Latvian Lutherans end ordination of women priests

The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas Evaņģēliski luteriskās baznīcas) has voted to end the ordination of women to the priesthood. Meeting in Riga on 3 June 2015 the synod of the Latvian Church — an observer member of the Porvoo Communion — amended the canon on ordination that read: “anyone who according to the regulations set by the [church] is called by God and trained for ministry can seek ordination” to “any male candidate who according to the regulations set by the [church] is called by God and trained for the ministry can seek ordination.” The amendment passed on a vote of 201 “for”, 59 “against” and 22 abstentions, receiving 77 per cent support. In order for the amendment to have been adopted it required a three-quarters vote. In 1975 the synod authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood.. However since his election in 1993 the Archbishop of Riga Jānis Vanags (pictured) has declined to ordain women to the priesthood, arguing the experiment had not worked in Latvia. Archbishop Vanags, who did not speak during the debate, has argued that there is no warrant for women priests found in Scripture and is contrary to the tradition of the church. During his tenure as archbishop the church has come to a consensus that leadership in the church should be driven by complementarian not egalitarian considerations. The amendment does not touch upon the ministry of currently ordained women priests, and allows them to continue to serve in the church. However since 1993 the church has ordained women to be evangelists — comparable to deaconesses in the Anglican tradition. The Latvian church consists of three dioceses with 287 congregations in the Baltic state and has 130 priests and 10 evangelists. Statistics compiled by the Latvian Ministry of Justice report the church had 712,530 members in 2014, of whom 43,000 were active communicants.


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