Category Archives: Women in the Church

Deaconesses and the Camel’s Nose

by Paul Ladouceur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

Opponents of women deacons in the Orthodox Church advance two principal arguments: the “natural and economical order of male and female”; and the conviction that women deacons will lead inexorably to a series of other unwanted changes in Orthodoxy.

Advocates against the ordination of women to liturgical or even non-liturgical functions argue that there is a natural order of male and female, by which God intended that women be subordinate to men. This natural order theory calls into question a fundamental principle of patristic anthropology, the ontological equality of men and women. This principle is expressed very forcefully in Discourse 37 (6-7) of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, in the context a discussion on chastity and adultery. Gregory writes notably:

The wife who takes wicked counsel against her husband’s bed commits adultery, and thence flow the bitter consequences of the laws, but on the contrary the man who takes a prostitute against his wife suffers no sanction. I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. It is men who laid down these laws, and this is why this legislation is directed against women. […] God does not act thusly, but he says: “Honor your father and your mother” […] Notice the equality of the legislation: one and the same creator of man and woman; one dust for both; one image; one law; one death, one resurrection. […] Christ saves both through his suffering. Did Christ become flesh for the sake of the man? He did this also for the sake of the woman. He died for the man? The woman is also saved by his death.

Continue Reading…

Women for the Church Chanters, Readers, and Their Sanctioned Roles

by Donna Rizk Asdourian  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

It is a very happy time for many Orthodox Christians across the globe since the order of the female sub-diaconate was re-installed in Alexandria, Egypt by Patriarch Theodore of the Greek Orthodox Church of all of Africa this past February 2017, where he ordained five women to the female diaconate (although without laying on of hands, that is cheirothesia not cheirotonia).  Although overly due, this historic event in our modern day gives many hope that the Church at large is heeding the pastoral needs of its people. Female deacons existed in the Orthodox Church, and has been kept in some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, as Dr. Petros Vassiliadis’ mentions regarding the revival of the female diaconate this past November.

The role of women in the Church is, of course, broader than an ordained female diaconate.  Indeed, men and women across the Christian world have thought more seriously about the role of women in the church in recent decades. They understand the pastoral benefit conferred to the entire community when women are more integral in the life of the Church.

Contrary to what many may assume, active roles for women is the Church’s Tradition. Continue Reading…

The Problem with Gendering Epiphany Celebrations (Student Submission)

by Joanna Theophilopoulos 

Epiphany, observed on January 6th, celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ and the historic manifestation of the Holy Trinity. Liturgically, the Church commemorates the Feast day with a Blessing of the Waters service at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. For many communities, this service transitions from the church to a nearby open body of water. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parishes across the globe add an additional, semi-liturgical component- a competitive diving for the cross.

Perhaps the most famous of these events in the Western Hemisphere occurs in my home parish in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The city’s first celebration took place in 1903. Today, tens of thousands of spectators gather around Spring Bayou to pray and participate in the festivities. Following the service in St. Nicholas Cathedral, the choir, community organizations, altar boys, priests, and visiting dignitaries process in unity to the water. After hymns, prayers, and a reading of the Gospel, the Bishop tosses a white wooden cross into Spring Bayou, and young divers plunge in to retrieve it.

The Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs is the event of the year. Many divers refer to the experience—whether they win or not—as the blessing of a lifetime. Indeed, many say that simply participating in the dive is an ecstatic experience that enlivens their relationship with God.  But this blessing is conferred upon only half of the Orthodox population, because the application for diving on Epiphany in Tarpon Springs explicitly states: must be a male. Continue Reading…

A Dialogue on the Mission of St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess

Two essays by Rev. Protodeacon Peter Danilchick and the Board of St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

These essays are part of a series on the diaconate in the Orthodox Church derived from talks delivered at the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess “Renewing the Male and Female Diaconate in the Orthodox Church Conference” in Irvine, California in October 2017.

 

Diaconal Service in Church Administration and Governance

Rev. Protodeacon Peter Danilchick

I have been privileged to serve for the past 42 years in the holy diaconate in Christ. For the deacon, to live is to serve and to serve is to live. This living and serving is, however, not for oneself—it is for the Church, the Body of Christ.

When we think about governance, we might imagine a board, like a parish or diocesan council, meeting in a conference room, making “big decisions.” Well, governance, properly understood, is far more intimate and grassroots than that.

The icon of governance in the Church is the episcopate. In the New Testament, St. Paul uses the word episkopous to refer to the overseers of the flock, who also serve as guardians and stewards. The image of the Good Shepherd immediately springs to mind, the one whose sheep know his name and the one who seeks after the lost and lonely ones.

But how do deacons fit into the governance structure? Continue Reading…