WINDHOEK, Namibia – “I cried when I heard the Synod’s decision of April 2016,” recalls Agnieszka Godfrejow-Tarnogorska (44) of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP). Her church had just decided that deacons would also be allowed to hand out Holy Communion - another step towards the full ordination of women.
It was a bittersweet victory, though. Originally the synod had voted on women’s ordination, and though a majority voted in favor, it missed the necessary two thirds majority to change the church law. Godfrejow-Tarnogorska regards the “upgrading” of the deacons’ position as a compromise. “It is good to have a range of professions in the congregation,” she says, “but I am convinced that my personal calling is to be ordained as a pastor.”
LWF Assessment on gender justice
Delegates to the Women’s Pre-Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, discussed the issue of women in the ordained ministry as well as gender justice during their gathering.
To follow up on the implementation of the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Gender Justice Policy (GJP), the Communion Office undertook a baseline assessment titled “The Participation of Women in the Ordained Ministry and Leadership in LWF Member Churches”. The results were published in 2016. One of the results of the assessment is that 82 % of the LWF member churches ordain women.
The long road to ordaining women
Godfrejow-Tarnogorska’s church is one of many examples for the long way towards women’s ordination. Since 1963 women who had graduated in theology were allowed to teach, conduct church services and provide pastoral care. 1999 the ordination of women as deacons was introduced. Since then women could provide charitable and missional service, lead services, weddings and funerals, celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism and assist in distribution of the Holy Communion. They were however not allowed to lead a congregation and until 2017 had not been authorized to celebrate the Holy Communion.
2014 – Polish Bishop Jerzy Samiec initiated a process called “Women in the ordained ministry”. It ended with the Synod in April 2016: 38 members voted for the introduction of women into full ordained ministry, 26 against, with four abstentions. 48 votes would have been necessary for the vote to pass.
Long history of serving the church
Like several other women in Poland Godfrejow-Tarnogorska had completed her studies of theology at the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw in 1997. Since then she has been working in her church in numerous positions, occasionally on a volunteer basis.
“I used every opportunity I had to strengthen my ecumenical and international ties,” she says. After a lot of hard work and personal hardships she had come close to having her dream come true at last – 19 years after completing her theological studies.
Giving up her dream in the light of the Synod decision is no option for Godfrejow-Tarnogorska. Her current position enables her to promote issues concerning gender justice and to raise awareness in her church about the gifts women have to offer. “I want to be ordained”, she says, “and I want my pastoral work to be recognized.”