip’s daughters to prophesy but be silent?  Contrast with Acts 21:8

Again and again we have examples from the New Testament where women were prophesying, speaking up, teaching and leading.

Enough twisting of the text! Enough denying the hermeneutical tools that Biblical scholars have brought us in recent generations!  Enough clinging to the maxims of Conservatism, which suggest that ways of old have inherent value simply because they have been handed down to us!   God is alive and walks amongst us, revealing a new creation and a new revelation of God’s presence on Earth.   What is there to fear?

I worked in a church where the minister told me that he would never tell his congregation that scholars think there were three different authors of Isaiah.  He considered that such Biblical research would threaten the faith of his people.  Fear is alive and well in many shapes and forms, not least amongst God’s people.  If we are true to this Jesus, however, who we witness to as our saviour, and who announced the in-dwelling of God’s Spirit, we are called to face our fear and be open to how God is revealing God’s self to us this day.

Long before the life of Jesus we are given a vision of the work of the Spirit in womanhood (and manhood).

Joel 2.28 “After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. 2.29 In those days I will pour my Spirit on servants, on both men and women. 2.30 I will work miracles in the sky and on the earth: blood, fire, and clouds of smoke. [cf. Acts 2:17 ff.]

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy!” Scripture is abundantly clear!  Enough of the qualifying clauses!  Enough revisionism.  The Holy Spirit is clearly and unarguably alive in women so that they might prophesy. The debate is over!

So, how to assess the opposing interests in the women’s ordination debate in the LCA?  Look around  you.  Do justice and walk humbly with your God. On your trip you are bound to see the gifts of women rain blessings on all.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in politics, theology


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TIME Photos: A Brief History of Women in Power

TIME magazine reviews female national leaders in recent history

Women have been in leadership much longer than this slide-show indicates, however, it highlights how the LCA dismisses that  women are increasingly respected in the world today for their leadership and intellect .

The article, New Swedish Parliament most gender balanced ever, is likewise, a reminder that there is a decreasing mysogeny in the secular world.

Sadly, the church doesn’t always lead the world on matters of principle and ethics, despite Jesus life-changing revelations, that righteousness was not primarily about religious activities, but justice.  The following reflection, from, on the parable of the sheep and the goats, points out that Jesus was not altogether impressed with religious leaders’ piety.

The sheep at the Father’s right hand will be invited to inherit his kingdom because they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and visited the imprisoned.

Conspicuously absent from the list are supposedly religious activities, such as prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. Jesus insists that those five deeds and others like them are religious activities. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40b).

Jesus never emphasised rituals, dogma or religiosity, but he was always strong on human relationships.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Gen Y and the LCA

It’s interesting to note that Generation Y is labelled as wanting to ‘pick and choose beliefs’.  Eureka Street’s article, Gen Y free for anything except belonging, report on a survey where around 75 per cent of young Catholics believe it’s OK to “pick and choose” beliefs without accepting the teachings of their religion as a whole.  My guess is that there’s no reason to think that young Lutherans are any different.

In the article, a Catholic researcher says that faith-based traditions have been replaced by, “a skeptical, cynical and narrowly empirical view of life”.  As a teacher of literacy, I would rephrase that to say, individuals are thinking critically for themselves, reading church practice critically and deciding for themselves on what they believe.  No longer does church dogma dictate what the individual believes.

Critical Literacy is a component of education these days.  Students are required to think beyond the superficial layer, to look at power structures, to look at what is implicit, what is unspoken in the text, to look at who is exercising power, who has no voice, whose agenda is being served, who is being oppressed, how the reader is being persuaded by non-textual components of images, colours, movement etc.  Readers are encouraged to form an opinion, to disagree with authors, and to view things from another perspective.  Viewing things from other perspectives is common-place in primary school today.

We are people who are trained to think critically and progressively.  Faith is no longer a matter of accepting or rejecting our parents’ faith.  There are other nuances.  Where do I sit on the fundamentalist / progressive spectrum? How much am I driven by law / grace?  How much am I motivated by authority / freedom in Christ, and tradition / change?  Eventually the big question that we all have is, “How much do I feel a part of this congregation, faith community or denomination?”

