Latvia 1975: Women, you can be pastors! Latvia 1994: Women, your services in the church are no longer needed!

Following my interview with Pastor Carrie Smith, my Luther Seminary friend, Deanna, and I had an opportunity to meet a woman in ministry from Latvia. Dace Balode, a Systematic Theology Professor, University of Latvia, was visiting the offices of the Evangelical Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ECJHL). Bishop Munib Younan invited us to into his office where we discussed the current situation for women pastors in Latvia, among other things. When I told Dace I have wanted to meet a woman in ministry from Latvia, she replied, “Well, I guess you just had to come to Jerusalem!"

Since 1975, women in the Lutheran church in Latvia had been ordained; however, Bishop Janis Vanags, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lativa (LELB), halted all future ordinations of women 20 years ago. Now, it is very rare for a woman to be ordained unless she wants to serve in another country.

There are denominations that have never ordained women. That is one issue; but it is quite another to understand why one person would take away women’s ability (who have pursued a theological education) to respond to God’s call as leaders in the church. Maybe I need to be like Michael Moore — and show up at Bishop Vanags' office - cameras rolling - and see what he has to say. In the meantime, I am praying for him and the women desiring a call to the Office of Word and Sacrament in Latvia.

Photo from left:  Conversation at Lutheran Church of Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City. Luther Seminary Mdiv. student Deanna Bassett, Dace Balode, Latvia, Janet Karvonen-Montgomery, Pastor Carrie Smith, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem.