First nine women ordained as pastors in Poland’s largest Protestant church

The first nine female pastors have been ordained in Poland’s largest and oldest Protestant church denomination, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession. Last year, the church decided to allow women to become pastors following decades of debate and gradual progress towards gender equality.

“The service of women deacons in parishes showed that they are no different from men,” said the bishop of the church, Jerzy Samiec. “The church has concluded that God’s calling pays no heed to gender.”

The nine new pastors – Karina Chwastek, Małgorzata Gaś, Beata Janota, Katarzyna Kowalska, Wiktoria Matloch, Halina Radacz, Katarzyna Rudkowska, Izabela Sikora and Marta Zachraj-Mikołajczyk – were ordained on Saturday at the Holy Trinity Church in Warsaw.

“In the past women were needed to prepare tables for meetings of parishioners; they cooked, served, and cleaned. They are still doing these things, but not only that,” one of the new pastors, Małgorzata Gaś, told Gazeta Wyborcza.

It was unheard of for women to be members of parish and diocese councils and synods, Gaś pointed out. “We have a lot of well-educated and competent female believers, who no longer give way to men,” she added.

Poland’s largest Protestant church approves ordination of women as pastors

Although around 90% of people living in Poland – one of the most religious countries in Europe – are Roman Catholics, many more Christian denominations as well as other minority religions also have a presence in the country.

The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, which has its roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, today has around 60,000 members in 133 parishes with almost 200 clergy. It was once much larger, with around half a million faithful in interwar Poland, before the upheaval, destruction and border changes caused by the Second World War.

Around three quarters of the church’s members are located in the province of Silesia, which is part of a historical region that has for long periods been under German rule. Notable Polish Lutherans include Jerzy Buzek, a former prime minister and more recently president of the European Parliament, and the ski jumper Adam Małysz.

Discussion over the ordination of female priests in the Augsburg church has been taking place for decades, notes Gazeta Wyborcza. In 1963, female theology graduates were permitted to take on educational and pastoral roles, as well as to lead some services.

In 1999, women were allowed to be ordained as deacons, meaning they could conduct baptisms, marriages and funerals. But they were still unable to lead congregations as pastors.

In 2008, the church’s Synodal Commission of Theology and Confession concluded that there were no theological obstacles to ordaining women as pastors. In 2016, most members of the synod voted in favour of allowing this, but not enough to reach the required two-thirds threshold.

Main image credit: Luteranie.pl

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