Tag Archives: ELCA

Dr. Norma Cook Everist Shares Part of Her Story

Originally shared by the Global Advocacy Committee, these powerful stories of women faculty are shared in the hopes of encouraging women to live more boldly and to give a better understanding of the female experience through recent history in theological education. 

Consecrated as a deaconess in 1960, I served Ascension Lutheran Church in St. Louis for 4 years (Before 1959 deaconesses had to choose between service to the church and marriage) In the early 60’s Concordia Seminary opened its doors to Lutheran teachers (which included women). I went over and enrolled, 1 woman among 800 men, and received an MA in Religion in 1964. However, that very year, when Burton and I adopted our son, Mark, I received a letter saying, “Thank you for your service.” I was removed from the roster because I had become a mother.

 For twelve years my call to ministry was as a community organizer in the inner cities of Detroit, MI, and New Haven, CT, as a bridge between church and world. Yale Divinity School is in New Haven. One day I went up the hill and enrolled. Yale welcomed me and Concordia’s degree.  After receiving an M.Div in 1976, Yale invited me to teach there as a lecturer in the Area of Ministry. Meanwhile women in our deaconess community took on leadership, and passed a resolution that all consecrated deaconesses were still deaconesses.  I became the first woman president of the LDA Board of Directors. In the early 70’s the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod went through a schism. I became a member of the Board of Directors of Seminex in the AELC.

 The ALC and LCA began ordaining women in 1970; my deaconess community area conference encouraged me to seek ordination, particularly since I was now teaching women and men who were studying at Yale to become pastors. The path to ordination was difficult, however.  I was approved for ordination by Wartburg Seminary. An LCA pastor tried to stop the ALC from ordaining me.  Dr. Roger Fjeld, prevailed, and I was ordained at Yale Divinity School in 1977. I believed if a door opened a crack, I should walk through and open the doors wider for others to walk through, too. I continued to be part of my deaconess community.

Dr. Norma Cook Everist, Professor of Church Administration & Educational Ministry, Wartburg Theological Seminary

Dr. Norma Cook Everist,
Professor of Church Administration & Educational Ministry,
Wartburg Theological Seminary

 In 1979 I received a call to Wartburg Seminary, becoming the first woman to teach in a tenured position in a seminary of the American Lutheran Church. I received my Ph.D. from The Iliff School of Theology and Denver University.  Even though other opportunities presented themselves later, I have been blessed and privileged to continue to serve Wartburg, and through Wartburg, the larger church and world.  I believe in collaborative ministry and the partnership of women and men, ministries based, not on gender, but on gifts. Thanks be to God.

Dr. Gwen Sayler Shares Part of her Story

Originally shared by the Global Advocacy Committee, these powerful stories of women faculty are shared in the hopes of encouraging women to live more boldly and to give a better understanding of the female experience through recent history in theological education. 

I remember… being told as a child that for a woman to become a pastor would be a sin while at the same time relishing access to Luther’s Works;

I remember… the excitement of being allowed full access with the boys to university theology classes even while realizing we girls were allowed in them on the assumption we’d never really use the theology we were being taught;

I remember… the male students who mocked me every time I raised my hand to speak at Seminary as well as the male students and faculty who bravely welcomed and incorporated me;

I remember… being told as the first woman theology instructor at Valparaiso University that the Dean was counting to see if I could attract male students and that I could neither counsel students nor lead in chapel worship as well as the male and female students who filled my classrooms and the brave colleague who invited me to preach in his chapel week;

I remember… the sheer joy of graduate school at the University of Iowa, where gender counted not at all;

I remember… as newly ordained in 1982 some parishioners leaving church when they saw I was preaching that day as well as developing a relationship with them and and later officiating at their funerals at their request;

Gwen-Sayler

Dr. Gwen Sayler, Professor of Bible, The William A. & John E. Wagner Professor of Biblical Theology, Director of Lifelong Learning, Wartburg Theological Seminary

I remember… the hostility of some male students when I first came to teach at Wartburg as well as the many men and women who warmly received me;

I remember… as I celebrate how far we have come and begin to prepare to let go to the female and male leaders who will take the next steps toward full partnership in the 21st century.

Dr. Ann Fritschel Shares Part of Her Story

Originally shared by the Global Advocacy Committee, these powerful stories of women faculty are shared in the hopes of encouraging women to live more boldly and to give a better understanding of the female experience through recent history in theological education. 

While I was a pioneer in attending the Military Academy at West Point, I was not a pioneer as a woman attending seminary. I am extremely grateful for those who went before me and bore pain, prejudice and sorrow. I was among the first 100 women at Wartburg, but the way had been paved well before I came. It was still a time of transition though. I had classmates who did not believe women could be pastors. Professors made biblical and theological arguments supporting women’s right and privilege to be ordained. It was still enough of a time of transition that we needed space in the community for us to gather separately as women to discuss our lives, experiences and what was happening in the church. For a while there was even a women’s room for us to use. Some of the men always wondered what the women were “plotting”, but most were gracious to give us space. We also benefited greatly from the wisdom and modeling of Norma Cook Everist as a faculty member.

