by Lori Morton
A few months ago, I received an email asking how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America justifies ordaining women. The writer referred to the writings of Paul as clearly forbidding female pastors and wanted to know what scripture we cite to prove otherwise.
Leary of questions like this, I didn’t respond right away. I don’t often find quoting scripture back and forth, all that helpful. Also, there are plenty of resources out there offering the full biblical and theological reasons why many branches of the Christian faith have been calling women to be pastors for an even longer period of time than the ELCA (the ELCA voted to ordain women the year I was born, 1970).
So, I am not going to respond with a list of verses from the Bible or try to explain the cultural context of Paul’s letters. What I can speak to is my sense of call and how I came to be a pastor. It began with a prayer my great grandfather repeated; a desire for one of his children to become a pastor.
Strong, faithful women
The seed began to grow in the congregation where I grew up. God provided many strong, faithful women who became my role models. They lived what it looked like to respond to God’s call to serve others.
While I never had a female pastor, these women led and served the church in practically every other way. And, this extended beyond the doors of the church. They answered God’s call to serve by running for elected office, working for non-profits, and speaking out against injustices in our community. I always sensed they did all these things because of their relationship with God.
Gifts to become a pastor
As I became a teenager, my pastor and other members of the congregation gave me opportunities to use my gifts in worship and youth group and other intergenerational activities we did as a congregation. When I graduated from high school, my pastor wrote in his graduation card to me, “Consider taking religion classes in college, I think you have the gifts to become a pastor.”
I laughed at the idea because I had other plans. I took the required religion classes, but biology would become my major, with a premed focus.
While my eyes were set on becoming a doctor, my faith continued to be important to me. For two summers, I worked as a camp counselor at the Lutheran Camp I attended throughout childhood. There I learned how to lead Bible studies, speak about how I sensed God working in the world, and wrestled with deeper questions of faith and daily life.
Being a pastor is my call. It is not something I chose. God chose me and continues to call me to this life of service.
Questioned my calling
Long story short, after three rounds of the Medical College Admission Test, two application processes, and a couple of years doing research in a biotech company, I stopped long enough to question if medicine was really my calling. With the help of the pastor who wrote the note six years before, I found all the doors opening for my acceptance to seminary.
Suddenly, all the pieces and experiences I had over the years fell into place. I began to gain a language for what my heart, soul, and mind already sensed about God and what God was doing in the world.
Being a pastor is my call. It is not something I chose. God chose me and continues to call me to this life of service. It is not easy. Like Moses, I have tried to get out of the job, at different times over the years. But God won’t let me. God always has an answer for my excuses and provides for what I need along the way.