From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Historic move as Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church ordains

Date 01 Mar 1999 10:42:09

Ordinands urged to be prophetic

ANDHRA PRADESH, India/GENEVA, 1 March 1999 (lwi) Years of dialogue
and discussions on a sometimes contentious subject  women's
ordination  finally bore fruit for India's Andhra Evangelical
Lutheran Church (AELC) on 20 February, 1999 when 17 women were
ordained into the pastoral ministry.

According to a special report by the National Council of Churches in
India (NCCI) executive secretary for communications, Chandran Paul
Martin, the St. Matthew's Church West Parish in Guntur, where the
ceremony took place, wore a festive mood with 3,000 or more gathered
for the occasion.

The AELC president Rev. Dr. G. Emmanuel administered the prayers of
ordination during the service. The ceremony was attended by
international and national Lutheran and ecumenical leaders, among
them representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA), who are AELC mission partners.

The Rev. Dr. Prasanna Kumari, one of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) vice-presidents, and executive secretary for the United
Evangelical Lutheran Church in India (UELCI), in her ordination
sermon exhorted the ordinands to be prophetic. The ordination of
women, she stressed, is a bold step of faith.

Kumari pointed out that it is easy to be an institutional pastor but
challenging to be a prophet, adding that pastors should be "the voice
of the voiceless particularly at the present times affecting the
Christian community as well as other minorities."

Before the actual ordination, the clergy of the AELC met at St.
Matthews Church to resolve and accept recommendations for the women's
ordination. Even though there were many questions raised relating to
the procedures followed and the methodology of the entire process,
the more than 350 pastors charged with the exercise unanimously
accepted women's ordination in principle.

The ordinands who included 32 men, had different levels of
theological education, from doctorates to bachelor of theology
degrees. A few are pursuing theological education overseas. The
eldest was 75-year-old Rev. Dr. B.V. Subbamma, who was one of the
first theologically trained women in AELC and had served the local,
national and global church in various capacities.

Responding to a query, the AELC president assured the ordinands that
the church would find placements for them in full-time ministry as
pastors within the next year. Presently most of them are attached to
special ministries as coordinators, Bible women and in other

The NCCI president, Dr. K. Rajaratnam described the occasion as a
monumental effort and congratulated the AELC leadership and
congregational members for the historic move.

Out of the nine LWF member churches in India, the AELC is the fourth
to ordain women. Others are the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church,
Arcot Lutheran Church, and the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The Good Samaritan Evangelical Lutheran Church, a non-LWF member,
consecrated a woman bishop, the late Rev. Katakshamma Paul Raj.

The project for theologically trained women in the AELC was launched
in 1991 whereas the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India
(UELCI) of which the AELC is a member, accepted the ordination of
women in principle in 1992.

With over 400,000 members and more than 400 ordained ministers, the
AELC is the largest Lutheran church in India. It administers and
manages many reputed secular educational institutions and hospitals.
It also supports the ecumenical Andhra Christian Theological College
where most of the church ministers are trained.

Presently, there are about 70 more theologically trained women in the
AELC, making it the church with the largest number of women trained
for the ministry within the NCCI member churches.

*       *       *
Lutheran World Information
Assistant Editor, English: Pauline Mumia

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home