For internship I was sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The congregation had asked specifically for a woman intern. Several families took the year off and went to a different Lutheran church because I was there. Actually, they had to take two years off because after I left the congregation asked for another woman intern. Not because I had done such a good job, but so I was not the standard by which future women pastors would be judged. They understood women pastors, as well as men, would be very different and offer different gifts. I often heard at that time, “We had a woman pastor and she did a horrible job.  We’ll never have another one.” And yet I wondered if the congregation had a bad male pastor, would the same thinking apply?

Dr. Ann L. Fritschel, Professor of Hebrew Bible, The Rev. Dr. Frank L. & Joyce S. Benz Professor in Scripture, Director of the Center for Theology and Land,  Wartburg Theological Seminary

Dr. Ann L. Fritschel,
Professor of Hebrew Bible, The Rev. Dr. Frank L. & Joyce S. Benz Professor in Scripture, Director of the Center for Theology and Land,
Wartburg Theological Seminary

When seeking a second call, there was one congregation that refused to interview me or look at my paperwork because I was a woman. At my first sermon at my second call, some people kept waiting for God to strike the church with lightning. I can see the harm of stereotyping and prejudice the isms produce and unfortunately many types of prejudice are still active in the church today. Fortunately as more people got to know me, they relaxed and pondered how God might be at work in the world. Yet all of this was not possible without many people standing up for women’s ordination and willing to change the system.​

Dr. Kris Stache Shares Part of Her Story

Originally shared by the Global Advocacy Committee, these powerful stories of women faculty are shared in the hopes of encouraging women to live more boldly and to give a better understanding of the female experience through recent history in theological education. 

The year is 2002 (yes, this century). I was just finishing up a master’s in lay ministry when I felt a call to continue my education and earn a PhD. Like any discerning student, I did my research and sought out conversations with the administration of potential academic institutions of study. At one particular place I was advised by the Dean of the Graduate programs not to apply. He stated, very bluntly, that a PhD program was not the place for a woman with four children. Clearly I would not be able to find the time needed for doctoral level work. (I was so shocked and appalled by his comment that I didn’t have the courage to ask if he had ever said that to a male parent.)

Dr. Kristine Stache, Associate Professor of Missional Leadership & Director of Learning for Life, Wartburg Theological Seminary

Dr. Kristine Stache,
Associate Professor of Missional Leadership & Director of Learning for Life,
Wartburg Theological Seminary

In some respects, that comment sealed the deal for me. I knew then and there that if female parents were not encouraged to study, there must be a desperate need for me and other women like me (and different than me) to have a presence in these learning environments. As much as I had to learn, I felt then that others might need to learn from me. We need the voices of different people, with different commitments, and different experiences and backgrounds present at the table, to learn and challenge one another.

I did finally earn my PhD, within five years of starting the program. Not too bad for a mother of four children, if I do say so myself.

THE BISHOP THROUGH MY DAUGHTER’S EYES by Tami Groth, final year MA Diaconal Ministry

This Spring when I learned that there would be a time set aside for students and their families during Presiding Bishop Eaton’s visit to Wartburg Seminary, I knew that I would bring my daughter along with me to the event. My husband, Shawn Brooks, and I started attending Wartburg Seminary when Nessa started first grade, and she has grown up a great deal during this time. When she met the Bishop she was almost 10-years-old and in fourth grade (we later learned Nessa shares her April 2nd birthday with Bishop Eaton). She has also had the opportunity to be a part of this diverse community, and is at home both in the residential area and in the academic buildings, or “the castle” as we call it in our house.

Nessa, quite shy by nature, was completely comfortable at the gathering, and she even asked the Bishop two questions about her job as Bishop and how she got to be Bishop. I love Nessa’s curiosity. As we walked home after the gathering, I reflected on how I am so thankful that Nessa has had the opportunity to observe many strong passionate women role models during our time here, especially those serving the church. That Nessa was not focused on the fact that Bishop Eaton is the first female Bishop of the ELCA was a sign to me that, in her understanding, gender is not a factor that defines what service one may be called to in the church. This is a significant shift from the world I grew up in, and I give thanks to God that my daughter’s reality includes meeting Bishop Eaton as the gifted church leader that she is and not as a “woman Bishop.”

Presiding ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton at Wartburg Seminary in March 20015 with final year students Tami Groth and Shawn Brooks and their daughter, Nessa.

Presiding ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton at Wartburg Seminary in March 2015 with final year students Tami Groth and Shawn Brooks and their daughter, Nessa.

