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ELCA: Statement on Ordination of First Female Palestinian Pastor in the Holy Land

LWF Council Member for Asia, Sally Azar
© LWF/ A. Hillert


This message was published with permission from the ELCA.


Dear church, 

On Sunday—January 22—the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) will, for the first time, ordain a woman into pastoral ministry, Sally Azar. I invite you to join in the celebration by watching this short documentary about what women’s ordination means for the ELCJHL and the livestream of the ordination service, which will begin at 6 am EST. 

At the service, Lutherans from all over the world will gather at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem to bear witness to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in that place. I will be honored to participate, along with 18 of our synod bishops and church leaders, in this hopeful occasion in the life of Christ’s church. 

The ordination of the first woman in Palestine is no accident. It is the result of the prayerful discernment, theological reflection, and concerted effort of the ELCJHL—the first member of the Lutheran World Federation to adopt its Gender Justice Policy. This is an example for us all.

In 2020 the ELCA celebrated the 50th anniversary of U.S. Lutheran churches’ decision to ordain women. This celebration continues through the work and witness of our church—and of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)—for gender justice and women’s empowerment. We give thanks for the LWF’s steadfast commitment to the ordination of women into pastoral ministry as a calling of God and a gift to Christ’s church.

Let us pause this Sunday to reflect, rejoice and recommit ourselves to accompanying each other in the challenges and joys along the way. Sally, we pray for you especially. Now and always, may God bless and keep you—and, through your ministry, all whom you are called to serve. 

In Christ, 
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton 
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 


Additional Resource: Statement of the Lutheran World Federation, Jan. 18, 2023, “First Palestinian Woman to Be Ordained as Pastor” | The Lutheran World Federation 


Additional Resource: Sally Azar was a Bible study leader at last year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly Bible, CWA22 Bible Study | Sally Azar | July 17, 2022 3pm CT | ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2022 - YouTube


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