2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.
It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week for fifty weeks. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.
Junia is only mentioned once in the New Testament. In Romans 16:7, Paul calls her his fellow prisoner and kin, and remarkable among the apostles who predated him. In the 1500s, translators—working on behalf of patriarchy—purposefully misgendered her by changing her name to Junias. It took centuries for this mistranslation (and misgendering) to be corrected. Unfortunately, while giving her back her name, some tried to erase her apostleship. They were under the misguided belief that women couldn’t be apostles. Even though the Apostle to the Apostles—Mary Magdalene—was a woman. It has taken two millennia for Junia to be seen as both of the things Paul tells us she was: a woman and an apostle. The story of Junia reminds us that the early church had female leaders and that patriarchy was placed upon Christianity, not innate to it. A church with female leaders is closer to the early church, and one without is farther away. Junia lived her truth, and when we can see that, it frees us to go out and live ours.