5: Desert Mothers

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.

#5 Desert Mothers

At the same time that Constantine was gathering male leaders for the Council of Nicea in 325CE, (where women were decreed unable to hold leadership roles – no matter that many of the leading Christian leaders of the time were female), many of the inspiring religious leaders refused to let their spirituality be constrained and chose to head into the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Persia and Asia Minor. These Desert Mothers and Fathers lived lives of asceticism and founded the first Christian monastic orders. Unsurprisingly, the lives of the Desert Fathers are more well known, our information about the Desert Mothers comes from the Desert Fathers and their biographers. So today, we honor these women who defied Rome and patriarchy to follow Christ. Many of their names and stories have been lost to history, but the fruits of their devotion live on in the monastic orders of today.