Generation Y (born ’77-’91) answers these questions differently to Gen X (born ’62 – ’76), Baby Boomers (born ’42 – 61) and The Builders (born before ’42).   This paper, from the 2006 National Church Life Survey (NCLS), provides a brief introduction to some of the generational differences among church attenders.  The main differences focus on opinions of how they think church ‘should be done’.

Older generations are more likely to:

  • attend worship services weekly
  • prefer traditional styles of music in worship services
  • spend regular time in private devotional activity
  • have a strong sense of belonging to their denomination
  • be involved in church-based community service, justice or welfare activities
  • be involved in community-based service, care or welfare activities

Younger generations are more likely to:

  • be involved in small groups
  • prefer contemporary styles of music in worship services
  • feel that their gifts and skills are encouraged
  • have helped others in a range of informal ways
  • value outreach, be involved in evangelistic activities, and actually invite others to church
  • be newcomers to church life, have switched denominations or transferred congregations in the previous five years

Is any of this relevant to women’s ordination in the LCA?  Certainly!  We are dealing with generations which have fundamentally different outlooks on life.  Gen Y is immersed in electronica: iPods, DVDs, internet, social networks, mobile phones, sms etc.  They have a myriad options in their life.  They are not compliant consumers of tradition and old methods of doing things.  I predict, in the same vein, that young Lutherans are not passive acceptors of Lutheran exclusivity.  Older readers will be painfully aware of how isolationist the LCA has historically been, as demonstrated by its reticence to embrace ecumenism.   While conservative theologians may still propose that we should preserve Lutheran purity in this manner, Gen Y especially will scoff at such an approach.

The NLCS asks the question of Gen Y, “Will they change as they age? Not likely… Some may hope that as younger attenders age, their preferences will change, to become more like those born pre WWII, who currently make up the majority of church attenders. While time will tell, the trends to date do not support the idea that younger generations will, en masse, decide that they like traditional worship or music. Even if the volume gets turned down, do not expect they will take up these styles of music.”

It is plain that Gen Y will make up their own mind.  They will vote with their feet and their wallet to create a different social and Church world.  While young women may not talk about women’s liberation, they argue strongly for the same opportunities in leadership as any of their male friends and colleagues.

The implications for the LCA in 2010 are clear. We can ordain women now and risk offending some older generational members or we can postpone women’s ordination indefinitely, and risk losing Gen Y and many other groups who decide to find a setting that better meets their needs.

As our budgets grow smaller and smaller I suggest that the accountants of the LCA may eventually provide the final push that has the LCA re-examining its options.

The old Australian slogan, ‘populate or perish’ may still be relevant for the LCA as we determine what level of membership we are willing to live with.  Might that be, ‘ordain or perish’?

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Uncategorized


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When churches represent hate, hang in there

I’ve come across a very down-to-earth woman’s blog from corn-country in Illinois, US.  The blog, Halfway to Normal, by Kristin Tennant, gives a hint that life hasn’t turned out like she thought it would and that life is messy and complicated.

Her post, ‘ “Why church?” is the wrong question‘, ponders what happens for many people when church doesn’t measure up to their hopes, when people need to leave church for their own health, their own sanity. She tells the story of people dropping their church attendance because of, “bad worship songs and fake people, hypocrisy and often more evidence of hate than love”.

She says, “Sometimes I still wonder ‘Why church? Why do any of us bother?’ When I hear news stories about pastors who are doing all in their power to spread hate, like the pastor in Florida who has plans to burn the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, I’m tempted to distance myself as far as possible from all pastors and churches. If churches represent hate to more people in the world than they do love, I want to find another way.” (Halfway to Normal’s emphasis)

Those of us alienated by men-only ordination in the LCA so easily experience Church as hateful.  When women are excluded generation after generation, yet are unhindered in public life, when the institution belittles a woman’s call, yet cannot fill parish vacancies, the implications are clear.  It is not surprising that Church can be experienced as hateful.

Fortunately Kristin Tennant found a welcoming, embracing church community where the pastor reminded her in a sermon, “I need to be with brothers and sisters in Christ so I don’t forget what I’m about—what God wants to do through me.”

If you are growing weary of the LCA’s disconnectedness and current direction, please hang-in there.  Don’t walk away from this Church. We need you so that we “don’t forget what (we) are about.” Do what you must to change the Church.   Who do you need to connect to?  Who should you write to?  Talk about it in your congregation.   What can your congregation do about it?  If your pastor isn’t interested in supporting you, find those who will. Connect with this blog, with Women’s Ministry Network or with the Facebook page, Women’s Ordination in the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


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The President wishes women’s ordination delayed

The President of the LCA, Pr Mike Semmler, claims that he has never made his views on women’s ordination public, however, his actions speak loudly.

This came from the President’s Page on 23rd June, 2010:

At the General Convention of Synod in 2009 the General Church Council was asked to establish a dialogue group to work toward consensus both within the group and across the group and across the Church on the question of the ordination of both men and women with reference to the published findings of CTICR and a focus on biblical interpretation.  At the recent General Church Council meeting draft terms of reference for this dialogue group were presented.  Council determined that some fine tuning of the terms needed to be done by the College of Presidents with a view to approving the terms of reference and beginning to appoint members to the group by the end of 2010.
The president has also commissioned a study on what ‘consensus’ means for the LCA, on the basis of its confession as a Lutheran Church, and a synod which is the result of two former churches coming together.
(all text in bold has been highlighted by the author of this blog)

It is apparent that the President:

  • doesn’t wish women’s ordination to happen on his watch, and
  • wishes it to be delayed, possibly indefinitely

The 2006 General Synod of the LCA approved that a committee should be established to consider how a split in the Church could be avoided over the issue.  At the 2009 General Synod, effectively the same motion was passed again.

It now looks like we might start to get a committee by the end of 2010 (read 2011) and as the next General Synod is 2012 the committee can hardly be expected to achieve anything of substance.  Oops, sorry about that!  Ah, well!  We’ll have just have to aim towards 2015.

Taking such a long time to establish a committee, in response to a General Synod directive, is hardly acting in good faith or showing good process.  Creating extra time delays (approving the terms of reference, commissioning a study on what ‘consensus’ means), when 2/3 of LWF churches already ordain women, will lead to further frustration and eventually an outpouring of emotion, which may impact the Church in unexpected ways.  The President should be aware that he is creating the split that he says he wishes to avoid.  It has long been happening with individuals quietly leaving the Church (as per declining statistics nation-wide), but in addition there will come a time when congregations finally lose faith in the national process and decide to take action of their own.

Note that the wording of the motion from General Synod implicitly indicates that women’s ordination will eventually be approved, however, Pr Semmler’s actions give the impression that women’s ordination is a radical matter. This is not the case.  CTICR has ruled that there are no theological roadblocks to women’s ordination. If the LCA is as faithful as it hopes to be, it is imperative that the LCA acts promptly to fulfil God’s reign of love in this place, in this time.  Of course it will be unsettling for some, but no congregation is ever going to be forced to call a female.  As it stands many are forced to call males.

It’s worth noting the revisionist clause inclused in the motion,  “…and a focus on biblical interpretation”.  Strange!  CTICR spent many years on that one, but now we’re pretending that the report never happened.   Still, the President says that he’s never made his views public on women’s ordination.

The following comment, which came across my desk, is a pertinent observation on how strange the process is.

