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. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.
You may or may not know of Thecla today, but she was a well-known leader from Iconium in the earliest years of the Christian movement. Her lively and somewhat fabulous story is recorded in the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Acts of Thecla, both of which were widely disseminated and used in worship throughout the Ancient Near East, but later deemed heretical and destroyed, though clearly, copies remained. In the apocryphal text, we are told of Thecla, a virgin-martyr converted by Paul, who refused marriage, cut her hair, donned men’s clothing, and took up the duties of a missionary apostle. Threatened with rape, prostitution, and twice put in the ring as a martyr, she persevered in her ministry, courage, healing and faithfulness to God. Unsurprisingly, some ancient church leaders found themselves inspired by the fact of a woman preaching and baptizing, and others like Tertullian found it challenging or disturbing. Her legacy is an incredible reminder of all the audacious women of faith who have gone before us.