When I checked into the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel in Reykjavik, one of the first things I heard is how Hillary Clinton had stayed there prior to announcing her presidential candidacy. The hotel staff informed me Clinton had come to the country to learn more about Iceland’s election of a woman president. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir held the office from 1980-96.
Our bicycle tour guide, Egil, told us about seeing the beloved former president just a couple of weeks earlier in August when a lovely sculpture of Iceland’s first female representative, Ingrid Bjarnsson, was unveiled in the city square. Former President Finnbogadóttir, now 85, greeted the public from a second story balcony while dedicating the bronze in front of the crowds gathered.
What must it be like for the girls and women in Iceland to have seen women hold the highest office? It is not out of the ordinary, according to the many. One female pastor shared that while she was growing up, she thought the president was supposed to be a woman! Now, the bishop of the Lutheran Church of Iceland is a woman for the first time.
In August, more than half of the country’s Evangelical Lutheran pastors of Iceland gathered for a conference. Pastor Guðni Harðarson, an organizer for the annual conference in Reykjavik, studied at Luther Seminary. Guðni and I connected through our mutual classmate Rev. George Timlak of Cameroon. He graciously invited me to attend the gathering featuring author Nadia Bolz-Weber and St. Paul’s Jodi Hogue.
It was fabulous! Through Guðni, I interviewed Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, the first woman ordained in Iceland, Audur Eir Vilhjalmsdóttir, and Arnfriour Guomundsdottir, the first woman to teach theology at the University of Iceland to name a few. These influential women have and will continue to shape pastoral leadership in the country.
Shared leadership. Mutual ministry. Possibilities for all. Inspiration for the future.