It’s going to take the next three years to set up Lance’s task group and agree on its terms of reference.  Just to make sure of it we’re going to be sidelined by discussing what “consensus” might mean in the LCA.  My hunch is that someone will state that it’s not a confessional term and should never be used because it doesn’t faithfully represented the meaning in the original Latin and German.  Then we’ll spend a synodical term trying to find the right word.  By which time English will have changed so much that the “right word” will have become redundant too.  I sense that Josef Heller is writing this entire script.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Fundamentalism offers us a certainty that I cannot find as a Lutheran

Short video of Mark Hanson, President of ELCA, in response to a question about what is distinctive about the Lutheran Church:

“In the midst of the clear proclamation of the Gospel … I can live with ambiguity … Fundamentalism offers us a certainty that I cannot find as a Lutheran Christian, but I find as a Lutheran Christian confidence, con fide, trust that God will be faithful, so I can believe that at the same moment today I can be both saint and sinner, that this world is, at the same moment, both good and fallen, that the word of God is both God’s judgement and word of promise, that Jesus is both human and divine, that God rules over creation through the law, for the sake of order and justice, and through the Gospel for reconciliation and salvation … and that I can live with paradox. Paradox for me is what seems to be a contradiction when first heard, but when contemplated more deeply reveals a hidden truth, and that the core of the paradox for us is the cross.

That this almighty creating god has chosen to become so vulnerable in God’s desire to be in relationship to us in the creation, that God bent so low God took on my flesh and yours, and we crucified him because we don’t want a God that’s so vulnerable and so loving. God said, “You tried your best on your cross and I got one better. I have raised Jesus from the dead and he is alive in the world and now go to meet him in the most unexpected places of your life…”

These are some of the gifts we bring.”

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Posted by on September 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


A brief history of universal suffrage

Universal suffrage is not as self-evident as we might first think. Manhood suffrage and universal suffrage is a phenomena largely of the last 100 years. Even today women still do not have the vote in some Arab countries, which provides not a little irony for this writer. It is therefore not surprising that some people still haven’t made the mental adjustment that allows equality between female and male.

The earliest democracy was in Athens in 510BC, however, neither Athens nor the nearby Greek city states using democracy granted universal suffrage, for only free adult male citizens, who owned land, could vote. It seems that, as wonderful as democracy was, its virtues were considered too great for certain groups of people: women and slaves in particular. It is surprising to note that in Victoria, in the 1950s, there were still property ownership requirements to qualify as a representative in the Legislative Council.

Universal suffrage is still not a reality across the whole world. While it happened in Australia with Federation in 1901, Indigenous people had to wait until 1965. The Arab states are still discovering the concept and

Australia and Australian States:

  • 1854 Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, Victoria – gold miners fight for manhood suffrage (amongst other demands) under the banner of, “No taxation without representation”- granted in Victoria within 12 months.
  • 1894 South Australian Women, including Indigenous women, were granted the right to vote. They were also granted the right to stand for Parliament, making SA the first in the world to do so.
  • 1899 Western Australian women could vote in state elections
  • 1902 NSW women were granted the right to vote
  • 1903 Tasmania granted women the right to vote
  • 1902 Australian women (except Aboriginal women) could vote for the new Commonwealth Parliament.
  • 1902 Women could stand Federal Parliament
  • 1905 Qld women were granted the right to vote
  • 1908 Victorian women were granted the right to vote
  • Women eligible for election to the State parliaments: 1915 Qld, 1918 NSW, 1920 WA, 1921 Tas, 1923 Vic.
  • 1962 Indigenous women and men given the vote for Federal elections. The states gave the vote over many different years.

The right to vote around the world – select dates

  • US, Wyoming 1869 – grants women the vote (4 years after the American Civil War), refuses to bend to Congress’ threat to revoke the vote, saying they would remain out of the United States 100 years rather than become a state without women’s suffrage
  • NZ 1892 – grants women the vote (first nation in the world)
  • UK 1918 – universal male suffrage
  • NZ 1919 – women have the right to run for the NZ legislature
  • USA 1920 – the vote was extended to women
  • UK 1928 – universal suffrage – men and women
  • UN 1948 – Provision of “universal and equal suffrage” in Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • USA 1965 – universal suffrage finally enforced and includes African-American citizens.

