Tag Archives: Lutheran Church

BEFORE GLASS CEILINGS By Susan Anderson, 1st year M.Div. Distributed Learning Student

How far the Lutheran church has come and how far we have yet to go! Not quite 50 years ago I was entering college for the first time. I was not sure where God was leading me. I felt called to enter the pastoral ministry, but the Lutheran church, like most other denominations, was not yet ordaining women. I talked with my pastor, but, as a traditional conservative minister, he did not encourage me. He directed me toward the occupations he thought more appropriate for women, but they did not appeal to me. As a young woman with an intellectual bent, I wanted to study theology and serve as a leader in the church. I saw young men in my congregation preparing to enter the pastoral ministry and wondered what it was that they possessed but I lacked.

I entered Wartburg College, which had a strong pre-seminary program. I wanted to take theology courses, but my advisor would not approve and suggested that I enroll in the social work or education curriculum instead. But that was not what I wanted. After exploring several possible majors as diverse as German and biology, I eventually ended up with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and went on to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

You might ask why, if I felt such a strong calling to ministry, I did not pursue it anyway. Surely there were roles I could have played in the church that I would have found fulfilling. To understand my response, it’s important to be aware of the mindset of the times. I grew up in a conservative Midwestern town, in a conservative home, a conservative church. The women’s liberation movement was barely beginning when I entered high school and it would be many years before we would feel much effect from it in small town America. Young women, especially those raised in church-going families, were taught to respect authority, not to question the status quo. We didn’t have role models to follow who were breaking down barriers. We were expected to become wives and mothers. If we had to work, we could be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher. So pursuing pastoral ministry was just not an option.

During my four years of college I gradually became more and more disillusioned by the church.   Attending a church college, there were religion courses that I was required to take. These were taught entirely by males, many of them ordained ministers. And what I heard learned from these professors was disappointing. Women were not encouraged to become involved in leadership roles; it wasn’t proper. The rhetoric was sexist and misogynistic. I quit going to the campus church and went to an off-campus church. The rhetoric was the same, just less intellectual. So I quit going to church entirely for a number of years. I graduated from college in 1970, the same year that the Lutheran church approved the ordination of women. But I no longer cared.

A number of years later I found my way back to the Lutheran church. I had been feeling that something was lacking in my life, but I still wasn’t sure that I could be comfortable in a church that was strongly dominated by males. A few years later, my congregation called a younger minister who was fairly progressive. Through conversations with him, my faith in God was gradually restored only to be nearly destroyed again later by an older, domineering and manipulative male minister. But the embers were not totally put out and my faith has slowly been rekindled and grown stronger. It is a far different faith than I had in high school, scarred and battered, but more resilient. My beliefs are not so tied to conservative church dogma. I focus on loving God and loving my neighbor. And once again, I feel called to serve. I am not yet sure where that call will take me, but I find that I have come full circle. I am enrolled once again at Wartburg, the seminary this time rather than the college, and I am finally getting to take those theology courses that I was interested in so long ago. My goal of obtaining an M.Div. degree and becoming ordained seems possible after all, God willing.

How far the church has come in the last 50 years! The seminary is no longer a closed male society. There are female faculty and about half the seminarians are female. Many females serve in pastoral ministry. But the leadership at the synod level and above is still predominantly male. The election of Elizabeth Eaton as presiding bishop of the ELCA last year marks another milestone in opening the church to women. The church is changing.

I welcome the fresh breezes blowing in the church. I pray that new generations of young people will be encouraged to find a place in the church where they can use their talents to lead and serve regardless of gender or other artificial barriers. “Come, Holy Spirit.”

WORDS FROM GUATEMALA AT WTS SOUP SUPPER by Prof. Norma Cook Everist & Carina Schiltz, 3rd Year MDiv

Diaconal Minister Dr. Rebecca Wiese (WTS 2002) and guest speaker, Pastor Jose Pilar Alvarez Cabrera, who is the Senior Pastor of ILUGUA (Iglesia Luterana Guatemaltecca in Zacapa, Guatemala) recently spoke at Wartburg Seminary at a soup supper sponsored by the Seminary’s Center for Global Theologies.

Dr. Wiese who is called as an ELCA diaconal minister at Grace Lutheran Church in Davenport, IA, is a physician at Genesis Medical Center in the Quad Cities.  She has traveled to Zacapa, Guataemala eight times as part of the accompaniment ministry of Presbyterians and Lutherans in Davenport with Lutherans in Guatemala.

Pastor Cabrera’s voice was clear and persistent. His commitment was translated by the persistent voice of second year M.Div student Carina Schiltz, assisted by second year M.Div student Mytch Dorvilier.

“We want peace and justice, but there is conflict in our country,” said Pr. Cabrera. He has worked for years with farmers who live in peaceful resistance to the multinational corporations who suppress local interests. The local people who lack the power of voice or money are defending their land and the mountain that is the source of water, which is life for this and future generations.  He said, “Water doesn’t come from a faucet; it comes from the mountain. It comes from the rivers.” And they are being polluted. The mountain is the only source of water for 300,000 people.

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala, together with many other religious leaders have organized and taken their message to such global places such as the Organization of American States, The European Union Parliament, and Amnesty International to seek justice and protection. The powerful multinational corporations have money to pay off judges and others which in turn endangers local leaders, some of whom have been jailed.  Their lives are under constant threat. A priest was offered money to have Pr. Cabrera killed. The priest replied, “I do not want the money; I want you to leave.”

The solidarity movement has become the mission of the church in the midst of conflict. The people simply want healthy, safe water for everyone. Many of the corporate projects are dangerous to the water and the land. A hydroelectric plant would benefit companies between Panama and the United States, not the people who live in the area.

The offers of money, the government (five ruling families) support of the companies, the use of the military to keep the people quiet, all take away the voices of the community. Pr. Cabrera described how the churches have united in this fight for life and thereby have gained credibility and moral authority among the people. They talk to the military, trying to tell them to support the people, not just the huge corporations. The role of the churches is very important.  Pr. Cabrera, whose life has been in danger many times now has body guards. Being with him for five years, the body guards now have become part of the community and even the church.

Ninety-five percent of the people are poor. The multi-national corporations actually increase local poverty while benefitting only the five powerful top Guatemalan families. The Mayan spiritual leaders of the indigenous peoples say, “Don’t be scared pastor. The Spirit of the Mountains will protect you.”