Editor’s note: This story is a part of The Lutheran World Federation’s Her-stories global Lutheran storytelling project. If you have a story of how women have reformed the church or influenced your spiritual life, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Her-stories” in the subject line. Written stories can be up to 1,300 words. Audio/video can be up to five minutes. To learn more about Her-stories and submission guidelines, please click here.
In the early 1970s, my mom infuriated a man in a congregational meeting so much that he walked out the door. The reason? My mom had been nominated for congregation council, and this man believed that a woman serving on congregation council would be pure sacrilege. I’m guessing that when word got out that the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Lutheran Church in America (predecessors to the ELCA) began ordaining women in 1970, he didn’t last much longer.
Ten years later, the Rev. Susan Kintner was one of the first women to be ordained. “I was the 63rd woman ordained in the ALC, just after the pioneers but still path-finding,” Susan told me. “By the time I arrived at seminary, the professors were convinced women’s ordination was the right way to go, but half of my classmates were not, and the congregations weren’t either. But as they got to know us, they usually gave us their support.”
After serving three congregations on the west coast (Grace in Palo Alto, Calif.,; St. Luke in Portland, Ore.,; and St. Andrew in Beaverton, Ore.), she began her call as assistant to Oregon Synod Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke in November 2007.
Pastor Susan travels around this “none zone” (mostly unchurched) state visiting ELCA churches and helping them with all sorts of issues, activities and ministries. She is dedicated to creating and nurturing healthy, vibrant congregations and pastors. When she visits my congregation, Spirit of Grace in Beaverton, Ore., I always appreciate hearing her colorful stories about what else is happening around the ELCA.
One day she might be helping a congregation make the difficult decision of whether to shut down because of dwindling numbers, while the next day she could be supporting another congregation launch a capital campaign. She might be supporting a congregation to extend a call to a new pastor while helping another respond to a dying pastor. She might be supporting a pastor who’s trying to decide whether to take a new call or nurturing a younger, intern pastor.
In addition to being a gifted preacher and facilitator, Pastor Susan is skilled at conflict resolution. When the ELCA opted to allow rostered lay clergy in 2009, she and the bishop helped many congregations pray for guidance, handle heightened conflict and grapple with questions.
As a lay leader, I have always been grateful for Pastor Susan’s wisdom. When I was president of our congregation council, we had a difficult conflict with a family in our congregation while our pastor was on medical leave. Pastor Susan helped us navigate difficult questions as a congregation council, face the possible outcomes and explore our options. And when the family ended up dissatisfied with our response, she listened to their frustrations and tried to help them examine other possibilities.
As the world’s only Lutheran-Catholic congregation, we’ve navigated big changes and taken leaps of faith with Pastor Susan’s encouragement. She has provided great insights on ELCA-Roman Catholic relations and has fielded many difficult questions. She’s given communion at Portland Pride Parades and presided over Reconciling Works services.
I know that Pastor Susan spends much of her time leading and organizing behind the scenes – whether it’s a candidacy committee, bishop’s convocation or a planning committee for the huge statewide synod assembly – and as a fellow leader and organizer, I deeply appreciate and recognize her gifts and talents in these sometimes underappreciated areas. I got the pleasure of attending my first synod assembly a few years ago, and I was delighted to discover how much FUN it was, in addition to being spiritual, prayerful and well organized.
I greatly appreciate the leadership Pastor Susan shows in nurturing interns and other women pastors, including my own. With a passion for healthy leadership, she has been an outstanding role model and leader for women across the state, and not just clergy. In addition to her work at the synod, she was president of the board at Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and continues to be involved there.
And last but not least, I appreciate her many creative gifts, her strong sense of justice and compassion, and her fun spirit! She blazed the way for women leaders in the ELCA in Oregon. She is a wonder!