The LCA has approved women the roles of:

  • 1966 voting at congregational meetings
  • 1981 being delegates at Synod
  • 1984 being a member of church boards and committees
  • 1984 included in the guidelines for reading lessons in worship
  • 1989 assisting in the distributing of Holy Communion
  • 1990 being lay assistant as an alternative to elder
  • 1990 being chairperson of a congregation
  • 1998 being synodical chairperson
  • 2003 lay-reading

While it is true that women already have the vote in the LCA, as yet they don’t have access to the ordained ministry, to Pastors Conferences. They don’t have access to the power to contribute to the work of the Church, both now and in the future.

If you hear someone say that this is not important, because clergy have no more power than lay people in the LCA, rest assured that you are listening to a clergyman, who is unaware of the power he has access to. Power is not the key issue however, rather, it is a matter of equality, being one in the Spirit, being equal in community and being able to serve as one is called.

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Posted by on September 3, 2010 in history


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“The shining exterior of inclusion and equality masks a reality of denial, marginalization and despair.”

GENEVA, 30 October 2009 (LWI) – Statistics about increasing women’s ordination in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches are encouraging. However, “the shining exterior of inclusion and equality masks a reality of denial, marginalization and despair,” representatives from LWF member churches heard at the ongoing Women’s Pre-Assembly (WPA) at Bogis-Bossey, near Geneva, Switzerland.

As the CTICR has ruled that there are no theological roadblocks to women’s ordination, the matter is now simply a sociological/administrative issue within the LCA.  There is no need to treat the issue as if the Church is breaking new ground.  Others have trod this path and their experience is highly positive.

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Posted by on September 3, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Women’s Ordination in world Lutheran churches – updated June 16th 2014

World Lutheranism has been moving towards women’s ordination for nigh on a century. High Statistics on Lutheran Women’s Ordination Hide Reality of Marginalisation. 

Around 80 percent of the 145 LWF member churches ordain women. (updated on Katie and Martin on 16th Jan 2012)

The following list is not complete.  I would be grateful for any corrections or updates.

History of women’s ordination in world Lutheranism
1926 Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Nederland ordains female priests
1927 Evangelical Church in Germany accepts Pfarrhelferinnen (Assistants to Priests), 1930s woman Vicars. In Eastern part of  Germany women took more and more over as actual priests during WW2, and remained so after  the war.
1960 Women priests in West Germany and 1978 total equality with male priests.
Before 1938 Lutheran Church in Austria Vicars
1948 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark
1948 The Lutherans in Schlesia
1951 The Lutherans in Slovakia
1960 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden
1961 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norway
1964 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium
1970’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
1974 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland
1986/88 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
1988 Indonesian Lutheran Church
2000 The Church of Pakistan ordained its first women deacons. It is a united church which dates back to the 1970 local merger of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestants
2002 Central African Republic
2008 – The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  15 out of the 16 LWF member churches in the Latin American and Caribbean region now ordain women – dates yet to be determined
2009 Mexican Lutheran Church
2009 Cameroon Lutheran Church.

Postscript 16th Jan 2012
2011 The South Andhra Lutheran Church (SALC) in India ordained its first women pastors on 12 January

Postscript 7th August 2012
1975 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia – but “women’s ordination has been suspended” since 1993

Postscript 16th June 2014
2004 Taiwan – Lutheran Church of Taiwan ordains first women pastors
2005 Zambia – Zambian Lutheran Church ordains first female pastors.
2006 Norway – Evangelical Free Church of Norway (a nationwide Lutheran Church) ordains its first female pastors.
2009 Great Britain – First Bishop of Great Britain Lutheran Church installed.
2011 Hong Kong – Jenny Chan installed as the Head of Lutheran Church, Hong Kong
2012 Cameroon – Evangelical Lutheran Church ordains first women ministers.
2012 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland installs its first woman bishop. Link1  Link2 (in language)
2014 Lutheran Church in Chile ordains its first woman pastor. Link
2014 Sweden’s first female archbishop sworn in. Link



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