Leaders of evangelical churches in the Middle East unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of a statement supporting the ordination of women as pastors.
The statement, drafted on the spot in response to a report by the group's theology committee, was passed by the 29 voting delegates, including two females, during the Sixth General Assembly of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches, reported Allison Schmitt of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
FMEEC's theology committee stated that it found no biblical or theological reasons to oppose female ordination. The Fellowship includes evangelical Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Middle East.
Bishop Munib A. Younan, FMEEC president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, crafted the statement in Arabic.
An English translation reads: "The Sixth General Assembly supports the ordination of the women in our churches in the position of ordained pastor and her partnership with men as an equal partner in decision making. Therefore we call on member churches to take leading steps in this concern."
Younan commented on the historic vote by pointing out that the Fellowship's action translates to its 16 member churches being encouraged to ordain women as pastors, according to ELCJHL.
Though the ordination of women as pastors is a bold move for a religious group in the Middle East, a region where women are generally seen as subservient to men, the practice is more acceptable in the United States.
Several major denominations in the United States allow the ordination of women, including The Episcopal Church, which has a woman as its presiding bishop, and The United Methodist Church, among others. But several conservative denominations in the country point to the Bible as support for their argument that women should not hold positions of authority over men. These denominations include the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant group in America, the Presbyterian Church in America, and others.
This week's FMEEC General Assembly took place Jan. 11-13 in Lebanon. The conference brought together about 70 church leaders.