When the Rev. Karina García Carmona was installed as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Mexico City in 2011, her congregation posed a simple question: do you want to be called “Pastor”?
“I don’t know if I did the right thing, but at the time I told them they could call me ‘Karina,’ since I felt that respect and authority had to be earned,” García said recently.
García is one of three women ordained to the ministry by the Mexican Lutheran Church (ILM), a member church of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), in a groundbreaking move in April 2009.
“The dialogue and learning process [with the congregation] was long and sincere, a situation that made it possible to establish a relationship of fondness and respect that I greatly appreciate,” García reflected. “I feel supported and welcomed by a congregation that never considered my being a young woman to be an obstacle.”
The Rev. Ángela del Consuelo Trejo Haager, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Mexico City, has experienced both highs and lows in her ministry.
“My experience has been a spectrum of emotions ranging from sadness to joy, from frustration to triumph, from despair to the belief that it is possible to continue believing in a church where men and women travel the road together side-by-side,” Trejo recalled.
“My most powerful experience was with the women of the congregation; with them I learned to understand life through the lens of their experiences. Their presence and their enthusiasm motivate me to continue.”
They have shared the pain of death and illness, the “crisis” of being women–grandmothers, mothers, single, divorced, widowed–each of them illustrating what it means to live the gospel from a feminine perspective.
“I have the hope that the church will become a space where men and women can meet as a community, a space for healing, for great joyfulness as well as for sadness; a space that encourages us to continue going forward hand in hand with our brothers and sisters, along the path of life, sharing the feeling of the very presence of God,” Trejo said.
Breaking new ground
For the Rev. Sofía Deyanira Tenorio May, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Mexico City, being a woman in ordained ministry has been a marvelous experience that has allowed her to reaffirm the unmistakable presence of God in her life.
Still, it has not been easy. Culture and traditions had to be overcome and she faced the daunting task of forming a church and nurturing its growth.
However, Tenorio is committed “to continue the difficult task of breaking new ground for the next generation of women and [to] be a witness to the fact that, with the help of God, anything and everything is possible when it comes to building the kingdom of God on earth.”
While he had never experienced being in a congregation with a woman pastor, lay leader Eliel Huerta said that he has listened closely to Trejo’s sermons, watched her pray with the sick and undertake projects with different groups.
“I am convinced that the ministry is not the exclusive prerogative of men,” he said.
The Rev. Moisés Pérez Espino noted that the women’s ministry, though not without difficult moments, has had a great impact on their congregations.
“Female pastors have gradually gained respect and space through perseverance and by resisting patriarchal customs and ideas. But today their presence is appreciated and strongly felt,” Pérez added.
ILM president Daniel Trejo Coria maintained that there is only one ministry in the church. “The church is enriched by the work and ministry of believers, women and men, called to serve the community, do it with faithfulness to Scripture and for the honor and glory of God.”
The Rev. Elaine Neuenfeldt, secretary for the LWF’s Women in Church and Society (WICAS) desk, said that celebrating the witness of women in ordained ministry is a sign of ongoing reformation as the church journeys towards the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
“The dynamic ministry of these women gives us both a solid foundation and realistic hope of progress on the road to gender justice in the church,” she concluded.