It goes without saying that some in Lutheranism are not happy but it is always a good thing when a catholic practice formed by Scripture returns to be the norm for a church body. In this case it is the Latvian Lutheran Church (ELCL) and it is the result of more than a generation of discussion, teaching, and witness. We can all be encouraged that it is possible for churches to back away from the modern influence of culture and social mores over Scripture and tradition. It has happened in Africa as Lutheran churches (and Anglicans as well) have resisted the pressure from the liberal North American and European counterparts and stood for the faithful stance of Scripture and the catholic tradition. Now it happens among one of the Baltic nations. It could happen here. I am not predicting or holding my breath but I am impressed at how liberalism can be stopped and orthodoxy restored. A first step in what I pray are many steps of progress toward catholic doctrine and practice.
Women priests voiced dismay on Wednesday after Latvia’s Lutheran church ruled it would no longer allow women to be ordained, putting it at odds with its counterparts in other countries. Lutheran churches in the United States, Canada, Germany, Norway and
Sweden for example not only allow female priests but have also appointed
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) synod, which gathers every four years, voted on June 3 to amend its constitution so that only men could become priests. “The decision of the synod is very sad,” said 38-year-old Zanda Ohff,
who trained for the priesthood in Latvia but moved to Germany to become
ordained. Ordination was theoretically open to women before, although
Archbishop Janis Vanags has refused to ordain any new women priests
since becoming head of the church in 1993.
According to latest official figures, about a third of Latvians
identify themselves as Lutherans, followed by Catholics and Orthodox. “I started my studies when archbishop Vanags had already been elected
but I hoped that some day I might become a pastor,” said Ohff, one of
many women priests driven abroad. “I hoped it would be in Latvia but the last 23 years have shown that
it’s not possible,” she told AFP, adding that the church has become more
authoritarian under Vanags.
The ruling does not affect the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (LELCA), which is a separate organisation formed during the years of Soviet Occupation to keep the church alive among emigre Latvians.
Once you go where you ought not in scripture, it is difficult and painful to return, but the journey back is worth it.
I interviewed Archbishop Vanags for Touchstone in 1999:
How could the ELCL have been in A&P fellowship with the LCMS for years when the ELCL's official (contrary to Vanags' personal) position allowed pastrixes, at least up until June 3? While in fellowship with the LCMS, the ELCL has not been a member of the ILC.
Coincidentally the LCMS's 2016 Today's Business contains a resolution seeking to affirm Pres. Harrison's 2014 declaration of A&P fellowship with the Lutheran Church in Norway (Den Lutherske Kirke i Norge), despite the admission by both parties that the LCN holds only a qualified subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580.
Yet the 2016 convention delegates are also being asked to approve the CTCR document, "A Theological Statement for Mission in the 21st Century," which states in Section 11: “Lutheran mission is defined by an unqualified (quia) subscription to The Book of Concord as the correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”
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