4: Perpetua & Felicity

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.

#4 Perpetua & Felicity

Not only were women prominent leaders in the early church, some of the most widely known and respected were very young women, like Perpetua and Felicity. The story of their martyrdom, “The Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions,” mostly written by Perpetua’s own hand, was so popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies. The story is tragic: two young women killed by Rome for their religious beliefs. It is a story that played out far too many times and took far too many lives. But a few things make this story noteworthy. Like Thecla, Perpetua stood up to the patriarchy, first by defying her father, then by defying Rome. She claimed her own identity in a time when women were not allowed their own identities. Perpetua made her own choices and she had the privilege (through literacy), of writing her own story. What does it tell us about the earliest Christian communities that it was the spiritual example of these young women that they valued so highly and lifted up?