Category Archives: Women in the Church

Deaconesses: An Orthodox Institution Untheologically Blocked

by Petros Vassiliadis

Orans of Kyiv

At the initiative of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), an International Scientific Symposium on “Deaconesses. Past-Present-Future” was organized in Thessaloniki (1/31-2/2, 2020) at the International Hellenic University (IHU), to which its Inter-Orthodox English-speaking Post-graduate Program “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology” belongs.

In addition to ΙΗU, 4 other institutions were registered as co-organizers: The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, St. Philaret’s Christian Orthodox Institute of Moscow, the Orthodox Academy of Crete, and Saint Phoebe Center of Deaconess.

The symposium focused on the Rejuvenation of the Order of Deaconesses with a multi-layer (biblical, liturgical, Patristic, archeological, canonical, theological, and historical) analysis, but also with a critical theological assessment of the recent developments in the Orthodox and other churches.

Extremely encouraging were the Messages sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and the Archbishop of Athens. Continue reading

Catholic Objections to Women’s Altar Service: Barred from the Sacred

by Phyllis Zagano

The question of women deacons continues to be discussed in the Catholic Church, and questions about women are again in the news. Whether the discussion is about priestly celibacy or about ordaining women to the diaconate, the common denominator is that women are unclean. In the Roman Catholic Church, marriage is a diriment impediment for priestly orders and women cannot be ordained as deacons. The below is excerpted from Chapter 3, “Altar Service” in Phyllis Zagano’s forthcoming Paulist Press book Women: Icons of Christ, which traces the development of the diaconal ministries performed by women, ordained and not ordained as deacons.

Cover, Women: Icons of Christ by Phyllis ZaganoBARRED FROM THE SACRED

What is the problem with women at the altar?

We can begin with a view from the fourteenth century. Matthew Blastares was a Byzantine monk, theologian, and canonist. Around 1335, he published a work known as the Syntagma, a compilation of then-known ecclesiastical laws….Blastares’s alphabetically arranged work cites canons from the Nomocanon, and it became well-known and well-used, as it presented Church law and civil law where applicable in twenty-four cross-referenced divisions.

As a commentator on laws, Blastares has something interesting to say about women deacons. Continue reading

Scholars Not Priests

by George Demacopoulos  |  српски

In a seminal essay in 1990, the eminent scholar of early Christianity, Elizabeth Clark, demonstrated that Christianity grew rapidly, in large part, because women served as the community’s earliest financial benefactors—they were “Patrons not Priests.”[1] According to Clark, female patronage was not only a matter of Christian piety, it was also a consequence of broader social and cultural changes for women in the Greco-Roman world. At precisely the same time that Roman society was restricting women from serving as patrons for civic events, a small but determined group of female aristocrats turned their patronage toward Christianity. And the rest, so to speak, is history.

I would like to suggest that there is a parallel sociological phenomenon in the Orthodox Church in the United States today. While women are still unable to become priests, they are increasingly becoming scholars of Christianity. And this is having a profound, positive impact on the Church. Continue reading

Axia Women: A New Orthodox Network in the U.S.

by Patricia Fann Bouteneff

Axia Women is a diverse new network by, for, and about Orthodox Women, in the service of Christ. Although we are launching it officially only now, the seeds of Axia were planted a few years ago.

One seed was a petition asking the fourteen Eastern Orthodox primates to make sure that women—who make up at least half the church—were appropriately represented at the Holy and Great Council in Crete. While we didn’t reach that goal (only six of the four hundred delegates were female), the petition itself was signed by some 2000 people in some 60 countries. It showed a diverse groundswell of women and men interested in a variety of representation and service. Not only did bishops and other clergy sign it, the Ecumenical Patriarch studied it carefully, then wrote me a personal letter in reply. His message explained the limitations of what could be addressed at that late stage in the Council’s planning, but also warmly encouraged ongoing efforts in this direction. The petition and its aftermath were important indicators that there is both potential for growth and receptivity for women’s work at all levels of church life. Continue reading