Nearly 18 months ago I challenged the women of this organization and the whole church to support women clergy in order to increase the number of women serving as bishops. I explained how a more collaborative style of leadership comes most naturally to women and that style of leadership is sorely needed in the church today.
About ten months ago I, along with many, celebrated the election of Elizabeth Eaton as presiding bishop. At that time, eight other women were synod bishops besides Bishop Eaton. On July 1, 2014, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Lull will begin as bishop of the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod. Bishop-elect Lull will become the tenth woman currently serving as an ELCA bishop, in addition to the presiding bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton.
So in the course of 18 months the total number of female bishops in the ELCA has increased from nine to 11, and one of those women is now presiding bishop. Meanwhile, in the academic world changes are taking place too. On June 1, 2014, the Rev. Robin J. Steinke becomes president of Luther Seminary (Saint Paul, Minn.). Previously she was dean of Gettysburg Seminary and a tenured professor of theological ethics and public life there. She is the first woman to be named president in the seminary’s 145-year history.
On July 1, 2014 Ms. Rebecca M. Berhman becomes the president of Gustavus Adophlus College (St. Peter, Minn.), the first woman president in the school’s 152-year history. She has most recently been the vice president of Research, Technology and Therapy Delivery systems at Medtronic, Inc. That same day Dr. Paula J. Carlson becomes the president of Luther College (Decorah, Iowa). Previously she was vice president for mission at St. Olaf College; she is a scholar of medieval literature and modern American literature. Again, she is the first woman to serve as president of Luther College.
As Bishop Eaton has said, it will be a grand day when we no longer need to note that a particular woman is “the first” to do a particular thing. Until then, however, we do need to celebrate the changes that are finally taking place and continue to challenge each other and the whole church to respect and honor the leadership skills women offer. Jesus did that. So can we.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.
ELCA photo. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, is pictured here with three former ELCA synodical bishops. From left to right: Margaret Payne, Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, Bishop Eaton and April Larson. The photo appears in a blog post on www.LivingLutheran.org on March 10, 2014.