25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PERSISTENT VOICE: Articles from the First Issue

The Persistent Voice began as a networking newsletter January/February 1990, and has continuously published for the past 25 years, becoming an on-line newsletter in 2008. A woman graduate waiting months for a call, initiated the idea of a newsletter to keep those graduates in touch and supported. At that time there were 8 women and 2 men waiting call. Over the years the mission of The Persistent Voice has expanded to include many issues of “Gender and Justice across the Globe.”

Some articles from the first issue:

EXCERPTS FROM A MESSAGE FROM WARTBURG SEMINARY PRESIDENT ROGER FJELD

It is a commentary on our church that we are simultaneously preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the decision of our churches to welcome women into ordained ministry and at the same time seeing the beginning of a newsletter which has a concern for the lack of welcome. More than l000 women are now part of the clergy roster of the ELCA and uncounted thousands participate in various forms of professional lay ministry in the church. Their ministries have been overwhelmingly positive. Their contribution is undeniable. Yet there are those who deny women the opportunity to serve—either in first calls or in succeeding calls. Together we need to address this. In the meantime, this newsletter will be one link. . .  . I lament its necessity and I support its mission.

 

ELIZABETH LEEPER INSTALLED

Elizabeth (Beth) Leeper was installed as Assistant Professor of Church History November 10, 1989, bringing the number of women professors at Wartburg to four: Dr. Norma Cook Everist, Educational Ministry and Church Administration; Dr. Anne Marie Neuchterlein, Contextual Education and Pastor Care; Dr. Patricia (Patti) Beattie Jung, Social Ethics. Two women teach part-time in the Biblical division: May Persuad and Cindy Smith.

 

THE GLOBAL SCENE

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Zimbabwe is planning to ordain its first two women pastors when they complete seminary this year. In Tanzania the faculty of Makumira Lutheran Seminary is urging the church to ordain women.

 

ASSOCIATE IN MINISTRY IN RESIDENCE

Rebecca Grothe, a 1981 MA graduate of Wartburg, was recently Wartburg’s first “Associate in Ministry in Residence,” spending a week on campus, addressing classes, preaching in chapel and speaking informally with students. Becky is Senior Editor for Leadership Education at Augsburg Fortress in Minneapolis. She previously served as Director of Christian Education at Bethel Lutheran in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and at Zion Lutheran in Luckey, Ohio.

 

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR MONTREAL

The Wartburg Community held a Memorial Service for the 14 women killed Dec 6 at the University of Montreal’s engineering school by a man walking into a classroom yelling, “You’re all a bunch of feminists!” Wartburg’s “Liturgy for Women” was planned and held the evening the news was released. The Homily was entitled “The Extravagance of Violence.”

 

POEM BY Ray Blank

FREEDOM
Freedom to be,
All that you can be
Unless that offends me.
All that I allow you to be,
Is what you can be,
Says ME.
OPPRESSION.

FREEDOM
Free to be,
All that you can be.
You challenge growth within me.
To reach to be able to see,
All that I can be.
Together WE.
LIBERATION

(Written in WTS Feminist Theology and Ministry Class, 1989)

 

REFLECTIONS ON “OF COURSE” REGARDING BISHOP EATON’S INSTALLATION by Donna Runge, final year M.Div., with comments from across the globe

‘Of course’ — Reflections on the Elizabeth Eaton installation

My first reaction to Norma Cook Everist’s article in the “Living Lutheran” on Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s installation as Presiding Bishop of the ELCA was the journey that has brought the ELCA to this historic and significant moment in time.  As I read the story the second time through, Norma’s words and reflections took on a deeper meaning for me.  As a woman and as a final year seminary student I paused and took time to reflect on my own journey of faith towards ordination.

The first steps for me began when the ELCA was yet a dream.  It was in 1963 and I was a seventh grade student attending a fall confirmation retreat.  I remember the inside of the church and the pew I was sitting in with many of the other students.  Our intern pastor was standing on the chancel floor in front of us by the communion rail and talking with us about listening to God’s voice and answering God’s call to ministry.  Intern Hullett told us that God had spoken to him as a teenager; and that God might also be talking to one or more of us during this retreat.  As he ended his discussion, Intern Hullett asked if any of us felt God’s calling, and if so, he would like to pray with us about it.  As I sat in that pew, I felt a voice calling me.  I wanted to go up to talk with him.  Instead, I felt confused, and scared, glued to my seat in the pew – praying God would show me what to do.

