Estonian Lutheran church to get first female provost

Katrin-Helena Melder.
Katrin-Helena Melder. Source: ERR

The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) has elected the first female provost in its history.

Katrin-Helena Melder, pastor of the Järva-Jaani congregation, was elected by the synod of the Järva circuit, by 28 votes to two, with one abstention, BNS reports, quoting regional daily Järva Teataja.

Her candidacy was put to the synod by Archbishop Urmas Viilma, head of the EELK.

She listed much-needed refurbishment to some churches as one of her main concerns, tempered by a rise in donations for such work, and the difficulty of finding clergy to appoint to rural areas.

Provost-elect Melder has still to receive the official endorsement of the churches' consistory, which is scheduled for June 4. She will continue as Järva-Jaani pastor.

Melder was also the first ever woman to be made an EELK consistory member, which happened eighteen months ago.

While she is the first woman to attain the office, Provost-elect Melder expressed a hope that her gender would not be overemphasized, whilst promising to do her best in the role.

Her predecessor, Teet Handschmidt, who has been provost of the Järva circuit for 26 years, echoed Melder's downplaying of the significance of her appointment.

"She is a very hard-working person, and she hopefully will bring new vigor to this job," he said.

The first woman in Estonia to be ordained as pastor was Laine Viljental, in 1967, and at present, about 25 percent of the EELK's clergy are women.

The EELK was constituted in exile in 1949, and remained relatively underground in Estonia until the late 1980s.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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