It was a time when there were no women pastors in the Lutheran Church in America.   There were no role models for me to follow in my church body.  In fact, when I found the courage to talk with my pastor about becoming a pastor, he laughed at me and said, “Are you crazy?  This is not a job for a woman.  Only men become pastors.”  I felt alone, without strength, without courage, and without support from anyone to go forward.  This view was further reinforced by my sophomore English teacher when she gave me a failing grade on my term paper.   The assignment had been to write on what career path we would take after completing high school.  I had written on becoming a pastor.  The teacher’s rationale for failing me was that becoming a pastor was not considered a viable career for a woman at that time.  I was then sent to our high school guidance counselor and told to consider the more appropriate careers of teacher, nurse, secretary, or wife and mother.

How the world has changed.  How I have changed.  The seeds of God’s calling which were planted over forty years have grown, matured, and blossomed.  That young girl is no longer confused and scared.  That young woman has walked out in faith.  Today I have found the strength and courage to answer God’s calling to Word and sacrament ministry.   Today I have found those role models and a support system that were lacking so many years ago.  Today I have a pastor who believes in me, encourages me, supports me, and mentors me as I travel on the journey God placed in my heart so many years ago.

“Of Course,” doors have been opened.  Hearts have been changed.  Women are now embraced as they begin seminary.  “Of Course” there is still work to do.  As I remember the paths along my journey, I appreciate the “Of Course” moments along the way and embrace my final year of seminary, anticipating my ordination next year.

Donna Runge, final year M.Div.

_______________________________________

People from across the country and from as far away as Jamaica, South Africa and Australia responded on facebook and by e-mail to the “Living Lutheran” article. Here are a few of their comments:

While the decades roll on, I look forward to the day when even those opposed to the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church of Australia will look at each other and say, “Of course.”

Tanya Wittwer, Adelaide, Australia, WTS graduate

Leigh Newton also wrote from Australia: Thanks so much Norma. Yes, this is significant across the world. Some of us are far behind. We have been functioning in fear for so long. I used your article as inspiration this afternoon for our congregation’s motion on calling suitably qualified women or men when we need to call pastors. “Can’t you wait just a few more years?”  The motion was carried, 21 to 7! Significant in a church that doesn’t ordain women. Let’s see what this means for the broader church down the road.

Leigh Newton,  Adelaide, Australia

I loved the article!  Of course, of course I did! I had no idea all of the pain women must have gone through to pave the way for future women of the church.  I had no idea at all and I appreciate you sharing it with everyone.

Terese Touvelle, 2nd year WTS diaconal ministry student

Paula wrote: The Spirit of God, RUAH, herself was present though out the millennium, bringing wisdom (Sophia) and Shekinah (glory) to each corner of our world and lives, Of Course! Thank you for being in the vanguard with us from our corner of Lutheranism (LCMS) to the ecumenical and interfaith days to which we now proclaim the Gospel that God has said, “Yes, I love you all, always.”

Rev. Paula Hepola Anderson, WTS graduate

This past weekend I performed a wedding for one of my college roommates, and yesterday I had to take the marriage license to the post office. The clerk saw the envelope and congratulated me on my marriage. I explained that I did not get married but instead that I was the pastor at the wedding. My heart dropped just a little as I saw the look on the clerk’s face, not fully understanding what I had tried to explain.

“Of course…” “Of course…”  Your words reminded me of the long way we have to go, but yet how far we have come and that gender does not define the Good News proclaimed from my own lips or anyone’s lips.

Rev. Shannon Arnold, WTS graduate

I just read your article about the installation. I cried while reading it. For the first time in my life, I’ve been experiencing what it is to be a “woman” in ministry. A man stopped me on the street because he had never seen a woman in a collar before, and he had “questions.” Another man purposely neglected asking me to participate in a community event as a religious leader because I was a woman. I’ve always shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’ve never been treated differently than anyone else,” whenever anyone has asked me about my being in ministry, but I forget that the very act of being asked that question is telling. I am newly inspired and energized by the article.

Jen Dahle, WTS Intern

I remember when I wanted to be a Lutheran minister years ago.  I was told, “Women aren’t ministers.” And before that I was told, “Girls aren’t altar boys.” Your extremely important narrative about the history of women in the Lutheran church brought chills to my skin.  I remember.  Let us not forget the sisters who went before.”

Rebecca Crystal, Unitarian Universalist Seminarian

From South Africa: [My wife] Solveig printed out your piece, “Of course,” and I read it slowly—grinning and often at the point of tears, not sure nor really caring whether they were tears of joy or sorrow. And all the way through, your words pulled up memories of Connie Kleingartner.  She was one of our first. We saw her move from tentative decisions about whether she should really try to do “regular” ministry or perhaps a “special ministry,”. . .  to her decision to be part of Wartburg’s first House of Studies in Denver. . . [Connie was ordained in 1977 and served in many places, including as a professor at LSTC] to the news of her battle with cancer, to the quiet report of her death. For us, an unforgettable part of the larger narrative.

Rev. Dr. Peter Kjeseth, WTS professor emeritus, and “Dean of Women Students” at Wartburg in the early 1970’s